Senior scholars come of age

For Senior Scholars, Nevada proves to be transformative experience

12/4/2008 | By: John Trent  |

She was only 16 years old when she arrived in America from her homeland of Korea. So it was only natural that Rachel Baek immersed herself in her studies first.

It would take more time before Baek would truly immerse herself in the life of her new country. In fact, her enrollment in the University of Nevada, Reno as a student would prove pivotal.

“Everything was new when I first came to the United States from Korea,” Baek said. “I was only 16 years old. During my high school year, I was too busy studying to keep up with school activities and I barely had time to hang out with friends.

“However, my experiences at the University of Nevada, Reno were a turning point for me in finding my new identity, and was enough to uncover a truly happy life in America.”

Baek’s happiness has translated into a stellar academic career at Nevada as well. She has been chosen as the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources’ Senior Scholar.  

Each semester, the University of Nevada, Reno and the Nevada Alumni Association honor an undergraduate student from each school or college. The individual chosen meets the program’s exceptional Senior Scholar standards. In addition, the Senior Scholar selects the faculty mentor who played the most significant role in their scholastic achievement.

Like many of her fellow Senior Scholars, Baek said that her time at Nevada has helped bring a sense of clarity to what is important in her life, and her life’s work.

“It is true that being successful requires one’s hard work,” she said. “Nevertheless, I have figured out that there are more important things in life besides success: which is meeting true friends and great professors.

“If I had not received the opportunity to form relationships with great friends and professors, I would have never had the chance to chase my dream of becoming a dentist.”

Baek’s faculty mentor is Patricia Ellison, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.

The other December 2008 Senior Scholars:

College of Education
Senior Scholar: Jenna Hayes
Faculty Mentor: Melissa Burnham, associate professor of human development and family studies

Hayes said her decision to attend Nevada was easy: it was all about logistics. “Coming from a close — and unique — family, I wanted to be able to drive home on any given day,” she said, “whether it be for a special occasion, a ski trip, or a simple family dinner. Despite being so close to home, I jumped right into college life (joining Kappa Alpha Theta sorority during her freshman year).” Hayes said her sorority was like a “second home,” provided her with philanthropic and athletic opportunities (“a chance for the tomboy to stay involved in sports”) and led her to meet someone special, who she referred to as a “special guy.” Of Burnham, Hayes said, “Dr. Burnham has guided me to where I am today. Her love for the field has provided a contagious energy that has inspired every step of my journey.”

College of Business and College of Liberal Arts
Senior Scholar: Janine Stone
Faculty Mentor for College of Business: Elliott Parker, professor of economics
Faculty Mentor for College of Liberal Arts: Derek Kauneckis, assistant professor of political science

From the very beginning of her time at Nevada, Stone knew it would be difficult to find a major. “My problem,” she admitted, “was that it was hard for me to find classes that I didn’t like, and I hated the idea of taking all my classes in one subject area.” So, she decided to major in political science … and economics. She couldn’t be happier with the choice: “My two majors are both distinct and overlapping, two different means of looking at one problem. I always loved it when my economics professors would comment on things, ‘politicians just don’t understand’ – a statement political science professors echoed about economists. Despite the fact that the two disciplines at times disagree, I learned a great deal from both majors.”

College of Engineering
Senior Scholar: Gregory Kraus
Faculty Mentor: Eric Wang, associate professor of mechanical engineering

Each morning, Gregory Kraus would awake to words that helped fuel his notable academic career at Nevada. A poster with words from the martial arts film king Bruce Lee was above his bed: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” So it was for Kraus. He said he excelled in his studies “not by being more intelligent than other people, but rather by being more determined to succeed – the Willing.” Kraus went a step further, though – the Applying – by pursuing what he called “a practical sense of engineering” through the University Mars Rover Challenge. Nevada has fielded consistently strong teams in the international event, and Kraus found designing a four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering robot that took second place in the international contest to be one of the most rewarding experiences of his time at Nevada. He found further inspiration from his faculty mentor, Eric Wang: “The passion he exhibits for his work is truly inspiring, and he has instilled within me the realization of just how much fun engineering can be.”

Division of Health Sciences
Senior Scholar: Daphne Bateman
Faculty Mentor: Elissa DeWolfe, instructor, Orvis School of Nursing

Bateman didn’t quite know what to expect the first time she placed a stethoscope to a patient’s chest. Was she holding the stethoscope correctly? Could she even hear a heartbeat? “I remember last fall thinking, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing!’” Bateman, who is graduating from the Orvis School of Nursing, said. Today, as she prepares to graduate, personal doubt has been replaced by professional confidence. “All the hesitancy and inexperience of a year ago have been replaced by the confidence of a nurse who can detect all manner of adventitious breath sounds and heart tones,” she said. “Not only have my assessment skills been honed, but I have also developed the ability to think critically about diverse patient situations and to make clinical judgments and actions based on sound reason.” Of her faculty mentor, Bateman said of DeWolfe: “I will always credit Elissa for being the one who taught me to ‘think like a nurse.’”

Reynolds School of Journalism
Senior Scholar: Arash Mosaleh
Faculty Mentor: Erin Breen, journalism instructor

The late and legendary Reno High School English and Journalism teacher Dan Halcomb always used to tell his students that “everyone has a story.” One of his students, Arash Mosaleh, took Halcomb’s words to heart. For the past three and a half years, Mosaleh has been busy writing, reporting, editing and producing the stories of others, while all the while composing a notable first chapter of his professional and academic life as well. “I didn’t really live the traditional ‘college experience’ at the University of Nevada,” Mosaleh said. “No crazy frat parties of Thursday nights at the Wal or late-night study sessions in dorm rooms with roommates and Red Bull. College for me was about quality education that is Nevada Silver & Blue, my work as a news producer at KTVN Channel 2, and my mom and dad.” Mosaleh, who participated in a 2006 New York Times intensive reporting-based journalism program in Miami, said he plans to continue to seek out the stories that Halcomb encouraged his young charges to find. He also plans to follow the advice of his mother: “No one can take education away from you. It stays forever.”

College of Science
Senior Scholar: Ryan Katausky
Faculty Mentor: Scott Waite, director, chemistry laboratories

Being a student at Nevada has helped Katausky in numerous ways. First, his preparation has created an excellent foundation in realizing a long-held goal: that of one day becoming a pediatric dentist in his home of Winnemucca, Nev. “Currently I’m very strong candidate for admission into four dental schools,” he said. But that’s not all. The classrooms of campus, in addition to serving as storehouses of learning, often lead to romance. On top of a great education at Nevada, Katausky said, “I’ve found the love of my life, my Niki, the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, and I also look forward to spending the rest of my days with her. All in all, things are in a glorious state right now.” Katausky also praised his faculty mentor, Scott Waite: “He has been my favorite chemistry instructor at the University, and his course, Analytical Chemistry, is the coolest one I’ve taken. I’d like to thank him for making the often harsh science of chemistry an exhilarating experience for me.”


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