Media Tip Sheet: Colorado State University Outstanding Graduates Spring 2009

Note to Editors: The following students are graduating from Colorado State University in Fort Collins May 15-16, 2009.

– Volleyball player and natural sciences graduate scores on and off the court

Colorado State University women’s varsity volleyball player, Mekana Barnes, set records on the court, while also completing Bachelor of Science degrees in two majors: sociology and psychology in the College of Natural Sciences. This season Barnes led the league with her block average while ranking second on the team in kills, hitting and points per set. Barnes was selected for the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-West Region Team in 2008, was named to the All-Mountain West Conference team twice in 2008 and 2006, and in 2007 helped Colorado State compete in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I Tournament. Barnes also was named Mountain West Conference Player of the Year in 2007. She looks forward to training and coaching at volleyball camps this summer. In the fall, Barnes will travel to Anaheim, Calif. to train with the U.S. National Women’s Volleyball team.

– Non-traditional student discovers passion for civil engineering

Stephen Middlekauff is a 51-year-old non-traditional student graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering who will walk summa cum laude later this week. In the last two years of a 17-year career as a brewer for Anheuser-Busch, management assigned him to work with an engineering team to develop and teach a course on a new automation system. This opportunity built his confidence to pursue an engineering degree. His senior design team worked on a project providing designs for water distribution and sanitary sewer collection systems for the community of Las Colinas in El Salvador. Their client for the project was the International Rural Water Association, which will secure funding and implement the water distribution system.  On April 17, 2009 Middlekauff received the Silver Medal award presented annually by the Colorado Engineering Council to the outstanding graduating engineering student at CSU.  He has accepted a graduate teaching assistantship from the civil engineering department and will begin graduate studies in this fall.  

– Graduate student tackles two masters degrees in two-and-a-half years and empowers people in developing countries

Sule Amadu is a graduate student from Ghana who has earned two master’s degrees in a record two-and-a-half years. His degrees are in mechanical engineering through the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory in the College of Engineering and in business through the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise program in the College of Business. This year he was named an Acumen Fund Fellow, a prestigious award dedicated to serving the poor in developing countries. Amadu is an original team member of PowerMundo, an international venture that manages a global distribution network for healthy and affordable technologies to empower people in developing countries. The company, which started as a project for the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise master’s degree program in the College of Business, is now operating in Peru.

– Worm composter devotes time to sustainability and environmental education

Karina Mullen has taken the idea of living green to heart. Her focus on environmental communication has given her opportunities to learn how to live more sustainably: she has chosen to be a worm composter. Mullen has a tub in her house filled with worms that eat 95 percent of food waste. She says she always knew about composting but living on her own made her realize how much food she threw away that could be turned into nutrient-rich soil for gardening. Mullen, an honors student and winner of the Robert Davis Senior Honors Award for outstanding graduate in the Warner College of Natural Resources, will graduate cum laude with a degree in natural resource recreation and tourism. She is co-founder of the CSU Sustainability Center, a collaborative effort with the School of Global and Environmental Sustainability, to create a space for students and groups on campus to have a voice and learn about sustainability. Mullen was a participant and leader on Alternative Spring Break volunteer trips to Panama and works at the CSU Environmental Learning Center where she plans and teaches environmental education programs to young students. After graduation, Mullen will be a teaching assistant at the Pingree Park campus this summer and then take some time to travel around the world. She hopes to live in South America indefinitely and to eventually work for a non-profit to promote natives’ rights and be an environmental advocate.  

