One moment Tyler Whitney can be singing in a musical. The next she could be intently working on her degree in biology in hopes of eventually becoming a developmental pediatrician. And yet another moment, Whitney is completing a lengthy list of requirements for involvement in the Honors Program at East Central University.
Such is the life of ECU’s newest George Nigh Award winner for 2019. Whitney, a Latta High School graduate, was named the winner at a luncheon Wednesday in ECU Foundation Hall of the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center.
The George Nigh Award goes to the top graduating senior from ECU and is named in honor of Nigh, the former governor of Oklahoma and ECU alumnus. Nigh served four terms in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, four as lieutenant governor and two as governor. He was also president of the University of Central Oklahoma.
The late Julian Rothbaum, a Tulsa oilman, banker and one-time state regent for higher education, established an endowment through the ECU Foundation Inc. to fund the Nigh Award. Each year top ECU seniors are selected to apply for this award and undergo a rigorous application and interview process.
Joining Whitney as finalists were: Mariah Ewy, biology major from Perry; Chloe Hull, accounting major from Moore; Pradip Poudel, computer science major with a minor in mathematics and management information systems certificate, from Kathmandu, Nepal; and Megan Pruitt, B.A. in psychology from ECU in December of 2018, from Shawnee.
Whitney has been a model of versatility since coming to ECU and has skillfully navigated through a busy college life with a 4.0 grade-point average while also pushing service to the forefront.
Her list of campus activities include Honors Student Association (vice president 2016-17, president 2017-18) Student Government (vice president, 2018-current), Showtime (2019-present), Mock Trials, Alpha Psi Omega (Theatre Honor Society), Tri Beta (Biology Honor Society), Alpha Chi Omega (National Honors Society as secretary), ECU Theatre, Tiger Speech and Debate.
Whitney has also made presentations at Research Day at the State Capitol, Alpha Chi National Convention, American College Theatre Festival, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Summer Research Poster Competition, Honors Convocation and Great Plains Honors Conference. She has also won collegiate awards – the Irene Ryan Acting Award (2015 and 2018), Honors Underclassmen Awards (2016 and 2017) and Best Supporting Actress Award (2015).
She developed a passion for those with differing abilities after attending Camp Claphan the summer after she graduated from high school.
“Camp changed my life that first summer,” Whitney wrote during the application process for the award. “It did not matter if I was getting pelted by water guns or changing an 18-year-old’s diaper, I was truly filled with the joy of service. I then decided to take a step further and work as a direct care specialist.”
Whitney went on to add that caring for children with different abilities can be hard both physically and emotionally, but she found meaning in serving them even during their most difficult days.
“I hope to one day use the talents I have found within myself to become the best pediatrician I can be,” wrote Whitney.
The following is biographical information on the other four finalists:
Ewy has shown the ability to excel in the classroom as well as in service and in athletics at ECU. Since August of 2017, Ewy has served as a research intern with NASA and McNair Scholar Program Institute under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Andrews. She spent a portion of 2017 as a summer researcher with NARCH Program at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center under the direction of Dr. Theodore Wagener. As a member of the ECU softball team, Ewy has earned an Academic All-American award as well as being a four-year starter as an infielder for the team. She has consistently made ECU’s President’s Honor Roll with a 4.0 grade-point average each semester. She has also been nominated to present at the EPSCoR Research Day at the State Capitol. Ewy had served as a tutor in the ECU Academic Service Center and for the McNair Scholars Program for biology, chemistry and physics. She has been accepted to the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine for the 2019 fall semester. Ewy was 2015 class valedictorian at Perry High School with a 4.0 GPA along with being a National Guard Scholar Athlete and an All-State Utility for softball.
Hull has been a true representation of student-athlete at ECU. With the rigors of maintaining a 4.0 GPA and spending extensive time on the field as a member of the ECU soccer team, Hull struck an amazing balance. She held leadership positions in the Business Leaders Association, Delta Mu Delta Business Honor Society and Student Government Association. As a member of the Tiger soccer squad, she picked up honors both athletically and academically as a four-year member and goalkeeper. As a junior she was named a Great American Conference Elite Student-Athlete. She had been a member of ECU’s Student Government Association, served as Oklahoma Business Week intern and a Kellogg and Sovereign Scholar Leader in which she and a select few Harland C. Stonecipher School of Business students went to New York and Seattle to meet with ECU alumni. Hull was also named to the Alpha Chi Honor Society at ECU and served as a Teaching Excellence Committee member. Additionally, she was a presenter at the Association of Collegiate Marketing Educators (ACME) Student Research Symposium. She will also travel to Uganda in August to participate in Africa Business Week with other Scholar Leaders. She is a graduate of Moore High School.
Poudel is driven to be a servant over self, something he learned as a 17-year-old boy in his native Nepal after a devastating earthquake. As a member and chair of the Junior Red Cross, he aided in the relief efforts. He also pursued a dream of earning a degree from an American university, came to ECU and has maintained a service attitude since. His lengthy list of service projects most recently consist of coordinator of the Dr. Stan Nnochironye Memorial Dinner and Celebration of Life (2019); moderator for the Student Success Panel Discussion (2019); Costumes for Cure (2016-2018); Girls Scouts World Thinking Day (2017-18); Cub Scouts Fun Day (2018); Around the World with Rotorct (2016-2018); Spring and Fall Trash Pick-Up (2016-18); International Project of ECU Rotaract Club: Clean Drinking Water Project, Nepal and Asian Night (2016-18). He has served as a volunteer for Abba’s Tables (2017-18) and Back to School Basics to name a few. Poudel, who owns a 4.0 GPA, is a computer science major with a mathematics minor and is certified in management information systems (MIS) and in QuickBooks Online.
Pruitt graduated Summa Cum Laude from ECU in December of 2018 with a bachelor of science degree in psychology and has applied to clinical health master’s programs. Academics and service have been at the forefront of Pruitt’s college career. As a psychology major from Shawnee and a Dale High School graduate, Pruitt had maintained a 4.0 GPA and has served as a research assistant in the Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Training Laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Christopher Campbell since 2017. Pruitt is already gaining professional experience as she serves as a hotline advocate for the Project Safe and the Freedom House Shelter in Shawnee. As an ECU student, Pruitt joined Tigers Against Human Trafficking in 2017. The club raises awareness of human trafficking through educational booths, flyers and various other activities. She became an officer of the Psi Chi Honor Society, the international society in psychology, first as a secretary before later becoming Psi Chi president. She had been involved in other activities at the university such as serving as a teaching assistant in Dr. Marc Klippenstine’s Writing and Design for Psychology Research Class.