Kelsey Spickler ’24, a Westover Honors Fellow from Bridgewater, Virginia, has been named the 2023-24 Richard Clarke Sommerville Scholar. The award, the University of Lynchburg’s highest academic honor, was presented on Monday, Nov. 13, in Drysdale Student Center’s West Room.
Spickler is a sociology major, with minors in sustainability studies and human services, and also a Bonner Leader. While she initially struggled to declare a major, she knew she “loved learning about earth science” and “had a passion for direct service to others in need.”
After taking courses in sociology and environmental science and joining the Bonner Leader Program, she realized she didn’t have to choose between her passion and academics. In a letter to the Sommerville Scholar selection committee, she wrote that at Lynchburg she has cherished “the opportunity to integrate my academic interests of environmental science with my passion for helping others.”
Spickler’s coursework also introduced her to a new experience: service learning.
“Classes like Applied Sociology and Sustainability in Practice included time to volunteer at local organizations like Lynchburg Grows, Pierce Street Garden, and World Help, where we got to learn about sustainability practices or see different forms of community practice theory in action,” she wrote.
“I had never heard of or experienced service learning before my time at the University, and I have come to recognize this is a unique opportunity that not all higher education institutions include in their curriculum.
“The University of Lynchburg holds leadership development as one of the three pillars, which is obtained by serving others. This pillar has not only made the biggest impact on my academic journey, but it has also enabled me to develop my passions into a career path.”
Dr. Sharon Foreman, an associate professor of sociology at Lynchburg, recommended Spickler for the award. She described her as “knowledgeable, equitable, honest, purposeful, dedicated to process and outcomes, and caring.”
She added, “These are the practical skills and qualities that Kelsey exhibits and exercises, in addition to her high level of intellectual skills that make others want to work with her, and why her peers view her as a leader among them with high integrity and character.
“I have observed firsthand, in more than one course, instances where class colleagues have grown personally and intellectually by working in a team with Kelsey.”
In addition to Spickler, the following students, selected from 25 applicants, were finalists for the Sommerville Scholar:
- Westover Honors Fellow Francesca Cuchna ’24, of Manchester, Maryland, an exercise physiology major and member of Lynchburg’s swim team
- Kelley McCormick ’24, of Chester, New Hampshire, a double major in criminology and communication studies, with an emphasis in public relations and minors in criminal forensics and crisis communication, and Lynchburg’s equestrian team captain
- Hannah Melega ’24, of Hillsborough, North Carolina, a transfer student and nursing major with a minor in psychological science
- Taylor Morgan ’24, of Lynchburg, Virginia, president of the Westover Honors College Executive Board and a psychological science major with a minor in Spanish
- Jacqueline Needle ’24, a health promotion major, psychological science minor, and equestrian team member from Sparks, Maryland
- Grace Powell ’24, of Blairs, Virginia, a Westover Honors Fellow with a major in English and minors in history and theatre, who created an early childhood literacy campaign that collected and donated books to children.
Established in 1963, the Sommerville Scholar is named for Richard Clarke Sommerville, a professor of philosophy and psychology at Lynchburg from 1928 to 1947. Sommerville Scholars must be of good character, as evidenced by ideals, attitudes, observance of University regulations, and personal behavior, with an overall GPA in academic subjects of 3.5 or better. They also must exhibit qualities that were important to Sommerville: academic achievement, broad intellectual curiosity, and contributions to the University community.