Media Tip Sheet: Colorado State University’s Fall 2013 Outstanding Graduates Overcome Obstacles, Prepare for Real-World

Note to Reporters: The following students are graduating from Colorado State University in Fort Collins Dec. 20-21. Photos of the students can be found with the tip sheet at

Whether overcoming tremendous obstacles or achieving academic excellence, these outstanding Colorado State University fall 2013 graduates have accomplished major personal goals and are prepared to begin meaningful careers as future leaders in their communities.

Hearing-impaired student to be occupational therapist

Non-traditional graduate student Paula Shortreed is turning her disability into an asset by pursuing a career in occupational therapy. A married mother of two, Shortreed has made progress toward providing a better environment for the hearing impaired on CSU’s campus. She was instrumental in bringing Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) and C-Print – a speech-to-text system that uses special software and abbreviations – to CSU to give student with hearing impairment equal access to educational materials. Shortreed also was part of a group that continues to educate the campus community about the importance of universal design of learning, including captioning of videos and all-online instructional materials. Shortreed created an advocacy video for the access project at CSU, which will be part of an ongoing program to support students with disabilities. She also worked with several hearing-impaired students to advocate for their needs, and always seeks to help advisors, professors, coworkers and fellow students understand hearing impairment. Shortreed says she is not defined by her disability, and that those with similar impairments can lead successful lives as long as they are willing to advocate for themselves and educate others about their disability. Following graduation, Shortreed plans to work in Fort Collins with a local health provider as an occupational therapist, and hopes to work specifically with transitional youth or adults to support them in living life to its fullest. To talk with Shortreed, contact Tony Phifer at tony.phifer@colostate or (970) 491-7712.

Passionate dancer returns to the stage after injury

In late October, the car in which 22-year-old Emma Kimball and a friend were riding was rear-ended by a car speeding near campus. Kimball’s scapula was broken, her shoulder joint was separated, and one arm required a plate and six screws to repair. A dual major in International Studies and Dance, Kimball was out of the hospital within a few days, and back in rehearsals for an upcoming play within a week. The University offered her help and support, but Kimball says it was the students, faculty and staff of the Dance and Theater department who are the biggest reason as to why she recovered so quickly. Now Kimball is looking forward to graduating and pursuing her dream of working in the performing arts. She plans to move to a city, perhaps live abroad to use her International Studies degree, and become a dancer, choreographer, director, designer, administrator or any combination of these. Her love of the arts reflects her passion for life, which she shares with her colleagues at CSU. Kimball looks forward to being part of the alumni community, and says she owes a lot to her support system at the University. To talk with Kimball, contact Tony Phifer at tony.phifer@colostate or (970) 491-7712.

Five-time volleyball conference champion to graduate after final tournament

Michelle Smith, a defensive specialist on CSU’s title-holding volleyball team, will be graduating this December after helping the Rams earn their 19th consecutive NCAA tournament berth. The 22-year-old has been playing volleyball since childhood, receiving coaching from her mother starting in the third grade. Smith began playing competitively when she was 12, and in high school won conference titles all four years. Though she could have played on scholarship for other schools, Smith said that after visiting CSU she had no doubt that this was the volleyball family she wanted to join. Smith said her team’s hard work and can-do attitude led to their success and praised CSU’s dedication to excellence as part of the reason they were able to compete in the NCAA championship. Following graduation, Smith is excited to start her career in the Management Development program at Denver’s E&J Gallo Winery. To talk with Smith, contact Tony Phifer at tony.phifer@colostate or (970) 491-7712.