– Student devotes academic career to volunteering, helping others

Sidney Simonson was honored earlier this year with the Albert C. Yates Student Leadership Award in recognition of his leadership efforts and contributions. While at Colorado State, Simonson completed an internship at the Colorado State Senate and became chairman of the board of the Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation. He is the first college student to hold this position. Simonson is also the only college student to be appointed to the Larimer County Corrections Board, the Fort Collins Transportation Board, the Fort Collins Elections Commission and the Fort Collins Personnel Board. He serves on the Colorado State University Police Review Board, the Resources for Adult Learners Board, and he is the co-chair of Better World Books, an organization that collects used textbooks and ships them to students in Africa. His volunteer efforts have contributed more than $1,000 in food and toys for the Larimer County Food Bank and Santa Cops as well 1,500 pounds of used textbooks to Africa through Better World Books. He has been honored with two CSU Police Appreciation Awards, the CSU Pace Setter Award, the Front Range Community College Outstanding Student Award and the Institute of Management Accounts Top Colorado Student Award.

– Student graduates as CEO of business ranked as top new venture

Trevor Trout is graduating with a degree in business management with a focus in supply chain, entrepreneurship and German. He was the vice president of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity and initiated a fundraiser contributing to more than 12 percent of the chapter’s operating budget. Trout also traveled to Washington, D.C. to successfully lobby Congress on behalf of Greek life. He was the vice president of the Associated Students Colorado State University and successfully lobbied the state legislature for affordable and equitable tuition rates, assisted in the passage of the Colorado Statute on textbook affordability as well as initiated the extension of the library hours of operation. He has been a passionate student advocate throughout college. He also served as a campaign manager for a candidate to city council in 2009 and provided a strong constituency voice in city council affairs. He is the chief executive officer of a new business, Torque Innovations, a tool and equipment provider for wildland firefighters, which he started out of the College of Business Entrepreneurship program. This business was ranked among the top 5 new ventures at a national business plan competition hosted by CSU, Venture Adventure.

– Student devoted to community outreach and nature education

As the outreach coordinator for the CSU Environmental Learning Center, Rebecca Brofft coordinates the ELC’s efforts to serve diverse populations in Fort Collins. The natural resource recreation and tourism major and honors student has organized after-school programs at a family and community center in Fort Collins; spearheaded free field trips to the ELC for schools in the district; developed a bilingual booklet describing the various science and nature education organizations in Fort Collins; and organized a family event at a local natural area. Brofft was offered the ELC position after helping the director of the center with research as part of the Hughes Undergraduate Scholars program. She will graduate magna cum laude this May, having studied abroad in Ecuador and earning the JVK Wagar Honor Senior Award. The award is presented to one graduating senior in each department of the Warner College of Natural Resources each year. It is awarded through faculty nominations and is one of the highest honors in the college. Brofft is part of the D.R. and Ginny Scholars Program which facilitates field trips for 5th grade classes in Thompson School District each week at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area and is she also a participant of the Student Associate Program with CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation. The center facilitates community dialogues that transcend the typical polarization of two-sided debates and argumentation. Brofft plans to continue working at the ELC through the summer and eventually wants to pursue a degree in environmental law or conflict management.

– Brain tumor survivor overcomes obstacles to graduate

Andrew Scott will graduate from Colorado State University with a degree in anthropology this May despite being diagnosed at age 3 with a brain tumor that his parents were told there was no hope of removing. Scott underwent six years of the strongest radiation treatment possible and five rounds of chemotherapy. Twenty years after his diagnosis, Scott’s eyesight was failing, initiating a new search for help. Thanks to medical advances, he found a doctor that could operate and remove the tumor. As a CSU student, Scott continued to face challenges resulting from the tumor. He has side effects including memory loss and difficulty reading. Scott hopes to pursue a career in criminal justice and possibly focus on forensic anthropology. He will apply for the two-year online masters program at the University of Northern Colorado. He is also a photographer and has created his own business, AWS Photography.

