Winter 2021 Senior Scholars honored by University

University of Nevada, Reno and the Nevada Alumni Association recognize ten graduates with top grade-point averages

Morrill Hall seen from south side

Winter 2021 Senior Scholars honored by University

University of Nevada, Reno and the Nevada Alumni Association recognize ten graduates with top grade-point averages

Morrill Hall seen from south side

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. The graduating scholars are honored at a ceremony with their selected mentors. These outstanding members of the Wolf Pack have helped the University continue to develop as a center of academic excellence.

Hannah Christine Barca

Mentor: Professor Matthew Strickland

Hannah Barca

Meet Hannah Barca, our Winter 2021 Senior Scholar from the School of Public Health!

Choosing the University of Nevada, Reno, was a simple decision for her.  She had her heart set on UNR since elementary school, and it ended up being the perfect place for her endeavors.

Hannah was originally going to become a physical therapist, though she wanted to do more than individual-level patient care. So, after a lot of consideration over a few months, she decided that research at the population level truly was her passion because she wants to help as many people as she can over her career through health-related science.

One of her favorite college memories is being accepted as a research assistant for an international project that would allow her to become published.

After graduating with a BSc in public health, she will enroll in UNR's Master of Public Health program, emphasizing epidemiology. Once she completes her MPH, she will pursue her Ph.D. in epidemiology in order to become a researcher and professor.

Callista Ziwei Chim

Mentor: Associate Professor Clayton D. Peoples

Callista Chim

Meet Callista Ziwei Chim, our Winter 2021 Senior Scholar from the College of Liberal Arts!

Callista came to know the University of Nevada, Reno, through a higher education agency in Malaysia as she was searching for opportunities in the United States. UNR stood out to her because of its location and reputation as an R1 research institution. During her time at UNR, she has been able to bond with friends from all around the world, collaborate with peers that inspire her to aim higher, and work with faculty that have supported her throughout her journey here.

Her first economics class amazed her with how concepts and models could convey the interconnectedness of the world. The gears and pulleys of the world are intertwined, and she grew curious. This curiosity turned into a passion for the subject. Later on, she enrolled in an international relations class. She found a spark studying the world’s systems and linking knowledge across her degrees in economics and international affairs.

During her time at UNR, she met people from all over the world. She believes the lifelong friendships that she has made here will be her favorite college memory.

She is interested in a career in research, especially in economic policy. She hopes to get help where it is needed most, allocate the resources where they are needed.

Alexander Jason Howard

Mentor: Professor Jeffrey Harper

Alexander Jason Howard

Meet Alexander Howard, our Winter 2021 Senior Scholar from the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Reources! 

Alexander has had a deep interest in the natural world for as long as he can remember. His earliest memories involve playing in the fields outside his house, seeing and interacting with all of the plants and animals.

Once in school, he gravitated toward science to learn more about the world of ecosystems, cell biology, and the overall beauty of life. During his senior year, he took a tour of a local biotechnology facility and knew what he wanted to do for his career. Seeing how cutting-edge science could be applied to the changing needs of the world today excited Alexander.

When he started at the University, majoring in biotechnology, he quickly became absorbed in doing research in biochemistry labs. He was excited about his ability to contribute to the larger body of knowledge of how life works.

Alexander is extremely grateful for the work he was able to do with Professor Jeff Harper and everyone involved with the Harper Lab. Day in and day out, he always looked forward to his time in in the lab. The relationships he made throughout his college career are something he values just as much as his education. Interacting with coworkers, professors, friends and family helped keep Alexander grounded when times were difficult or lonely.

He plans to continue his education in biology in graduate school and can’t wait to start paying forward all of the goodwill he’s received.

Moriah Ilene Martinez

Mentor: Assistant Professor Fares J. Karam

Moriah Ilene Martinez

Meet Moriah Martinez, our Winter 2021 Senior Scholar from the College of Education & Human Development and the Honors College! 

The university was close to her hometown and in the city where she spent most of her childhood in. UNR also provided flexible entry points for admission to the university. She was excited to learn that she could transfer credits from TMCC to be admitted. That was a big deciding factor in her decision. 