First-generation graduate falls in love with agriculture

Guadalupe Davila is a first-generation Animal Sciences graduate from Los Angeles. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Davila’s love for animals came about from the traumatic experience of losing her dog as a result of the animal giving birth to puppies. Davila raised the puppies herself and, through the experience, realized she wanted to pursue a career involving animals. Davila said the moment she stepped on the CSU campus, she knew it was the right university for her. She came to Fort Collins interested in pre-veterinary medicine, but after a trip to Nicaragua decided she wanted a career in the agriculture industry. Through classes in the College of Agricultural Sciences she saw a career path where she could accomplish her goals. Davila has been active on a local and national level with her sorority, Lambda Theta Nu, serving as the president. In April 2013, she was awarded Outstanding Chapter President of the Year. In January 2013, she decided to take her sorority experience to the next level and was elected as the Vice President of Administration for the Multicultural Greek Council. Davila also served as the CSU representative on the student panel at the Latinos in Ag Conference this year. With her bachelor’s degree in Animal Sciences and minor in Business Administration, she plans to work in Human Resources within the agriculture industry. Her goals include working in a position where she can learn, lead and teach – as well as communicate with her community about the industry she loves. To speak with Davila, contact Jennifer Dimas at or (970) 491-1543.

Determined double-major to teach English around the world

Chelsea Johnson, a 23-year-old double-major in Spanish and Business, is committed to applying her knowledge on a global humanitarian scale. She first studied abroad in the spring of her junior year. Travelling to Bilbao, Spain, as well as other parts of Europe, Johnson took classes and immersed herself in the language. Later in the year, she received the College of Business Education Abroad Scholarship to study and travel for a second time. Over winter break, she traveled to Valparaiso, Chile, where she lived with a host family, continued her studies and collected data for her senior thesis project: a marketing plan that encouraged business students to study abroad. Johnson says that her work with Global Opportunities also facilitated the goals of her thesis, promoting education abroad to her fellow business students. After graduating, Johnson plans to return to Latin America to continue developing her Spanish and experiencing new cultures. She recently applied for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Argentina. The Fulbright Assistantship provides grants for recent graduates to travel to a foreign country to teach English and serve as a cultural ambassador for U.S. culture, with the ultimate goal of increasing mutual engagement and understanding between cultures. Johnson says she is grateful for her experiences at CSU, which has further fueled her passion for spreading international awareness to her peers. To talk with Johnson, contact Kate Jeracki at kate.jeracki@colostate or (970) 491-2658.

Single mom fights for a successful life for her daughter

Brianna Williams is a 22-year-old mother to her 11-month-old daughter, London. She is a Family and Consumer Sciences major and currently a preschool teacher. Williams found out she was pregnant early in her junior year, and though she was nervous to jump headfirst into parenthood without her degree or financial stability, she said she’d always felt a calling for motherhood. Williams has worked tirelessly to change her whole life and be a successful example for her daughter. She says that both she and her daughter are graduating this December as London has attended nearly every class with her since she was a month and a half old. Williams says it has been a tough road and while she was tempted to drop out several times, she has persevered. Originally from Long Beach, California, Williams hopes to return to her hometown after graduation, and eventually open her own restaurant. To talk with Williams, contact Tony Phifer at tony.phifer@colostate or (970) 491-7712.

Well-traveled biochemistry and pre-med student seeks to treat poverty-stricken regions

Eric Webster is a 31-year-old biochemistry and pre-med student from Manassas, Va., and Gunnison, Colo. While in Gunnison, he worked part-time as an agent for United Airlines, which gave him the opportunity to travel in Southeast Asia and Central America. During his travels, he frequently volunteered to teach English classes. After completing a bachelor’s in Psychology at Western State College of Colorado, Webster decided to go back to college and prepare for a career in health care. Webster is on track to graduate summa cum laude, and is currently serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the Introductory Cell Biology course with Farida Safadi-Chamberlain. For the past three years, he has worked as an assistant at Poudre Valley Hospital in the peri-operative area, prepping patients for surgery and monitoring vitals in recovery. On weekends, he volunteers at a local homeless shelter and commits about 16 hours each month as an EMT at PVH. Webster hopes to practice medicine in poverty-stricken regions of the world after graduation. To talk with Webster, contact Kortny Rolston at or (970) 491-5349.

