Meet O∆K Leaders of the Year

10 Oct


2017 Leaders of the Year

The Omicron Delta Kappa Leader of the Year program is named in memory of Gen. Russell E. Dougherty, United States Air Force. Gen. Dougherty was one of the Air Force’s best thinkers and planners and served as NATO’s Allied Command Europe headquarters chief of staff, commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command, and executive director of the U.S. Air Force Association.

The OΔK National Awards Committee recognizes five finalists on a national level, one for each phase of campus life: scholarship, athletics, campus or community involvement, journalism, speech, and mass media, and creative and performing arts.

Each National Leader of the Year finalist will receive a $1,000 graduate studies scholarship and a $300 programming grant for his or her circle. Of the five finalists, one student is selected to receive the Gen. Russell E. Dougherty National Leader of the Year Award. The recipient of this award will receive a $4,000 scholarship to be used toward graduate-level study.


Tracey Gates
Morningside College
Athletics and National Leader of the Year

As Tracey was home-schooled and moved every two years, her passion for science is matched with a sense of adventure and love for service. She writes, “Some constants I have always had in my life are my family, beliefs, and a passion for learning and adventure. I am intrigued in the diversity of the world and the beauty of life in different cultures and people groups.” She plans to join the Peace Corps or a similar organization.

She was co-chair of Morningside’s annual campus-wide community service event, which sends more than 800 volunteers to more than 80 agencies in the community. Tracey was a captain of the swim team, and was an Academic All-American swimmer and national competitor. As head resident assistant, she was responsible for 11 resident assistants and 170 residents.


Liang-Yun Cheng
University of Richmond
Creative and Performing Arts

Up until high school, Liang-Yun was known as what she calls “the Math Geek,” but in college, she embraced the reputation of data analyst. She writes, “The long hours of intellectual stimulation I spent in the computer lab helped me realize that I had fallen in love with data analytics. I love the critical thinking, the openendedness, and the teamwork aspects that are imperative to a successful analysis process.”

She is an avid photographer and served as the co-president of the UR Photography Club.  She expanded club membership by enhancing the image through creative marketing.

Liang-Yun represented the university in a national sales competition. In 2016, the team placed third—the best result for UR’s business school since they began participating eight years ago.

She also taught climbing techniques in an after-school climbing club, helped manage the budget for the local volunteer fire department manager, and worked with third grade students from an under-privileged area to improve literacy. After internships with UPS Freight and Rolls-Royce, Liang-Yun begins her career with Deloitte in Taiwan before pursuing graduate studies.




Katie Jeffress
Juniata College
Campus and Community Service

Growing up in coastal south Texas – a hub for oil and petrochemical industries – gave Katie first-hand exposure to the environmental and socioeconomic issues that plague our world. Through her education and internships with Texas’ regulatory agency, she learned that, as she writes, “Smaller businesses and individuals catch the brunt of regulations and often don’t have the resources to handle the penalties and litigation. On the other hand, the largest corporations tend to be the biggest polluters, but they have the manpower and money to avoid environmental regulations through policy manipulation and complex permitting loopholes.”

She intends to help repair this system. She will teach English with Careyes Foundation in Costa Careyes, Mexico before she pursues a career in law. She explains, “I aspire to make regulations simpler, fairer, and more comprehensive.”

She led a collaborative effort between local businesses, town officials, and college administrators, which culminated in a planting of 250 trees to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the town’s founding. She co-authored a successful $10,000 grant to provide tree materials, and an O∆K Clay Grant to engage students in the project. She also served as writing seminar teaching assistant, tutor for the writing center, and principal flutist for the college orchestra.



Chase Moore
University of Mississippi
Journalism, Speech, and Mass Media

Chase has a personal mission, as he explains, “to challenge and support others, that they might reach their destined potential. While collaborating [with others] I was able to see how student affairs departments operated and witness its power to transform individuals. My involvement gave me a deeper passion to mentor and promote holistic wellness and development for my peers and myself.”

As O∆K circle vice president Chase coordinated and organized an annual leadership week, led leadership seminars, and recognized campus leaders, including students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Through intentional recruitment strategies, the circle initiated 45% or more diverse students across the five phases of campus life, as well as race, ethnicity, and leadership backgrounds.

He founded and served as president of Student Affairs Leaders of Tomorrow, was associate director for the Student Activities Association, directed the university’s Gospel Choir, and coordinated special events for the Ole Miss Ambassadors—organizing 75 student assignments for special events. This fall, he began graduate studies in higher education and student affairs at The Ohio State University.


Samantha Bingaman
University of Maryland, College Park

Samantha Bingaman was inspired as a child when she learned that a forested mountain she had just hiked was once a landfill, and has been working to help protect the planet ever since. As she writes, “I’m particularly interested in the global overuse of plastic and plastic’s journey from the petroleum plant to our homes to ocean garbage patches.”

She was the undergraduate representative to the UMD Sustainability Council, which advised the university president on environmental projects. She also chaired the University Sustainability Fund Review Board to review sustainability projects for funding. She spearheaded a movement to protect a campus forest, which was successful in blocking deforestation.

As the O∆K circle president, Samantha initiated service and community-building events, an organized the award-winning Meal Point Donation Drive to benefit hunger organizations. She competed on the Maryland Triathlon team and taught fitness classes.

She interned with the Ocean Conservancy, helped edit Maryland Sea Grant’s Chesapeake Quarterly, and founded the “Stop the Straw” campaign to reduce plastic use with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. She plans to pursue a career in law.