SAA Leadership Banquet

By: Dezaray Barr

The Student Alumni Association hosted its 5th annual SAA Leadership Banquet on Thursday, March 30th. The goal of this banquet is to encourage engagement between current students and alumni. One way this is done is by honoring leadership within the current IWU student body. Four students were recognized at the banquet: two male and two female Student Leader of the Year and Rising Leader of the Year.

The following criteria was used for selection:

  • – Junior or senior (Student Leader of the Year) who is a full-time student at Indiana Wesleyan University.
  • – Freshman and Sophomore (Rising Leader of the Year) who is a full-time student at Indiana Wesleyan University.
  • – Cumulative G.P.A. of 3.0 or higher.
  • – Holds a leadership position or displays leadership skills within Indiana Wesleyan University.
  • – Student displays – Character, Scholarship and Leadership in their personal life which aligns with the core values of the Indiana Wesleyan University mission statement.
  • – Student is known for going out of their way to equip, develop, and help the people around them that exemplify a servant leadership attitude.
  • – Student desires to continue Christian leadership outside of Indiana Wesleyan University.
  • – Student must be involved in at least one extracurricular activity outside of the classroom.
  • – Student must be in good standing in the areas of academic, citizenship and chapel attendance.


Ryan Smith, photo contributed from Facebook

Male Student Leader of the Year: Ryan Smith

Major: Biology/Pre-Medicine & Honors Humanities

Class year: Graduating Senior

Favorite IWU Professor: Dr. Rusty Hawkins for his wisdom, fairness in teaching, passion for living out truth, and intentionality with helping students live as Christ would.

Future plans: Return to Athens, Greece in May to volunteer again then attend Indiana University School of Medicine in the fall. I am uncertain what I want to specialize in.

Favorite Memory of IWU: How well the school honored Dr. Williams.


Olivia Eckart


Female Student Leader of the Year: Olivia Eckart

Major: Christian Ministries

Class: Junior

Favorite professor: Dr. Morgan, Theology Professor. He is a professor that doesn’t just want to teach us head knowledge, he speaks in a way that what we learn about theology is a heart issue. I have learned so much more about my faith and who God is in his class than any other class I’ve taken at Indiana Wesleyan so far.

Future Plans: I plan on graduating next year and then moving on to complete my masters at Wesley Seminary as I pursue a call to serve the Church locally and globally. Enlightened will continue as we grow and build a team of people that will create and distribute more content to high school students for leading Enlightened worship events at their high schools. I am excited to see what God has in store for this ministry and for His Church and I am thankful to be apart of it.

Favorite memory of IWU: I am apart of the Kern Ministry Program here at IWU. A cohort of 17 ministry majors from my class meets weekly to discuss books, theology, and our personal walks with God. I got to gather with 16 other Christian/Youth Ministries majors this semester to discuss leadership, our personal walks with God, as well as pray together. During one of our meetings, we gathered in a circle and huddled to pray, and we all felt the Holy Spirit among us as we acknowledged our preparation for the years to come. As leaders, we knew there was a long journey ahead but we had each other’s backs. I will hold on to this moment as I move forward to one day work in a church and continue to lead Enlightened. I have learned that we are not alone when God calls us. He has given me an amazing support system at this school and I won’t forget the special moments I’ve had with those people.


Jill Koval
Female Rising Leader Award: Jill Koval

Major: Political Science, Economics, and Honors Humanities

Class: Sophomore

Favorite professor: Dr. Conrad of the Social Science’s Division. He is a wonderful teacher and a better friend. Dr. Conrad has been very welcoming and encouraging to me and has been the source of academic and spiritual wisdom throughout my time at IWU thus far.

Future plans: Public Service- I hope to secure a internship within the governor’s fellowship post-graduation and from there desire to continue working in local/state government, a non-profit, or lobbying firm. I’m interested in community development on every level: household, church, and government.

Favorite Memories at IWU: They include sitting in the Social Science’s Division Office listening to all the professors banter, running out of late showings at the globe to make curfew, and being able to sit with my friends at chapel even though we take up an entire row.


Tyler Abbott

Male Rising Leader of the Year: Tyler Abbott

Major: Christian Ministries

Class: Sophomore

Favorite professor: Dr. Eddy Shigley is one of my favorite professors, because he is a all around amazing man of God! He not only is a great Prof that I have learned a lot from, but I also learn a lot from him just by watching him. He is an amazing husband, amazing father, amazing tennis coach, and amazing leader and mentor to me! I am very blessed to call him a friend, mentor, and Prof!

Future plans: My future plans are to graduate from IWU and go straight into seminary work. Then do a residency at a church, hopefully my home church 12 Stone church in Atlanta, but really just where ever God leads me. And then be a full time youth pastor and speaker.

Favorite memories of IWU: My favorite memory at IWU has got to be just the people I’ve gotten to meet, learn with, do life with, and grow in Christ with! One of those has been my amazing girlfriend who is an absolute blessing from God. Some of my best memories here and in life have been with her already. I can’t wait to make more with her and all my other friends!


Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a sophomore Strategic Communication and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. At IWU Dezaray is involved in PRSSA leadership and runs both the JWHC Blog and her own blog. Visit Dez’s website at


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