UM Announces 2021 Recipients of Prestigious Presidential Leadership Scholarships

MISSOULA – The University of Montana recently named the recipients of the 2021 Presidential Leadership Scholarship, the University’s most prestigious academic recognition for incoming students.

The 21 Presidential Leadership Scholars were chosen out of hundreds of qualified applicants from across the world and represent the pinnacle of academic excellence and service to the community. Presidential Leadership Scholars will enroll in UM’s Davidson Honors College, in addition to their chosen undergraduate disciplines. At UM they will contribute to academic innovation, garner professional development and enhance leadership skills.

“These scholars chose the University of Montana over dozens of other institutions because of the academic rigor and the unique pathway to inclusive prosperity offered by the Davidson Honors College,” DHC Dean Tim Nichols said. “We are thrilled to welcome our nation’s future leaders to Missoula, where they will thrive academically, promote public service and strengthen our vibrant on-campus experience. Our fall 2021 cohort of students is to be especially commended for their remarkable achievements and service through the challenges of the global pandemic.”

The Presidential Leadership Scholarship is a four-year scholarship for incoming UM students. Students are reviewed based on their applications and a rigorous interview process. Scholarship recipients are recognized for their academic ability, leadership skills, public service and other merit-based qualifications.

“This fall’s diverse and dynamic class of Presidential Leadership Scholars includes future scientists and physicians, journalists, lawyers, educators, business leaders and performing artists,” Nichols said. “They are valedictorians and varsity athletes, student council officers and all-state musicians. They are advocates for diversity, the environment and for social justice. They already have and will continue to make a difference in their communities.”

The 21 Presidential Leadership Scholars will enroll at UM in the fall and represent five states and three countries, including 12 scholars who hail from Montana. The 2021 UM Presidential Leadership Scholars are:



A picture of Wyatt Balius.Wyatt Balius is interested in studying political science, history and philosophy at UM. He was a member of the Cascade High School student council and active in National Junior Honor Society. He also received the President’s Award for Educational Excellence, Order of The Eyas Character Award and the Scholar Athlete award, and he participated in the regional science fair. In addition to playing guitar, hiking and skiing, Balius works on a certified organic family farm and ranch. 





A picture of Kate BickKate Bick is interested in pursuing a career in medicine, majoring in neuroscience and psychology at UM. Bick was the valedictorian and Academic All-State qualifier at Bozeman High School. She was a former officer of Bozeman High School’s gender equality club and was recognized as one of Forward Montana’s 25 under 25 awardees for LGBTQ+ advocacy. She also was awarded the Bozeman High School Noteworthy Student Scholarship. An avid hiker, Bick has climbed the tallest peak in Montana.





A picture of Annabelle Brown. Annabelle Brown intends to major in wildlife biology and minor in journalism and resource conservation at UM. Brown volunteered with the Montana Conservation Corps and participated in a backcountry rock climbing course through the National Outdoor Leadership School in the Wind River Mountains. She also has been involved in a university field-based research project regarding the Pika population. Brown was active in the National Honor Society and loves to climb, ski and mountain bike.





A picture of Mary Catlett.Mary Catlett is interested in studying physics, mathematics and astronomy at UM. In high school, she was the alto section leader for the concert and jazz choir. Catlett was actively involved in the Environmental Awareness Club and the Solar Panel Club and was recognized by the College Board’s National Recognition program as a National Rural and Small Town Recognition winner.





A picture of Camden Capser.Camden Capser graduated from Billings Central Catholic High School, where he earned a 4.0 grade-point average and was co-student body president. Capser was also president of the Excel Service Club and was active in Billings Youth Leadership. He was captain of the Billings Central football team and was named to the All-State teams for both football and soccer. Capser will play for the Grizzly football team this fall.




Great Falls

A picture of Nathan Kornick.Nathan Kornick is a graduate of Great Falls High School and is interested in studying journalism and media arts at UM. He was captain of the high school football team and the recipient of the Derek Dowson No. 40 Legacy Jersey for the football program. He also received the Ron and Becky Nelson CTE Scholarship and is a finalist for the Jake Arntson Teammate of the Year Scholarship. Kornick writes online movie reviews and has a YouTube channel called “Nathan The Movie Guy,” where he posts movie-related videos.




A picture of Owen Cleary.Owen Cleary intends to study music performance at UM. While attending Helena High School, he was a member of Montana Youth Action and led many music ensembles. Cleary has been a part of the National Honor Society and was named an AP Scholar with Distinction. He was an honorable mention in the Montana Associate of Symphony Orchestras Young Artist Competition, was an All-Northwest Orchestra honoree in 2021 and a member of the first-place 2020 Montana Science Bowl team. He was recognized as a 2021 Distinguished Scholar by the Helena Education Foundation.




A picture of Natalie Renk.Natalie Renk is a graduate of Capital High School and plans to study theatre and education at UM. She has served as the secretary of the Montana State Thespian Board and was an active participant at Grandstreet Theatre in Helena. Renk was named Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy, as well as earning the Award of Excellence from the Congress of Future Medical Leaders. Her hobbies include acting, singing and performing in any way possible.





