West Virginia University has named Olivia Dowler, Sophia Flower, Rachel Johnson, Thomas Williams and Natalie Wonsettler the 2023 Mountaineers of Distinction, a Mountaineer Week tradition that recognizes exemplary academic achievement and extracurricular involvement.
Distinguished by superior academic standing and a spirit of volunteerism and service to others, the honorees were chosen by an interview selection panel from a pool of nearly 70 students who applied from across campus.
All members of the WVU Honors College, the four seniors and one graduate student received the recognition during halftime of the WVU vs. Brigham Young University football game Saturday (Nov. 4) at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Dowler, a first-generation college student from Weirton, is a history, philosophy and Spanish major who has maintained a cumulative 4.0 grade point average. She serves as Spanish chair for the Global Medical and Dental Brigades and a WVU Visitors Center tour guide, and previously held the position of legislative affairs liaison with the Student Government Association.
A champion for survivors of sexual assault and violence, she is a vocal advocate for victim support services on campus and guidance on Title IX rights. She has also advocated for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to expand efforts in West Virginia to combat domestic violence and sexual assault.
Dowler was selected to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University where she is working to create a monthly farmers market in downtown Weirton to address food insecurity.
She is a 2020 Foundation Scholar.
Flower is a biology major minoring in Appalachian studies from Fairmont. She serves as an apprentice coordinator with the Student Government Association, president of the Global Medical and Dental Brigades, and is a West Virginia 4-H All Star.
Passionate about finding solutions to improve mental health and well-being on campus, Flower is a former chair of the Well-being and Mental Health Student Advisory Board. She also had the opportunity to raise awareness about mental health issues at the state level by advocating for the Mountaineer Resilience Project, a bill to allocate COVID-19 relief funds to mental health resources for college students across the state.
She is a 2020 Bucklew Scholar.
Johnson, from Princeton, is a graduate student majoring in journalism who has maintained a 4.0 cumulative grade point average. She serves as a graduate assistant with WVU Arts and Entertainment and is a former student worker with University Relations/Communications and editor-in-chief of Her Campus.
She volunteers her time to fostering a culture of mutual respect among community members and giving women, Appalachians and other marginalized people a voice through her passion for storytelling.
As an account executive with the Martin Hall Agency, Johnson spearheaded the launch “Humans of Morgantown,” a campaign designed to educate community members on the struggles of houselessness; and as a member of the Foundry Church Community Awareness Team, she organized a community naloxone training seminar.
Johnson also created “Wild and Wonderful Women: Counternarratives to tired Appalachian stereotypes,” a website highlighting the cultural contributions of women in Appalachia, to fulfill her Honors College EXCEL Program project requirements.
She is a 2022 Foundation Outstanding Senior.
Williams, from Old Fields, is an exercise physiology major minoring in biology who has maintained a cumulative 4.0 grade point average. He is the former president of the Pre-Dental Club and an American FFA degree recipient.
Growing up as a 10th generation farmer taught him about food insecurity and lack of resources in rural areas, propelling his passion to serve the people of his state.
As an AHEC Rural Health Scholar, he has volunteered his time to community-based service projects in underserved areas of West Virginia, which included a two-day food insecurity and preservation rural immersion where he helped pack more than 500 boxes of food for veterans and families in need.
Williams also worked to create closed captions for online educational videos he and other Presidential Student Ambassadors recorded, making them more accessible to people with disabilities at WVU.
He is a 2020 Bucklew Scholar.
Wonsettler, from Morgantown, is biology major minoring in English and medical humanities and health studies who has maintained a 4.0 cumulative grade point average. She serves as a Presidential Student Ambassador, writing consultant for the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and an ambassador for WVU Admissions.
She volunteers her time advocating for foster children who are victims of neglect and abuse and to the Girl Scouts. Wonsettler also serves with the Court Appointed Special Advocate for Kids of Monongalia County Program, a volunteer-based organization where she works to provide recommendations to the court based on the best interests of the child.
Merging her interests in social services and medicine, she is exploring how medical providers can use narrative medicine to better meet the unique needs of children in foster care as part of her Honors EXCEL project.
Wonsettler is a two-time Eberly Scholar.
Other Mountaineers of Distinction finalists were Allison Barr, a biology and animal and nutritional sciences dual major from Moorefield; Caroline Johnson, an industrial engineering major from Hurricane; CJ Miller, a dual political science and international studies major minoring in general business from Wheeling; Adelle Pacyna, a biology major from Morgantown; and Lauren Sexton, a biology major minoring in violin performance and psychology from Williamstown.
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