Student Leadership Award Recipients

The Student Leadership Award recognizes students who best exemplify the spirit of Notre Dame in social, recreational, residential, service and religious activities which promote the welfare of the University and extended communities. The Student Activities Office is excited to recognize the following students:

2020 Award Recipients:


Shelene Baiyee

This Biological Sciences and Africana Studies major from Indiana graduates in May 2020 with a rich legacy of involvement on campus and beyond.  Shelene was very involved with the Center for Social Concerns, completing a Summer Service Learning Project, International Summer Service Learning Project, and the Rev. Don S. McNeill CSC Leadership Fellows Program during her time at Notre Dame.  In Badin Hall, she served on the Welcome Weekend team and as Resident Assistant, and also served as Treasurer and President of Voices of Faith Gospel Choir, a mentor in the Building Bridges Scholars Program, and helped coordinate the first Black Hair Expo on campus with Multicultural Student Programs and Services.  Locally in South Bend, Shelene has been a committed volunteer tutor at the Robinson Community Learning Center, involved with the Catholic Worker House, and volunteered as a driver for Food Rescue.  As shared by a nominator, “She is a genuine and caring person who goes above and beyond to connect with people from different backgrounds.  Her commitment to learning, diversity, humility, and authenticity set her apart.”  We are pleased to present the Student Leadership award to Shelene Baiyee.  Congrats, Shelene!     


Colleen Ballantyne 

Graduating in May 2020, and originally from Pennsylvania, this Biological Sciences major with a minor in International Development Studies, has given her all to both on and off campus communities during her time on campus.  A heavily invested Shamrock, Colleen served as Welcome Weekend Captain, Hall President, and Resident Assistant for McGlinn Hall On campus, Colleen served as Director of Service and March for Life Team Lead for Right to Life, as well as a student volunteer with the First Aid Service Team and student ambassador for Catholic Relief Services.  Beyond campus, Colleen has been active with the international projects through the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development and the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, in addition to tutoring at a local grade school and participating in a Center for Social Concerns seminar and Summer Service Learning Project.  In the words of a nominator “I came to learn that Colleen is one of those few individuals who connects her faith with service...What is truly amazing about Colleen, is that in addition to all the "things" she has done, she also has taken advantage of cultivating her heart as well as her mind during her time here at Notre Dame.”  We are pleased to present the Student Leadership Award to Colleen Ballantyne.  Congratulations, Colleen!     


Elizabeth Boyle 

A Political Science and Peace Studies major from New York, this 2020 graduate leaves behind a legacy of advocacy and leadership from her four years at Notre Dame.  On campus, Elizabeth has been heavily involved in Student Government, serving as Director of Gender Relations before serving as Student Body President.  Additionally, she has been involved with the Center for Social Concerns, Moreau Student Advisory Council, Notre Dame Folkchoir, Model United Nations, Take Ten, and Women in International Securities on campus.  She is passionate about Title IX advocacy,  serves as a volunteer for the Family Justice Center, and is an SOS advocate.  In the words of a nominator, “Elizabeth is a top tier student. She is responsible, organized, highly engaged, passionate, mission and vision focused and wise. From day one we knew her as someone who would make the most of any opportunity that came before her, she is a go getter and a tenacious learner, and an incredible leader. Her peers respect her and admire her and together they work for the common good on campus in bold and wonderful ways. Elizabeth is a gifted leader who understands the importance of community partnership as well as mobilizing interested parties toward a common goal and vision.”  We are pleased to present the Student Leadership Award to Elizabeth Boyle.  Congratulations, Elizabeth! 

Cecily Castillo 

Originally from Texas, this Chemical Engineering major and Balfour-Hesburgh Scholar will graduate in May 2020 having left a major mark on the Latino community at Notre Dame.  Over her four years on campus, Cecily served as President of Ballet Folklorico Azul & Oro, Mentorship Coordinator for the Latino Student Alliance, and member of the Society of Hispanic Engineers and Society of Women Engineers. During her senior year, she served as a Campus Ministry Anchor Intern, leading the First Year Student Retreat for Latino Students and creating and delivering programming in the Latin American Catholic tradition.  A nominator said “Cecily's care and respect has helped students feel welcomed and at home at the University of Notre Dame. Her desire to include all students in Latino faith expressions has been inspiring. Many Latino and non-Latino students have taken part in  the celebration of the Day of the Dead due to Cecy's desire to feel at home at ND. Cecy's desire to feel at home turned into a mission of encounter and formation. Her formation mission has brought many to a new and deeper understanding of a cultural faith expression and allowed more students to feel at home at ND.”  We are pleased to present the Student Leadership Award to Cecily Castillo.  Congratulations, Cecily! 


Linde Hoffman 

Graduating in May 2020,  and originally from Michigan, this Political Science and Spanish major with a Latino Studies minor has been dedicated to improving the Notre Dame community since she stepped foot on campus in 2016. Linde’s involvement as a member of Class Council and Welcome Weekend teams, Lewis Hall Senator, member of the Campus Life Council,, and most recently as Chief of Staff in Student Government has impressed many of her peers, faculty, and staff.  In the words of a nominator “Linde is able to inspire resiliency, kindness, and respect in others just by her sheer presence.  It is clear from working with her that Linde truly allows the core tenents of Catholic Social teaching to guide her life.  She goes out of her way to ensure that the most marginalized members of our Notre Dame community feel heard and seen, and she is always willing to give up her “seat at the table” for someone else...she is a person who will never tire of trying to make our community better for all and she has proved that time and time again over her tenure in Student Government.”  We are pleased to present the Student Leadership Award to Linde Hoffmann.  Congratulations, Linde!   


