Second Consecutive Student Receives Distinguished Sigma Delta Pi Gabriela Mistral Award

Karenna Olson
Karenna Olson (’24)

Today, the national collegiate Spanish honors society Sigma Delta Pi awarded Karenna Olson (‘24) the Gabriela Mistral Award. Olson is the second consecutive student at Southern Virginia University to earn this award, with Jacob Adams (‘23) receiving it last year.

Founded in 1984, the Gabriela Mistral award is given to only a handful of graduate and undergraduate students each year who are active members of the Sigma Delta Pi honors society, have demonstrated noteworthy involvement and initiative in their chapter, and are nominated by their chapter’s advisor.

“The fact that two students from Southern Virginia got it two years in a row is really exciting,” said Professor of Spanish Iana Konstantinova, who serves as the advisor of Sigma Delta Pi’s chapter at the university. “Karenna has put so many hours into Sigma Delta Pi and to the Spanish program, and I’m so excited that she got it.”

A double major in Spanish and biochemistry with a biology minor, Olson learned about the award from Konstantinova, who encouraged her to secure the two letters of recommendation from professors for the review process.

Kling Elementary school
Olson (third from left) at the garden clean-up at Kling Elementary school

”It was all through Dr. Konstantinova,” Olson said. “She was the one who approached me about the award and had me get the letters of recommendation. She actually emailed me once I won it. It was really sweet.”

Olson served as the president of Southern Virginia University’s chapter of Sigma Delta Pi during the 2023–24 school year and will continue for the Fall 2024 semester. Olson also serves as one of the executive vice presidents for the university’s Phi Kappa Phi chapter, the highest leadership role for students within that honor society.

With the Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Delta Pi chapters, Olson helped organize a campus-wide garden clean-up at the local Kling Elementary school for Phi Kappa Phi’s annual service project. A member of the pre-health professionals club, she also volunteers at various Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinics, serving as a Spanish translator for the nurses, doctors, and dentists.

“I originally volunteered with RAM because of the club, but then they needed interpreters for Spanish,” Olson explained. “At all of the clinics except for one, I’ve been able to interpret the entire time. It’s been super fun.”

A native of San Francisco, Calif., Olson plans to graduate in the fall of 2024. According to Olson, her experiences at Southern Virginia University were influential in her decision to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—where she practiced her Spanish language skills while serving the people of Independence, Missouri. She also credits her professors for introducing her to the study of genetics, and she plans to pursue genetic counseling after graduation and to become a certified Spanish interpreter. 

”I really want to be a certified interpreter,” Olson said. “So right now I’m just doing it as volunteer work. I’m not certified, but that’s on my bucket list to actually sit, take the exam, and be nationally certified.”