Aggie Insights
    VOLUME 5 | ISSUE 6 June 2007     

In This Issue


Event Listings



USU Alumni Spotlight - Michael Ballam

Michael Ballam

Michael Ballam has had an operatic and recital career spanning three decades and four continents. A native of Logan, Utah, Mr. Ballam has performed in the major concert halls of America, Europe, Asia, Russia and the Middle East, with command performances at the Vatican and the White House. His operatic repertoire includes more than 600 performances of over 70 major roles. He has shared the stage with the world’s greatest singers, including Joan Sutherland, Kiri Te Kanawa, Birgit Nilsson, and Placido Domingo, performing regularly with such companies as the Chicago Lyric, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Diego Operas.

As a recitalist, Mr. Ballam has performed with critical acclaim in some of the most important concert halls in the country, including the Kennedy Center ( Washington DC), Orchestra Hall ( Chicago), Jordan Hall ( Boston), Jones Hall ( Houston), and the Los Angeles Music Center.    

He is the author of over 40 publications and recordings in international distribution, has a weekly radio program on Utah Public Radio, starred in 3 major motion pictures and appears regularly on television, and serves on the Board of Directors of twelve professional Arts organizations.                                                                        

At the age of 24, Mr. Ballam became the youngest recipient of the degree of Doctor of Music with Distinction in the history of the prestigious Indiana University. He is a professor of music at Utah State University and an accomplished pianist and oboist.

Mr. Ballam also currently serves as General Director of the Utah Festival Opera, a company he founded in 1993. It has become one of the nation’s major summer festivals, with growing international critical acclaim.

With all of Mr. Ballam’s professional and academic achievements, he is most comfortable at the bedside of a terminally ill patient singing a favorite melody of hope, or volunteering in the classroom enlightening children to the magic and wonder of Mozart and Beethoven.

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Pitching in in Africa

USU in Africa

Organizations from around the world have turned their focus to solving economic and health issues in Africa. Recently Utah State University’s efforts in Africa took center stage as congressional advisor Pearl-Alice Marsh met with Aggies working in the border region of Kenya and Ethiopia.

USU’s Pastoral Risk Management Project (PARIMA) is a federally-funded program that has operated since 1997. The project’s goal is to help poor households, which generally depend on raising cattle, sheep and goats to survive, diversify their income sources.

Another focus of PARIMA has been promoting action by a number of women’s groups in southern Ethiopia. These groups provide instruction and support to households looking to supplement their income.

Marsh was impressed by what she saw and says she plans to return to Ethiopia in the future to meet with the PARIMA women’s groups to learn more about how to best help the people there.

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USU Creates Program for Deaf Children

Sound Beginnings of Cache Valley

Utah State University announces a one-of-a-kind program aimed at assisting young children with permanent hearing loss to develop spoken language and listening skills. The program, called Sound Beginnings of Cache Valley, is a $3 million initiative put together by the Utah State University Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education, and USU’s National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management.

Sound Beginnings will offer a tuition-free school that will give young children with hearing loss access to specialists in early childhood deaf education, pediatric audiology and speech-language pathology.

In addition to benefiting children and their families, the program will give USU students studying communicative disorders and deaf education valuable hands-on experience.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Sound Beginnings program should contact the USU Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education at 435-797-7554.

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Five Honored with Diversity Awards

The 14th Annual Utah State University Diversity Awards saw five recipients honored for their contributions to affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity.

Steven H. Hanks is USU’s vice provost. He works with study abroad students as well as international students attending Utah State. Previously Hanks served as dean of the College of Administrative and Financial Sciences at Arab American University in the Middle East.

John E. Ribera is an associate professor in the Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education Department at USU. In the past, he has taken students studying audiology to Mexico to work with orphanages and work camps. Ribera is responsible for bringing the Multicultural Messiah, which includes English, Spanish and American Sign Language singers, to Cache Valley.

Hector Mendiola is the director of Spanish Programs for Cache Valley Extension. A retired physician from Mexico, this is Mendolia’s second USU Diversity Award. He is active in working with Logan High School students among other groups to provide opportunities to multicultural students and their families.

