Meet this year’s ‘Spirit of Pitt’ nominees

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Meet the nominees for the Spirit of Pitt awards, established during last year’s Homecoming and organized by the Pitt Alumni Association.

By Clare Sheedy, Staff Writer

It’s time to vote for the Spirit of Pitt awards — Pitt’s alternative to Homecoming king and queen. 

Established during last year’s Homecoming and organized by the Pitt Alumni Association, the two genderless awards aim “to recognize students who display a commitment to academic excellence, community service, and the Pitt Alumni Association’s values” according to the website.

Voting began Tuesday at noon and is open until Wednesday at noon. The alumni association will announce the Spirit of Pitt awards on the field at Saturday’s Homecoming football game. Along with the award, each winner will receive $1,500 in student resource funding. Students will choose two Spirit of Pitt winners from the preliminarily elected Homecoming Court, which consists of 10 Pitt upperclass undergraduate students.

Maria Arlia 

Maria Arlia, a senior and second-year student in the School of Pharmacy. (Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer)

Maria Arlia, a senior and second-year student in the School of Pharmacy, said she found out about her Homecoming Court win on Instagram.

“I came home from class and I was sitting in my room. I just happened to open up Instagram and I saw it. I was like, ‘Oh my god, what?’” Arlia said. “I got so excited. It was right when I came home from class so that was really cool. First I told my roommates, then I called my parents and my sister they were all really happy for me.”

On campus, Arlia is involved with the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society,  executive board for the Student National Pharmaceutical Association and the traditions committee for the Blue and Gold Society. She was previously the building representative for Nordenberg Hall with the Resident Student Association.

Arlia said ever since touring Pitt as a high school senior she felt welcomed by the community. She decided to run for Spirit of Pitt to embody the inclusivity and spirit she feels as a student. 

“When I came to Pitt for the first time I was just immediately so welcomed by people,” Arlia said. “I think because of that positive experience and all of the great people I’ve met at Pitt I was like, ‘Yeah, this is definitely something I want to get involved in,’ to help students feel the same way — to make them feel welcome, make them feel included and really excited about going to Pitt and enjoying life here.”

De’Jovia Davis

De’Jovia Davis, senior urban studies major. (Hannah Wilson | Staff Photographer)

De’Jovia Davis is a senior urban studies major, as well as a Pathfinder, assistant drum major in the Pitt band, head student manager of the women’s basketball team, member of the Pitt Band Council and member of Kappa Kappa Psi.

She also founded the first Pitt Band Council’s Activism Committee her sophomore year, and is a former first-year mentor.

Davis is running for Spirit of Pitt with Jordyn Newing, a fellow Pitt band member. She said she shows her pride for Pitt through her involvement on campus.

“Pitt spirit, to me, is not one size fits all. Some show their Pitt pride in the classroom, others on the field, and others in the participation in student organizations,” Davis said. “I think my Pitt pride revolves around my involvement around campus. I embody Pitt by showcasing my Pitt pride and I strive to share my love of the University with others.” 

Davis said although she initially thought college would just “be a time to learn and get a degree,” Pitt has become much more to her.

“I have met so many amazing people and made a lot of lasting connections that I will cherish forever. I thought college would simply be a time to learn and get a degree, but it has been so much more than that,” Davis said. “My time at Pitt has been so precious and I am so grateful to call Pitt my home.” 

Alexa Lascola 

Alexa Lascola, a junior health sciences major. (Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer)

Alexa Lascola is a junior health sciences major in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. She is part of the Pitt cheer team, Delta Zeta, Rho Psi Eta, Pre-Physician Assistant Association, Pre-Rehabilitation Science Student Association, a member of Cru, Pitt Alumni Student Network and member of the Outside the Classroom Curriculum honor society.

As a cheerleader, Lascola said she embodies “the Spirit of Pitt.”

“[Cheerleaders] definitely embody spirit. We serve as ambassadors and role models to our peers to get students involved at Pitt, to get enthusiasm at Pitt athletics and even the Pitt community so we’re kind of that group that embodies what it means to have unity and spirit here,” Lascola said. “I’ve spent my time here striving to promote school pride and engage with our student body to lift our spirit.”

Lascola said she’s loved Pitt ever since arriving on campus in August 2019.

