Saluki Pride: Bethany Peppers wins SIU’s Emerging Leader Award

A black woman wearing a pink shirt is smiling. She is leaning on a fountain and trees are visible in the background.

Bethany Peppers, assistant director of Student Involvement and Leadership for the Office of Student Engagement, has worked at SIU for only a couple of years, but her connection to the university goes back much longer, and she’s already setting herself apart as a leader.

Paul Frazier, vice chancellor for antiracism, diversity, equity and inclusion, said he has personally witnessed Pepper’s “leadership skills and innovative mind” working with her and that she is organized, responsible, well-rounded, good at multitasking and detail oriented.

“Bethany has been instrumental in working with younger students who have an abundance of potential but need mentors and advocates to assist them in fulfilling their dreams,” Frazier said. “I believe that she has proven herself to be an impactful leader, mentor and advocate. She actively seeks opportunities to broaden her horizons to become an even greater asset for our institution and within her community.”

Peppers received the university’s Emerging Leader Award recently, one of eight Excellence Awards to honor faculty and staff for superior scholarship and creative endeavors, teaching and service. The Emerging Leader Award is bestowed within the first 10 years of service to an employee who shows a commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence through actions, leadership and vision.

“I am deeply honored and humbled by the recognition of my work,” Peppers said, noting that she has transitioned from a very involved undergraduate student to a graduate student to a full-time employee since arriving on campus in 2015.

“Ava DuVernay said, ‘When you’re in your own lane, there is no traffic.’ I thank God for showing me my lane and my parents for getting me to where I am today. I appreciate the continued support of my family, friends and sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. I love the work I do. Being able to have an amazing student body and outstanding student leaders who are always willing to run the race with me has been truly rewarding.”


Name: Bethany Peppers

Department/title:  assistant director, Student Involvement and Leadership, Office of Student Engagement.

Years at SIU Carbondale: 8; beginning as a student in 2015 and working full-time since 2021.

Give us the elevator pitch for your job. 

I oversee all registered student organizations and leadership programs on campus. I manage over 315 student organizations and work with campus partners to plan leadership activities and programs for our students. I create and support a variety of student involvement initiatives and activities focused on the development and continuance of a vibrant campus. Some of the more recognizable programs I oversee include Involvement Fairs, Emerging Salukis, RSO Awards and the Student Leadership Conference.

What is the favorite part of your job? 

The best part of my job is seeing our students grow in leadership and experience their innovative problem-solving. I also personally enjoy seeing the new versions of organizations that I was a part of and led as a student thrive years later. I love supporting our students, teaching and exhibiting advocacy, and empowering our students to lead their lives with grace and gumption.  

Why did you choose SIU? 

Similar to many students, my initial choice of SIU was largely for financial reasons. But what kept me at SIU was the student organizations and my ability to immediately make a difference in others’ experiences. I was able to get involved, which lessened my feelings of isolation and allowed me space to find community and build a support structure. I was able to problem solve, implement changes and advocate for the betterment of our institution – an opportunity not always afforded to students elsewhere.

What is your favorite song and why do you like it?

“I was here” by Beyonce. “I just want them to know that I gave my all, did my best, brought someone some happiness, left this world a little better just because I was here.” This song details my main goal, to leave a lasting good impression and positive impact wherever I am. It’s a beautiful song by the top Grammy winner of all time.

Winter, summer, spring, or fall – which one and why?

Fall, mostly because it’s where my birthday lands. But really, summer because I despise being cold.

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