Media Tip Sheet: December 2008 Colorado State University Outstanding Graduates

Note to Editors: Fall commencement ceremonies will take place at Colorado State University Dec. 19 and 20. Photos of the following CSU students will be available with the news release at

Graduates Work to Inspire Others to Reach Dreams of Attending College

Growing up in Denver’s Montbello neighborhood, Juwon Melvin and Aaron Madonna never thought they would attend college. With support from their families, their determination and hard work paid off. Melvin is a first-generation college student. After graduating from Hinkley High School, he found a home in Colorado State’s Key Academic Community. Throughout their time at CSU, Melvin and Madonna have served as mentors for young adults – delivering speeches and leading workshops for hundreds of students to build self-confidence and help them achieve their dreams of attending college. The two started DreamReel Media LLC, a for-profit company that develops media products to help young people transition into adulthood. Their first product, "Destination College: Achieve Your Dream" CD and companion book, helps to inspire and empower disadvantage middle- and high-school students to make college reality. For more information, go to On Dec. 20, Melvin will graduate with a degree in business administration and certificate in entrepreneurship. Madonna, a graduate of Montbello High School, also will graduate on Dec. 20 with a degree in sociology and a minor in business administration. To speak with Melvin or Madonna, contact Emily Wilmsen or Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-6621.

Atmospheric Science Student Takes Research to New Heights in UK

Gavin McMeeking started at Colorado State as a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric Science in 2002, where he became involved in a research project examining how smoke from wildfires affects visibility and air quality in Yosemite National Park. After McMeeking received his master’s degree, he worked for KUNC for a summer reporting on science-related stories as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Mass Media Fellowship program. He later resumed his graduate studies in Atmospheric Sciences and continued to study the emissions from fires, taking part in a series of laboratory burn experiments at the U.S. Forest Service’s Fire Science Laboratory. McMeeking now lives in England where he is working on his postdoctorate with a group at the University of Manchester on measuring air pollution from the UK’s primary research aircraft. To speak with McMeeking, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

Environmental Health Grad Raises $60,000 to Aid the Underserved in Nicaragua

Erin McGuinn grew up in Pueblo, a town rich in Hispanic culture. This sparked her fascination with Latin America and the Spanish language, and her interest in science led her to become aware of public health issues. As a senior in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, McGuinn is graduating with a bachelor’s of science in environmental health and a minor in Spanish. McGuinn, 22, and a team of five fellow undergraduates raised about $60,000 (when combined with faculty grants received) to fund their senior internship to Nicaragua. The team was sent to study indoor air pollution from open-pit cookstoves inside homes in a rural community. While she was in Nicaragua, McGuinn translated for the other researchers and performed health and exposure measurements. She also has studied abroad in Mexico, where she volunteered at a children’s free health clinic. Throughout her education at Colorado State, McGuinn has held multiple officer positions on the Mortar Board Senior Honor Society and served as a community service co-chair of Premedica and member of National Society of Collegiate Scholars. McGuinn is in the process of applying to MD/MPH programs and also MD programs at schools with international health opportunities. To speak with McGuinn, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009 or

Mechanical Engineering Graduate Builds Space Exploration Rovers

Matthew Ellis came to Colorado State in the spring of his sophomore year and will graduate magna cum laude with a degree in mechanical engineering. Throughout his time at CSU, Ellis has worked on a project sponsored by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium DemoSAT project as part of a team to build an exploration rover for use in space exploration applications. This past summer, Ellis worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and helped conduct research to qualify electric space propulsion systems for NASA missions. Ellis plans to attend graduate school to study robotics and control systems and hopes to work on robots for aerospace applications after completing graduate school. To speak with Ellis, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

Geosciences Student Graduates Cum Laude After Recovering from Severe Medical Issues

Bailey Beitscher is graduating this December from the Department of Geosciences at Colorado State. Beitscher was the co-author to two journal articles published in 2007 under Professor Carl Patton’s Magnetics Lab in the physics department. In the fall of 2007, Beitscher suffered from a severe medical problem that required her to withdrawal from school. That semester, Beitscher underwent numerous surgeries and finally ended up with a spinal cord stimulator to control her debilitating pain from neurological issues. She returned for the spring 2008 semester, taking on a full load of graduate classes and resuming her position as president of the Geology Club. Despite the pain, Beitscher has been on the dean’s list her entire academic career and is graduating cum laude as a CSU Honor’s Scholar. Beitscher was selected for several prestigious internships over the summer of 2008 including the associate fellowship at the Carnegie Geophysical Laboratory in Washington, D.C., but selected to intern with an oil and gas company in Houston for three months. Upon graduating after only three full years of school, Beitscher was offered a full-time position at Occidental Petroleum in Houston. She plans to attend graduate school in the future. To speak with Beitscher, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or at

CSU Graduate Scrubbing In on Surgeries, Plans to Start Medical School in the Fall

Mary Mrdutt is a chemistry major with a minor in biomedical sciences. During her time at CSU, Mrdutt, 22, participated in the Michael E. DeBakey Summer Surgery Program, a prestigious pre-surgery internship through Baylor College of Medicine. While in Houston for the summer, Mrdutt shadowed a cardiovascular surgical team, which included participating in medical rounds, being on-call with residents and assisting in the operating room for more than 150 hours. In addition to her clinical internship, Mrdutt has worked with Professor Colin Clay’s reproductive endocrinology lab at CSU for more than three years. Her projects include researching the GnRH hormone and estrogen receptors with specific interest in structural components and membrane association mechanisms. Mrdutt is graduating cum laude this fall and plans to start medical school next fall after taking the spring to ride her horse and continuing work in the Clay lab. To speak with Mrdutt, contact Jim Beers at (970) 491-6401 or  

