Danielle Armstrong of Bristol, Tenn., has been honored as the first “Student of the Block” for the 2009-10 academic year at Tusculum College.
The college’s Office of Student Affairs presented the “Student of the Block” Award to Armstrong during a brief ceremony on Oct. 8. Armstrong was presented a plaque detailing her accomplishments that will be displayed on the “Wall of Honor” in the Niswonger Commons and then rotate to other academic buildings. The award was instituted to honor students for academic excellence and leadership on campus. Faculty and staff members submit nominations for the award.
In his nomination of Armstrong, David Smith said, “On top of all the accolades, Danielle has earned as a fantastic employee and student, she is a wonderful person who always has time to greet new students and welcome them to campus.” Smith is assistant director of Student Support Services and TRIO Programs, and Armstrong serves as a mentor for Student Support Services.
In presenting the honor, Dean of Students Dr. David McMahan noted that Armstrong was the epitome of an engaged student at Sullivan Central High School and has continued that tradition of engagement in her college career. She is an English and science subject tutor, a Student Support Services mentor, a contributing writer to the student newspaper and a writer for the “Tusculum Review,” the college’s literary magazine.
Armstrong is serving for the second year as a resident assistant in the college’s Residence Life program, is a resident assistant for the Upward Bound summer camp and is a freshman orientation leader.
McMahan noted that Armstrong is one of those individuals whose leadership is not marked with words, but with attitudes and action. “While Tusculum will lose a valuable member of the student body when Danielle departs in the spring of 2011, the world will gain a dedicated and wonderful member of the creative writing community,” he said. “Her quiet leadership has truly been marked in her actions and return to the campus which she believes has given her so much.”
A strong creative and artistic talent led Armstrong to her current major, creative writing. The junior notes that the decision came after searching for her academic niche. “I changed my major several times . . . pre-physical therapy to art education to journalism and professional writing to creating writing,” she says. “I did not want to become a doctor; I didn’t want to just report the facts, and I enjoy writing and being creative.”
Armstrong chose to follow her passion and aspires to earn advanced degrees in fine arts in order to become a college professor and author in years to come. Encouraging Armstrong’s dreams has been her favorite professor, Dr. Taimi Olsen, who taught “Classical Mythology,” one of her favorite classes.
She has also participated in a research project involving the English and Psychology department and was a co-presenter about the project with other students at an Appalachian College Association (ACA) symposium with psychology professors, Dr. Brian Pope and Dr. Tom Harlow.
When asked what advice she can give to fellow college students, Armstrong replied she would encourage them to become involved and engaged with the campus community to find where they belong. “Initially, I was homesick and went home a lot, but the more involved I got, the less time I had to go home,” she said.
In her first semester at college, Armstrong was not involved and did not know many people on campus. However, her best friend from high school, Tiffany Colbaugh, was also a student at Tusculum and knew many people through her work-study position in the Student Affairs Office. “I tagged along with Tiffany and eventually got to know more people. I became very involved in my second semester as a tutor and writer for the paper – I found out where I belonged,” she said.
Her many memories of friends and activities are what Armstrong describes as the backbone of her Tusculum experience, whether it was a student trip to King’s Island, enjoying watching fellow students slide down the many hills on campus on snowy days or watching the band competition each fall. “I would not have been happier anywhere else,” she said. “The campus is small, the classes are small and I enjoy the one-on-one attention I receive. I truly enjoy the small private school environment.”