McConnell Scholars Program celebrates Class of 2024

By Mary Catherine Medley
McConnell Scholars Program celebrates Class of 2024

Louisville, Ky. (April 24, 2024) – The McConnell Center recognized the McConnell Scholars Class of 2024 Sunday at the Center’s annual senior dinner. The accomplished group of nine will graduate from UofL on May 11.

“The McConnell Center has been an integral part of my educational journey, shaping not just my academic path but also my personal and professional growth. I am filled with gratitude as I reflect on four years enriched by travel, education, distinguished speakers, and some of the best friendships. The McConnell Center is a special place, and I am humbled to have played a small part in its growing legacy.” – McConnell Scholars Chair Caleb Aridano (’24)

McConnell Scholars receive world-class opportunities including guaranteed full in-state tuition to UofL; mentored studies of classical literature and leadership; international and domestic travel; and access to the McConnell Center’s vast alumni network.

Students are also able to engage with some of the world's most prominent leaders. During their tenure at UofL, the McConnell Scholar Class of 2023 met with (among others):

  • U.S. Senator Katie Britt (R-AL)
  • U.S. Representative Morgan McGarvey (D-KY, 3rd)
  • Ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S. Oksana Markarova
  • Ambassador of Australia to the U.S. Kevin Rudd
  • U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)
  • U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett
  • U.S. Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY, 3rd)

Sunday’s senior dinner program celebrated the 29th class to graduate from the McConnell Center. Graduating scholars include:

  • Caleb Aridano (Crestwood, Ky.): Caleb majored in political science and philosophy and is graduating with a certificate in ethics. At UofL, he was Chair of the McConnell Scholars Program and the Compliance Officer for UofL’s Student Government Association. Caleb also participated on the McConnell Center’s Moot Court team, in which he and teammate Megan Crowley recently finished in the top 15 teams in the nation. He completed a summer research fellowship at Yale University and was an intern for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. After graduation, Caleb plans to pursue law school.
  • Yelena Bagdasaryan (Lexington, Ky.): Yelena majored in public health and political science. At UofL, she was Programming Director for the Engage Lead Serve Board, Vice President of the School of Public Health and Information, Service Chair of the McConnell Scholars Program, and a Student Success Ambassador for Public Health. She worked as a health policy intern for Kentucky Youth Advocates and is a three-time Presidential Volunteer Service Award recipient. After graduation, Yelena plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Jacob Banta (Pewee Valley, Ky.): Jacob majored in civil engineering with a minor in political science. During his time at UofL, he was President of both Across Campus and the Religious Life Student Association and was a member of Third Avenue Baptist Church. He completed his civil engineering co-op with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After graduation, Jacob plans to be a campus ministry worker for Across Campus and pursue a Master of Divinity degree at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • Emily Bevins (Georgetown, Ky.): Emily majored in English literature with minors in classical studies and political science. At UofL, she served as Social Director for Chi Omega women’s fraternity, Senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, and an Officer for the Eta Sigma Phi honors society. She also worked as a field coordinator for the Jefferson County Republican Party. After graduation, Emily plans to attend Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law.
  • Paighton Brooks (Alexandria, Ky.): Paighton majored in political science and criminal justice. At UofL, she was President of the Society of Porter Scholars, Chief of External Affairs for the Student Government Association, the founder of the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Chair for the McConnell Scholars Council, and was initiated into Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She was named UofL’s 2023 Homecoming Queen, a 2024 Derby Princess, and a TRIALS Program Scholar in partnership with Harvard Law School and NYU School of Law. After graduation, Paighton plans on entering the workforce before pursuing law school.
  • Sawyer Depp (Fort Thomas, Ky.): Sawyer majored in political science and history with a minor in creative writing. At UofL, he served as Academic Vice President and Chief of Staff of the Student Government Association, Service Chair of the McConnell Scholars Program, and as Vice President of both Member Development and Alumni Relations for Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He was selected as a Tragos Quest to Greece Scholar by national Sigma Phi Epsilon. After graduation, Sawyer plans to take a gap year before pursuing graduate school.
  • Katie Hayden (Owensboro, Ky.): Katie majored in neuroscience with a minor in political science. At UofL, she served as both the Student Body President and Executive Vice President of the Student Government Association and served on the Executive Board of raiseRED Dance Marathon for four years, contributing to and overseeing the fundraising of more than $2.1 million to fight pediatric cancer and blood disorders. Katie was also selected as one of two 2024 Cardinal Award recipients, the University’s highest honor given to students for co-curricular and service involvement. After graduation, Katie will be attending UofL’s School of Dentistry.
  • Mary Catherine Medley (Springfield, Ky.): Mary Catherine majored in criminal justice and minored in political science. At UofL, she was the Secretary of the McConnell Scholars Council, Panhellenic Delegate for Kappa Delta sorority, and an Honors, Trustees, and Dean’s Scholar. She interned for Senator McConnell in his Washington, D.C. office and studied abroad in Rome, Italy. Mary Catherine was recognized as a 2024 Corre Anding Stegall Leadership Award recipient, which is the highest collegiate honor of Kappa Delta sorority. After graduation, Mary Catherine will be attending Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law.
  • Bryson Sebastian (Louisville, Ky.): Bryson majored in political science. At UofL, he was Academic Vice President of the Student Government Association and President of Sigma Chi fraternity. He completed the Ford Hall Frankfort Internship in 2022 and was a KY Speaker of the House Communications intern this spring. After graduation, Bryson plans on taking a gap-year before pursuing graduate school.