Gala Honors Student Leaders

May 9, 2024
Seven members of the Black Student Union are pictured with their award.

The audience for this year’s Student Leadership Excellence Awards packed the PUB’s Nysether Community Room as the EWU community came together to celebrate its talented student leaders and the EWU staff members who support them.

From volunteering in the community to advocating for social justice, these leaders have made an important difference in the lives of others.

ASEWU officers celebrate the award that their advisor, Gabriel Blackwell, received.
ASEWU officers celebrate the award their advisor, Gabriel Blackwell, received.

Kelsey Hatch-Brecek, director of alumni relations at EWU, and Isai Vela, the university’s interim assistant director of student engagement, co-emceed the May 6 event.

Keynote speaker, Lea Jarnagin, Eastern’s vice president for student affairs, talked about the importance of student organizations and people who step up to lead.

“Leadership isn’t sexy,” Jarnagin said. “It naturally lends itself to criticism, evaluation, responsibility, whether earned or not, when things don’t go well, and bring kudos when things work out, again, whether you’ve earned it or not.”

Leadership, she continued, is not about ego, but rather the ability to build human relationships and bring people together in partnership and service.

Lea Jarnagin takes a congratulatory photo of Black Student Union leaders after the BSU wins the 2024 Social Justice Advocate award.
Lea Jarnagin takes a congratulatory photo of Black Student Union leaders after the BSU wins the 2024 Social Justice Advocate award.

The student leaders being honored contributed to the engagement and retention of themselves and of other students throughout the university, she said. “Thank you for everything you contribute to this institution. Thank you for trusting us by engaging.”

Two representatives of the Dungeons and Dragons Club, accompanied by a service dog, accept the club's award for the 2024 Student Organization of the Year.
Dungeons and Dragons Club representatives, accompanied by a service dog, accept the club’s award for the 2024 Student Organization of the Year.

This year’s award winners are listed below. Click on this photo gallery link to see some highlights of the evening.

2024 Community Service award: Christabel Agyei

Christabel Agyei is a scholar-activist who is deeply committed to social and environmental justice. The urban and regional planning student maintains high grades, while volunteering her time to help improve the homeless crisis. She co-authored a peer-reviewed journal article on homelessness management and participated in the Spokane Regional Point-In-Time Count. Agyei’s extensive involvement in research projects, receipt of prestigious scholarships, and nomination to serve on the City of Spokane’s Community, Housing, and Human Services Board underscore her dedication to social and environmental justice.


2024 Social Justice Advocate award: EWU’s Black Student Union

The EWU Black Student Union’s exemplary leadership has resulted in important conversations with university administration and the Spokane community about racism. Their work has inspired constructive dialogue and collaboration that supports social justice and a more inclusive campus environment. BSU’s impactful initiatives, such as the “MLK Day of Service: Empowerment Through Action” Conference and events during Black History Month, enriched the campus experience and promoted cultural awareness.


2024 Event of the Year award: Democratic Congressional Debate by EWU Student Democrats

The EWU Student Democrats were nominated for the Democratic Congressional Debate they hosted on March 22, 2024. The nomination highlights the club’s dedication to fostering civic engagement and providing a platform for meaningful political discourse on campus. The meticulously planned event attracted approximately 100 attendees. “The professionalism and efficiency with which the debate was conducted reflect the tireless efforts of the EWU Student Democrats in ensuring a substantive and respectful exchange of ideas.”


2024 Faculty/Staff of the Year award: Michelle Schultz

Michelle Schultz was nominated for her positivity, dedication, and compassionate leadership at the PUB welcome desk. Michelle’s caring and approachable nature, along with her hard work, have made her invaluable asset to her staff and the university community. Her commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment, along with her willingness to prioritize the well-being of her staff, has earned her widespread admiration and gratitude.


2024 Student Organization of the Year award: Dungeons and Dragons Club

With over 100 members from diverse backgrounds, the Dungeons and Dragons Club’s weekly meetings and campaign sessions have fostered a sense of camaraderie and belonging among students. One nomination highlights the club’s commitment to inclusivity and community building, stating, “They make sure that all students are welcome.”


2024 Student of the Year award: Amya Cook

Amya Cook was nominated for her exemplary leadership within the EWU community. Through her roles in EPIC Adventures, Black Student Union (BSU), Athletic Training Club, and as an orientation leader, Cook has consistently demonstrated exceptional skills in organization and leadership along with demonstrating tremendous empathy, and passion for positively impacting others. As one nomination states, “Her dedication, passion, and ability to positively impact others is what I admire most about Amya.”


2024 Student Organization Advisor award: Gabriel Blackwell

Gabe Blackwell was nominated for making a transformative impact within the Associated Students of Eastern Washington University (ASEWU). One nominator describes Blackwell as “a pillar in ASEWU’s journey,” emphasizing their commitment to empowering students and fostering an environment centered around student voices. Blackwell’s support, guidance, and mentorship was credited with contributing to the overall success of the organization.

Additional community members receiving awards include:

VCR Got Your 6: Rosemary (Rosee) Murray

Fraternity Member of the Year: Lucas Fyre

Sorority Member of the Year: Perla Rivera

Club Sports of the Year: Essence Dance

Club Sports Individual of the Year: Nathan Shaber

Intramural Athlete of the Year: Cameron Hashimoto-Enriques

Intramural Athlete of the Year: Alvin Oywak

Residential Student of the Year

  • Anderson Hall: Scott Bartholomew
  • Pearce Hall: Ash Nielson
  • Snyamncut: Ella Branson
  • Streeter Hall: Hawa (Halla Kuyon) Eliason


**Special thanks to Viktoria Taroudaki, assistant professor of computational mathematics, and to the EWU Alumni Association for providing photos of the evening.