Incoming UM Students Earn 2024 Presidential Leadership Scholarships

The Davidson Honors College serves as a home base for honors students at the University of Montana.

MISSOULA – The Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana recently announced recipients of the 2024 Presidential Leadership Scholarship, the University’s most prestigious academic recognition for incoming students.

The 41 Presidential Leadership Scholars were chosen from a competitive pool of more than 800 applicants from across North America and represent the pinnacle of academic excellence, leadership and service to the community.

The scholars will enroll in UM’s Davidson Honors College alongside their chosen undergraduate disciplines. They will contribute to interdisciplinary scholarly and creative innovation at UM, garner personal and professional development opportunities, and enhance their leadership skills.

“These scholars chose to attend the University of Montana because of the institution’s academic reputation and the enhanced opportunities and support offered through our engaging honors community,” said Tim Nichols, the DHC dean. “We are thrilled to welcome these leaders to Missoula and UM, where they will learn, grow and make meaningful progress toward their career and life goals. They will be well-positioned for future success and will strengthen UM’s vibrant campus community.”

The Presidential Leadership Scholarship is a four-year scholarship for incoming UM students. Students’ applications and interviews are reviewed by a committee of honors faculty, students, alumni and campus partners. Student recipients are recognized for their meritorious academic achievements, demonstrated leadership skills and professional potential.

“This fall’s diverse and dynamic class of Presidential Leadership Scholars includes future scientists, 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 social justice. They already have and will continue to make a difference in their communities.”

The Presidential Leadership Scholars will enroll at UM in the fall and represent 16 states, including 15 from Montana. The Scholars are supported by many generous donors to UM and its Davidson Honors College.

A full listing of the 2024 UM Presidential Leadership Scholars follows:


Mitchell Clarkson of Palmer, Alaska, is interested in philosophy, medicine and music. He has already completed an International Baccalaureate diploma. He attempted to break a Guinness World Record for throwing a tortilla the longest distance. Clarkson has worked with John Gourley (of the band Portugal. The Man.) In addition to coaching youth basketball, Clarkson has a wide array of interests and hobbies, including chess, piano, creative writing and outdoor activities.

Jenna Dobson of Juneau, Alaska, will study integrative physiology. She completed her Girl Scout Gold Award and attended the FBI National Academy Associate Youth Leadership Program. Her interest in athletic training was piqued when she attended a volleyball camp at the University of Washington. In her free time, Dobson volunteers in her community and is deeply committed to food justice issues.

Brayden Gallagher of Palmer, Alaska, will study economics. He is graduating as an AP Scholar with Honors. He was his varsity tennis team captain and the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action club president. He is a hunter and outdoorsman and an accomplished tuba player. He hopes to learn many languages and travel the world someday.

Lauren Stichert of Juneau, Alaska, will study criminology. She has been active in restorative justice efforts with the Juneau Youth Court and built public-use cabins in Juneau with Territorial Sportsman. Stichert likes Taylor Swift, tropical islands, downhill skiing and sailing.


Tyler Datema of Birmingham, Alabama, will study accounting and business administration. He has been involved with Key Club, Peer Helpers, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the National Honor Society. Datema enjoys outdoor recreation, reading, cooking and playing lacrosse.


Colton Franklin of Cayucos, California, will study forestry. He grew up around estuaries, bays, special ecosystems and varying coastal environments. He is interested in learning more about the natural world and taking steps toward slowing human impact and preserving the world’s natural beauty for many generations to come. He participated in the Santa Cruz Island Field Expedition and Health Occupations Students of America. Franklin was the Associated Student Body president at his high school, as well as varsity water polo captain. He has volunteered with Toys for Tots.

Sabrina Philip of Burlingame, California, will study political science. She is a National Honor Society board member, co-president of her school’s Hallmarks and Action Leadership Board, Mock Trial group and Burlingame Soccer Club. She attended the Georgetown University National Security and Intelligence Summer Program and the FBI Teen Academy at Santa Clara University.

Makara Steeves of South Lake Tahoe, California, will study environmental science and sustainability. Steeves was a state and regional finalist at the National History Day competition. She received the California Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish. She is especially interested in climate change, sustainability and urban design. In her spare time, she enjoys hanging out in Tahoe’s year-round playground snowboarding and paddle boarding. Steeves  is co-captain of the South Lake Tahoe dance team, is a competitive dancer and works at a coffee shop and bookstore as a barista.