Moriah saw a need in struggling communities for well-trained and patient educators. She had a desire to fill that need and discovered through volunteering that she enjoyed the work! She loved encouraging young people and helping them to believe they could do whatever they put their minds to. After volunteering for various educational organizations, she decided education was for her.

When asked for her favorite college memory, it was hard for her to choose one! She is proud of herself for participating in the 3-minute Thesis competition, which was the major highlight of her time here. She spent most of her time studying, but she also enjoyed the few social events she attended by the different clubs she participated in. She also enjoyed participating in choir and attending music concerts and performances by UNR music majors.

After graduation, she plans to gain experience in classroom teaching and to produce educational content and books on the side as she is able. She is interested in starting her educational enterprise after she gains enough experience.

Emmy Barbara Nelson

Mentor: Lecturer Kristin Combs

Emmy Barbara Nelson

Meet Emmy Nelson, our Winter 2021 Senior Scholar from the Orvis School of Nursing! 

Emmy decided to attend the University of Nevada, Reno because she was especially interested in its nursing program! She had heard many great things about it, and because of that, she felt that UNR was the best fit for her. The fact that Tahoe is close was also a huge plus.

She chose to major in nursing because she loves that nurses are at the heart of patient care. Nurses have the most time to spend with patients and can build therapeutic relationships. When she goes to work, she does not just want to be there for a paycheck, she wants to be there to make a genuine difference in people's lives.

She thinks of the friendships she made at UNR when she thinks about her favorite college memory. Whether it be collectively stressing about an exam, just grabbing food, or taking day trips to Tahoe, the times she spent with friends are her favorite ones from the college experience.

After graduation, Emmy plans on going to Disneyland to celebrate! After that, she plans to get her nursing license and begin her career with the goal of eventually working in a cardiac ICU and caring for open-heart surgery patients.

Ashlyn Marie Rodgers

Mentor: Lecturer Nico Colombant

Ashlyn Marie Rodgers

Meet Ashlyn Rodgers, our Winter 2021 Senior Scholar from the Reynolds School of Journalism! 

Ashlyn chose to attend the University of Nevada, Reno, for two reasons. One, she gets to experience all four seasons here, which she cannot get back home in the Bay Area, and she absolutely loves it. Two, the journalism program felt like a place she could see myself thriving in.

She began her journalism journey at thirteen as a member of her middle school yearbook staff. Then, as she entered high school, she joined the yearbook and remained on the staff for all four years, landing the Editor-In-Chief position during her senior year. She knew journalism was something she wanted to pursue in the future, and the yearbook set her on that path. 

Her favorite college memory has to be making her podcast with her friend in RSJ's podcast studio. It was the first time she was introduced to audio work, and she was excited to produce a final product with quality equipment, all while laughing with her friend.

After graduation, she plans to work in the professional field, whether that be writing articles or creating visual and audio work. She is hopeful her journalism journey will allow her to once again take on an editor position in the future.

Valeria Savage

Mentor: Associate Professor Debra C. Vigil

Valeria Savage

Meet Valeria Savage, our Winter 2021 Senior Scholar from the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine! 

At the first step, she chose the University of Nevada, Reno, because it was close to home and affordable, while she did not know anything about the college application process. Now, she is thankful that she applied to a university that has provided her with many opportunities to flourish as a student and a person.

In response to why she chose this major, she stated that growing up bi-lingual, she experienced the difficulty of speaking Spanish in a country where English is the predominant language. Valeria spent most of her life being a translator for her family and has seen how important it is to communicate with other people. When she learned about the field of Speech Pathology, she was intrigued by speech and communication disorders that caused the inability to communicate. Valeria believes communication is the most important part of being a human because it allows us to build connections with others. It would be an honor to help someone achieve their communication goals and positively impact their life.

Her favorite college memory was being selected for the Senior Scholar Award. When she was notified she received this award, she felt proud of all the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication it took to earn her degrees. As someone who has dealt with the struggles of impostor syndrome, she has spent the majority of her college career feeling that she always needed to accomplish more to earn others’ approvals. Earning this award has shown her that she is accomplished and has given her newfound inspiration to keep working towards her goals.

