Feature Story

‘Outstanding Undergraduate Student Leader’

November 20, 2017 – by Cole Hatcher

Catie Kocian ’18 (left) works during new student Orientation to help incoming students get ready to become Bishops. She recently was honored by the National Association for Campus Activities with its ‘Outstanding Undergraduate Student Leader’ award. (Photo by Mark Schmitter ’12)

Ohio Wesleyan’s Catie Kocian ’18 Recognized by National Association for Campus Activities

As Catie Kocian ’18 and her team wrapped up this summer’s Orientation events for incoming Ohio Wesleyan University students, it wasn’t the power outage, endless logistics, or lack of sleep over the previous two weeks that left her misty-eyed.

“As I was surrounded by my peers who had worked so hard … I was overwhelmed by them,” says Kocian, an applied vocal music major and an international studies and history double minor, from Pittsford, New York.

“Our team put around 300 new students through Orientation, and as I thanked them for their positivity, their go-with-the-flow attitudes, and their dedication to the program, I began to tear up,” Kocian recalls. “Not just any group of 18 students could have done what they did.”

As the wrap-up meeting concluded, Kocian began walking away with Brad Pulcini, OWU’s assistant dean for student engagement and director of the first-year experience.

“He said, ‘You know you’re going into higher education, right? People who aren’t going into higher education don’t cry about orientation,’ ” Kocian remembers. “He remains correct, and that was the moment I knew I wanted to go into higher education.”

And Kocian already is off to a great start.

She recently was named the nation’s “Outstanding Undergraduate Student Leader” by the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA). She received her award in October during the 2017 NACA Mid America Regional Conference in Covington, Kentucky.

Pulcini and Nancy Bihl Rutkowski, OWU’s director of student leadership, provided letters of support in connection with Kocian’s award nomination.

“Catie is a true leader on campus,” Pulcini says. “She may not know the many ways that she impacts and makes a difference in the lives of Ohio Wesleyan University students. Her programming is innovative, and her commitment to student engagement and success is evident in everything that she does. ... The (higher education) profession is lucky to have such a wonderful human being joining the field.”

Adds Rutkowski, who worked closely with Kocian through the Campus Programming Board (CPB): “Without exaggeration, Catie is the most dedicated member of CPB with whom I have had the pleasure to work with over the past seven years. … In her various roles, Catie not only has had a hand in all major events, she has improved every event.”

Kocian says she considers both OWU staff members to be mentors, along with Dina Daltorio, OWU’s new coordinator of student activities.

“By creating an environment for others to succeed in college, higher education professionals set students up for success past graduation,” Kocian says. “I think it’s special that in higher education, I would affect change on a large scale by allowing others to be their best selves in college and in their careers, and I look forward to hopefully doing that.”

Kocian is equally passionate about being an OWU student, saying that with just one visit to campus, she knew Ohio Wesleyan was the right fit.

“I chose OWU after reading about it in the book ‘Colleges That Change Lives.’ I came to visit and toured our campus one visit day and ended the day by sitting in on a choir rehearsal with Dr. Jason Hiester,” Kocian says. “I walked out of Gray Chapel with my mom and said, ‘Can we go to the bookstore? I would like a sweatshirt.’

“After that day and experience,” she says, “I knew that OWU was the place for me.”