A picture of Skyleigh Thompson.Skyleigh Thompson graduated summa cum laude from Flathead High School and is interested in studying physical therapy and business at UM. She was chosen as captain of the Flathead High School soccer team, student body president and National Honor Society president. While in high school, Thompson also led the Flathead High School food drive. She was recognized as Academic All-State and will play for the UM Women’s Soccer team this fall.





A picture of Nicole Emlen.Nicole Emlen is interested in studying biology at UM. At Sentinel High School, she played the clarinet and volunteered at the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium. Emlen is a recipient of the Montana University System Honors Scholarship and the Montana University System STEM Scholarship. In her free time, she loves photography, reading, bird watching, dancing, crocheting and everything music-related, including marching band, pep band and playing with ensembles.





A picture of Ellianna Hightower.Ellianna Hightower is a graduate of Hellgate High School and is interested in studying neuroscience and biology at UM. She was co-chair of the Providence Hospital Junior Board, chapter secretary of the Hellgate Business Professionals of America, an officer with the Students Against Violating the Environment and a National Honors Society member. Hightower is also an International Baccalaureate Diploma recipient. During high school, she successfully completed courses towards certification as an Emergency Medical Technician.


An image of Daazhraii Alexander.Daazhraii Alexander of Fort Yukon was the captain of high school basketball team and served as student council president. A Dranjik Gwich'in Alaska Native, she is invested in learning about her culture and relying on subsistence hunting and fishing to live off the land. She learned about medicinal plants from her grandmother and makes her own skincare products and remedies using traditional medicinal plants, fat from animals and wax from their beehives. Alexander works as a heavy equipment operator for family logging business, and she set the high record three years in a row for Battle for the Books.




A picture of Sylvia Blodhorn.Sylvia Blodorn of Bakersfield plans to double major in environmental science and sustainability and wildlife biology at UM. She also plans to explore climate change studies and UM’s Global Leadership Initiative. Blodorn has extensive volunteer experience in her community through the National Honor Society, Virtual Enterprise and at her school through service activities and the swim and dive team. She is a triathlete and qualified for the 2020 USA Triathlon Nationals Competition. One of the things that led Blodorn to choose UM was its focus on field learning and experiences outside the classroom. She is passionate about the backcountry and interested in introducing more women to backpacking and the outdoors.



A picture of Junior Burks.Junior Burks of San Bernardino is interested in studying physics at UM. He was in the National Honor Society and the I’ll Make a Transformation in My Community clubs in high school. Burks also led a small workout group within his school’s baseball program during the pandemic and has completed over 50 hours of community service. He received the Jonathan Dubell Community Service Legacy Award from his high school baseball program in 2019 for his contributions to the community.





A picture of Grace Caufield.Grace Caufield of Livermore is interested in studying wildlife biology and art at UM. She is the co-founder and president of her school's gardening club and regularly volunteers with elementary school classes. Caufield received the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence and was a North Coast Section Scholar Athlete.





A picture of Karen Kleve.Karen Kleve of Redding. Kleve is interested in studying parks, tourism and recreation management at UM. She has volunteered for the Redding’s local Turtle Bay Exploration Park and Benton Air Fair. She also earned an honorable mention for a fiction story she submitted to the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.





A picture of Hattie Ransom.Hattie Ransom of Alpine is planning to study wildlife biology at UM. She volunteered at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium and for Lone Peak High School’s Mountain Bike Team and was education coordinator for Utah County’s Audubon chapter. In summer 2021, Ransom is working for the U.S. Forest Service as a member of a trails crew. She also worked for a small tutoring and coaching business and wrote about mental health. Ransom is looking forward to UM’s world-renowned wildlife biology program, the outdoor opportunities in the area and the tight-knit community and educational opportunities of the Davidson Honors College.




A picture of Annika Libby.Annika Libby of Twisp is interested in studying environmental studies, dance, classics and anthropology at UM. While in high school, she taught a dance class and managed a business selling produce. Libby received a first-place award for the 2019 National History Day regional competition and published an article with the Northwest Book Lovers organization. She hopes to experience international trips with UM’s Franke Global Leadership Initiative and wants to study in other countries and learn at least one new language. She is a practicing Buddhist and attended a Tibetan monastery while living in Hawaii.




A picture of Madelyn Snow.Madelyn Snow of Ellensburg is interested in studying biology at UM before launching a career in medicine. She has volunteered as a math tutor for primarily Spanish-speaking middle school students, as well as a COVID-19 vaccination clinic volunteer. She also was involved in student government and played varsity soccer. Snow was recognized as an Ellensburg High School Elite Scholar and participated in Running Start at Central Washington University. She enjoys being outdoors, including hiking, fishing, hunting and kayaking.





A picture of Rosie Sterk.Rosie Sterk of Allan is interested in studying finance and astronomy at UM. She led the PlayUnified program, which integrates students with and without complex learning and physical disabilities for sports, cooking, art and reading. Sterk received the Business Management Subject Prize for being top of her class, as well as receiving high school awards for Academic Excellence and Commitment to School Values (Effort, Conduct, Courtesy and Work Ethic). She loves playing the guitar, traveling and watching and playing multiple sports, including badminton, basketball and tennis. Sterk will join UM Tennis next spring.




Contact: Tim Nichols, UM Davidson Honors College dean, 406-243-2534,