In early March, the nominees for the annual Barlow Trophy were announced. Lainie Ettema, Audrey Plouffe and Gavin Swiecicki are the 2023 finalists.
The Barlow Award was established in 1949 to recognize graduating seniors who rank in the top 10% of their class and demonstrate high achievement inside and outside of the classroom. The winner is determined by Alma’s Student Congress and faculty and will be announced on April 6.
“It feels crazy to be nominated considering how many seniors, this year especially, have maintained such a high academic standard and are doing such cool things,” said Audrey Plouffe (‘23).
Plouffe is a shining example of a highly involved student. They are an IPHS major and are minoring in both dance and English. They are the president of the dance honorary, vice president of the IPHS honorary and a member of the English honorary.
Outside of the classroom, Plouffe is treasurer for the pre-therapy club, a tutor and an Student Instructor (SI). During their time at Alma, they have held multiple jobs in the admissions office and worked as a First Year Guide.
Plouffe has been accepted into the UM-Flint doctorate of physical therapy program, where they are “going to be a physical therapist and then hopefully be able to get a PhD and continue on with research and maybe teaching in a PT program,” said Plouffe.
Plouffe’s advice for other students is to “make friends with your professors. The professors I’ve gotten close to are the reason I’ve ended up doing anything interesting,” said Plouffe.
The other finalists are just as excited about the experience as Plouffe. “It is truly an honor to be a Barlow Award finalist… I am humbled and incredibly grateful,” said Lainie Ettema (‘23).
Ettema is an art and design major with a minor in women’s and gender studies driven by her passion for art and “the potential for a more just and equitable future,” said Ettema.
During her years at Alma College, she served as editor-in-chief of the Pine River Anthology for two years, “engaged in a variety of art projects and exhibitions, including a mural downtown [and] two annual Art Prize exhibitions” and has had her work in multiple shows at the Flora Kirsch Beck Art Gallery,” said Ettema.
Currently, she is the president of the art honorary, leads a co-op drawing class and serves as a drawing and painting assistant on campus.
“I have accepted an offer from the University of Florida for their MFA program in drawing and painting and hope to one day teach at the college level. I also plan to participate in further activist initiatives and continue to be an advocate for women’s rights,” said Ettema.
The third and final nominee is a biochemistry major who, like the others, is honored to be recognized for his efforts in the classroom and around campus. “Even if I don’t get the award, it’s still an accomplishment… because it is very tough to get this far in the process,” said Gavin Swiecicki (‘23).
He was a member of the marching band, jazz band and concert band all four of his years at Alma. In addition, he was a part of the swim team this year and is the manager of the greenhouse on campus.
In the past, Swiecicki was a member of iGEM for two years and served as the SI for Chemistry 115.
“Most of it was, ‘Can I do it?’ I wanted to see if I could keep getting good grades and doing well for a standard that I felt was good for me,” said Swiecicki.His most important advice to future students is to “get as much experience in college as you can. Take the opportunities that are around; random opportunities that you don’t think much for could be your next thing. But, also, check your email,” said Swiecicki.