Media Tip Sheet: Colorado State University Outstanding Graduates Fall 2011

Note to Reporters: The following students are graduating from Colorado State University in Fort Collins Dec. 16-17. Photos of the students can be found at

Following are brief profiles on just a few of the accomplished fall 2011 Colorado State graduates. Whether overcoming tremendous obstacles or achieving academic excellence, these graduates have accomplished a major personal goal and are prepared to begin meaningful careers and become future leaders in their communities.

After severe car accident, student relearns to walk just in time for graduation

After being severely injured in a car accident this January, senior undergraduate business management student Vanessa Trujillo has been an inspiration to her friends, family and peers, according to her professors. Trujillo, who has progressed from using a wheelchair to walking through physical therapy, was forced to spend much of her effort getting back into the daily routine of classes and extra-curricular activities. Despite her therapists’ lack in confidence, Trujillo has surpassed their expectations and is working toward her ultimate goal: to be running again. Trujillo will graduate this December with her bachelor’s from the College of Business and a minor in Spanish. Upon graduation, she hopes to find a job helping others and eventually pursue her master’s degree. Trujillo was the recipient of the First Generation Distinguished Scholar Award for her leadership and academic accomplishments at Colorado State University. To speak with Trujillo, contact Jennifer Dimas at or (970) 491-1543.

Student parent juggles graduation, marriage and child with grace

Amber Altwine-Gomez will graduate with a bachelor’s in Human Development and Family Studies with a Gerontology Interdisciplinary minor. After Altwine-Gomez’s mother passed away and her father was unable to work on disability leave, she became the foundation of her family. After the birth of her son, William, she realized the lack of resources available to student parents on campus. She is responsible for developing the Parent Resource Room, which provides free clothes, books, toys and a private room for nursing mothers, and the Student Parent Group, which offers networking, family friendly programming and philanthropy opportunities. She is a first-generation college student and recipient of numerous scholarships including the Puksta Foundation Scholarship. She is president of the Student Parent Organization on campus, a member of the ALVS Advisory Board and a member of the Pinnacle Honors Society for Non-traditional Students. She has been actively developing a sustainable program on the CSU campus for student parents, and is currently writing two grant proposals. After graduation, she plans to apply for graduate school. To speak with Altwine-Gomez, contact Dell Rae Moellenberg at or (970) 491-6009.

Psychology student finds passion in racecars, hockey and helping children with autism

Patrick LaCount can’t be defined just by his psychology degree. Not only did he play for the Brazilian hockey team during his college career, but he’s also been racing cars as well as helping out children with autism-spectrum disorders. Being a psychology student at CSU has provided LaCount with various opportunities to research and study people’s behaviors and actions and also helped introduce him to the face of autism. LaCount was introduced to autism while working as a direct support provider with an autistic man. LaCount is ultimately interested in seeking his doctorate in Clinical Psychology. To speak with LaCount, contact Emily Wilmsen at or (970) 491-2336.

Linebacker remains spirited, finishes 9th on all-time tackles list after injury early-on

Mychal Sisson, a senior majoring in Liberal Arts, has been known for his team spirit and outstanding play as a linebacker and team captain for the Colorado State Rams. Despite suffering a broken ankle in the second game and missing the next seven games, Sisson was so respected by his position coach and fellow linebackers that they wore T-shirts under their jerseys with his name and number on them to show their support. While injured, Sisson coached his younger teammates and cheered them on from the sidelines. As a junior, Sisson led the nation with seven forced fumbles and finished his senior year season 9th on CSU’s all-time tackles list. According to College of Liberal Arts Dean Ann Gill, a little girl saw him on advertisements for the football team this year and said to her mother, "There is famous Mykie!"- a name Gill has adopted for Sisson. To speak with Sisson, contact Zak Gilbert at or (970) 491-5067.