“I really fell in love with the campus and all of the opportunities offered here. And, after coming here, I’ve realized that Pitt is much more than just an amazing University,” Lascola said. “It’s really just a community of really supportive people and it’s a family. We all hail as one and Pitt’s really provided me with the tools to achieve academic excellence and get really involved.” 

Haley Marra 

Haley Marra, a senior in the School of Nursing. (Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer)

Haley Marra, a senior in the School of Nursing, said she’s always wanted to run for Spirit of Pitt and decided to apply since this year is her last chance. Marra is a member of Theta Phi Alpha and the Nursing Student Association, where she writes student spotlights and previously served as the president. 

Marra said she decided to apply after writing a speech for the NSA white coat ceremony — a ceremony that commemorates nursing students’ ability to perform clinicals.

“This year I was like, ‘I’m just going to go for it — I’m going to run and we’ll see what happens. I think one of the defining factors in deciding to run was when I was asked to speak at the white coat ceremony at Carnegie Music Hall,” Marra said. “I was writing my speech and thinking about how much being at Pitt has shaped me into the person I am today and, I guess, how proud I am of that — of who I’ve become here and for what Pitt gave me.” 

Marra wants other students to know that, like her, they can make the most of their experience at Pitt.

“If you dive into Pitt, you can make every single one of [your goals] come true,” Marra said. “It’s never too late to dive headfirst, try what you’ve been meaning to try, talk to who you’ve been meaning to talk to, and I think that Pitt throughout the years has given me the confidence to do that. No matter where I go in May, this will always be my home.”

Olivia Marie Miller 

Olivia Marie Miller, senior rehabilitation sciences major. (Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer)

Olivia Marie Miller is a senior rehabilitation sciences major in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. She is also a member of the Blue and Gold Society, president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, member of the Panthers United Group and a Pitt gymnast. With the Blue and Gold Society, she helped name the Spirit of Pitt awards last year, along with Arlia.

“We came up with the Spirit of Pitt award because the entire idea surrounding it is somebody who bleeds blue and gold, somebody who really works to represent Pitt through every aspect of their life and through their schooling and their extracurriculars,” Miller said. “As a senior this year I was like, ‘Y’know what’ … I helped plan this last year and now that things are more in person and we have more opportunities to actually go out and campaign and meet people I just thought it’d be fun.”

Miller said she “definitely [bleeds] blue and gold” and that she loves competing on the gymnastics team and “[representing] Pitt on [her] leotard.”

“I’m from Monroeville and I kind of grew up always being around Pitt. I always came to the Pitt gymnastics meets as a kid,” Miller said. “So, for me, it was really, really cool and really awesome to be able to have the opportunity to compete for the gymnastics team here. I’ve grown up here and I’ve loved it from the beginning.”

Ian Montelius

Ian “Monty” Montelius is a senior in the School of Pharmacy. (Image courtesy of Ian Montelius)

Ian “Monty” Montelius is a senior in the School of Pharmacy. As a Pitt Pathfinder, he said his spirit for Pitt is “unmatched.”

“Pitt is more my home than my own home is. I absolutely love it here,” Montelius said. “I do a lot of things around here and I think I help embody that spirit that we are trying to push with the Spirit of Pitt award. All the candidates do a great job doing that though so I’m definitely not alone.”

Montelius is a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon social fraternity, member of Phi Delta Chi pharmacy fraternity and a campus recreation facility attendant. He is a former representative on the Interfraternity Council.

Montelius said he’s happy he can campaign in-person this year. To him, Homecoming is a way to build connections and strengthen the Pitt community.

“My favorite thing about Pitt is the people,” Montelius said. “I’ve connected to so many people and they’ve made such an impact on me and I want to keep making an impact on them.” 

Jordyn Newing 

Jordyn Newing, a junior finance and business information systems double-major. (Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer)

Jordyn Newing, a junior finance and business information systems double major in the College of Business Administration, was nominated anonymously for Homecoming Court. She said she was “shocked” because she didn’t realize her work on campus had made “that much of an impact” but that she was grateful and flattered.

On campus, Newing is the president of the Pitt Band Council, a trumpet player in the band, member of the Roberto Clemente Minorities in Business Association, member of the Black Action Society, member of Intervarsity Black Campus Ministries and performer in the Gospel choir.