Valeria is currently applying for a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology, and if she is accepted into a program, she will begin in the Fall of 2022. In the meantime, she hopes to travel to a new country and maybe pick up a new hobby. But, most importantly, she would like to relax before dedicating two years of her life to graduate school.

Blake Eli Shane

Mentor: Professor Bob Watters

Blake Eli Shane

Meet Blake Shane, our Winter 2021 Senior Scholar from the College of Science! 

Along with being his hometown university, UNR offers one of a few undergraduate geological engineering programs in the country. The Mackay School's connection to the mining industry in Nevada provides great insight into the wants and needs of companies, allowing students to be well prepared for their careers. 

He has always been curious about how the world works, leading to a love of science and engineering. However, he loves the outdoors and wanted to find a career path that allows for plenty of fieldwork. Geological engineering provides a blend of his interests which he finds to be very appealing.

When asked about his favorite college memory, he was reminded of the time he broke his humerus skiing. While recovering, he saw an email about a student worker position at the Nevada Seismological Laboratory for the summer. After meeting with the supervisor and getting the job, he had one of the best summers of his life, helping to maintain the Alert Wildfire camera network and the seismic network. Through this job, he has connected with some of his closest friends and has an idea of what he wants to do after graduation.

After graduation, he plans to work at the Nevada Seismological Laboratory as a development technician. He is passionate about helping with our community's growing wildfire issue and providing seismic data for Nevada. He enjoys the blend of fieldwork, problem-solving, and fabrication involved with this job. He is excited to contribute to the team full time!

Steven Anthony Swanbeck

Mentor: Assistant Professor Angelina Padilla

Steven Anthony Swanbeck

Meet Steven Swanbeck, our Winter 2021 Senior Scholar from the College of Engineering! 

Steven is from Reno, and being able to stay in town was a big draw. The reputation of the College of Engineering and the generous financial aid offered by the University were also significant factors in his decision.

Steven always enjoyed math and physics, so he felt engineering was a logical choice. The variety of topics and career paths offered by mechanical engineering were particularly appealing to him, as he was able to choose subjects based on his passion.

His favorite college memory was the autonomous hovercraft project that all freshmen in the College of Engineering had to complete. He felt joy and satisfaction when the hovercraft succeeded in its intended task for the first time, and that feeling is a feeling he has been pursuing ever since.

He intends to pursue graduate-level education in the field of robotics after he graduates. He doesn't know where he will end up, but he knows that the knowledge he has gained here will be a foundation for his future endeavors.

Lilian Xie

Mentor: Assistant Professor Katherine Lacy

Lilian Xie

Meet Lilian Xie, our Winter 2021 Senior Scholar from the the College of Business! 

The University felt like the right place as it was close to her home, Las Vegas, and provided her an opportunity to be independent as a young adult. She knew the university would provide her with amazing opportunities to grow as a student and individual, and it did! Lilian met many inspiring professors, mentors, and fellow peers who helped her persevere through college.

Inspired by her family, who are entrepreneurs, she decided to start fresh in college as a business major. She declared to be an Economics and Finance major due to her love for numbers. These two majors combined math and statistics with the business world. She loved how analytical these two subjects are. Her professors and mentors also inspired her through their experiences as economists and their research involvement.

Her favorite college memory is not a single moment but her involvement in various clubs and organizations on campus. Throughout college, she has been involved in the Business Student Council, the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, and the service-oriented organization Circle K International. Although what they do may be strictly business at times, such as planning events and volunteering, the people she met here and the experiences she has been able to gain through these organizations have made her college life a lot more exciting and meaningful.

After graduation, she will be continuing her education through a Master's degree in Economics at the university. During fall 2021, she began taking graduate courses in the Accelerated Master's Program. Hence, she will be continuing that program after graduation. Moreover, she really enjoyed Business Law and Law and Economics courses, so she is considering law school in the future as well!

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