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Alumni Accolades August 2015

Ben Sasse Large

1990 Scholar Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) is featured in a Q&A in Coca-Cola Journey. Ben was elected last November after serving as president of Midland University, a 130-year-old Lutheran college he steered out of bankruptcy to become one of the fastest-growing higher education institutions in the country by the time of his departure.

Said Ben, “I remember my interview during the selection weekend very clearly. Five interviewers, bright lights and a lot of questions that challenged us not to give predictable answers about wanting to save the world. I remembered and appreciated the rigor of those questions in the following years. It’s been great staying connected to the Scholars Foundation, and I was honored to serve on that same selection committee later.”

Raina and Book

Raina Kadavil (2015) published her first book, “The Voice of Thunder,” a young adult fiction novel she describes as “a little bit like Game of Thrones crossed with Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Read more about the book and find it on

First Lady Michelle Obama greets a participant after delivering remarks at a Reach Higher Champions of Change event in Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, June 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not otherwise be reproduced, disseminated or broadcast, without the written permission of the White House Photo Office. This photograph may not be used in any commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Ahmad Shawwal (2015) took a photo with First Lady Michelle Obama after delivering remarks at a Reach Higher Champions of Change event in Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House on June 30, 2015. The event spotlighted innovative education practices.

Said Ahmad, “In her speech, she recognized the student leaders in the room. I stood up as she addressed us; however, I was the only one standing! She complemented me for displaying leadership, so I asked to take a picture with her, but I did not expect to receive one. After the event, I left the room and was suddenly escorted by staff to an area where Michelle Obama was waiting for me. I was star-struck. So, my first response was to run and give her a big hug! I’m almost certain that I broke protocol, but I was too excited to care! She was kind enough to speak to me for a few minutes. I thanked her for all the work she’s done for education reform and took pictures with her.”


Julian Plowden (2010) was interviewed on City NPR 90.1 WABE’s City Lights. Julian discussed several of his photos and his experience photographing #BlackLivesMatter protests.