Theatre and biology double major honored for leadership and service
Nat Long (they/them), a theatre and biology major, was honored as Millikin University's recipient of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois' Student Laureate Award for 2021. The senior from Verona, Wis., was honored during the 47th annual Lincoln Academy Student Laureate virtual ceremony on Nov. 10.
Each fall, an outstanding senior from each of the four-year degree-granting institutions of higher learning in Illinois is awarded the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award and thereby becomes a Student Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. In the spirit of Lincoln, student laureates are honored for their leadership and service in the pursuit of the betterment of humanity and overall excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities.
Student Laureates are chosen by the chief executive officers of their respective institutions, who also serve as Academic Trustees of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois.
The virtual ceremony on Nov. 10 featured a congratulatory statement by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, president of the Lincoln Academy. Student Laureates received a letter and certificate of merit signed by Gov. Pritzker, a Lincoln medallion, a challenge coin and a $500 check from The Lincoln Academy.
"It's exciting to receive the honor and I am so grateful that I got nominated for it because it was completely unexpected," said Long.
Long plans to seek a career path related to advancing educational policy, diversity, equity and inclusion for transgender students. Long's goal is to create teacher training on LGBTQIA+ issues in the classroom. Long also works with transgender children at a summer program through Madison School & Community Recreation in Madison, Wis., called the Super Center Arts Camp.
“Seeing how children are engaging with these issues and the fact that they don't know much about them, it made me want to get into that line of work more so," Long said. "We do field trips to see performances, we do theatre, dance and art activities with the kids and I'm usually there as an inclusion specialist. I help out with the kids who are in special education during the regular school year and I also help out with any diversity, equity and inclusion issues that come up at camp."
Tom Robson, associate professor of theatre at Millikin, was one of the faculty members who nominated Long for the prestigious honor.
"Nat has consistently distinguished themselves as one of Millikin's brightest students. They've balanced the demands of two difficult majors with great skill," Robson said. "Nat has shown outstanding leadership skills, both among their peers and through their work in the community. They are among the brightest, hardest-working and most creative students I've had a chance to work with in my 10-plus years at Millikin. They are Millikin's mission and values in action."
Long says Millikin has prepared them for self-advocacy. Community outreach programs, like Shakespeare Corrected, have made a difference in Long's Millikin experience. A signature program in the School of Theatre & Dance, students in Shakespeare Corrected work with offenders incarcerated in the Decatur Correctional Center to create an artistic experience that results in an atmosphere of respectful inclusion and supported expression. The nine-month program culminates in a series of performances of a full-scale Shakespeare play for audiences of friends, family and members of the Decatur Correctional Center's population.
"I used to direct the Macon Resources, Inc. [MRI] branch of Shakespeare Corrected, and that has definitely fueled my passion for doing the kind of outreach work I want to do," Long said.
Robson noted, "The partnership that they've built with Macon Resources, Inc. is a great fusion of their two academic interests. Through their work with MRI, Nat has shown the ways that different disciplines can merge together to benefit the greater world."
Committed to the betterment of society and leadership in every single aspect of life, Long will always strive to better the lives of others and society as a larger whole. "As I've grown, specifically in my academic life, I've learned how to hone my skills and I've developed a lot of problem-solving skills through different courses which have helped me use more analytical thinking," Long said.
After graduating from Millikin in Dec. 2021, Long will be starting a position in the Madison Metropolitan School District as a special education assistant until the end of the academic year. Long plans to pursue graduate school after next summer for either educational policy, educational psychology or special education.