Amory Kindle of Salida, Colorado, will study environmental science and sustainability. He was team captain for a mountain bike team and volunteer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife elk survey. He spent the past year in Argentina to expand his cultural understanding, love for wild places and connections with people around the world who appreciate and protect wild landscapes.


Connor Calfy of Eustis, Florida, will study wildlife biology. He is a student athlete in football, track, soccer and weightlifting. He received the Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen Award, tutors in his school’s Academic Success Center and is an inaugural member of the Youth Philanthropy Council. He enjoys camping, hunting, fishing and being outdoors. Calfy loves all kinds of animals, especially snakes and dinosaurs.


Julia Thomas of Watkinsville, Georgia, plans to study terrestrial wildlife biology, and her dream is working to help conserve species affected by climate change and human impacts. Having been vegan for five years, she is passionate about the environment and animal welfare. When not working with her two horses, Thomas enjoys hiking, kayaking, running, reading and photography. She also has completed four personal novels and hopes to be a published author someday. She is the leader of the flute section in her high school’s marching band and one of the co-presidents of her school writing club, which she helped form.


Mia Heinlein of Moscow, Idaho, plans to study environmental science and sustainability. She likes to run, read and walk her dogs. She enjoys running with her friends and currently runs for her school cross-country and track and field teams. She is president of the Environmental Club at her high school and is involved with the Climate Justice League. Heinlein has studied native bee conservation and conducted research in Yellowstone National Park.

Ayla Kaltenecker of Boise, Idaho, plans to study aquatic wildlife biology. Kaltenecker is a creative individual who is deeply devoted to the outdoors and motivated to better the community, spending over five hours a week volunteering. They appreciate every aspect of the natural world and are interested in using art to help better the community – perhaps as a scientific or medical illustrator. Kaltenecker had a fisheries internship with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, was an American Fisheries Society Hutton Scholar and presented at a regional conference. They also conducted vulture research in Mozambique, Africa.

Josh Lamb of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, truly fell in love with Missoula and the DHC during his experience at the Kermit and Kathleen Schwanke Institute last summer. When he isn’t lost in a book or vigorously typing away on a short story, Lamb can be found admiring the beauty of the natural world while lost in thought. He is National Honor Society secretary and golf coach. Lamb is excited to take the next step toward his goal of combining his passions with his love of learning and guiding others to success as a creative writing instructor at the college level.


Sydney Gist of Evansville, Indiana, has been involved in varsity sports, student council, Teen Court, Teen Advisory Council, International Club and National Honors Society. Gist is interested in a career in criminal justice on a pre-law track, pursuing family law with a focus on domestic violence cases.


Hanna Grass of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, will study journalism at UM. She was born in Tucson, Arizona, and has since lived in Montana, Colorado, Florida and Kentucky. She has a deeply rooted passion for the natural world, having been raised by parents employed by the National Park Service. She is a student-athlete, journalist and artist. Grass attended the National High School Journalism Convention and was editor-in-chief of her student paper. She also participated in the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts.


Samantha Bailey of York, Maine, plans to major in environmental studies. She attends the White Mountain School in Northern New Hampshire. Bailey enjoys outdoor sports, including rock climbing, backpacking, hiking, backcountry skiing and canoeing. She is passionate about the intersection of fashion and her love of the outdoors and how to combine those sustainably. She is a dorm proctor and has led student backpacking trips.


Ian Benjamin of Sunburst is interested in studying biology. He is a highly dedicated student-athlete, competing at the state level in cross-country, track, science and music. He placed fourth overall at the regional science fair, earning the Naval Research Award, Yale Science and Engineering Award and NASA Earth Systems Award. He was a senior patrol leader of Boy Scout Troop 1556. Benjamin is enthusiastic about the future of education and scientific research – especially Mars colonization.

Beatrice Bentler of Billings plans to study pre-medical sciences. She created a service project called “Bee’s Trees” that sells hand-made ornaments to support a local toy drive for families with sick children – the proceeds of which were matched by the St. Vincent Foundation. Bentler was captain of her soccer team and a member Student Council, Student Advocates, the National Honor Society and the Tri-M Music Honor Society. She enjoys skiing, running, playing soccer, and most sports and activities.

Arya Cavender of Bozeman will study integrative physiology. She is an officer in the Spanish and National Honor Societies and president of Health Occupations Students of America. Cavender has organized blood drives and promoted service. She was raised in a household deeply rooted in the traditions of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa Indians and participates in powwow dancing. She is passionate about spreading awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. She enjoys rugby and was captain of the tennis team.

