University honors 2015 Spring Senior Scholar recipients

Colleges recognize students with top grade-point average at banquet May 13

University honors 2015 Spring Senior Scholar recipients

Colleges recognize students with top grade-point average at banquet May 13

Each semester, the University of Nevada, Reno and the Alumni Association honor an undergraduate student from each school or college who meets the exceptional Senior Scholar program standards.

"These scholars and their accomplishments have helped develop the University as a center of academic excellence," Tamara Valentine, director of the Honors Program, said.

The seniors will be recognized at an honors banquet hosted by the University and Alumni Association Wednesday, May 13. The event begins at 6 p.m. in the Milt Glick Ballroom C on the fourth floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union.

As a celebration of their time at the University, the Senior Scholars, in their own words, reflect on their experience and honor the faculty mentor who played the most significant role in their scholastic achievement.

Brian Barnes, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources

After growing up in northern Nevada, I made the choice like so many others to stay here at the University of Nevada, Reno to continue my education. With such a great university so close to home, it just made sense, and I've never regretted the decision since. I came into college pretty sure that I wanted to continue on to law school afterwards, but what I was going to do in the four years in between was much less certain.

Foregoing the usual paths people take to get to law school, I decided to study something that I was truly interested in and passionate about, even if it might not directly relate to the law in most people's eyes. Again, there has not been a day that I've had any regret about that decision. All of the faculty that I've been lucky enough to have teach me were engaging and enthusiastic about their courses and the material, and were always invested in the student's success. As a student, this really enriched my experience here, and made it easy to be successful, so I'd like to extend my sincerest thanks to all of them.

I'd also like to extend a special thanks to my mentor, Dr. Ellison. Whether it was a question about biochemistry, navigating the overwhelming process of planning out my courses so I could actually graduate in four years, or even writing letters of recommendation so I could get in to law school, she was always ready and willing to go above and beyond to help, and I'm truly grateful for that. I'd also like to thank all my family and friends who've supported me through this whole journey. Without all of you, I couldn't have had any of the success I've managed to achieve, so thank you.

Steven DelaCruz, College of Engineering

The past four years at the University of Nevada, Reno have been the most formative of my life both professionally and personally. My path to a degree in chemical engineering has been a challenging one filled with long nights of frustration and study but to which, upon reflection, I can attest is absolutely rewarding, as I will be leaving the University with a unique and adaptive perspective and the tools to solve an array of problems.

Equally impactful have been the opportunities that have been provided by the University or enabled by its faculty. For three years, I have conducted research in the SOLAR Lab of Dr. Ravi Subramanian, where I have been able to develop novel materials for solar energy applications and co-author two publications. In the summer of 2012, I studied renewable energy in Bilbao, Spain via the USAC program and immersed myself in a culture vastly different from my own. Additionally, with encouragement and guidance from faculty, I was able to study energy technologies in both Brisbane and St. Louis via a National Science Foundation research opportunity. Given the University's favorable infrastructure for student engagement, I also founded the Sustainable Energy Network, a student organization that focused on promoting sustainability among the student population.

Ultimately, my experiences at the University have been quite transformative and my successes are largely due in part to the endless support of my family and friends; my mentor, Dr. Ravi Subramanian; the exceptional and responsive faculty of the Chemical and Materials Engineering department; and Dr. Tamara Valentine and Dr. Daniel Villanueva of the Honors Program.

Christina Fagundes, College of Education

Choosing the University of Nevada, Reno was not the easiest decision for me. I contemplated traveling far and away from my small home town of Fallon. However, I was planning to go to medical school and the University of Nevada School of Medicine was an excellent choice. I pursued my first year as a chemistry major. However, halfway through my second semester, I realized that I wanted to study education.

My mind changed for a very particular reason. I had always wanted to be a teacher. Growing up with four younger siblings, I helped to raise the two youngest. As early as elementary school, I knew that my future career would be working with children. However, like most individuals, the thought of money crept into my mind and clouded my judgment for a brief period.

I want to be an educator because I cannot imagine finding a more fulfilling profession. Providing students with the necessary skills required to be successful learners, not only allows those children to succeed in their future endeavors, but also shows them that they matter as individuals. I want to be part of this noble profession because I will have a direct impact on the lives of others. Teaching can be frustrating and incredibly difficult at times. However, the end results of student learning and growth outweigh the challenges along the way.

I would like to thank my family and friends for providing me with so much support over the last five years. In addition, I would like to thank those teachers who showed me what education should look like and started me on the path to this career. Finally, I would like to thank my professors, including Dr. Diane Barone, for providing me with the skills needed to teach the leaders of tomorrow.

Maybritt Hirvela, Division of Health Sciences

Being a resident of Reno for the majority of my life, I always knew that the University of Nevada, Reno was where I wanted to go to earn my degree because of its excellent reputation in education. I wasn't quite sure which major was the one for me, so I relied on my passions to guide my career choice, which brought me to Orvis School of Nursing. I have always found anything related to human anatomy, health and illness fascinating and have always desired to pursue a career in which I could care for those in need and not only help them to heal, but also offer compassion and empower individuals through health education. That, coupled with a few personal experiences with exceptional nurses, is what attracted me to the nursing field, in which I would be able to make a career of the things I love most.

There are countless professors within Orvis who have helped me to learn and grow in knowledge and love of the field of nursing, and I would like to extend a special thanks to Lisa Thomas for the significant impact she has had on my journey through nursing school. Her expertise and passion for nursing has inspired me and her continued counsel encouraged and motivated me during the times when I doubted myself. I would also like to thank my family, friends and fiancé for all the patience, support and encouragement they have given me along the way, which has been an integral part of my success.

Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez, College of Liberal Arts

My four years spent studying history, philosophy, and ethnic studies at the University of Nevada, Reno have been some of the most significant of my life. Here, I've had the opportunity to advance my intellectual curiosities and gain meaningful professional development. Consequently, I've been an advocate for the Latino community as an intern for Mi Familia Vota, the President of the Latino Student Advisory Board, and an undergraduate researcher at University's Latino Research Center. In these roles, I have lobbied for immigrants' rights at the state and federal levels; founded a scholarship mentoring initiative and the Nevada Latino Leadership Conference; and completed grant-funded research.

Dr. Emma Sepúlveda, with whom I co-authored a book about undocumented youth, provided me with countless opportunities that facilitated many of my successes. I wrote my thesis under the supervision of Dr. Emily Hobson, an assistant professor of history, who also provided me with invaluable mentorship and unwavering encouragement. My interest in the Latino community also led me to cofound a youth theatre program and secure partnerships to teach at-risk youth in the U.S., México, Costa Rica, Cuba and Chile. Two of these trips were made possible by my participation in USAC's Costa Rica and Cuba programs and a third was made possible by a National Congress of Chile internship.

I have been privileged enough to have had my undergraduate education funded by various local, state and national scholarships. But my selection as a scholar for these honors could not have been possible without the guidance of Dr. Daniel Villanueva and Dr. Tamara Valentine in the Honors Program. The overwhelming amount of support I received from President Marc Johnson, Provost Kevin Carman, and Iris West, too, has greatly contributed to my triumphs. The University ultimately allowed me to actualize my dreams without impediment. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Adrienne Poteete, College of Science

As a born-and-raised Nevadan and graduate of Spanish Springs High School, I was incredibly lucky to have a school as great as the University of Nevada, Reno nearby at which to continue my education. I had long had an interest in science and in the Spanish language and knew that I wanted to major in biology and minor in Spanish.

I have learned so many invaluable lessons throughout my time in college. My classes have allowed me to turn my interest in biology into a passion that I plan to pursue, and working at various jobs has shown me the importance of having this passion in your career. I developed an appreciation for other cultures by studying abroad in Costa Rica, and also discovered a region where I can put my knowledge of science and Spanish to great use.

So many people have been pivotal in helping me learn these life lessons and in shaping me into who I am today. My professors have inspired me seek knowledge and challenged me to always do my best. The most influential of these has been Dr. Pamela Sandstrom. Through taking several of her classes and leading discussion groups for her, she has given me the foundation of my understanding of science without which I would not have been nearly as successful. She has been the best mentor and I am incredibly grateful for all the guidance she has given me throughout the years.

I would like to thank my parents and family for their constant support and encouragement in everything I do, my sister for all her help with my studies, and my friends who were always there to pull me away from school for a little while to keep me sane. Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world;" I am so grateful to the University of Nevada, Reno for giving this to me, and hope that, even if I can't change the world, I can at least use this power to make a difference.

Katie Shive, College of Business

I transferred to the University of Nevada because of its excellent reputation for equipping world-class leaders. Over the past three years, I have had the privilege of working alongside brilliant individuals. My commitment to learning and leadership has provided me with many unforgettable and unique experiences including studying abroad in London through the Nevada Global Business Program, shadowing senior executives in Seattle through the Executive Mentorship Program, and mentoring students through the Business Peer Mentors and American Marketing Association clubs.

Although my academics speak strongly about my drive to succeed, I would not be where I am today without the help of others, most notably my professors. I have learned while many teach, some inspire. Dr. Jean Jeon has instilled in me a true passion for marketing and business. I have had the privilege of taking four classes with her and often joke that I am graduating from the University of Jean! I am sincerely grateful for her mentorship and belief in me.

As I complete my undergraduate degree and reflect upon my time as a student, one underlying truth stands out - anything is possible with vision, determination and courage. I have held close the importance of these three values, for without any one of them - I would not be here. The lessons I have learned while studying at the University of Nevada, Reno will always serve as a guide for whatever life brings my way. While I may no longer be attending classes, I will forever remain committed to learning and growing.

In recognition of this honor I am receiving, I would like to thank my husband, Kublai, without whom none of this would have been possible. His unending love and support of my dreams have made this achievement a reality.

Beau Smith, Reynolds School of Journalism and Center for Advanced Media Studies

I have been telling stories since I was little. The thrill of using words to show emotion, the excitement of capturing breathtaking images, the joy of voicing a character - I loved it all. If there was one thing I wanted to do all my life, it would be to tell stories in my favorite media.

During my final semester at Truckee Meadows Community College, I chose to study broadcast journalism, combining writing and media into one degree. Since the Reynolds School of Journalism has produced six Pulitzer Prize winners and several of its broadcast professors have produced award-winning documentaries, I knew I would need top-notch training and a thick skin to rise up to their standards.

I am indebted to all my professors who gave me what I needed - especially Professor Kari Barber, my mentor in my junior year. She taught me to pitch stories with confidence, accept and anticipate constructive criticism and capture the most emotional words and video. Whenever I pitched an idea I liked, she saw an angle that made it more compelling. Whenever I felt something was wrong, she pinpointed the problem and helped me fix it. Whenever I felt the story was boring, she showed me ways to capture emotion and depth in every word and every image. Her high standards and encouraging attitude motivated me to never settle, but to keep polishing, polishing and polishing some more until my stories reached professional caliber.

I am completing my undergraduate journey with a B.A. in journalism and all the skills I have acquired. I expected those to be my rewards, but I was astounded to find out I was also nominated a 2015 Senior Scholar. I am deeply thankful to the Nevada Alumni Association and the University of Nevada, Reno for this honor - an honor I have been given for doing what I love.

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