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Doctoral student’s leadership qualities earn award

By Cheryl Reed, Graduate School

Morczek-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Servant leaders focus on the growth and well-being of people and communities, sharing power and helping others develop and perform well. Doctoral student Amber Morczek practices this leadership style naturally in her work at Washington State University and never really expected it would be acknowledged or rewarded.

But these qualities didn’t go unnoticed by her mentor, Faith Lutze, who nominated Morczek for the Karen P. DePauw Leadership Award. The Graduate School presented the award and $1,500 at an Association for Faculty Women meeting on April 2.

Mentor Lutze, left, and honoree Morczek. (Photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services)

“Every aspect of Amber’s existence is dedicated to making the world a better place for men and women,” said Lutze, WSU associate professor in criminal justice and criminology. “Her character, courage and commitment are evident in her willingness to confront violence and make others see what they would prefer to ignore. She encourages people to act when they may have otherwise turned away.”

Morczek is studying criminal justice and criminology and recently passed her doctoral preliminary exams. She works as a graduate assistant in violence prevention programs in the Health and Wellness Center, where she trains bystanders of potentially violent situations how to take effective action.

She was also a driving force behind the Prison Debate Project, which brought WSU criminal justice students together with inmates from the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center for a series of debates. The project helped break down stereotypes, empower students and demonstrate the potential of inmates.

Morczek has also worked as a sexual health educator for the WSU Voices for Planned Parenthood student organization and is a graduate advisor for the WSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women. This year she won a Women of Distinction award from the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.

The Karen P. DePauw Leadership Award was established in 2003 to support women graduate students who demonstrate exceptional leadership skills and/or university involvement at WSU and are working on completing their dissertations.

It was created in honor of DePauw’s 22 years of work at WSU, where she was a professor in the departments of sociology and human nutrition, foods and exercise before becoming associate dean, interim dean and dean of the Graduate School. In 2002, she became vice president for graduate education at Virginia Tech.

“I was really surprised to get the award,” said Morczek. “It has propelled me forward and is such a lovely accolade, particularly right before my dissertation journey begins.”

As a first-generation college student from Rome, NY, Morczek chose WSU because of her interest in Lutze’s research.

“We have similar views on feminism and violence against women,” Morczek said. “I’ve worked hard to change students’ lives on campus, which is one reason I think I was nominated for the DePauw award.”

Lutze and others in her department support Morczek in her many endeavors as a scholar and activist.

“It’s an honor to be considered Amber’s mentor as she has already demonstrated a level of achievement and commitment that far exceeds what is expected so early in one’s career,” said Lutze.

Morczek would like to continue making a difference in the lives of students by teaching in upstate New York after she graduates.

“It’s been rewarding to get feedback on some of my work here,” she said. “One student shared that the training he received from the violence prevention program helped him step in and prevent a potentially dangerous situation for another person. That’s why I want to teach, to continue to make a difference.”

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