Olive Copple of Dillon will study biochemistry. They have had a lifelong interest in science and dream of researching cures for prion diseases and earning a doctorate degree. Copple participated in the National Honor Society, Queer Student Union, Art Club and Academic Olympics. Copple has worked with researchers at UM-Western and as a legislative page for the Montana House of Representatives.

Atsede Glidewell of Missoula will study integrative physiology. She job shadowed at UM’s Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism Lab and is completing her Certified Medical Assistant training. Glidewell is the Big Sky High School class president and cross-country captain. She also is actively involved in 4-H and with Soft Landing Missoula.

Quindy Gronley of Kalispell is excited to pursue a degree as a Doctor of Pharmacy with a master’s in business administration. Growing up, she loved spending time outdoors with her family, whether it was camping, boating, hiking or trail riding. She was involved in her middle school's theater program, played tennis and won state titles showing livestock through 4-H. In high school, Gronley volunteered through the National Honor Society and participated in DECA, Business Professionals of America, varsity tennis, the French Club, We the People, and Speech and Debate. She became president of the National Honor Society, president and vice president of her 4-H club and team captain of her Speech and Debate team. Through these activities, she received six varsity activity letters, eight academic letters, six speech and debate championships, the Montana Seal of Biliteracy and the Pride Leadership Award. Gronley was a national qualifier in DECA and Speech and Debate, where she secured a 17th place finish with her team.

Tanner Ironpipe of Browning, Montana, is interested in studying forestry. Ironpipe is vice president of the senior class and involved in school service activities, speech and debate, and drama clubs. He is part of Upward Bound, MT AIMS and Gear UP. Additionally, Ironpipe is doing an independent study with the Blackfeet Native American Studies director of Browning Public Schools to develop a curriculum for the Blackfeet language.

Evyn Kolczak-Hardy of Missoula plans to study political science. He views education as the path to a more equitable society. Kolczak-Hardy applied himself to the sport of curling, his studies, art and community activism. He is a passionate leader and a kind friend to those around him. Kolczak-Hardy hopes to use his education and perspective to make positive impacts on the fight for gender and socioeconomic equality. He won first place in the Montana Economics Challenge in 2023, serves on empowerMT’s Youth Advisory Council and works with UM’s SEA Change Initiative.

Julia Kunau of Lewistown is interested in biology, journalism and Russian. She served as student body president, National Honor Society president, debate captain, BPA state vice president and Key Club treasurer. She enjoys spending time outdoors in beautiful Montana, competing and performing around the nation on her competitive dance team and serving as Miss Montana's Teen 2023. Kunau recently won the state championship in Lincoln-Douglas Debate for the second year in a row. She is becoming certified as an Emergency Medical Technician.

Ellie Mercer of Helena is interested in studying medical laboratory science with a minor in dance. She has a passion for both the health sciences and the arts. Mercer participates in many leadership opportunities, including the Capital High HOSA chapter, Capital High Student Council and Premiere Dance Company. In her free time, she enjoys singing, creating music, puzzles, dancing and exploring the outdoors.

Elizabeth Mills-Low of Missoula will study political science. She has a passion for change and was driven to help others from a young age. Mills-Low is in her fifth year as a member of Empower MT's Youth Advisory Council. She founded the Association of BIPOC Youth, serves on the Midtown Community and was a participant in UM’s SEA Change Summer Camp.

Victoria Newmiller of Choteau plans to major in psychology while also studying creative writing. She plans to attend graduate school for forensic psychology wants to become a published author. Newmiller has been involved in Girl Scouts since she was 5 and organizes a yearly haunted house for the younger members of her troop and her community. As a Scout, she has earned her Bronze and Silver Awards for planning and implementing community improvement projects, as well as her Silver and Gold Leadership Torch Awards. She serves as the president of National Honor Society and the secretary/treasurer of her class. She has been involved in Speech and Drama, the Science Olympiad, FCCLA and the Academic All-Star Team in her high school career. Newmiller believes strongly in giving back to her community and has volunteered in both the Backpack Buddies and Reading Buddies programs at her school, as well as served as a math tutor for middle school students. She also has been involved in various community service projects, such as food drives and highway clean-ups. Newmiller served as a Montana House of Representatives page during her junior year. In her free time, she loves to read and write.

Coco Striefler of Eureka is interested in psychology. She enjoys reading, theater and the arts. She produced and directed five high school musicals with her twin sister, Franka. She loves writing poetry and long walks in nature. Striefler is the school service project manager for the Honors Society, and award-winning mime, Key Club tech editor and LEO Club president.

