Media Tip Sheet: Colorado State University Outstanding Graduates Fall 2009

Note to Reporters: The following students are graduating from Colorado State University in Fort Collins Dec. 18-19, 2009.

Nationally ranked cyclist helps children in need around the world

As a Health and Exercise Science major Jon Vivolo knows the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. This interest in health paired with a love of the outdoors led Vivolo to join the CSU cycling team during his sophomore year helping him win the category 1 national mountain biking championship in the summer of 2009. Earlier in his collegiate career a love for children and the Spanish language lead Vivolo to Cuernavaca, Mexico, for a one month language and culture class. After class was dismissed each day he would volunteer at a local orphanage helping the children with their English, teaching them origami and even learning to salsa dance on the roof. Vivolo’s interest in working with children then led him to become a volunteer at Camp Wapiyapi, a camp for children who are directly affected by cancer. Vivolo has also participated in an alternative spring break trip to Moab, volunteered as an undergraduate research assistant in the Human Performance Clinical Research lab and served as the president of Hesperia Junior Honor’s Society; a student organization focused on community service. Vivolo will graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in health and exercise science and plans to attend medical school in the fall of 2010 to become a family physician. To speak with Vivolo, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009 or

Cancer survivor first to graduate with doctorate in cancer biology program

Joe Sottnik is a cancer survivor and the first student to graduate from CSU with a Ph.D. in the cancer biology program. The program trains scientists who will translate basic science into clinics to help prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Sottnik knew he wanted to be a doctor by 7th grade. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2001. He had been serving as an annual counselor at the Sky High Hope Camp, a one-week camp for kids with cancer. It’s at the camp where he met Dr. Withrow, director of the Animal Cancer Center. Sottnik asked his doctors to model his treatment for cancer after how Withrow handled a case of similar cancer in a client dog, and he’s continued to be in remission. Sottnik has conducted research and worked in Animal Cancer Center labs for several years while completing his degree. Sottnik will graduate from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. To speak with Sottnik, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009 or

Biomedical sciences student founder of synchronized figure skating team

As a biomedical sciences student, Stephanie Ninnemann says her passion is science, but she’s been figure skating since she was in kindergarten and it’s her passion for that sport that eventually led her to found a CSU synchronized figure skating team. The team, which is a club sport at CSU thanks to Ninnemann’s efforts, is recognized by the U.S. Figure Skating Association and includes eight skaters who perform and compete around the area. Having performed and competed well over 100 times in her career, Ninnemann will continue to pursue skating and synchronized skating after college. In addition to figure skating, Ninnemann is a classically trained trumpet player who has performed with the Jackson Hole Community Band, including for special performances for celebrities and dignitaries such as former vice president Dick Cheney. Ninnemann will graduate from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. To speak with Ninnemann, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at (970) 491-6009 or

First generation, non-traditional student graduates with honors

In her previous life, non-traditional student Linda Halvorson was both a 911 dispatcher and a solo over-the-road truck driver, but her road to a Bachelor of Sciences degree in Soil and Crop Sciences has been far from smooth. Halvorson took a semester off to care for ailing family members and recently missed classes for nearly a month while recovering from H1N1 flu and pneumonia. Since her days on the road, Halvorson has obtained an Associates of Applied Sciences degree in Electronic Engineering technology and completed geographic information systems work with the National Park Service helping to manage and process digital images while attending classes. After this long journey Halvorson will be graduating magna cum laude this December and plans to begin applying for positions in the geographic information systems field. To speak with Halvorson, contact Jim Beers at (970) 491-6401 or

Student loves exploring “how things work”

Mechanical engineering student Amy Hermundstad pursued her career path because of an interest in how things work. Along with fellow students in the College of Engineering, Hermundstad redesigned a neonatal transport incubator that took first place at CSU’s 2009 Engineering Days competition and second at the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Panel Senior Design Competition. She spent time during her college career mentoring younger female mechanical engineering students and working in the Orthopedic Bioengineering Research lab imaging cartilage in sheep. While at CSU, Hermundstad received the Ival V. Goslin Engineering Scholarship and the Colorado Distinguished Scholar Award and will graduate with honors this fall. She is still deciding between a career in biomedical engineering or a medical profession and will spend the next year volunteering at local area hospitals to help guide her decision. To speak with Hermundstad, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

