Amelia Wilhelm of Bates Named Top 30 Finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year

Amelia Wilhelm, Bates
Amelia Wilhelm, Bates

Courtesy of Bates Sports Information

INDIANPOLIS, Ind. - Bates College's Amelia Wilhelm has been selected as one of 30 finalists for the 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year Award, announced Thursday by the Woman of the Year selection committee.

The selection committee will announce the nine finalists, including three women from each NCAA division, in early October. From those finalists, the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics will select the 2018 NCAA Woman of the Year. The Top 30 will be celebrated and the Woman of the Year will be named Oct. 28 at a ceremony in Indianapolis.

The NCAA Woman of the Year award honors graduating student-athletes who have distinguished themselves throughout their collegiate careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, service, and leadership. The award has been given annually since 1991.

Earlier in the summer, Wilhelm was one of two student-athletes nominated for the award by the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

Wilhelm is the eighth NESCAC student-athlete to advance to the Top 30 finalists since 2007-08 and the second Bobcat, joining former Bates track and field standout Vantiel Elizabeth Duncan in 2010.

A 2018 graduate and native of Charlotte, N.C., Wilhelm helped Bates win three NCAA Rowing Championships in four years, before graduating in May with honors in chemistry.

A four-year dean's list student, she was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, the scientific research society Sigma Xi, and Bates' College Key. She received the Mary Brushwein Award from the Bates chemistry department and the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association Scholar-Athlete Award, and was named to the NESCAC All-Academic Team three times.

"Amelia is perhaps one of the most positive, thoughtful, and welcoming members of our team," rowing head coach Peter Steenstra said. "Her primary goal was always fixed on the success of the team as a whole, but like any good athlete she used this to motivate herself as well."

On the strength of her academic promise, Wilhelm was invited by the Bates chemistry department to conduct an honors thesis in her senior year. Her completed thesis is titled Investigating the Relationship between Osmotic Stress and mRNA Degradation Rates in Borrelia burgdorferi, the Causative Agent of Lyme Disease.

"Amelia is a superb and truly exceptional student, and I am thrilled that she is receiving this honor," Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Paula Schlax said. "In terms of pure talent, understanding, and potential as a scientist, she is among the top students, of more than 90, that I have collaborated with in my research laboratory."

In her lab at Bates, Schlax and students explore the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, and how it moves from tick to mammal. In joining the research, Wilhelm "quickly became an expert, both in conducting and troubleshooting experiments," Schlax said. "More importantly, she quickly gained understanding in how environmental factors regulate gene expression in bacteria."

Wilhelm developed a passion for helping and teaching others during her time at Bates. She served as a student manager for the Academic Resource Commons at Bates, overseeing peer tutors and developing workshops for supplemental learning for students. She also assisted the Residence Life staff, working as a Junior Advisor and Residence Coordinator, and was a fellow for the Bates Career Development Center.

Wilhelm worked as a teaching and research assistant in the Bates chemistry department and guided campus tours for the Bates Admission Office. Off campus, she volunteered as a teaching assistant in a science classroom in the Lewiston public schools and volunteered at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center.

Selected from a record 581 school nominees — a group that was then narrowed to 154 nominees by conference offices — the Top 30 honorees include 10 from each of the three NCAA divisions. All have demonstrated excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership. The honorees competed in 13 sports and studied a broad range of academic majors, including finance, biochemistry, microbiology, kinesiology, nursing and communication.

"These 30 women have demonstrated outstanding commitment to excelling in the classroom and in their sports while also serving their peers and communities," said Sherika Montgomery, chair of the Woman of the Year selection committee and associate commissioner for governance and compliance at The Summit League. "They represent the best and brightest of women competing in college and sports, and we're thrilled to celebrate them and their achievements."