Xinhui “Helen” Hong   

An Economics and Spanish major from China graduating in May 2020, this Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar has made the most out of opportunities to get involved and make an impact.  Helen spent a semester studying abroad in Chile, a semester in the Washington, DC program, and a summer in Ecuador, volunteering in all of these communities, in addition to tutoring and volunteering in the South Bend community when on campus.  On campus, she was involved with the Center for Career Development, Greater China Scholars Program, Student International Business Council, International Student and Scholar Affairs, Student Government Department of Social Concerns, and Iron Sharpens Iron.  In the words of a nominator “Helen demonstrates true servant leadership. Her humor and talent for public speaking makes her a natural leader, and her willingness to serve others has made it easy for people to want to work with her. Her positivity and ability to see the good in others draws people towards her and encourages them to bring out their potential. Her sense of social responsibility and devotion to the common good has motivated her to consistently contribute her personal time to different causes, whether it is on- campus, within the South Bend community, or in a foreign country during study abroad.”  We are pleased to present the Student Leadership Award to Xinhui (Helen) Hong.  Congratulations, Helen!     


Nicholas Ottone

Graduating in 2020 with majors in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and Political Science, this Glynn Family Honors Program member and Hesburgh Yusko Scholar is originally from California.  Nick served as Director of Policy for Student Government, and was highly involved with seminars and other activities through the Center for Social Concerns.  He served locally at the Center for the Homeless and also wrote for The Observer during his time on campus.  But, some of his greatest impact can’t be found on his resume.  In the words of a nominator “I have worked with over 600 student leaders in my time at Notre Dame and Nick stands out.  Nick possesses a moral framework that helps him prioritize people in decision making, policy efforts, and regular communication. He is greatly respected by his peers and he is a joy to be around. I know of no one who has negative things to say about Nick. He is very involved at the Center for Social Concerns as well as in Student Government, particular their Diversity and Inclusion efforts. He is a learner and wants people to be at the center of discussions of justice, especially those at the margins. Nick makes sure this happens and I trust his ability to work with people implicitly.”  We are pleased to present the Student Leadership Award to Nicholas Ottone.  Congratulations, Nicholas!     


James Ryan 

Graduating in May 2020 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, a supplemental major in Classics, and a concentration in Latin, he originally hails from Massachusetts.  James “Jimmy” Ryan has been involved both in the local community, as a committed mentor at St. Adalbert School, and, also on campus in a variety of capacities, most notably as an altar server at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and as Recorder and Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus Council #1477 on campus.  Under his leadership as Grand Knight, the Knights saw wild success in their traditional football gameday steak sales, which profits charities.  Through his steady leadership of the Knights, Jimmy was also invited to serve on the President’s Committee on the Columbus Murals in Spring 2019.  A nominator shared “Jimmy has distinguished himself as a mature, stable, and reliable presence.  Although he is certainly very talented and has many gifts, he is also quite humble and clearly cares deeply about the people around him. It is clear from Jimmy's very demeanor that he is one who seeks to serve the people around him and that the leadership he offers is not for his own benefit, but for the sake of those he serves.”  We are pleased to present the Student Leadership Award to James Ryan.  Congratulations, James!  

Abby Smith

Hailing from Minnesota, this student graduates in May 2020 with degrees in Marketing and Economics.  A passionate student leader throughout her time at Notre Dame, serving in such capacities as Race Director for the 2019 Holy Half Marathon, Co-Director of Student Life in Student Government, and both President and Resident Assistant in Welsh Family Hall, Abby has given much energy to serving her fellow students in both continuing the tradition of well loved events, and leaving her mark to build new and improved experiences.  In the words of a nominator, “Abby is a student who has grown and matured in her leadership expectations and responsibilities. She continued to take additional duties, carried them out, and sought to make   things better. She is a leader that seeks to improve the actions of her groups. She is mature in examining both sides of issues and seeks to find improvement through collaboration and cooperation.”  We are pleased to present the Student Leadership Award to Abby Smith.  Congratulations, Abby!   

Takunda Ushe 

Coming to Notre Dame from South Africa, this Business Analytics and Political Science major and Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, will leave Notre Dame better than he found it when he graduates in May 2020.  He served as President of the African Student Association during his junior year, reviving new life and shared vision into the organization.  Takunda co-founded the International Student Advisory Board for the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development, and has worked tirelessly to help staff and students understand and improve the job market for international students.  In the words of nominators “Takunda continuously and authentically demonstrates empathy and compassion for all of the challenges international students face adjusting to the culture in their new home under the dome.  He is incredibly talented and thoughtful.  In difficult conversations about employment opportunities after graduation, Mr. Ushe’s positivity and good humor is paired with a pragmatic understanding and compassion for the challenges international students face in the U.S. job market after graduation. This combination in perspective has allowed him to build a quick rapport with other students, supporting them in both the practical work of the job search and the heart work in encouraging them within discouraging circumstances.”  We are pleased to present the Student Leadership Award to Takunda Ushe.  Congratulations, Takunda!