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On Tuesday, May 10, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will recognize its highest-achieving students from the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities at the spring 2016 convocation ceremony.
Each department and school within the college has selected an outstanding student who has demonstrated an unyielding commitment to academic excellence during their time at ASU. These students will be awarded a prestigious Dean’s Medal to be worn with their graduation regalia as they lead their fellow graduates during the processional in honor of their scholastic achievements.
The Dean’s Medalists have made significant strides in their academic careers. From advanced coursework and honors theses to innovative research and consistently high grades, it’s no doubt each of these students will make impressive contributions to society and the world after graduation.
Meet this year’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalists:Alex Benninger
Dean’s Medal: School of International Letters and Cultures
Majors: Chinese and Spanish
Accomplishments: Benninger has been studying overseas at Tianjin Normal University as part of the Chinese Language Flagship Program while completing a professional internship. He has been selected for various honors, including the Raymond and Ava Tartar Literature Scholarship and the Robert J. Kestelik Scholarship. In addition to studying in Spain, Benninger has also studied in Taipei and Beijing.
Future Plans: Benninger plans to pursue a graduate degree in translation and interpretation.
“Alex is an excellent student,” said Robert Joe Cutter, director and professor of Chinese in the School of International Letters and Cultures. “He clearly has the talent and motivation to continue to excel in his language studies and future career."Alexis Wagner
Dean’s Medal: School of Politics and Global Studies
Major: Political Science
Certificates: Political Entrepreneurship and International Relations
Accomplishments: Wagner participated in the Capital Scholarship program during the summer of 2015. She interned at the U.S Department of the Treasury in the Office of Foreign Assets Control and earned superior evaluations from her supervisor. She conducted research on current Iran sanctions and presented findings in a paper. In addition, Wagner presented another research paper, “The Impact of Fact Checking in Presidential Primaries,” at the Pi Sigma Alpha Student Research Conference.
“Alexis embodies the core tenets of the school insofar as her academic research, talents, work ethic and personal life demonstrates her commitment to citizenship,” said Richard Herrera, associate director and professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies.Andrew Rogge
Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning
Major: Urban Planning
Minor: Architectural Studies
Certificate: Geographical Information Systems
Accomplishments: Rogge is an outstanding and creative student with a passion for cities and urbanism. He has participated in the Global Classroom, an innovative 18-month sustainability program in conjunction with Leuphana University. In addition, he has helped establish an action plan for downtown Mesa as part of his graduate-level urban design studio.
Thesis: Rogge’s honor thesis applies Kevin Lynch’s theories on urban imagery to the German capital. Utilizing firsthand field work and analysis of documented imagery, Rogge examined the changes taking place in the urban form of Berlin and the way iconic symbols of the city’s “image” have evolved.Anna Carson
Dean’s Medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Major: Global Health
Minor: Mandarin Chinese
Accomplishments: Last spring, Carson studied the factors affecting fertility decisions at theLaboratory of Culture Change and Behavior. She later won the Circumnavigator Award for researching the positive roles midwives play in the health of mothers. She has already presented the preliminary results at a national midwifery conference and will be presenting at two other international conferences.
Volunteer Work: Carson volunteered as a health educator in Chennai, India, at the International Alliance for the Prevention of AIDS. She developed a curriculum for women’s self-health groups in urban slums.
Thesis: Carson’s thesis focuses on the role of midwives in improving maternal health. She conducted research over the summer while traveling to six countries at different corners of the globe.
“My colleagues in Bangladesh and Guatemala were impressed with her professionalism, her intellect and her drive to improve maternal health globally,” said Daniel Hruschka, professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. “I believe that this passion combined with her exceptional academic record as a student at ASU make her an excellent candidate for the CLAS Dean’s Medalist.”Annette Marino
Dean’s Medal: Department of Psychology
Major: Psychology (Psychological Science)
Accomplishments: Marino has obtained considerable research experience working as a research assistant for multiple semesters in three different faculty laboratories. She acquired extensive training in electroencephalography to assist her research on whether neural activity predicts differences in comprehension of reading materials. Her findings are likely to be publishable in a top psychology journal.
Thesis: “The Neural Correlates of Embodied Cognition in Comprehension and Imagination”
Volunteer Work: Marino has been the director of special events for ASU’s chapter of Psi Chi and has served on the boards of multiple local service organizations, including CASA and Success for Good.
“[Annette] has clearly made the most of her opportunities at ASU, and we have no doubt that she will show an excellent return on this investment as she carries her education into the world,” said Michelle Shiota, associate professor in the Department of Psychology.Brenda Rubio
Dean’s Medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
Certificate: Civil Communication
Accomplishments: Rubio is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society and the Golden Key ASU Chapter. She was the Barnes Endowed Scholarship recipient for 2015. She currently serves as the president of the Association of Human Communication and oversees all club activities.
