University honors Senior Scholars

Top scholars from all colleges are honored

5/22/2013 | By: Staff Report  |

Anna Koster was such an outstanding student during her career at the University of Nevada, Reno, she needed to pick not one, but two, mentors for the annual "Senior Scholar" program held on May 15.

Each semester, the University and the Nevada Alumni Association honor an undergraduate student form each school or college who meets the exceptional Senior Scholar program standards. The Senior Scholar selects the faculty mentor who played the most significant role in his or her scholastic achievement.

For Koster, who graduated on May 17-18, it became a choice of two mentors from two colleges, as she received degrees from both the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science. Her College of Liberal Arts mentor was James Winn, professor of music, and her College of Science mentor was Christopher Jeffrey, assistant professor of chemistry.

A classical pianist for 14 years, Koster said she learned much from Winn, who is considered one of the finest music instructors in the country.

"Besides being a phenomenal pianist, Dr. Winn is gifted with the ability to describe abstract music ideas in concrete and creative ways," Koster said, "and I feel that my technique and interpretive abilities have grown tremendously under his guidance."

Koster said she has been part of Jeffrey's organic chemistry research lab since fall 2010.

"The research projects I have undertaken through the past two years in this energetic research group have immeasurably increased my research independence and strengthened my motivation to pursue a chemistry career," she said.

The other 2013 Senior Scholars included:

College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources: Justin Lopez; Mentor, Patricia Ellison. Lopez, who was named the University's Herz Gold Medal winner during Friday's Commencement Exercises, graduated with a dual degree in biology and biochemistry and molecular biology with minors in Spanish, chemistry and mathematics. He said the past four years have taken him being a somewhat "wide-eyed" and "frightened" freshman to a confident graduate. "If I could go back in time to that fall day and speak to that wide-eyed, frightened freshman without a clue of what was in store, I would tell him, 'Put a smile on your face and get excited. The next four years will be the best of your life - a time you will treasure and never forget,'" he said.

College of Business: Kaitlin Olivia Pennell; Mentor, Mark Nichols. Pennell said it was the influence of Nichols that helped her land on the major that would ultimately lead to her degree. "I have changed my major so frequently that I have been a student in every college at this University, beginning with science and winding my way through liberal arts and education," she said. "Ultimately, I decided on business and economics because of how useful this knowledge would be in every aspect of my life. Professor Nichols taught one of the first economics courses I ever took at the University and I was instantly hooked. I have had the pleasure of being his student every year since."

College of Education: Jenna Wirshing; Mentor, Kristina Wulfing. Wirshing said she has found excellent guidance from Wulfing, whose own experiences have helped Wirshing develop her own teaching style. "She shared personal stories and experiences and reminded us that the lives of our students are more important than covering content," Wirshing said. "As teachers we have a unique ability to speak into people's lives and inspire and encourage greatness."

College of Engineering: Justin Cardoza; Mentor, Frederick Harris. Cardoza knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue an education focused on computers. "I knew as early as age 12 that I wanted to study computers in school," he said. "It was, and still is, what came naturally to me and what I enjoyed most." For the past two years, he has worked closely with Harris, relying "heavily on his advice," as Cardoza completed a senior project that was sponsored by Harris.

Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism: Brita Voris; Mentor, Robert Felten. Voris said she owed "a lot" of her positive experiences at the University due to the influence of Felten. "I have faith in myself, but I would not be nearly as far as along in achieving my goals without Bob's help," she said. "I never knew if I would be good at journalism, but through Bob's classes and encouragement I have come to believe I can do it and do it well."

Division of Health Sciences: Danielle Beebe; Mentor, Dennis Uken. Beebe came to the University having been fully invested in a life of academics and athletics. She entered the speech pathology and audiology program assuming she would become a speech pathologist. That all changed once she took Uken's introduction to audiology course. "I was hooked," she said. "Dr. Uken is an amazing professor and has played a huge role in encouraging me to study audiology in graduate school."


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