Stand Up and Be Seen!

WCSU seniors Emily Cole and Bryan Bielefeldt were both familiar faces around campus — and they shared the philosophy that being involved in campus and community is the only way to make a difference.

Because of their commitment to Western, both academically and civically, Cole and Bielefeldt were chosen as winners of the 2011 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award. The award, established in 1983 by the private development foundation of the CSU system, is given annually to 12 distinguished students from Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Connecticut state universities.

Cole pursued an English major and lives in Brookfield. Bielefeldt, of Waterbury, majored in graphic design. Recipients are selected for their academic and leadership qualities and must maintain at least a 3.7 grade point average and have a record of substantial voluntary service to their university and community.

Bielefeldt, who was a nontraditional student, served in the military for five years in the Airborne Infantry before returning to school. He said he was especially humbled by the award because it means more than just a few dollars in his pocket; he recognized the honor.

“When I think scholarship, I think money,” Bielefeldt said. “I didn’t apply for the monetary aspect; I applied for the Barnard Award itself.”

Cole’s sentiments about the award were similar: “I feel really honored and am very appreciative. It means someone thinks I’m worthy to continue my studies. That’s been really inspiring to me to help me move on. Scholarships are important because when someone feels they’ve been recognized it makes them work that much harder.”`

Both students were actively involved on campus. Cole was past president and a member of the English Honors Society, co-chair of the English Society, co-president of the local chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, a Student Government Association senator and chair of the fundraising committee, managing editor of the university magazine “Beyond the Margins” and treasurer and co-founder of the WCSU Golf Club. She also held several part-time positions outside of the university.

Bielefeldt has used his skills as a graphic design artist in the University Publications office and for the campus veterans organization.

“I try to be heavily involved with the veterans’ affairs,” he said. He has assisted with financial aid and registration packets and designed logos and done print marketing for the student veterans affairs programs. “I didn’t think of it as community service because I came from there. It seemed like the right place to be.”

The recipient of several other scholarships, Cole said that being involved on campus is the best way to learn about yourself and others and to explore areas that you may not otherwise have exposure.

“If you get involved on campus, you’ll have a lot more fun in class if you feel like you’re making a difference outside of it,” Cole said. “Pay attention and be a part of the class. You will feel more worthy and like you are contributing to yourself and others. That’s how you learn to grow. You have to find opportunities and being involved is a way to find them.”

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(l-r): Emily Cole, WCSU President James W. Schmotter and Bryan Bielefeldt at the Barnard Awards dinner.