Volunteer Work: Rubio has volunteered at many Institute of Civil Dialogue events and has helped organize community conversations about challenging issues pertaining to education policies and practices in the state of Arizona. In addition, she has worked for Fresh Start Women’s Resource Center, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, Rescue Network of Arizona and Phoenix Rescue Mission.
Future Plans: Rubio wants to become a certified facilitator to continue her commitment to productive communication practices in organizational and family contexts.
“I am sure Brenda will be successful as she graduates and moves on to the next part of her journey,” said Jennifer Linde, senior lecturer in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. “She is reliable, keeps great records, and never hesitates to do what needs to be done.”Cameron Mundo
Dean’s Medal: American Indian Studies
Majors: American Indian Studies and Filmmaking Practices
Accomplishments: Mundo has been on the Dean’s List six times during his academic career. In addition, he is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and the Jicarilla Apache Tribal Historical Preservation Office. He was a recipient of the Norman Tecube Sr. Scholarship from the Jicarilla Higher Education program. Mundo also participated in the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative and has been instrumental in putting together an American Indian studies recruitment video for the department.
Future Plans: Mundo has been admitted to the graduate program in geographic information systems at ASU.
“Cameron has been a wonderful asset to our program,” said Jennica Fulwilder, academic success specialist. “Our professors feel that he is an outstanding student who is very deserving of this recognition.”Christie Trimble
Dean’s Medal: Department of Physics
Accomplishments: Trimble has been a remarkable contributor to the Nanoscience Laboratory. She has conducted research in nanoscale physics and graphene chemistry. Both projects have or will result in publications and presentations at national meetings. Trimble has been recognized with an award at the 2013 spring undergraduate research symposium and won a NASA space grant internship.
Thesis: “Plasma Enhanced Atomic Layer Deposition of Ultrathin Oxides on Graphene”
Volunteer Work: Trimble has mentored freshman physics majors for two years. She also helped organize a local workshop for women in physics and encouraged female students to attend the American Physical Society conference. Plus, she has done public outreach events at the Arizona Science Center.
Future Plans: Trimble wants to continue advancing physics research and pursue a career in academia.
“[Christie] is a creative and gifted experimental scientist,” said Robert Nemanich, professor in Department of Physics. “She has the skills, the creativity and the perseverance to solve difficult problems.”Daniel Ober-Reynolds
Dean’s Medal: Department of Economics
Majors: Economics, Mathematics and Philosophy
Accomplishments: Ober-Reynolds’ academic record is outstanding. In addition to maintaining an impressive GPA for a triple major, he has supported himself with several part-time jobs. He has demonstrated a great willingness to share his knowledge by tutoring fellow classmates. Ober-Reynolds has also served as a research assistant to professor Michael Hanemann in the Center for Environmental Economics where he studied the effect of spatial scale measurement on econometric models.Jessica Marie Fletcher
Dean’s Medal: Department of English
Majors: English (Creative Writing) and Psychology
Minor: Family and Human Development
Accomplishments: Fletcher has participated in multiple co-curricular activities to complement her studies in writing and psychology. She served as a teacher’s assistant for ASU’s prison program, an editor-in-chief and blogger for Superstition Review and an intern for the Pen Project. In addition, Fletcher has been published in the fiction section of Lux Undergraduate Creative Review.
Thesis: Fletcher’s honors thesis is a collection of biographical military stories.
Future Plans: Fletcher plans to pursue a master’s degree program in counseling, focusing on mental health and rehabilitation. She also wants to continue pursuing her literary interests.Kenton Woods
Dean’s Medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics
Majors: Family and Human Development and Psychology
Accomplishments: Woods has been involved in multiple research projects. Currently, he is a co-manager for the Macro Coding Lab as part of the Las Madres Nuevas research project. Woods has also worked as a research assistant for the ASPIRE project where he was able to visit several high schools and collect survey information. Additionally, he has worked as a senior community mentor in San Pablo.
Future Plans: Woods plans on continuing his education and pursuing his interest in peer relationships and mental health.
“Kenton understands the importance of getting the most out of his education and has always taken the imitative to take on leadership and research positions,” said Lois Goldblatt, academic success coordinator. “I am very impressed impressed with his motivation to learn and his leadership skills.”Marketta Kachemov
Dean’s Medal: School of Life Sciences
Major: Biological Sciences (Genetics, Cellular and Developmental Biology)
Accomplishments: After spending a summer doing research through the Helios Scholars program, Kachemov developed as a scientist and pursued a collaborative project between three different labs to look at changes in protein expression associated with chronic stress and recovery. She submitted a proposal for the work to the School of Life Sciences Research Innovation Challenge and got funding the groundbreaking research almost entirely on her own.
