Senior Scholars honored for achievement beyond norm

5/27/2010 | By: John Trent  |

During her time at the University of Nevada, Reno, Ashley Naughton’s experience has run the gamut.

She’s worked hard.

She’s had fun.

She’s done both things … at the same time.

“I’ve had many memorable experiences, exciting adventures and positive opportunities to last me a lifetime,” said Naughton, who along with several other top seniors was honored in mid-May by the University’s Alumni Association as this year’s class of Senior Scholars. Prior to spring commencement, the University marks the achievement of the top graduating senior – the Senior Scholar – from each college on campus, as well as their faculty mentor.

“From the late nights of endless studying, community service, football games, dissecting cadavers, tedious research papers, and laughing with my friends until I cry, I wouldn’t change any of it.”

Naughton said she became interested in her major of health ecology through the Division of Health Sciences during her sophomore year when she realized there was more to medicine and health than biology and chemistry.

“I realized I wanted to go into medicine in order to treat the whole patient, which led me to add psychology as a minor,” she said. “I’m grateful for the dedication and interest the faculty in Health and Human Sciences has had in my success and my development as an individual.”

She credited her faculty mentor, Melanie Minarik, for helping her stretch her intellectual limits.

“Dr. Minarik has been with me since my first health ecology class, and supported me ever since,” Naughton said. “Her knowledge and enthusiasm for teaching has made my learning experience so much more enjoyable.”

Other Senior Scholars included:

Senior Scholar: Allison Beck
Faculty mentor: Bob Felten

Allison Beck arrived on campus from her home in Winnemucca, Nev., with dreams of becoming a sports broadcaster. Her plans shifted, though, after she interviewed Reynolds School of Journalism Professor Bob Felten for a class assignment.

“Bob explained the basics of advertising, told me that I would be more likely to find a job in the field and maybe even make more money,” she said. “After that, I was sold. My advertising classes have been the most challenging and the most rewarding. Long nights and very early mornings have turned into amazing experiences and memories. What’s hours of sleep lost compared to an amazing plans book? Advertising is fun, demanding and exciting. I have a long, fulfilling career to look forward to thanks to Bob and that first-semester assignment.”

She added that she always valued Felten’s professional wisdom and, “his always-filled candy jar! He has challenged and pushed me.”

Senior Scholar: Camron Wipfli
Faculty mentor: Jeffrey Baguley

Camron Wipfli has always known he wanted to be a doctor. Perhaps what he didn’t anticipate when he enrolled at Nevada four years ago was, as he put it, how “inspired in my achievements and goals by some wonderful people” while he was a student at Nevada.

“The classes that are offered and the teaching faculty here have been incredibly supportive of me and my ambition to become a physician,” said Wipfli, who will attend the University of Nevada School of Medicine.

He said his faculty mentor, Jeffrey Baguley, quickly earned a special place because of the anatomy classes he taught.

“As a junior, I was selected to help teach his anatomy labs,” Wipfli said. “Working as a dissecting assistant and then as a teaching assistant during my senior year, I have been able to further develop my knowledge and understanding of the subject. The responsibilities and expectations from him as a professor and advisor have pushed me to new academic levels.”

Senior Scholar: Heather Culbertson
Faculty mentor: Cahit Evrensel

Only five months into her college career, Heather Culbertson faced immense personal tragedy when her father passed away from cancer.

“It was a very difficult time in my life and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have made it through that time without the support of my mother and brother,” she said.

“Their undying love and support have made everything possible and I cannot thank them enough.”

When she began taking engineering courses, she found she loved the field.

“At times I was stressed and spent many late nights doing everything from building Lego robots to writing technical papers, but four years later I can’t imagine majoring in anything else,” she said. “All of my professors have been pivotal in making my undergraduate career successful and rewarding. I would especially like to thank Dr. Evrensel for his support, mentorship and guidance.”