Student’s love for science leads to volunteering to mentor young girls

Her biochemistry background paired with her love for giving back to her community led Betsy Buechler to create her own CSU-based volunteer organization WISDOM, Women in Science Devoted to Outreach and Mentoring. The group tutors local junior high students in math and science and began enrichment classes for female students interested in the math or science fields. Female CSU students teach enrichment classes in hopes of encouraging pursuit of higher education, particularly in math and sciences, for young students who may not receive academic support at home. Outside of her volunteer work, Buechler has spent time working in the research laboratory of Jennifer DeLuca, a CSU biochemistry professor studying mitosis in the College of Natural Sciences. Time in the lab led Buechler to decide on a career in cell biology research and teaching. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, Buechler plans to attend a cellular biology graduate program and publish her work on mitosis completed at the DeLuca laboratory. To speak with Buechler, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

Psychology student raises money for disabilities

Psychology student Andrew Baxley has expanded far beyond analyzing individuals in the classroom – he has done it across the world and sometimes while on his bicycle. This past summer, he and members of his fraternity raised more than $50,000 for people with disabilities while on their bicycles. In conjunction with Push America, a non-profit organization founded by the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity to enhance the lives of people with disabilities, Baxley and his fraternity brothers rode 850 miles around the state. Baxley also spent a semester studying abroad in the Czech Republic and plans to take a two-month backpacking trip through South America after graduation to further his love for new life experiences. Baxley will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in the College of Natural Sciences. He plans to attend graduate school for social psychology after teaching English in South Korea this coming year. To speak with Baxley, contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336 or

Trilingual student hopes to use her talent to teach others

Studying abroad in Seville, Spain helped Nicole Petruccione solidify her Spanish-speaking skills learned in the classroom as well as fed her love of traveling. Petruccione is a unique student of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures double-majoring in both Spanish and French. Currently holding a position with a local translation company has helped her network and work with other bilingual and trilingual professionals both nationally and internationally. In the summer of 2009, Petruccione was selected by the Centre de la Francophonie des Amériques to participate in a 10-day Forum for Young Ambassadors in Québec, Canada. The forum was conducted entirely in French and served as a brainstorming session for students to create projects to promote the French language and culture throughout the Americas. Along with a group of other students from across the western hemisphere, Petruccione planned and presented an online networking Web site that tailors to individuals interested in learning about the foreign land. The project was picked up and funded by the sponsors of the forum and will launch in the summer of 2010. After graduation she plans to continue using her language skills by applying for a position working as and English teacher’s aide in France in hopes to gain professional experience before applying to a graduate program focusing on language and teaching. To speak with Petruccione, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

A man of many words hopes to one day teach others

Aron Marvel loved words from the time his grandfather gave him a copy of Bertrand Russell’s “A History of Western Philosophy.” A study abroad experience in Ireland left his allergies so badly irritated that he spent the entire semester in local bookstores reading, solidifying his future with linguistics. After graduating from Fort Collins High School he attended CSU obtaining a degree in philosophy, with a focus on the philosophy of language. After a few years in the real world, Marvel decided to broaden his education and returned to CSU to study English in hopes of attending one day enrolling in alinguistics focused graduate school program. Marvel’s professors praise his breadth of linguistics knowledge, comparing his work with that of doctoral students years further in their educational careers. Studying both German and Latin has given him a competitive edge against his peers. Marvel will graduate with a Bachelor of Art degree in English with a concentration in language. He plans to attend graduate school in the spring and after completing a doctoral degree, he seeks an academic career involving research and instruction at the university level. To speak with Marvel, contact Kimberly Sorensen at (970) 491-0757 or

Student bound for Peace Corp committed to understanding and appreciation of diversity

Angelica Polen has been committed to gaining the most from her collegiate experience. Working several jobs simultaneously as a tour guide for the CSU offices of admissions office and the Undergraduate Programs Office in the College of Business has allowed Polen to develop a deep and unique connection with CSU. She spent time on the Ram Welcome planning committee while holding the position of the student coordinator for the Social Justice Workshop Series. This coordinator position led to her to develop a marketing plan for the organization that tripled attendance and brought in a variety of new workshop presenters. Spending time abroad through the Semester at Sea program gave her the opportunity to travel the world and meet new people all while becoming engulfed in their culture. Polen has committed to developing a life of awareness, understanding and appreciation of diversity on the CSU campus as well as around the world. She will graduate with a degree in Business Marketing and Administration and plans to volunteer for the Peace Corps in Morocco staring in the spring of 2010 designing educational health programs for women and children. To speak with Polen, contact Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1543 or