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WIU COFAC '24 Students Honored for Leadership

The Western Illinois University College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) hosted its third annual Student Leadership Awards program on April 25.

Students representing programs within the college were chosen by their department for recognition. The award honors students who have shown excellent leadership/mentorship over the past year.

This year's leadership award winners are:

School of Music – Thomas Arns, a December 2024 Music Education graduate, from Bartlett, IL. He is a trumpeter who has excelled academically and musically, participating in co-curricular activities and service opportunities on campus and in the community. He served as a section leader of the Marching Leathernecks and served with distinction as the ensemble’s drum major. He serves on the School of Music Student Council, held offices in the Kappa Psi Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and the WIU Educators Association and served as a School of Music Ambassador.

Arns was in nearly every School of Music ensemble during his tenure at WIU and performed in the 80th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade. He is currently concluding his block teaching at Westview Elementary in Canton.

Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology – Whitley Cooper, a May Speech Pathology and Audiology graduate with an American Sign Language minor from Camden, IL. She showed strong leadership skills as president of the WIU-Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association (WIUSSLHA) for two terms. Under her leadership, the organization transformed its membership by creating engaging events and activities. The group also made its mark on campus by partnering with other organizations on campus and in the community.

Cooper is also recognized as a student. She was self-motivated, organized and participatory in the classroom. Her leadership in both organizations and the classroom helped other students realize their potential in the major.

Department of Art and Design – Claire DeGraaf, a senior Art Education major, from Marseilles, IL. She is a leader and volunteer for the department’s First Wednesdays programs. She is the vice president of the Kappa Pi Art Honor Society, assisted the department in recruiting and worked in the Art and Design Office. She was also a scholarship and partial tuition waiver award recipient, a 2023 Rocky on Parade artist and received third place in the 2023 Juried Student Exhibition.

DeGraaf was specifically recognized for her abilities in painting, printmaking and metals. She will be attending the Art in Italy study abroad program and looks forward to exploring international art. Following her student teaching in the Fall of 2025, DeGraaf will graduate in December 2024.

Department of Broadcasting and Journalism – Jonathan Jaszczurowski, a May Broadcasting and Journalism graduate, with minors in Sports Broadcasting and Social Media from Bartlett IL. He was chosen for the award because he has a way of leading that brings others to the forefront. While at WIU, he was a member of the Sports Broadcasting Club and sports talk show co-host for 88.3 FM The Dog.

Jaszczurowski was the executive producer of the Leatherneck Insider, a WIU sports program, that recently won Best Sports Program at the Intercollegiate Broadcast System awards. He has interned at WGEM TV since February 2024.

Department of Communication – Madison Lindsey, a May Communication graduate, and Advertising and Public Relations minor from Alpha, IL. While at Western, Lindsey was a Residence Assistant, the vice president of finance and administration for the Panhellenic Council, a student assistant in the Office of Student Engagement, Lambda Pi Eta Honor Society president and the Communication Student Society and on the Westernettes Dance Team.

Lindsey was recognized as a servant leader by focusing her leadership priorities on helping others do better. She was also a Nancy Walton Laurie Leadership Institute graduate and a training and development intern at QCR Holdings where she conducted training and development topics for six company charters and assisted in creating a resource library.

Department of Theatre and Dance - Izzy Maxwell, a May Musical Theatre and Dance minor from Rochester, MN. She performed in numerous theatre productions, including "The Garbologists,” “Cabaret,” Welcome to Mattson” and Radium Girls. She was president of two departmental organizations, the University Theatre Club and Shades of Vision. She is passionate about advocacy for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)  voices to be heard and for BIPOC students to be seen.

After graduating, Maxwell will perform at Tent Theatre in Springfield, MO followed by rehearsals with the national tour of “Paw Patrol Live! Heroes Unite.”

The names of each student selected for these awards will appear on a plaque outside of the dean's office in Browne Hall. Watch the awards presentation on COFAC’s YouTube Channel,

For more information about the COFAC at WIU, visit

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