Social Work Graduate Finds Solace in Helping Children and Families

Daniel Covey found his niche at Colorado State University in the College of Applied Human Sciences with a degree in social work and minor in ethnic studies. Covey, 27, lost his mother to breast cancer during college. This spurred him to realize that he wanted to pursue a career in social work. Covey works as the senior youth advocate at the Mental Health Center in Longmont where he has mentored young men without fathers and low-income children diagnosed with mental illness. Covey’s work has included developing resource guides for immigrants to help them understand their rights. He is also the secretary for Social Work in Action where he is heavily involved in volunteer work and community involvement. To speak with Covey, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009 or

Student Combines Tuberculosis Research and Service in India

Jonathan Higgins will be graduating Dec. 20 with a degree in microbiology from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Perhaps the most difficult obstacle he has overcome is learning to relate to people in many different settings and environments. Throughout his college career, Higgins has learned to juggle his time between many different activities including tuberculosis research as an undergraduate, international and local service, fraternity life, academics and preparing and applying for medical school. He has performed advanced scientific research on tuberculosis for two-and-a-half years, even co-authoring a study in a peer-reviewed journal. Higgins received highest honors at the Celebrate Undergraduate Research and Creativity competition for his research in tuberculosis. In addition, he traveled to India where he was able to spend time with many patients, including tuberculosis patients. His time in India was spent with an organization that works on behalf of the Dalits, or untouchables, who often are disenfranchised and oppressed. Higgins has been accepted to two medical schools and is planning on interviewing at several more in 2009. To speak with Higgins, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009 or

82nd Airborne Division Soldier Graduates After Being Wounded in Iraq

In 2002, Scott Vycital decided to put his education on hold and enlist in the military, where he served three years in the 82nd Airborne Division before being wounded in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom. While serving in Iraq, Vycital received gunshot wounds to the head, neck and shoulders during a patrol for suspected mortar sites. Vycital came back to school after recovering and has participated in internships at Miramont Family Medicine in Fort Collins and with Ernst & Young in Denver. Vycital attributes much of his success in school to his wife of six years, Jarah. They have two children. Vycital will graduate from Colorado State with a bachelor’s in business administration with a concentration in accounting. He plans to work full-time for Colorado State within the Financial Reporting and Analysis Department after graduation. To speak with Vycital, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

ROTC Student turns to Theater

Matt Block is graduating in December with a double major in theatre and Spanish from Colorado State. Block began his college career in ROTC but decided to explore theater while at the university. From that time on, he found success on and off the stage. He was a mere spear carrier in Hamlet but worked his way up in the program to become the current actor of choice, playing the lead in "Distance from Here" with parts in "Caucasian Chalk Circle." He also participated as stage manager for "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail." He was a regional finalist in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Block helped direct and manage a theater class, Rough for Theatre II, under Laura Jones’ tutelage. Block helps younger students find their niche in theatre and encourages them by supporting their efforts. He is described as a risk-taker and a problem-solver. To speak with Block, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Colorado State Ph.D. Student Joins Faculty at South Dakota State

As a child, Becky Bott spent her summers working at an equestrian stable in St. Louis.  She decided to pursue her interest in horses as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri Animal Sciences Department. She had the great opportunity to work on a research project in a laboratory that focused on reproductive biology in domestic animals. Immediately, Bott decided that she could combine her passion of working with animals and conducting novel research if she pursued a teaching career in academia. Bott joined Colorado State to earn her doctorate in the state-of-the-art Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory. She has been awarded the Colorado State College of Agricultural Sciences Recruiting Fellowship, the Colorado State Excellence in Research Fellowship, and a National Institute of Health Training Fellowship. Her research has exposed mechanisms involved in the maintenance of pregnancy in sheep. Bott has maintained her passion for teaching and served as a teaching assistant for four terms and given guest lectures in additional classes. Bott will be joining the faculty at South Dakota State University in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences to develop a program in equine science. To speak with Bott, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009 or

Landscape Architecture Major Applied to CSU During Tour in Iraq

James Long is graduating with a degree in Landscape Architecture from Colorado State.  Long, 29, applied to Colorado State during a 12-month tour in Iraq, where he served as a tank crew member in the United States Army. Long was eventually stationed in Germany where he met his future wife. The couple has been married for six years. Since moving to Fort Collins, Long has served the university by working as an IT technician for the college of Agricultural Sciences for three years. He has been working for the campus landscape architect for two years, helping to improve the landscape of the university as well as various university involvements. After graduation, Long wants to continue to use his skills in landscape architecture and technology within the community. To speak with Long, contact Jim Beers at (970) 491-6401 or  

Active Alternative Breaks Student Sees Peace Corps in Her Future

After graduating from a Colorado high school, Abby Brunton attended the University of Wyoming for a single semester. She quickly realized that she missed Colorado, so she moved to Fort Collins and began classes at Colorado State. While at CSU, Brunton took 18 credits or more every semester. Her positive academic experience was enhanced by outreach opportunities. Brunton was an active participant in two alternative spring break trips; one to New Mexico through Habitat for Humanity and the other to Washington, D.C., to volunteer for a week at the United States’ largest homeless shelter. Both experiences left a profound mark on Brunton and encouraged her to apply for a site leader position with alternative spring breaks. She was accepted and was a leader during her final spring break. Brunton is currently student teaching at Roosevelt High School in Johnstown, Colo. She is the president of the National Council of Teachers of English, a club dedicated to informing future English teachers on important educational topics and working to develop a professional community for pre-service teachers. She recently was accepted into the Peace Corps, where she will be volunteering for two years in Thailand beginning in January 2009. To speak with Brunton, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or