ATU Leadership Students Apply Skills at Competition

ATU at Washburn Leadership Challenge Event 2023 Action
Photographed (from left-to=right): Alexis Lara, Alazae Allen, Brandon Ordoñez Ramirez, Lia Gillum and Paige Davis represented Arkansas Tech University at the 2023 Washburn University Leadership Challenge Event in Topeka, Kan.

Arkansas Tech University student Alazae Allen had one word to describe her experience at the 2023 Washburn University Leadership Challenge Event: amazing.

“I got to step into the role of an adult in a tough situation and had to think about the best possible solutions for each problem that I had at hand,” said Allen.

According to the Leadership Challenge Event website, the program “challenges students to address a variety of problems and situations where the outcome of the simulation is dependent on the leadership decisions made throughout the course of the competition.”

The scenario for the 2023 competition played out in the fictional community of Metropolis. A fire at the main market serving lower-income residents burned and would not be rebuilt, leaving those residents without access to purchase necessities such as food, medicine and clothing.

“We needed to come up with a way to provide everything, including transportation, since that was the closest store to them,” said Allen, an elementary education major from Hot Springs.

She was joined in solving those problems by fellow ATU team members Paige Davis, a business management major from Russellville; Lia Gillum, a medical laboratory science major from Montrose; Alexis Lara, a digital marketing and Spanish major from Maumelle; and Brandon Ordoñez Ramirez, a biology major with biomedical option from Rogers.

They were accompanied by mentors Dr. Jeremy Schwehm, ATU associate professor of professional studies and program coordinator for the ATU leadership studies minor; and Samantha Huggins, ATU coordinator of alumni engagement.

“We all played an important role as a council or board member,” said Allen. “After attending meetings and talking with the citizens, we ended up with a short-term and long-term solution. Our short-term solution was to partner with a well-known food bank in Metropolis to come on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to the local school to distribute food to all of the families since kids had the option to eat breakfast and lunch at school.

“To add to that, we also had a mobile pharmacy that traveled to houses to make sure that medicine is still available to everyone,” continued Allen. “Our long-term solution was to apply for a grant to build a new marketplace that sold food, clothing and medicine in a new area of town. We would make new routes for our buses to make sure that the citizens had a way to the new market. In order to get the word out, we would send a newsletter home with kids from school and make announcements on the local news and radio.”

Learn more about the ATU leadership minor at

Learn more about ATU’s Mary B. Gunter Emerging Leaders Living Learning Community at

Photographed (from left-to-right): Arkansas Tech University students Alazae Allen, Paige Davis, Lia Gillum, Brandon Ordoñez Ramirez and Alexis Lara.