By: Mary Ringwald, Staff Writer
The buzz of his cell phone interrupted Bellarmine University senior baseball player Joe Patzelt during his long day of student teaching on a typical fall day.
His eyes widened in surprise as he read the words from Bellarmine’s Lindsey Peetz-Murray, developmental advisor for first generation students and the director of the Pioneer Scholars Program which said, “FYI: you are going to get an email that says you’ve been nominated and won this award and I nominated you!”
Patzelt expected no recognition, but one could say he certainly deserved it after four years of hard work and dedication to the Pioneer Scholars Program. The program offers first-generation college students support and direction in academic, social, emotional and financial aspects of college life.
The Knights’ utility player earned the American College Personnel Association’s Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award through its commission for admissions, orientation and first-year college experience at the ACPA College Student Education International Convention on March 7 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Peetz-Murray said she decided to nominate the baseball player because she and Patzelt were going to be at the convention. Despite the nomination, even Peetz-Murray said she did not think his chances of receiving the award were good due to the huge number of people attending the conference.
“I thought it was perfect because he has kind of paved the way into this new direction of Pioneers,” Peetz-Murray said. “I really honestly did not think he would get it just because we were there for a conference. It was huge, and there were a lot of applicants.”
Patzelt competed against undergraduate students from all over the world who contributed to their universities’ admissions, orientations or first-year experience programs. The nominated students had to go above and beyond normal expectations of service in each of those areas to be considered.
The evolution of Patzelt’s growth in the Pioneer Scholars may have helped him win the award, but it also shows his dedication to the overall success to the program, of which he has been a member since his freshman year. Patzelt was the first member of his family to attend college and it motivated him to work hard in his classes, baseball and Pioneers.
“I was very motivated coming into freshman year,” he said. “I knew that I was going to be first-generation, and I did not really consider the at-risk factors and that they consider this population of students to be at-risk. My parents and my whole family are so supportive so I was doing it for them.”
Forty percent of Bellarmine students are the first in their families to attend college and the Pioneer Scholars program gives first-generation freshman students the option to form a close support group led by a peer mentor.
Patzelt led a support group for two years before he began student teaching to continue his education degree last fall. However, he did not want to stop working with the program.
“Now his role is not having a freshman group. Instead, he helps me do a lot of the administration duties and implement events,” Peetz-Murray said. “He is being a resource for other mentors, researching other institutions, and now that he is not student teaching, he can help lead the Pioneer events.”
His leadership skills are not used only in the classroom, but he also leads by example on the field.
“The time and effort he gives us in practice is awesome,” Bellarmine head baseball coach Larry Owens said. “He is a very good person and a very good teammate. He makes our team better. We could take whole team of him.”
The time and effort he puts into everything he does did not go unnoticed. He has had an impact on the lives of many freshman students, his teammates and his friends.
Senior and three-year Pioneer peer mentor Taylor Humphrey said Patzelt was one of the first people she met at Bellarmine and she knows that he will help anyone succeed.
“He strives to better himself and the program, no matter what the task is,” Humphrey said. “He sees a challenge and immediately takes it upon himself to help out in anyway possible. He has had two great years of mentorship where he impacted many freshmen’s lives. Joe is an amazing person and the Pioneer Scholars Program would not be what it is now if it weren’t for him.”
Patzelt will be the first member of his family to graduate college this spring, and he could not be happier. He may have been surprised by an email that said he would be recognized by the ACPA at one of the largest education conventions in the world for his work with first-generation students, but it’s no surprise to those who know him well.
“It all comes down to doing my job,” said Patzelt. “I know that there are other mentors in this program who are just as deserving to get this award.”