Newing said finding community is crucial to individual success and that, coming to Pitt, she’s found hers.

“Sometimes, I felt isolated growing up and I’ve gone from thinking, ‘Oh, is my voice important, am I able to do something of substance in certain spaces, or any spaces,’ to thinking now like … ‘Why should I think that?’” Newing said. “Being able to give that hope, inspiration and passion to someone else through my example and just showing them that I’m here that gets me so excited.”

Newing said she has a genuine pride for Pitt and that, with her Spirit of Pitt campaign, she hopes to inspire other students to involve themselves on campus and find their communities.

“That’s my biggest thing with this inspiring other people. It’s not just, ‘Oh, here’s an award, congratulations, yay me.’ No I actually am proud to be a part of this University and I love to meet other people who share that pride,” Newing said. “I think Spirit of Pitt should be a way to inspire people to give back to the community more and just get more involved in things that they’re passionate about on campus.”

Danielle Obisie-Orlu 

Danielle Obisie-Orlu is a junior international & area studies and political science double-major. (Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer)

Danielle Obisie-Orlu is a junior international & area studies and political science double major. Obisie-Orlu is president of the Resident Student Association, Global Ties mentor, European Studies Center ambassador and member of the African Students Organization.

Obisie-Orlu — who was born in the USA, but spent most of her life in South Africa, where her parents still live — said she had to make Pitt her home during the pandemic.

“Because of the pandemic, I didn’t get to go home — so Pitt really had to become my home,” Obisie-Orlu said. “I think the more time you spend on campus, the more you realize that everyone here is looking out for each other. And that’s the most beautiful thing. The only way you feel in true community with people is if you know that if I stumble someone is going to be there to catch me and I feel like I have that here at Pitt — so Pitt definitely feels like home.” 

Obisie-Orlu said although it would be “absolutely incredible” to win one of the Spirit of Pitt awards, interacting with other students is amazing enough. 

“The fact that I get to really just interact with people and genuinely be thankful that they’re here at Pitt and that we get to share the same space that’s been the most amazing thing for me,” Obisie-Orlu said. 

Evelyn Seasholtz

Evelyn Seasholtz, a senior early childhood education major. (Clare Sheedy | Senior Staff Photographer)

Evelyn Seasholtz is a senior in the School of Education. An early childhood education major, she is a part of Pitt Dance Marathon, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pitt Club Field Hockey. She is also the vice president of the Club Sports Council and works for the Falk Elementary School.

Seasholtz said she is honored to represent Pitt on this year’s Homecoming Court. To Seasholtz, someone who embodies the Spirit of Pitt is someone who actively cares about Pitt. 

“To me, this award and title means someone who is an active, caring and positive community member,” Seasholtz said. “They make the campus better and try to enhance the experiences that their peers have while here at Pitt. If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you how much I truly love this school.” 

Seasholtz said to her, school spirit is “what brings a big community like Pitt together.” 

“This school and community mean more to me than I could put into words. I have met the best people, I’ve had so many cool experiences like working with the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh,” Seasholtz said. “I will cherish these years for the rest of my life and feel that this school has prepared me to be the best version of myself as I keep growing and living new experiences.” 

Sophie Tayade 

Sophie Tayade, a senior rehabilitation science and multimedia health communication double-major. (Image courtesy of Sohpie Tayade)

Sophie Tayade is a senior rehabilitation science and multimedia health communication double major. She is a member of the Blue and Gold Society, an ambassador for international students with Pitt To You and, previously, the campus director of Pitt’s first Millennium Fellowship cohort. She also founded a summer art program for refugees.

Tayade said she decided to run because she wanted to reconnect with the Pitt community after a year online. 

“I actively contributed to building communities on and off campus through art, film, and service,” Tayade said. “I feel that I represent different parts of Pitt and would love to celebrate that through this award while inspiring others to make the most of their Pitt experience.” Tayade said she hopes her campaign inspires students to “invest in each other.”  “Homecoming campaigning reminds students of the diverse communities that make up Pitt,” Tayade said. “I hope my campaign inspires students to invest in each other and pursue opportunities provided by this University.”

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