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Oregon State's Walker, Washington's Robinson named 2021 Pac-12 Student-Athlete Leadership award winners

Jun 24, 2021

Pac-12 Leadership Award

SAN FRANCISCO — Oregon State men’s soccer’s Joel Walker and Washington beach volleyball’s Natalie Robinson have been named the 2020-21 recipients of the annual Pac-12 Student-Athlete Leadership Awards, the Conference office announced today. Walker is the seventh Beaver and Robinson is the third Husky to receive this honor since the award was established in 2002.

The Pac-12 Conference established the Pac-12 Leadership Award to recognize student-athletes who have served on their institutional Student-Athlete Advisory Committees (SAAC) and demonstrated leadership. This Pac-12 Leadership Award is a $3,000 scholarship for postgraduate study awarded to one male and one female student-athlete each year.

The Pac-12 Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which is composed of representatives from each member institution, selects the winners of the award each year from nominations submitted by each campus SAAC.

Walker, an MBA candidate from Colorado Springs, Colo., graduated from the Oregon State University College of Business with a marketing management degree in 2020. As a member of the Beavers’ men’s soccer program, Walker began serving as the president of Oregon State’s SAAC in fall 2020. He acts as primary spokesperson and liaison for more than 500 student-athletes, leading 13 executive members who oversee six campus and community engagement committees. 

Before that, he served as a Pac-12 Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) representative, advocating for legislative changes on behalf of student-athlete health and welfare, helping to identify critical student-athlete issues and creating solutions. The 2020 Pac-12 Men’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Senior CLASS Award First Team All-American has been a Pac-12 All-Academic selection every year since 2018. 

Alongside several OSU student-athletes, including fellow Leadership Award nominee Sydney Guthrie-Baker, Walker helped launch Dam Change, a platform designed to bring awareness to issues focused on systemic racism in today’s society. He’s also been an active member of Dam Worth It, Oregon State’s mental health awareness initiative, and volunteers with local elementary schools and libraries in the Corvallis community. 

On the field, Walker was a 2019 All-Pac-12 First Team selection as a junior, tying for fifth in the Conference with 16 points. For his four-year career, the midfielder has seen action in 61 games with 41 career starts, tallying nine goals and eight assists while helping the Beavers to two NCAA Tournament appearances. 

Robinson, a political science and communication double major with a law, society and justice minor, has served as the Huskies' team captain and held numerous leadership positions during her time in Seattle. As SAAC Committee Chair, Robinson has participated in discussions and voting highlighting topics from social justice initiatives to name, image & likeness and student-athlete professional development. 

The Mercer Island, Wash., native was voted Washington SAAC vice president in 2019 and president in 2020, tenures in which she educated student-athletes about NCAA legislation and oversaw all five SAAC sub-committees to enhance the student-athlete experience. During her senior year, Robinson was the Pac-12’s representative on the NCAA Division I SAAC. She also has taken part in Husky Leadership Academy, a cohort of Washington student-athletes selected to develop professional skills through mentoring and guest speaker opportunities. A peer advocate selected by her teammates to participate in various mental health challenges, Robinson’s work to address civic engagement and amplify student-athlete voices within the NCAA stands out from the rest. 

In addition to her studies and leadership, Robinson participated in Courts for Kids, traveling to Peru along with 15 other student-athletes to build the first concrete athletics court in the Santa Isabel region. This fall, she will begin her studies at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, seeking opportunities to better the athletic community. 

Robinson spent two seasons on the Washington indoor volleyball team and four seasons with the beach volleyball program, starting every match on the sand. 

To be eligible for the award, nominees must have completed or be in their final season of athletics eligibility, be enrolled in or plan to attend graduate school, have been a letter winner in a varsity sport, and have served a minimum of one year on the campus SAAC. Other factors which may be taken into account during the selection process include other leadership activities, community service, grade-point average, service as a SAAC officer, and level of athletic achievement.

ALSO NOMINATED: Madelyn Hunter, Arizona State Women’s Lacrosse; Sydney Guthrie-Baker, Oregon State Women’s Track & Field; Alyssa Palacios, Utah Softball; Steven Rosts, Washington Men’s Rowing.

PREVIOUS PAC-12 LEADERSHIP AWARD WINNERS

Year Men's Winner Women's Winner
2001-02 Walter Chun, golf, CAL Cicely Clinkenbeard, track & field, WSU
2002-03 Adam Chivara, wrestling, ASU Janell Bergstrom, softball, ORE
2003-04 Jason Ranne, basketball, ARIZ Nikki Neuberger, volleyball, OSU
2004-05 Emerson Ward, swimming, ASU Molly Seaman, gymnastics, WASH
2005-06 Darrell Brooks, football, ARIZ Anna Chappell, basketball, ARIZ
2006-07 Caleb Kirk, gymnastics, CAL Whitney Myers, swimming, ARIZ
2007-08 Justin Pollard, swimming, CAL Ingrid Kantola, track & field, UCLA
2008-09 Kyson Bunthuwong, gymnastics, CAL D’Anna Piro, gymnastics, OSU
2009-10 Sean Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, basketball, UCLA Ariane Masschelein, tennis, ARIZ
2011-12 Greg Woodburn, track & field, USC Leslie Mak, gymnastics, OSU
2012-13 Gareth Gilna, track & field, WASH Stephanie McGregor, gymnastics, OSU
2013-14 Robbie Lemon, basketball, STAN Erin Menedee, track & field, ARIZ
2014-15 Justin Brinkley, track & field, STAN Danielle Buchanan, gymnastics, ARIZ
2015-16 Patrick Woepse, water polo, UCLA Claire Wise, skiing, UTAH
2016-17 Jack Anderson, baseball, OSU Taylor Ricci, gymnastics, OSU
2017-18 Matt Salerno, swimming, ARIZ Natalie Modly, lacrosse, ORE
2018-19 Owen Leonard, baseball, WSU Shannon Williams, lacrosse, ORE
2019-20 Not awarded Not awarded
2020-21 Joel Walker, soccer, OSU Natalie Robinson, beach volleyball, WASH