University News

Ramirez Named WIU's Lincoln Laureate

October 20, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University senior psychology and music double major Paula Ramirez, of Bogota, Colombia, has been named Western Illinois University's recipient of the 2020-21 Lincoln Academy of Illinois' Student Laureate Award.

The prestigious award, presented annually to an outstanding senior of each of Illinois' four-year degree-granting institutions, honors a student's overall academic excellence and participation in extracurricular activities.

"Receiving the 2020 WIU Student Laureate for the Lincoln Academy is not only a great honor, but also an opportunity to express immense gratitude to our University community," said Ramirez. "Without the dedication of my professors, the support of my fellow students, and the wise counsel of all who surrounded me throughout my college education, I am convinced that my accomplishments would not have been possible."

While at Western, Ramirez has received numerous scholarships and participated in several academic research conferences, including winning first place in the poster competition in the 2019 Centennial Honors College Undergraduate Research Day. She also presented at the Midwestern Psychology Association Online 2020 Conference, and the Illinois and Iowa Undergraduate 2019 Conference.

Ramirez has served as a student vice president with the WIU Phi Kappa Phi chapter for two years; president and secretary of the Music Therapy Association; was an Honors ambassador for the Centennial Honors College; a campus minister of the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Newman Center; a member of the badminton club; principal flutist of the WIU Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and Concert Band. She was also a student in WIU's Centennial Honors College.

After graduation in December, Ramirez hopes to begin her career as a hospice music therapist, working with those struggling with terminal illnesses. She also hopes to pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology, with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy.

"My mission to carry out a civic-minded life centers around sharing my education for the benefit of others," said Ramirez. "I aspire to not only help individuals suffering from various disabilities, but I also wish to mitigate the stigma attached to their condition. Whether it is individuals with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, or terminal illnesses, addressing the psychosocial needs of these vulnerable populations is the focus of my future work as a music therapist and psychologist. I hope to imitate Lincoln's empathetic listening and trustworthiness as a future therapist, as well as his tenacious character as an advocator for those who faced cultural inequality and diminished opportunity."

Ramirez will receive a certificate signs by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, a challenge coin and a $500 stipend. Because of COVID-19, she will also be emailed a link to watched a Zoom program with a statement from Gov. Pritzker and messages from some past Lincoln Laureates.

For more information about the Lincoln Laureate program, visit

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