Back to college after serving 22 years in U.S. Coast Guard

John Fowler was born and raised in Burbank, Calif. After he finished high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, serving his country for 22 years. After retiring, he found his way to CSU, eager to fulfill a lifelong dream of graduating college. Fowler is now graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Business Administration. “Being a veteran here at CSU has been an enjoyable experience,” said Fowler. “CSU has made going back to school easy and non-intimidating, thanks in large part to the Adult Learner and Veteran Services. Here I was able to study and socialize with people of a similar background. Having a place like the ALVS was my most valuable resource.” Currently, Fowler is in the running for two jobs immediately following graduation. To talk with Fowler, contact Tony Phifer at tony.phifer@colostate or (970) 491-7712.

Microbiology graduate plans to change the world

Meg Tumbleson plans to graduate and change the world – her dream job would involve establishing a rabies vaccination program in Africa. Her quest to change the world will begin after commencement ceremonies at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences when she will receive her bachelor’s in Microbiology. Tumbleson is a non-traditional student who has been working toward her second bachelor’s and a second career. While she truly enjoyed her work as a special education teacher, she realized the world she wanted to change grew much larger than her classroom. Tumbleson developed a strong passion for public health and disease prevention, especially in developing countries, during time she spent in both China and Africa. She spent 18 months in Kunming, China, learning Mandarin, teaching English and tutoring. The time she spent in Africa had just as much impact. She spent 6 weeks in a small village in eastern Uganda and worked closely with the local church and child sponsorship ministry. Most recently she spent three weeks on a veterinary outreach trip in Benin in west Africa, working with local veterinary students vaccinating village animals and teaching about rabies prevention. The trip to Benin, as well as news from friends in Uganda, has been a driving force for her studies at CSU. Tumbleson says she loves being a part of a program where she’s so close to cutting-edge research, even participating in the research herself. She believes human rabies cases can be eradicated in our lifetime and she wants to be a part of it. To talk with Tumbleson, contact Jennifer Dimas at or (970) 491-1543.

Forestry student takes career-changing risk

Stephanie Berry, 29, decided to pursue a second degree at CSU after earning her first degree in Early Childhood Education and teaching preschool for four years in Boston, Mass., and Salida, Colo. Salida, says Berry, is where she fell in love with mountain biking and backcountry skiing and was inspired to pursue a lifestyle centered around the outdoors. Realizing her ambition to work for the conservation and prudent use of our country’s many incredible natural resources, she chose CSU for its highly renowned forestry program and superlative faculty. Berry has received multiple scholarships through the Warner College of Natural Resources, and has returned the generosity with the donation of her time to CSU’s chapter of the Society of American Foresters, where she served as vice president and president. Having completed an internship with the U.S. Forest Service, after graduation Berry will be stepping into a full-time position as a forester on the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests in Idaho. To talk with Berry, contact Jennifer Dimas at or (970) 491-1543.

Accounting student and mother a friend to nonprofits

Janice Brake, a non-traditional student from the island of Newfoundland, Canada, applied to Colorado State a week before her now 2-year-old daughter was born. Being a mother, a full-time employee, and a full-time student can be stressful, but Brake prioritizes her time by setting specific hours for work and play. Graduating with a degree in Accounting, Brake works hands-on as a part-time employee in the Center for Advising and Student Achievement’s finance and budget department as an administrative assistant. She also is the co-founder and co-owner of Fundraising Firs LLC, which helps nonprofit organizations start Christmas tree and wreath fundraising programs. Brake is an amateur artist, and has two black-and-white portraits on display in The Institute of Learning and Teaching building after winning the TILT Art Competition this past April. Following graduation, Brake will move to Golden, Colo., to start her new career as a tax accountant for Eide Bailly. To talk with Brake, contact Kate Jeracki at kate.jeracki@colostate or (970) 491-2658.