– Military man, husband and father works long hours to earn degree

Benaiah Wright will graduate with a degree in art history more than a decade after his college career began. Wright started college in 1997 but after three years of school he put his education on hold to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. Six years of military service and a marriage later, Wright decided to enroll at CSU to complete his education. Wright started classes at CSU in January 2007 and his son was born in April, prompting immediate changes to his schedule. Wright began a job working night security for Level 3 Communications in Broomfield, Colo. From then on, he worked night shifts – 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday through Thursday – and commuted to Fort Collins in the morning for Tuesday and Thursday classes. As graduation neared, Wright commuted Monday through Friday. Despite these obstacles, Wright was able to maintain a good GPA and won an award from Black Student Services for academic excellence.

– Agricultural Sciences Graduate, Boettcher and Honors Scholar looking forward to law school

Corey Longhurst will graduate from CSU with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and resource economics and a minor in business administration, and will attend Drake Law School in Des Moines, Iowa in the fall. Longhurst is a Boettcher Scholar and Honors Scholar and is graduating summa cumlaude. Longhurst was awarded the Dwight D. Opperman Scholar award in 2009, which is a merit-based, full-tuition scholarship for outstanding first-year law students. The program also provides an annual grant to help pay for books and living expenses while attending Drake. Longhurst was also a finalist for the prestigious national Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which recognizes college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in public service. Other awards include the Charles N. Shepardson Agricultural Student Leadership award and Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society’s Outstanding Senior award. Longhurst served as a presidential ambassador at CSU, took the opportunity to work, intern and volunteer with non-profit organizations in Fort Collins, and also studied and interned in southern France for a summer. His summer plans include being a young men’s outdoor camp counselor before he begins law school in the fall.

– Social work student works to bring awareness about homelessness

Kate Quillin, graduating with a degree in social work, combined her work from two internships to create the idea behind the homeless awareness project at CSU called "Sleep In Someone Else’s Box." The event, which took place March 27, had teams of students that slept out on the CSU plaza overnight to help raise money and awareness of homelessness in Fort Collins. Quillin put the event on as a member of CSU’s Social Work in Action group. For the past year, Quillin interned with the Homeless Prevention Initiative and Catholic Charities of Northern Colorado, which has previously hosted events similar to "Sleep In Someone Else’s Box." Quillin, along with Social Work in Action, brought the idea to CSU students and raised $900 for Homeless Gear, a non-profit organization that gathers camping gear supplied for homeless individuals. She is also CSU’s 2008-2009 Student Employee of the Year. After graduation she is heading to eastern Europe as part of the Peace Corps. Her future plans include attending graduate school for public policy or non-profit management. The School of Social Work is in the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State.

– Biosciences student develops antiviral drugs against mosquito-borne viruses

Hamid Gari has earned a spot in the University of Cambridge’s highly competitive Master of Science degree program in bioscience enterprise for fall 2009. Gari will graduate from CSU this May with a degree in biomedical science and a minor in biochemistry. Gari plans to return to the United States to pursue a master’s degree or doctorial degree after completing his time at Cambridge. His career interests are in medical research, biotech consulting, health policy and entrepreneurship. Gari is a native of Jeddah, Makkah Province, Saudi Arabia.  He moved to the United States five years ago to finish high school and attend his parents’ alma mater, CSU. Gari currently works in the lab of Dr. Brian Geiss in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Their research project aims to develop antiviral drugs against mosquito-borne flaviviruses such as dengue viruses, West Nile virus and yellow fever virus.   

– Environmental health student installs clean burning cookstoves in Nicaragua

Sarah Yoder will graduate with a degree in environmental health. In 2007, Yoder worked with the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Arizona. It was an experience that showed her how one’s quality of life can be affected when public health programs are lacking in a community. During the summer of 2009, Yoder will participate in the Nicaragua Cook Stove Project in Granada, Nicaragua. The project is organized through the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The project installs clean-burning cookstoves in homes where women traditionally cook over open flames. The project aims to reduce the health impact of traditional cooking methods on families. Yoder, a Hughes Undergraduate Research Scholar, has been accepted into the CSU graduate program in environmental health with a concentration in epidemiology and will begin her graduate studies in fall 2009.