Each year, the Distinguished Leadership Award for Outstanding Seniors recognizes graduating students for their outstanding scholarship and contributions to the Macalester community. This year’s eleven recipients have been successful in the classroom, in campus life, and in the community. They have been positive role models for the student body and worked to promote the college’s core values. Here, we share details from the award nominations submitted by faculty, staff, and fellow students.

Ghaïcha Aboubacar Ahé

Ghaïcha Aboubacar Ahé '24Ghaïcha Aboubacar Ahé has been a prominent leader at Macalester, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to uplifting others and fostering a sense of belonging through her roles in student organizations, student government, in the classroom, and as an Resident Assistant. Despite COVID challenges, she revitalized Afrika! during her sophomore year; in addition, she has served as a longstanding member and mentor in the Muslim Student Association. As a Senior Resident Assistant, she not only builds relationships with her students, she also aids and advocates for fellow RAs. She has served as Diversity and Inclusion Officer in student government, advocating for initiatives that serve her fellow students. Her leadership extends to academic roles, where she has been a preceptor and teaching assistant multiple times within the Economics Department. Aboubacar Ahé’s influence radiates across campus, leaving a lasting impact on our community. Her leadership serves as a shining example, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps and embody the spirit of unity and support that defines the Macalester community. 

Hufsa Ahmed 

Hufsa Ahmed '24Hufsa Ahmed’s journey at Macalester embodies leadership, service, and academic excellence that extends beyond Macalester; as one of her nominators shared, “it is rare to find an undergraduate student who is so broadly successful in campus and community leadership.” At Macalester, Ahmed served for two years as co-chair of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society, served as a Chuck Green Fellow, and has been a strong leader within the Muslim Student Association. A common thread throughout her campus involvement has been her dedication to servant leadership and a desire to bring in others and support them. Additionally, Ahmed has been a leader within Sunrise Saint Paul, where she organized campaigns and teach-ins. She has also tutored first-generation immigrants through Ignite Afterschool and taught Adult English learners through Americorps. Her dedication to amplifying marginalized voices and fostering dialogue reflects her deep understanding of global interconnectedness and her unwavering commitment to social change. 

Emma Kopplin 

Emma Koplin '24Whether it’s through her community involvement, advocacy efforts, or academic endeavors, Emma Kopplin’s leadership has shined at Macalester. Through her roles as a Resident Assistant, a course preceptor, and as Vice President of the student government, Kopplin has shown her commitment to students through exceptional mentorship and advocacy. Her dedication to creating positive change is evidenced by her involvement in initiatives like advocating for Narcan access on campus, increasing support and resources for first-generation and low-income students, and working with other students to support housing options for international students over winter break. In addition, Kopplin has produced several academic projects and papers in departments across campus, ranging in content from the destruction of the historic Rondo neighborhood of Saint Paul to funding of rural schools in South Dakota since the 1940s to personal profiles of American exiles and ex-patriots in France. Kopplin’s active engagement in curricular and co-curricular opportunities showcase her holistic approach to personal and intellectual growth. 

Chevonne Kwarisiima 

Chevonne Kwarisiima '24Chevonne Kwarisiima’s dedication to enhancing the student experience at Mac shines brightly through her multifaceted contributions across various spheres of campus life. Kwarisiima has been a student representative in the MCSG Student Services and Relations Committee, where she contributed to improving the Open Pantry, increasing health insurance literacy, and supporting student programming through the community chest fund. Additionally, she has been a Resident Assistant for the past two years, supporting first- and second-year students to build community and navigate life at Macalester, and a leader for the Afrika! student association, where she is diligent in creating spaces for cultural exchange, dialogue, and celebration. Kwarisiima also served as one of the planners of “When Home is Hard,” a collaboration with the LSC and the Hamre Center. This program creates spaces for students whose homes are going through difficult challenges and who don’t see themselves represented in mainstream media or discourse. Her nominator said, “Chevonne is a motivational leader. She inspires others to lead with her generosity.”

Mariah Loeffler-Kemp 

Mariah Loeffler-Kemp '24Mariah Loeffler-Kemp has been an engaged and involved member of our community all four years. As a four-year member of MCSG, a leader on the track and cross country teams, and a leader in her political science major, Loeffler-Kemp has consistently exemplified leadership, scholarship, and community engagement. Her unwavering commitment to addressing student concerns and fostering a sense of unity within the campus community has been commendable. Her leadership has not only resulted in tangible improvements in transparency within shared governance, but has also inspired her peers to actively participate in shaping the college experience. In every aspect of her college career, Loeffler-Kemp has embodied Macalester’s core values. Her leadership extends to mentorship, as she actively guides younger students through their own leadership journeys. She balances her roles as a leader, athlete, and scholar—doing so with grace, positivity, and a spirit that always seeks fun and community building. 