Senior Scholar: Janice Cho
Faculty mentor: David Shintani

Janice Cho’s experience at Nevada included meaningful academic work on campus as well as outreach work off campus. She played an active role in David Shintani’s biochemistry laboratory, where “Dr. Shintani provided me with generous support as well as devoted guidance in both academic challenges and life endeavors.”

Cho was involved in numerous out-of-class activities, including CABNR Ambassadors, Biology/Biochemistry Club and iGEM. She also obtained valuable clinical experience at the HAWC community health center located on Wells Avenue near downtown Reno. She learned from Dr. Ann Harada the value of “grace and excellent medical expertise. When I become a physician, I will always remember all of her teachings and conversations that we shared.”

Cho said that throughout her time at Nevada, she also sought words of wisdom and encouragement from her father.

“(They’ve) always resounded in my ears throughout college, which pushed me through any struggles that have landed on my path,” she said.

Senior Scholar: John Klippenstein
Faculty mentor: LaVerne Jeanne

As an anthropology major, John Klippenstein said he has reached “a deeper understanding and appreciation of the human and cultural diversity that has long fascinated me. I am able to – or at least attempt to – understand other groups and cultures in their own terms as well as critically examine my own culture and society.”

Klippenstein said his four years at Nevada have only reinforced his strong sense of social justice: “It is my desire to study groups and people that exist on the periphery of societies. I want to examine and better understand the processes that have led to the marginalization and disempowerment of these groups and, more importantly, the ways we can help these communities and reverse these processes.”

He credited his faculty mentor, LaVerne Jeanne, for kindling this awareness.

“I owe a great deal of gratitude to the anthropology faculty and especially my mentor, Dr. LaVerne Jeanne, for helping me to discover this passion,” he said. “It is because they challenged me to critically examine the role that anthropologists have not only in the communities that they study, but also in society in general, that I have been able to connect my desire to understand people with my desire to help people.“

Senior Scholar: Kali Vallely
Faculty mentor: Julie Pennington

Kali Vallely has always admired teachers, and noted that it was the “intelligent, confident leader at the front of the class” throughout her years as a student that led her to become an education major at Nevada.

Yet that wasn’t enough.

“After observing and helping out in the classroom, I realized how important it is for general education teachers to know how to work with students with special needs,” she said. “Therefore, I became a dual elementary and special education major. I have learned so much about education, teaching, and myself as I worked to earn my degree.”

Another piece in the process of becoming a well-rounded education graduate occurred when she met her faculty mentor, Julie Pennington.

“Dr. Pennington fostered my fascination with teaching literacy, and has also worked closely with me as my mentor for my Honors Thesis,” she said. “I can’t wait to get out there in the real world and use all the skills I have learned in the last four years. I hope to put all the knowledge to use in order to make a difference for the children I teach.”

Senior Scholar: Samantha Baldock
Faculty mentor: Yvonne Stedham

Samantha Baldock wasn’t sure what type of business course concentration she would take when she entered Nevada as a freshman. She knew she had always had a love of different cultures, and was hoping to find something that would meld business with her other passion.

“When I discovered that the University offered international business, I thought that this concentration would perfectly blend my love of learning about other cultures and my interest in the business world,” she said. “My second major in economics took longer to find, but once I discovered that it could give me insight into developments in business and society, I knew that it would perfectly complement by I.B. major.”

Of her faculty mentor, Yvonne Stedham, Baldock said, “She has helped me tremendously with my Honors Thesis. I look up to her not only as an excellent professor and mentor, but also as an inspiration for women in the business world.”

Like all of the Senior Scholar honorees, Baldock said the possibilities for her future seem endless.

“Every graduate asks themselves, ‘What the next step?’” she said. “For me, this question is still unclear. My studies in international business and economics have taught me more than I could have ever imagined and opened the possibility of many different career paths and opportunities.

“So, what is next? Going to graduate school to study economic development, or NGO development, the Peace Corps, working for a non-profit organization, or traveling?

“At this point, only time will tell.”


For more news on the University of Nevada, Reno, follow @unevadareno on Twitter.

Get Nevada Today in your Inbox!