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GSU's Lincoln Laureate Named

By Samantha Kaspar
On November 5, 2013

     Governors State University has announced the winner of its 2013 Lincoln Laureate award, Psychology major Ricca Louissaint. Nominated for the honor by Dr. Terri Christiansen, Dr. Randi Schneider, and Dean Aurelio Valente, Louissaint is a student who exemplifies the qualities that make her an exceptional representative of the university.

     The Lincoln Academy of Illinois Student Laureate is awarded to an outstanding senior from each degree granting institution of higher learning in the state of Illinois. These students are recognized for their curricular and co-curricular excellence and are awarded a certificate of achievement, as well as a monetary grant of $1,000.

     Schneider, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, became acquainted with Louissaint this past fall, and says she was immediately impressed with her as a student and a leader.

     "I gravitate toward student leaders who have a sense of pride in the work they do," said Schneider. "I was impressed with Ricca's sense of pride in GSU and the role that she plays in helping other students be successful."

     Louissaint transferred to GSU from South Suburban College in 2012, and has been an active member of the campus community since. As a peer mentor in the Dual Degree Program, she mentors anywhere from five to nine students at a time. In addition, Louissaint is the president of the Psychology Club, a member of the Forensic Debate Club, and is a mother of three boys, two of who have high functioning autism.

     "I have a very full life and I work really hard," said Louissaint. "I take my academic career very seriously."

     According to Valente, Dean of Students and Associate Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, Louissaint excels academically while juggling life responsibilities as the head of a household.

     "I really admire Ricca's persistence and her desire to make a difference," says Valente. "In addition to juggling a family, she does all that she is."

     Schneider says that aside from being a really good student and student mentor, Louissaint is also involved in the community through volunteer opportunities.

      "She sets her sights on academic and professional goals and works hard to obtain them," says Schneider. "She will be a terrific member of whatever community she chooses to live in when she finishes school."

     Louissaint credits her success to the relationships she has made at GSU, the support that she receives, and the impact Valente, Christiansen, and Schneider have made on her professional and personal life.        

     "They are the best role models a person could have, each in their own capacity," says Louissaint "Dean Valente and Dr. Schneider are not my professors, but they are still my teachers."

     Louissaint is a first generation college graduate, as well as the first Psychology major to win the award.

     "I was really naïve to how much this would mean to my life. I can't wait to say I'm Governor State University's Lincoln Laureate" she says.

     On November 2, Ricca traveled to Springfield, IL to represent Governors State University and receive her award. The day included a tour of the state capital and a ceremony in which she received her certificate.

     Following her May 2014 graduation, Louissaint plans on attending law school with the goal of eventually becoming a judge, ideally in a mental health court. She also hopes to one day be a full-fledged member of the Lincoln Academy, whose members include Ronald Reagan and Walter Peyton.

     "I want to make a difference," says Louissaint. "I think that it's important to absorb information and improve your circumstance and society with what you've learned." 

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