Irene L. Lewis, a Southern University agricultural sciences major with a concentration in plant and soil science, has been named the University’s Spring 2020 Chief Student Marshal, the student graduating with the highest grade point average in the class.
“I am honored to serve as Chief Student Marshal to remind the Class of 2020 that we are resilient,” said Lewis, who graduated with a 3.9 grade point average.
Lewis went on to say that she began college wanting to graduate as the chief student marshal but admitted that she quickly learned that a college experience is more than academics.
“I learned that my college experience was much more important than my grades,” said Lewis. “It is about the people you meet and the memories you make. I never would have thought I would experience “virtual graduation,” but here we are. I say all of that to say, even though life did not follow an exact path for me, I am glad we can still celebrate,” she said.
Lewis is a 22-year-old native of Baton Rouge by way of Central, La. She is the daughter of Eric and Maura Lewis and a 2016 graduate of Runnels High School.
The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t the first time Lewis had a disruption from her planned path. In 2016, her home flooded days before the start of her freshman year at college.
“It was difficult starting class almost immediately after losing the home I grew up in,” said Lewis. “It was even more difficult watching my family have to bounce back and my siblings adjust to moving to a new town all in a matter of months,” she said.
“I think watching how strong both my younger brother and sister were as well as having my parents, family, and friends there to love and support me helped me tremendously,” said Irene. “As I started at Southern in the College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences, I also learned that more than anything, I had a family away from home and a support system that would bring me a long way,” she said.
During her college career, Irene was active in several student organizations. She was elected the National Undergraduate President of the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) organization for the 2019-2020 year and Region IV National Undergraduate Vice President of MANRRS for the 2018-2019 year where she represented the organization’s college chapters in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Lewis was also active in the local Southern University Chapter of MANRRS where she served as both the Secretary during the 2017-2018 academic year and Historian during the 2018-2019 year.
Lewis credits her time at Southern University for helping her grow as an adult.
“Throughout college, I learned a lot about myself and my leadership abilities. I learned that, through balancing several organizations, responsibilities, and my personal life, I needed to take time to take care of me, my needs, and my wellbeing,” she said. “My professors in the College of Agricultural, Family, and Consumer Sciences taught me how to build a community. My interests have evolved greatly from my freshman year, but throughout, they have demonstrated that my possibilities are endless,” she expressed.
After graduating, Lewis will spend the summer as an intern with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. During the Fall 2020 semester, she will begin working on a masters of public administration at The Ohio State University, focusing on food access policy. She will also have the opportunity to complete her second year of studies while working in Washington D.C. on a fully funded fellowship.
By LaKeeshia Lusk