Public relations student involved in LSC renovations, 50th anniversary

Kayla Green is a Journalism and Technical Communications major concentrating in Public Relations with a minor in Business Administration. While at Colorado State, Green worked for CSU’s External Relations website, Today@ColoradoState, interned within CSU’s public relations department and served as chair of the Lory Student Center Governing Board, a primarily student-run board focused on providing a welcoming community to those it serves as well as maintaining the student center’s operations and policies. During her time as chair, Green sought the student voice in matters pertaining to the Lory Student Center and theater renovations, led the “Our LSC, Our Choice” campaign, authored a blog and participated in marketing meetings and design teams related to the Lory Student Center Master Plan. She is currently working on the LSC’s 50th anniversary video and plans to work for CSU’s Office of Public Relations beginning in January. To speak with Green, contact Tony Phifer at or (970) 491-7712.

Business student excels in management and entrepreneurship at Colorado State

As a student in the College of Business, Luke Leins will be graduating in three-and-a-half years with a concentration in management and certificates in both management and entrepreneurship. He has a 3.7 GPA and has taken and passed a Certified Supply Chain Analyst professional certification program. According to his professors, Leins has significant work experience in supply chain management, retail and start-up consulting as well as a proven track record of results in his career endeavors. During his time at Colorado State, Leins was selected by PepsiCo as one of their top three sales representatives for SoBe products in America. Leins was also selected for and competed in the General Motors/Wayne State Student Supply Chain Management Case Competition featuring the Chevy Volt, in which the CSU team was the overall competition victory, defeating 15 other top SCM programs. Upon graduation, Leins plans to work for Otterbox, a local Fort Collins company that specializes in cellular phone cases. To speak with Leins, contact Jennifer Dimas at or (970) 491-1543.

Overcoming addiction, graduating with honors, and making a difference in other lives

Jarod Snell will be graduating as a Discipline Scholar, magna cum laude, with a degree in Business Administration. He is a first-generation student, married and has a four-year-old son. Snell began abusing illicit drugs when he was 14 years old and was mired in addiction, which resulted in many legal and personal troubles. With dedication and a great support system, he is now celebrating nearly a decade of sobriety. Snell said he completely turned his life around and places a high value in giving back and helping others. During his time at CSU, he held leadership positions in the University Leadership Council, University Facility Fee Advisory Board and the on-campus Society for Human Resources Management chapter. Snell was one of four students who represented CSU at SHRM’s Southwest Regional Conference. In addition to his extracurricular activities, Snell was the primary caregiver for his son and worked an average of 20 hours per week supporting him. Snell wishes to start providing high school students critical business and academic skills to better prepare the future leaders in his community. He also plans to pursue his doctorate to return to academia and become a professor. While gaining practical work experience, he will maintain an advisory position in CSU’s SHRM chapter to help develop the next line of human resources and business leaders. To speak with Snell, contact Jennifer Dimas at or (970) 491-1543.

Mathematics major receives scholarship to help him pursue graduate dreams

David Allen, 28, plans to graduate from CSU with a degree in mathematics after a struggling start. After taking some time off after high school to pursue his artistic desires, Allen decided to apply for college in pursuit of a degree in exercise science. When he failed his community college math placement exam, he remained determined to go back to school, where he expressed his first hint of curiosity in calculus. After persuading the math department to waive his prerequisites for calculus, Allen found that math was very artistic and a revelation. In November, Allen was one of only seven students nationwide to be awarded the $3,000 Trjitzinsky Scholarship – a scholarship based on financial need – from the American Mathematical Society. He said he plans to pursue post-graduate studies so that he can mentor students in the same way the faculty at CSU influenced him. To speak with Allen, contact Emily Wilmsen at or (970) 491-2336.

