June 2, 2016
Baldwin City, Kan. — Five graduating students were honored with Outstanding Senior awards during Baker University’s commencement ceremonies on May 22. Alex Baird, Overland Park, Kansas; Callie Brabender, Lawrence, Kansas; Aaron Greenbaum, Prairie Village, Kansas; Jamison Montes de Oca, Lawrence, Kansas; and Emilee Sumler, Anderson, Missouri, all received the award. Nomination criteria included superior achievement in the fields of academics, leadership, service, co-curricular activities, and off-campus educational opportunities. Nominations are reviewed and decided on by a committee of faculty, staff, coaches, and students.
According to a nominator, Baird “is dedicated to Baker and its development.” As a Student Salon leader, executive student orientation director for two years, and a university admissions assistant, Baird shared his infectious love of Baker with fellow students and welcomed prospective Wildcats with open arms.
Graduating cum laude, Baird balanced his academic achievements with two NAIA All-American football awards and membership on the men’s track and field team. During his time on the football field and track, in the classroom, and in multiple internships, Baird has made an impact at Baker and Baker has had an impact on him.
“I will never forget that without this university, I would never have been able to grow in the way I have as a person,” he said.
“She has always gone above and beyond her duties to ensure the success of the activities she is involved in,” one nominator said about Brabender. And the accolades she earned as an undergraduate tell the same story: 2016 Teacher of Promise, Greek Woman of the Year, and an NAIA Scholar-Athlete for Competitive Dance and Cheer award are just a few of her recent accomplishments.
Majoring in elementary education, Brabender was an active member of Delta Delta Delta sorority and the dance team, holding leadership roles in both, including dance co-captain during her senior year. She was also active on campus as a residence life staff member, Salon 101 student leader, and orientation leader. Speaking about her impact on student life at Baker, Brabender said, “Any legacy I may leave behind at Baker is far surpassed by what Baker provided me in the few short years that I spent at the best university in Kansas.”
“He is an enthusiastic Baker scholar who truly cares about his fellow students and professors,” Greenbaum’s nominator stated.
From improv comedy troupe member to captain of the men’s tennis team and student body president, Greenbaum excelled across academic, athletic, and social life en route to graduating summa cum laude with a major in business management and minors in accounting, economics, and Spanish.
“I have developed into a proud Wildcat over my years a Baker University, Greenbaum said. “I consider my legacy at Baker as laughs shared, effective Student Senate meetings, and friendships with the wonderful Baker community.”
Jamison Montes de Oca
Montes de Oca spent time as an undergraduate doing laboratory work at the University of Kansas Medical Center and published an article on his research, all of which helped build his knowledge as a biology major and chemistry minor and earned him summa cum laude honors on commencement day.
Montes de Oca was just as active outside of the classroom, serving in leadership positions in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, showing the next class of potential Baker students around campus as a university admissions assistant, and learning from and networking with alumni through the parMentor program.
“Little did I know how much Baker would enhance my character, enrich my intellect, and engender memories that will last beyond a mere lifetime,” Montes de Oca reflected. “I have evolved from a timid, young student into an able scholar and leader. Baker has succeeded in its mission to create confident, competent, and responsible contributors to society.”
Although Sumler made a point of not drawing attention to herself while at Baker, she had an undeniable influence on campus.
“Oddly, it is her humility that makes her stand out. She does all with such grace—rarely do you see her frazzled,” one nominator noted. Another stated, “She has been a backbone to Residence Life staff with the delicate balance of manager, administrator, student leader, and mentor to the hall and staff.”
A three-year member of the Residence Life staff, Sumler was also an active member of the Art Club and achieved magna cum laude status while earning a degree in art education.