UALR graduating senior Marissa De La Paz of Cabot has been named the Sun Belt Conference Female Postgraduate Scholar Athlete of the Year, the league announced at its annual Honors Banquet on Tuesday. Additionally, the conference announced that classmate Mackenzie Bloom has been named to the SBC Leadership Team.

Given in recognition of superior academic achievement, the Postgraduate Scholar Athlete Award gives recipients a check for $4,500 to use toward their future education. De La Paz, who recently graduated as a double major in chemistry and biology, will pursue a master’s degree in gerontology at UALR beginning in the fall of 2013.

"It is truly an honor to receive this award," said De La Paz. "Some people have to choose between academics and athletics, but I’ve been blessed to have the support and opportunity to do both."

A four-year member of the UALR cross country and track and field teams, De La Paz graduated from UALR with a 3.77 cumulative GPA, in addition to numerous academic honors and accolades. She has been named to the Dean’s List at the conclusion of each of her semesters on campus. In the spring of 2013, Marissa became the recipient of the Thomas Hogue Memorial Award, given annually to the UALR student who best exemplifies outstanding undergraduate research in the field of biology, and was asked to present her research at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in the STEM fields in Washington, D.C. Additionally, she recently earned the American Institute of Chemists (AIC) Outstanding Graduating Senior Award.

De La Paz was accepted into UALR’s Donaghey Scholars Program, a campus-wide honors syllabus which emphasizes an interdisciplinary curriculum for undergraduates. She was admitted into the University Science Scholars Program, an enrichment program for UALR students majoring in biology, chemistry and earth science. De La Paz has served as a member of UALR’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee since 2010 and was elected vice president in 2012-13.

Bloom is one of nine student-athletes named to the Sun Belt Conference Leadership Team, designed to recognize individuals who exemplify the highest qualities of being a true student-athlete. She recently graduated as a double major in history and English literature.

"I’ve had an amazing time at UALR," said Bloom. "I’m incredibly honored to be among a group of like-minded athletes who value leadership, sportsmanship and success in and out of competition."

A native of Bentonville, Ark., Bloom served as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in 2013 and assisted the athletic department with its annual SpectacUALR fundraiser and Lettermen’s Weekend. She has competed as a member of the UALR cross country and track and field teams since 2009.

Bloom has volunteered at Miracle League of Arkansas, Race for the Cure, Little Rock Marathon and has dedicated much of her free time to coordinating running clinics for children. In the spring of 2012, she was awarded the Sam Laser Scholarship, given to the student-athlete who best showcases leadership and character. Bloom has earned numerous UALR Dean’s and Chancellor’s List honors, and has been named to the Sun Belt Commissioner’s List and Academic Honor Roll for her academic achievements.