Well-rounded CSU art student researches Burning Man Festival, studies abroad in Italy

Born in Aurora, Colo., Jessie Groth is an Honors student double-majoring in Art and Liberal Arts with a minor in Technical Theater and Design. Groth’s Honors thesis, “Transformations at Burning Man: Community Connection and Identity Through Self Expression,” was granted travel by the Honors Enrichment Scholarship and involved participant observation and a clever analysis of the interrelated roles played by art, self and community. Groth has also been recognized by the Dean’s list, is a Colorado Distinguished Scholar and studied abroad in Castiglione Fiorentino, Italy. Groth currently works for the University Center for the Arts as an event coordinator, where she manages both house staff and ticket office staff. She is also a volunteer for Hearts and Horses Therapeutic Riding center, a non-profit riding facility that provides a variety of programs for people with disabilities. Groth will be graduating this December and hopes to eventually attend a graduate school specializing in cultural anthropology – an interest, she said, that she discovered while researching Burning Man. To speak with Groth, contact Tony Phifer at or (970) 491-7712.

First-generation student puts self through school, involved in student organizations

Emily Pohsl, a first-generation college student graduating with a degree in Communication Studies, a minor in Environmental Horticulture and a certificate in Horticultural Therapy, has worked to put herself through school. Pohsl is a student-fellow in the Center for Public Deliberation, an advisory board dedicated to improving public communication and community problem solving. She has received scholarships in both Communication Studies and Environmental Horticulture and is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and Lamnda Pi Eta honors societies, both of which are known for recruiting students with strong academic success. In addition to her studies, Pohsl has worked in the food and entertainment industries and completed an internship with the Denver Botanic Gardens as a horticulturist. She also served as an apprentice farmer to a local Community Supported Agriculture program in Fort Collins, Colo., and maintained an average 30-40 hours per week throughout the year. Pohsl plans to pursue her master’s degree in the fall of 2012 and further her work in deliberative democracy and citizen engagement. To speak with Pohsl, contact Tony Phifer at or (970) 491-7712.

Student determined to succeed

Allison Martz, grew up in Burnsville, Minn., and decided to attend CSU without ever visiting campus. When Martz graduates in December, she will be receiving bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and in Engineering Science with a concentration in International Engineering, and a bachelor’s in Liberal Arts with a concentration in International Studies as part of a dual-degree program. She also holds a minor in French. Despite her success, her first years were far from perfect. After joining a sorority her freshman year – but not realizing the dedication and commitments required – Martz’s grades began to slip. She rearranged her priorities and took on an independent study project to design and build a working prototype of a small solar-powered lighting system. Holding two separate internships, studying abroad in Paris her junior year and working on her independent study project helped Martz grow as an individual and as a student. Growing up with her dad paved the way for the math and science field, but her mother, who died when Martz was 11, was very passionate about French, which sparked her interest in studying abroad. To speak with Martz, contact Emily Wilmsen at or (970) 491-2336.

First-generation political science student, full-time mother plans to attend law school

First-generation Hispanic student Jennifer Penaherrera transferred from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Colorado State during her junior year. She will be graduating this December with a degree in Political Science and hopes to pursue law school soon thereafter. During her time at CSU, Penaherrera has balanced being a full-time student with being a full-time mother, and she’ll be graduating at the top of her class. Having gained experience in legislative affairs through participating in policymaking and committee meetings as well as assisting constituents, Penaherrera has had a successful undergraduate career. To speak with Penaherrera, contact Tony Phifer at or (970) 491-7712.

Graduate bucks national trend and goes back to agrarian roots

Brian England, a dual major in agricultural business and soil and crop sciences, is graduating with a 3.73 GPA. He has served as president of FarmHouse fraternity and is a native of the lower Arkansas River Valley, where cantaloupe is king. Notably, England is returning to production agriculture after college. In returning to family farming, England is bucking a trend marked by movement away from our nation’s agrarian roots. Fewer and fewer people are involved in production agriculture in the United States. In fact, farm employment accounts for less than one percent of jobs nationwide. This provokes concern about the health of our rural communities as farmers and ranchers, for a variety of economic and policy reasons, find it increasingly difficult to achieve the economies of scale that often are tied to profits in production agriculture. People committed to farming and ranching, like England, are motivated by the significant challenges of modern agriculture and the desire to uphold rural traditions. To speak with England, contact Jim Beers at or (970)491-6401.