Bobbie Pennington 

Bobbie Pennington '24Bobbie Pennington serves as an example of a transformational leader, earning recognition for his unwavering commitment to fostering positive change within the Macalester community. Through his roles as president, vice-president, and other positions within MCSG, Resident Assistant, Board of Trustees student liaison, and Strategic Planning Champion, Pennington has forged meaningful connections with students, faculty, and staff and has led initiatives that enhanced the college experience for all. His consistent advocacy for international students, exemplified by the impact he and other students had on making the changes to keep residence halls open during winter break and study away opportunities, showcases his prioritization of  inclusivity and community well-being. Pennington’s work in restructuring student government enhanced transparency, amplified marginalized voices, and fostered collaboration amongst student, faculty, and staff. His impact resonates deeply across Macalester, leaving an indelible legacy of compassionate leadership. 

Sophia Salinas 

Sophia Salinas '24Sophia Salinas has been a multifaceted leader for Macalester, and her thoughtful, welcoming, and inclusive approach to her engagement has created meaningful, lasting impacts. Salinas has worked for three years as a Community Engagement Officer in the Community Engagement Center (CEC), making extraordinary contributions in language-based programs and initiatives. In this role, she cultivated relationships with nine off-campus educational partners as the CEC was transitioning back towards more in-person learning and engagement with the local community. Salinas has also been a leader within the Latinx Student Union, played a key role in the Urban Studies Colloquium, and was one of eight students selected for the inaugural Transforming Pedagogy cohort. Salinas has been a true community builder in her time at Macalester, and a role model that younger students will look to emulate in years to come. 

Dipakshi Sarma 

Dipakshi Sarma '24Dipakshi Sarma’s commitment to internationalism and social justice has made an impact both on campus and in the greater Twin Cities. As a Community Engagement Officer in the Community Engagement Center, Sarma has worked deeply with local immigrant and refugee communities. She has recruited and supported seven distinct groups who are engaging locally each week, with one example being overnight volunteering in a local church that houses refugees. In her work, Sarma thinks about large structural issues and raises questions about the impact of her work, along with how to dig deeper to achieve more holistic change. She has worked with the Center for Victims of Torture, served as a Chuck Green Fellow at the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, and participated in Lives of Commitment. Her nominator said, “She leads by example and is tireless in her work to recruit and support her peers to be engaged in the local community.” The breadth and depth of Sarma’s work over four years is significant, and has made a meaningful, lasting impact. 

Shayla Sayphone 

Shalya Sayphone '24Shayla Sayphone shows up in multiple spaces as an essential member of our community, skilled at finding creative solutions to challenges and executing tasks that weave together the shared vision of others. She is a Bonner Community Scholar, and a member of the Bonner Leadership Team, a co-chapter President of QuestBridge, and a member of the Posse, Bonner and QuestBridge (PBQ) leadership team. She helped QuestBridge build and sustain its programmatic energy, helped Bonner adhere to its six common commitments, and helped forge and sustain the relationships that drive the connections between Posse, Bonner, and QuestBridge. Through off-campus student employment, she has worked at a local elementary school. Through these experiences, Sayphone has shown her ability to act as a bridge between communities, engage in critical conversations, and strive to make connections between what she is learning through coursework and what she experiences off campus. 

Anna Diagne Sène

Anna Diagne Sène '24As one of her nominators said, “Anna is revered as one of those students with a special zest that follows her wherever she goes across campus.” Her leadership at Macalester is evident through her dedication and impactful service as a Resident Assistant and Senior Resident Assistant, and as a member of MCSG, Pi Sigma Alpha, and the Muslim Student Association. Sène invests significant time and effort in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment within the residence halls, organizations, and classroom spaces she is a part of, and creating spaces of community-building and support for her fellow students. Sène has worked to address student concerns, promote inclusivity, and enhance the overall student experience at Mac. Through her collaborations with the LSC, Hamre Center, and fellow students, she created safer spaces for underserved student populations and organized workshops aimed at supporting students during challenging times. Her initiatives, like the one she co-led called, “When Home is Hard,” reflect her empathy, compassion, and commitment to addressing important societal issues. Sène’s genuine love for the Macalester community is evident in her service, advocacy, and unwavering commitment to making a positive difference. 

Chloe Vasquez 

Chloe Vasquez '24Chloe Vasquez has consistently contributed to a variety of areas of campus life, including academic pursuits and co-curricular involvement throughout her time at Macalester. Academically, her research endeavors and groundbreaking work on the problem of access to snakebite antivenom, underscore her commitment to addressing pressing global health challenges. Vasquez has held multiple leadership roles, including as founder of a local chapter of Doctors Without Borders, a leader in Women in Economics student organization, a digital arts consultant on campus, Spanish lab instructor, and Community and Global Health concentration representative. Her dedication to service and advocacy is tireless, with one nominator saying, “with her charisma, intelligence, and energy, she has the ability to bring people together for productive change. Chloe is always planning something new that gets people excited about global health issues.” As an awardee of the 2024 Watson Fellowship, her leadership and commitment to effecting positive change will continue to serve as an inspiration to the Macalester community and beyond.

May 9 2024

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