Thesis: Kachemov’s research uses changes in protein expression to study the neurobiology of stress.
Volunteer Work: Kachemov has a wonderful record of service with the Children First Academy of Tempe. She works with children to give them the tools and encouragement they need to succeed.
Future Plans: Kachemov plans to continue neuroscience research in graduate school. She’s in the process of interviewing with a number of the top neuroscience doctoral programs in the country.
“Marketta is a remarkable individual,” said Miles Orchinik, associate professor in the School of Life Sciences. “She is the best student researcher I’ve had in 20 years, and she’s one of the most promising students I’ve met at ASU.”Miranda Herman
Dean’s Medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration
Majors: Earth and Space Exploration (Astrophysics) and Physics
Accomplishments: Herman has been involved in multiple research projects during her time at ASU. She has investigated the properties of stars with close-orbiting giant exoplanets to understand effects of star companions on planet properties and will be the second author on a refereed publication. Herman also worked abroad at the Chilean Atacama Large Millimeter Array headquarters in Santiago, Chile to edit and create new code to analyze data from the Herschel sub-millimeter space observatory.
Thesis: For her thesis project, Herman is monitoring the atmospheres of brown dwarfs over multiple epochs to determine how each atmosphere may vary with time.
“Miranda has been an exemplary student and shows exceptional promise for the future,” said Patrick Young, associate professor and chair of the undergraduate education committee in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.Sahba Zaare
Dean’s Medal: School of Molecular Sciences
Accomplishments: Zaare always ranks in the top handful of students in his courses. He has also been engaged in undergraduate research in the Center for Personalized Diagnostics at the Biodesign Institute. His first publication has been accepted by the Journal of Visualized Experiments. In addition, Zaare was the recipient of the Hypercube Award and the Merck Index Award.
Thesis: By graduation, Zaare will have worked about 16 months toward the completion of his honors thesis, a project aimed at developing gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to detect the significance of glycosylation products in the blood plasma of breast cancer patients compared to healthy individuals.
Volunteer Work: Zaare has worked with Relay for Life to raise money for cancer research.
Future Plans: Zaare plans to pursue a master’s or doctoral program while working in oncology research.Scott Prada
Dean’s Medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies
Major: Religious Studies
Accomplishments: Recommended by four faculty members, Prada has shown outstanding performance in his religious studies classes. In addition to maintaining consistently high grades, Prada is always exceedingly well prepared, able to capture analytical, comparative and applied perspectives, and ready to articulate his knowledge in clear writing and expression.
Future Plans: Prada has been accepted into the master’s degree program in religious studies at ASU.
“Scott is an extraordinarily motivated student who showed persistent excellence during his studies,” said Alexander Henn, director of undergraduate studies and professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.Tin Phan
Dean’s Medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
Majors: Mathematics and Physics
Accomplishments: As an incoming freshman, Phan had participated twice in the Joaquin Bustoz Math-Science Honors program. He believed a strong foundation in physics would help him gain insight into natural phenomenon at a fundamental level. As a result, Phan has been involved in two concurrent summer research projects on prostate cancer modeling and ant cannibalism.
Future Plans: Phan plans to pursue a doctoral degree in mathematics at ASU. He wants to leverage the vast amount of resources available at the university to equip himself with the experience to help others.
“[Tin] is an outstanding example of what it means to live the art and science of mathematics,” said Jelena Milovanovic, chair of the scholarship and awards committee for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.Ty Clarke
Dean’s Medal: School of Social Transformation
Major: Justice Studies
Minors: English (Literature) and Business
Certificate: Economic Justice
Accomplishments: Clarke co-founded the Global Affairs Theoretical and Empirical Journal, ASU’s first international relations, peer-reviewed academic journal. In addition, he has been an intern for the Anti-Defamation League’s Investigative Research Department, Social Economy in Arizona and Gina’s Team.
Future Plans: Clarke plans to attend law school with a goal of becoming a civil-rights lawyer who fights for social justice and advocates for equity.Yesenia Brewster
Dean’s Medal: School of Transborder Studies
Majors: Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies (Media and Expressive Culture) and English (Literature)
Accomplishments: Brewster has shown a consistent commitment to academic achievement and research in transborder studies. She has received the Wells Fargo Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies Research Scholarship twice, is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and has been on the Dean’s List for four consecutive years.
Research: Brewster’s research focuses on the development of Afro-Latina identity in higher education.
“There is no doubt that Yesenia is an exceptional student who will continue to be successful in her future endeavors,” said Alejandro Lugo, director and professor in the School of Transborder Studies.