KEARNEY – Leslie Braun did a double take when she received the email from the Alpha Phi Foundation.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney senior couldn’t believe her eyes.
“I had to reread it because I thought I missed a comma the first time,” Braun said with a laugh.
It was no mistake. The email confirmed she was awarded $18,000 to put toward academic expenses during the upcoming school year.
Braun, a Henderson native studying business administration with a construction management minor, is a 2020 recipient of the Jane Kinney Memorial Scholarship, the highest honor bestowed upon an undergraduate applicant by the Alpha Phi Foundation.
“That was a good way to start July,” said Braun, who got engaged five days later and celebrated her 22nd birthday on Wednesday. Her fiancé, Brenner Keane, graduated from UNK in December and currently teaches in the Lincoln area.
The Alpha Phi Foundation presents more than $340,000 in scholarships annually to outstanding members of the sorority, which has 173 collegiate chapters in the United States and Canada.
Braun, who serves as president of the UNK chapter, had never applied before and nearly missed the March 1 deadline.
“I thought about not even taking the time to finish it, but I’m glad I did,” she said. “And I’m glad I had some really great people write reference letters for me, because I didn’t give them a whole lot of notice.”
One of those reference letters came from Rachael Page, the Alpha Phi adviser at UNK. She’s also the assistant athletic director for compliance and student services and the senior woman administrator in the UNK Athletic Department.
Page called Braun the “ultimate package,” a superb student and solid leader who sets a great example for her sorority sisters and fellow Lopers.
“She is bright and driven in her schoolwork, passionate and encouraging in her leadership roles and caring and loyal to her chapter, friends and family,” Page stated. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this opportunity to learn, grow and help others in the future. She is the perfect example of an Alpha Phi woman and represents us well.”
Braun joined Alpha Phi – one of 12 sororities and fraternities offered at UNK – as a freshman and has since held multiple executive positions within the chapter.
The sorority provides a support system for her, a group of “teammates” the former high school athlete can count on during any situation.
“There’s always somebody who’s in your corner,” said Braun, who maintains a 4.0 GPA. “I’ve really enjoyed that.”
Alpha Phi inspired her to seek leadership positions outside the chapter, as well. Braun has served on the UNK Student Government Executive Cabinet and she’ll be a Chancellor’s Ambassador in 2020-21. She’s also a member of the UNK Honors Program and an active participant in Christian Student Fellowship.
Through Alpha Phi, she found the confidence to branch out and try new things, including studying abroad in Australia last summer.
“The worst thing that can happen is you’re not going to accomplish what you wanted to,” she said. “But the best thing that can happen is you get all these new experiences, you meet new people and you learn and grow.”
In addition to the Alpha Phi Foundation scholarship, Braun receives a UNK Board of Regents Scholarship, which covers tuition up to 125 credit hours, as well as financial awards through the Honors Program and College of Business and Technology.
“I’m very thankful to be part of organizations that give me a chance to accomplish my goals,” she said. “I hope someday I’ll be able to return those favors.”
Braun is interning this summer with Stephanie Bruntz Designs in Kearney. She’ll graduate from UNK debt-free in May 2021.