The Dominican Republic’s Ariel E. Rosario is an electrical engineering graduate currently working on his MBA. When he first arrived at USU, he requested an American roommate so he could work on his English and better learn the culture. During his time at school, Rosario organized the Dominican Student Association to help share the group’s culture with the community.

Kelly Johnson is the training coordinator at Swift Beef Corporation in Hyrum, UT. He organized Swift workers in ethnically diverse teams to better foster relationships across cultures. After the ICE raids in December, Johnson organized community organizations to assist those affected.

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USU Capital Campaign - On the road

Sound Beginnings of Cache Valley

In recognition of Utah State University's national presence, a special kick-off announcement for The Campaign for Utah State University will be held in selected locations across the country. At these smaller gatherings, we invite alumni and friends to share in the excitement and success of Honoring Traditions, Securing Our Future: The Campaign for Utah State University. Upcoming dates include:

  • San Diego, June 21 - 6:00 p.m.
  • Los Angeles and Orange County, June 22 - 6:00 p.m.
  • These events are free to attend but an R.S.V.P. is required. Click here for complete details including address and R.S.V.P. link.

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    Alumni Association hosts Thailand Delegation

    Sound Beginnings of Cache Valley

    A delegation from Bangkok University in Thailand visited Utah State University´┐Żs campus and the Alumni Association in May 2007. Visitors included Siriwan Ratanakarn, Assistant to the President for Academic Affairs; Ratanasuda Punnahitanond, Director of International Affairs; and Mathana Santiwat, University President; and they visited with Wallace Odd, Alumni Association Executive Director; Paul Parkinson, Alumni Association Vice President; and Steve Hanks, Vice Provost for International Affairs. President Santiwat is an alumna of Utah State University (1978) and is active in the Utah Chapter in Thailand. This chapter is open to all graduates from all universities in Utah and they meet each year in Bangkok, Thailand, and many of the chapter leaders are Aggies. This is the third such delegation to visit Utah State and the Alumni Association since February of this year. As part of their meetings, visitors discuss ways to strengthen their alumni chapter as well as plans for an upcoming tour to Thailand that will be sponsored by the Alumni Association in early 2008.

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    Foursomes still available for Utah/Salt Lake County tournament

    Sound Beginnings of Cache Valley

    The 2007 Utah and Salt Lake County golf tournament is almost here and we still have foursomes and individual spots available. This years tournament will once again be held at Talon's Cove with the proceeds benefiting the Utah and Salt Lake county Alumni scholarship funds. To register on-line or for pricing and more information click here. To donate raffle items or to provide hole sponsorship, contact Scott Olson at 435-797-0931 or by email

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    Back to the Buzzer


    Jack Szymanski using the Audiology Lab to aid in speech therapy in 1966. A very early precursor to the Sound Beginnings program.


    Utah State University Alumni Relations sponsors many exciting events throughout the year. To keep informed about the most current ones, visit often.

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    Read the Classnotes

    Chapter News

    The following events will take place in the few months:

  • June 23 - Arizona Chapter - Diamondbacks game

  • June 28 - Utah & Salt Lake Counties - Golf Tournament

  • July 3 - Portland Chapter - Backyard BBQ

  • July 14 - Weber County - Annual Car Show

  • July 14 - Summit County - Family Swim Party

  • For more information about these and other alumni chapters and to find the chapter in your area, visit

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    Gensel Named Coach of the Year

    Gregg Gensel

    Longtime USU track and field/cross country coach Gregg Gensel is this year’s Mountain Region Men’s Outdoor Coach of the Year according to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

    In his 26 years of coaching at Utah State, Gensel has led the Aggie runners to 22 conference championships. Over his career, he has been named coach of the year by different organizations 20 times.

    The USU team recently completed its season at the 2007 NCAA Championships in California.

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    Travel Opportunities

    Travel with the Aggies to Hawaii

    The May 1st and June 1st deadlines have passed, the Hawaii trip is still availiable but pricing and airline has changed. Please call the Alumni Relations office at (435)797-2055, or visit

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