Camille Wagner of Billings is interested in psychology. She is senior class president of her high school, the National Honor Society vice president and Drama Club vice president. Paired with her participation in drama, she’s written a play for her high school magnum opus and will premiere it at UM’s own Montana Thespian Festival.

Chloe Tschetter of Billings will study musical theatre. She has juggled a perfect academic record with a successful and expansive career in theater and dance. She studied the viola and vocal and guitar performance, and is beginning a journey as a singer-songwriter with her first album, “Inventing Heaven,” garnering thousands of streams. Tschetter was the editor of the West High Literary magazine and a Planned Parenthood volunteer.

New Jersey

Jessica Reilly of Marlboro, New Jersey, is interested in psychology and finance. She was varsity captain of her high school soccer team and a member of the Peer Mentor Club. Reilly enjoys drawing, listening to music and spending time with my family and friends. She also is an avid reader and coffee lover.


Ainsley Jajack of Dublin, Ohio, is interested in environmental science, conservation and German language. She enjoys reading, baking, painting, hiking and camping. Jajack participates in gymnastics and track. She attended the World Food Prize Foundation’s Global Youth Institute and received medals on the National German Exam. She was a Student Conservation Association trail crew volunteer, Environmental Club co-president and officer for 614-Our-Future. Jajack aspires to become a naturalist and teach others about environmental stewardship.


Hazel Walker of West Chester, Pennsylvania, will study political science. She was second chair flute for the All Catholic Band and Orchestra, president of the school orchestra and first chair for the flute section. Walker was a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society and National Honor Society. She is an active gymnast and volunteer at an equestrian center.


Gavin Mortimer of Charlottesville, Virginia, will study linguistics. Mortimer is strongly devoted to his academic and extracurricular pursuits, whether that be studying government and politics, learning Russian (one of six languages he speaks), performing in an orchestra concert or fencing at nationals. He participated in a Russian immersion program at Oklahoma City University through the STARTALK Program. Mortimer is the principal violist in his orchestra and tutors a first-grader from Serbia in English.

Josephine Stump of McLean, Virginia, hopes to study the classics and environmental science. During her junior year, she attended School Year Abroad in Viterbo, Italy, where she studied Latin and art history, produced a short play spoofing the “Aeneid” (in English) and compiled a field guide (in Italian) of local trees. In her senior year in America, she founded and became consul of her high school’s Classical Society, and Stump leads the Creative Writing Club with her friends. She also plays the euphonium and marching baritone in her school’s band and has run on the cross-country team, serves on the yearbook staff, and has published her poetry in her school’s literary magazine. In the summer, she works as a camp counselor in North Carolina, teaching young girls about the environment and working to expand the camp’s Environmental Discovery Center. Her interests include trees, Latin, Homeric Greek, World War I, and writing poetry and prose.


Nina Carvalho of Westfield, Vermont, will pursue the pre-medicine track. She is a highly motivated and professional student with a passion for medicine, outdoor recreation and visual arts. Her adventurous nature allows for creativity and fun to be incorporated into the process. Carvalho has been a research assistant for a research project, STEM and language tutor, founder and president of the Student Safety Team and junior dorm adviser at Miss Porter’s School. She volunteered at a senior home in Portugal and served as a summer camp counselor.


Olivia Cassie of Spokane, Washington, plans to pursue a pre-med track in biology with a concentration in genetics. She is an avid debater, reader, science nerd and cat lover. Cassie loves to be involved and partakes in numerous school clubs, and you can always find her volunteering for her community. Her mission is to make her community more aware of the disparity in medical knowledge for minority groups and women and to advocate for themselves and others.

Eliza Dresang of Seattle will study history. Dresang facilitated small group discussions on forgiveness as a SEARCH leader. She led suicide prevention and education workshops through the University of Washington Forefront Program, served as a volunteer for Outdoors for All and a social justice youth organization, and worked with youth and families in Peru and Colombia to build houses.

Olivia Nielsen of Mount Vernon, Washington, will study wildlife biology. She attended the Youth Earth Summit Conference hosted by Padilla Bay. She participated in an immersive marine science program, Salish Sea Sciences. She has volunteered for seven years with the Skagit County Fair as superintendent for floriculture and horticulture. Nielsen is a passionate vegan and protector of animals, especially owls and eagles.


Contact: Tim Nichols, UM Davidson Honors College dean, 406-243-2534,; Kaetlyn Cordingley, DHC assistant dean, 406-243-2579,