Prothro’s main dining hall bustled Wednesday evening as students, faculty and staff gathered to find out who would be bestowed the highest all-around honor a student can receive at Sweet Briar. As occasionally happens, two Presidential Medals were conferred this year.
SBC President Elisabeth Muhlenfeld presented medals to Natalie Batman and Mary Dance at the Academic Recognition Dinner on March 19, an annual event that also recognizes dean’s list and first-year honors students.
Taking the podium to announce the recipients, Muhlenfeld lifted the official medal of her office and draped its pink and green ribbon around her neck. “Ah. This one’s mine,” she said, before explaining that the student award is a smaller replica of the one she received upon her inauguration.
The Presidential Medal is given to a senior or seniors who have demonstrated exemplary intellectual achievement in addition to distinction in some or all of the following areas: service to the community, contributions to the arts, enlargement of the College’s global perspective, athletic fitness and achievement, leadership and contributions to the community discourse.
This year, faculty, staff and administrators nominated 10 or 12 students, handing the senior staff its perennially difficult task of selecting a winner. When the field was winnowed to two, “we talked, we debated, we extolled the virtues of first one candidate, then the other,” Muhlenfeld said. “We really could not decide between these two characters.”
Batman, who was 16 when she arrived at Sweet Briar, will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and a minor in government. Her honors include the Emilie Watts McVea, Louise Cox Jones and Acuff scholarships. She is an Honors Scholar, a Commonwealth Scholar, appears regularly on the dean’s list, and is a member of Alpha Lambda Delta and Omicron Delta Epsilon. Recently, she was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Batman also is a department tutor in economics, a student music leader in the chaplain’s office, chair of the Senior Class Campaign, a research assistant for Habitat for Humanity, and interns in the president’s office, where she helped coordinate the most successful United Way Campaign in the College’s history.
She has served five internships, including summers at Northrop Grumman and as a researcher at a venture capital firm. She has traveled twice to Fuzhou, China, to serve as an assistant English teacher, where she was able to practice her love for written and spoken Mandarin Chinese.
Dance, who will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in government and classical studies with a classical language concentration, is a recipient of the Commonwealth, Emilie Watts McVea, Honors and Kenmore scholarships. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Eta Sigma Phi and Alpha Lambda Delta. She also is a dean’s list regular and recently was named to Who’s Who Among Students.
Dance has interned at the U.S. Supreme Court and at the Virginia attorney general’s office in Richmond. At SBC, she was a research assistant in the government department, conducted independent research in the Honors Research Program and is the hostess program chairwoman and a tour guide in the admissions office.
She is an officer for the Collegium Classics Club; a student representative on the board of directors’ educational programs committee; a student member on the classics, religion and philosophy department advisory committee; and a voting member on the faculty instruction and general education committees.
She also performs regularly in the College’s dance productions and writes a fashion column for the student newspaper, The Voice.