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Published May 15, 2020
Leena Hornlein, from Gilbert, Ariz., is the recipient of the Rosemarie Martha Spitaleri and Tobin Memorial Award, which recognizes the University of Wyoming’s most outstanding graduates from the 2019-2020 undergraduate class.
The award is based on academic excellence and achievement; service to the university; participation and leadership in the community and campus activities; and citizenship qualities. Hornlein graduated after the fall 2019 semester with a degree in political science and a double minor in international studies and statistics. She is an honors student, graduating with 3.9 grade-point average.
Chris Rothfuss, a UW Honors College visiting professor, says Hornlein is “an amazing young woman with an adventurous spirit and an incredible intellect, and demonstrated excellence in her educational pursuits.”
Rothfuss, also a Wyoming legislator, served as Hornlein’s adviser on her honors thesis, for which she researched and analyzed the impacts of presidential war powers on U.S. foreign policy and conflict around the world.
“I have come to know Leena as a truly exceptional student who exemplifies the spirit of this award,” Rothfuss says. “I look forward to hearing stories of her next adventure and following her along what I expect will be an exciting and dynamic career.”
Hornlein immersed herself on campus during her productive UW career.
She took part in various UW study-abroad programs and participated in a trip to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan as a part of the Olive Tree Initiative, which provided her with essential skills in international conflict resolution. She was elected vice president of the Young Democrats at UW, a position she has used to provide students across campus with vital information about elections; was an active member of the UW Political Science Club; served as a member and leader of UW’s Honors College; and earned fellowships and internships outside of her academic career.
Hornlein is a “superb and very civically minded” student who wants to make the world a better place through political engagement, says Stephanie Anderson, chair of UW’s School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies.
“She wants to demonstrate that democracy can work for them,” Anderson says. “Although Ms. Hornlein is ambitious, her ambition is not for self-aggrandizement, but for finding a way to improve life for Americans everywhere.”
Hornlein had never been to Wyoming when she selected UW to further her education.
“Having never set foot in Wyoming before my freshman year, I had no idea of the unimaginable experiences, opportunities and lasting relationships that I would gain through the University of Wyoming,” she says. “During my freshman year, a phenomenal professor encouraged me to apply for study-abroad scholarships, and this changed the course of my entire future.”
Hornlein says she is grateful for the UW courses that challenged her.
“UW offered specialized courses in conflict studies with exceptional professors who truly strived to challenge students and push their thinking out of the box. These classes facilitated an intellectual spark that turned into a burning passion to create positive change,” she says. “I am grateful to represent the University of Wyoming through my study abroad, internships and professional experiences all over the world. UW enabled me to expand upon my interests developed in the classroom to experience them in real life. I value and appreciate my UW mentors and the ongoing advice they share as I move forward in my studies and career.”