Southwest ready to take flight as finalist in two of three SOAR award categories

Southwest Student Celeste Riley and Special Assistant to the Vice President Sindy Abadie represent Southwest in inaugural statewide awards competition

Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) announced the establishment of the SOAR Awards last fall to recognize excellent students, faculty and staff across the state. Southwest is flying high with two finalists—one in the student category and the other in the faculty category. 

Celeste Riley

Celeste Riley

Celeste Riley is Southwest’s student finalist. She is set to graduate this May with an Associate of Science in Education. “I am humbled and grateful,” Riley said. “Graduating this May is so bittersweet.  I love, love, love Southwest and would not be who I am were it not for the amazing support of the faculty and staff. They really helped me change and grow in my leadership skills.” 

Riley is president of Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honors society for adult students, and vice president of the College’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter, the international honor society for community colleges.  “Dr. (Joan) McGrory, Professor (Twyla) Waters, Mr. (Phoenix) Worthy, my English professor (David) Huffman, Dean LaDonna Young and everyone in the Academic Support Center have been phenomenal mentors. There is so much fantastic support here.”

Despite her busy campus life, Riley is even busier at home. She and her husband have 7 daughters ages 7 to 24 and Riley works full time as an instructional assistant at a local charter school. “I want to continue to be a role model for my girls and show them that education gives you a voice and a chance to change someone’s life,” she said. “I want to change the trajectory of my students’ lives, help them rise out of poverty.”   Riley returned to college after stopping out to raise her family and, so far, has completed an Associate of Arts in Spanish at Southwest and looks forward to earning a bachelor’s degree so that she can teach at-risk students and those with English as a second language. Two of her daughters are Southwest graduates and one is set to enter Southwest in the fall.  “One thing is to learn, it’s another to serve. I want my daughters to know that they can achieve their dreams with an education. An educated woman is a complete woman.”

Sindy Abadie

Sindy Abadie

Abadie is Southwest’s finalist in the faculty award category. She is special assistant to the vice president for Academic Affairs and an associate professor of business and legal studies for Southwest.  Business and Legal Studies Chair Wesley Fox nominated Abadie for her efforts to help students achieve more by lowering the cost of class materials. “Ms. Abadie developed Principles of Macroeconomics using open educational resources (OER) that reduced textbook costs for our students from $170 a semester to $22. This, along with the redevelopment of Microeconomics, led to a savings of over $500 for our economics students in one semester, alone,” Fox wrote of her in his nomination letter.  “She possesses a unique understanding and vision for leadership and is committed to the college's mission and is truly an active advocate for higher learning and student success,” Fox added.

Abadie also serves as the College’s Achieving the Dream director and co-chair of the Student Success Council.  “It is such an incredible honor! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to highlight the amazing work we have all done at Southwest the past three years,” Abadie said.

Riley and Abadie will travel to Nashville March 19 for the final leg of the competition where they will be interviewed by the awards committee judges.  The winners will be selected based on excellence in service to their respective institution and the community.  Among the areas of distinction that will be judged include, but are not limited to:

  • Diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Experiential learning initiatives
  • Sustainability initiatives
  • Effectively supporting student success inside and outside the classroom
  • Bringing national recognition to institution or TBR
  • Exemplary service to the college, the larger community, and/or professional field

The SOAR Awards ceremony is March 20 in Nashville, TN. You can see a list of the finalists here.

Congratulations, Celeste and Sindy!