“What can you do with the collective brainpower of some of the strongest leaders on campus?” asks Joanne Neugebauer ’11, an Ohio Wesleyan University botany major from Euclid, Ohio.
It’s an intriguing question, and one that Neugebauer, president of the OWU Women’s Boosters chapter of Mortar Board, is anxious to explore.
Mortar Board is a national honor society that recognizes college seniors for outstanding achievement in scholarship, leadership, and service. Since its founding in 1918, the national organization has grown from four chapters to 228 chartered collegiate chapters with nearly a quarter of a million initiated members across the nation.
Neugebauer attended Mortar Board’s national conference in July, where she accepted a Silver Torch Award earned last year under the leadership of Nathaniel Cook ’10 of Delaware. (Despite the unique name of the OWU Women’s Boosters chapter—chartered in 1929—it has tapped both men and women for membership for more than 30 years, Neugebauer says. Mortar Board was founded as an all women’s collegiate honor society, but began accepting men in 1975, she explains.)
The national conference, held in Chicago, also inspired her to work with second-year chapter adviser, Dean of Students Kimberlie Goldsberry, Ph.D., to expand the group’s activities and outreach.
“It’s challenging to be part of an organization where the entire membership turns over every year,” Neugebauer says of the seniors-only honor society.
“Mortar Board is in the process of establishing what it does at Ohio Wesleyan,” Neugebauer continues. “Last year was a transition year as we as a chapter found a new adviser, so no new projects were undertaken besides tapping members.
“This year we are still in the process of formalizing plans for projects, but they will revolve around our three tenets of scholarship, leadership, and service,” she says, “focusing more on collaborating with the other organizations that our members are currently a part of to maximize the effect of their efforts.”
Like so many of OWU’s student groups, Mortar Board is eager to “give back to the community that has given us so much,” Neugebauer says. And with so many of Mortar Board’s members active in service, she hopes the collaborations and networking will have powerful results.
In addition to her major in botany, Neugebauer is working toward a minor in environmental studies. After graduation, she hopes to complete a year of service or an academic-based internship in plant biology.
“Once I have figured out what general area of plant biology I want to specialize in, I plan on attending graduate school to become a professor at a liberal arts university,” says Neugebauer, a 2007 graduate of Villa Angela St. Joseph High School.
Goldsberry says Ohio Wesleyan is fortunate to have a Mortar Board chapter eager to make a difference on campus.
“I look forward to seeing the results of Mortar Board’s collaborations with other student groups and initiatives,” says Goldsberry, who became chapter adviser in February. “The group will continue its traditional flower sale at Commencement, but will branch out in additional, meaningful ways.”
Learn more about OWU’s honors program.
Learn more about the Mortar Board national honor society.