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Utah State University's Best Honored at 52nd Robins Awards

Monday, Apr. 26, 2010

USU Robins Awards logo
The Robins Awards are among the highest honors awarded at Utah State University and are named in memory of visionary Utah State student body President William E. Robins, who held office in 1949. Robins and his wife died in a 1954 plane crash.
The featured award of the evening, the Bill Robins Memorial Award, went to Danielle Babbel. The award is presented to the student who excels academically, displays outstanding leadership ability and shows dedication to Utah State. While maintaining a 4.0 GPA, double majoring in anthropology and geography with minors in Spanish and chemistry, Babbel has traveled to study in Huanchaco, Peru, Guadalajara and rural Campeche, Mexico, and Rwanda and been awarded numerous scholarships and accolades.
Beginning in her freshman year, Babbel became heavily involved in community affairs while participating in programs like STEP (Students Together Ending Poverty), the Environmental Coalition of Students, Amnesty International, Aggies for Compassion Towards Immigrants, Medical Unity (a club for students interested in medicine and the Latino community) as well as Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. Babbel created a current program the Val R. Christensen Service Center, Aggies for Africa, with the intention of spreading awareness of African affairs, as well as organizing a variety of fundraising events for these communities, like the highly-successful shoe drive. In light of the impending budget crisis at USU, she created the group Save Higher Education in Utah. The Facebook-based organization helped to mobilize its more than 5,000 members across the state to participate in the political process through events like a mass rally at the State Capitol.
Dani has also had the opportunity to be an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow and lab assistant for several anthropology courses Other volunteer positions have given her further experience as an instructor, including mentoring English as a Second Language students at Hillcrest Elementary, assisting in language courses for adults at the English Language Center and a current position as a tutor for Student Support Services in general chemistry and biology. Her ability to speak Spanish has presented her with many volunteer experiences as an interpreter at parent-teacher conferences at Mount Logan Middle School and as a qualified interpreter at Logan Regional Hospital.
“The coursework, extracurricular involvement and overseas experiences that this university has provided me with undoubtedly will serve me well in this future,” said Babbel. “I am confident that the past five years as a USU student could not have been spent any better.”
David Knighton took home the Val R. Christensen Service Award. The award was established in honor of former Vice President for Student Services Val R. Christensen’s outstanding lifetime contribution to volunteering. It is presented to a student or organization whose volunteer service has had a significant impact on Utah State and the community.
Knighton is majoring in nutrition and food sciences with a pre-med emphasis and a chemistry minor. With a cumulative GPA of 3.6, he is a senior applying to medical school. As a part of his capstone project for the Service-learning Scholar program, Kinghton created the USU Biggest Loser program which focused on how individuals can care for their bodies and become healthier. He recruited dietitians, doctors and sports psychologist to educate contestants. In addition to the programs at USU that he started and volunteered for, he is also heavily engaged at the Cache Valley Community Health Clinic. This clinic is designed to serve those who do not have health insurance.  
“USU has allowed me to someday make more contributions to the community that I will live in,” said Knighton. “From these lessons, I have learned to become a better leader and feel capable that I can continue making contributions to society. Along with the 320 hours of service and many service projects I have brought to USU this year, I hope to leave a legacy and inspire others to do the same.”  
Lance Larsen received the Achievement of the Year Award. With assistance of the Harold C. and Grace Minson Steed Business Leadership Scholarship and the Utah State University Presidential Scholarship, Larsen has been able to participate in the Koch Scholars program, Beta Gamma Sigma and is an active member of the Huntsman Scholars serving as the Mentor Council President. Larsen has also achieved great success within a number of student run programs such as Adopt-A-Highway, ASUSU-Stuff-A-Bus and Penny Wars, the Val R. Christensen Service Center Programming Board, Aggie Blue Fall Leadership and the ASUSU Activities Committee.
The Organization of the Year Award went to the Val R. Christensen Service Center. This year, hundreds of students have volunteered their time and energy in the Val R. Christensen Service Center to serve the university, community and world while experiencing personal growth and leadership opportunities. The Val R. Christensen Service Center increased volunteer opportunities through new programs and positions, expanded outreach efforts, improved yearly service projects and had significant growth and improvement in individual programs.
Jennifer Ewell received the Talent of the Year Award, which recognizes outstanding mental endowment or superior capacity in the field of music, dance, art or drama. Ewell is a senior who will graduate this year with her bachelors of fine art in graphic design. Ewell coordinated all of the public relations advertising and promotional materials for the USU Department of Art. She has also worked for the Caine School of the Arts and the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art. Ewell’s work has included work in posters, brochures, flyers, playbills, post cards and funding materials.
The Female Athlete of the Year Award went to cross country and track and field athlete Kim Quinn who demonstrated exceptional qualities of athletic skill, sportsmanship and determination. Majoring in environmental studies with a minor in political science, Quinn won both the 3,000m and 5,000m at the 2010 Western Athletic Conference Indoor Championships as she earned the High Point Performer Award with 20 points. She was also named the WAC Female Athlete of the Year as she helped the Aggie women to a second-place team finish. That finish by the women was the best for a USU team since 1994 when it won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Championship.
The Male Athlete of the Year Award went to cross country athlete Brian McKenna. McKenna was named the WAC’s Male Cross Country Athlete of the Year after winning the 2009 Cross Country Championship. McKenna was also the only Aggie to compete in the NCAA Cross Country championships in 2009 where he placed 69th. McKenna earned first-team all-WAC honors after placing third in the 3,000, at the 2010 Indoor Championships and was named first-team all-WAC after winning the 10,000m at the 2009 Outdoor Championships and placing third in the 5,000m.
John R. Olson took home the Graduate Research Assistant Award for showing superior research capability and academic excellence. As a graduate research assistant in the College of Natural Resources, Olson’s research has included areas such as biological assessment, water quality and basic ecology to maximize benefits for people, aquatic life and the environment. He is the recipient of the Best Student Methods Presentation Award from the North American Benthological Society, worked for the $1,500,000 U.S. EPA Science to Achieve Results grant and the $800,000 U.S. EPA Science to Achieve Results grant. He also co-authored an invited review which was included in the 25th anniversary edition of the Journal of the North American Benthological Society.
The Graduate Teaching Assistant Award went to Jessica Munns of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Munns has worked as a graduate teaching assistant since 2008 for classes from Elements of Algebra up to Introduction to Logic and Geometry. She has been honored as the Graduate Teacher of the Year for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in 2010, received the Park City Mathematic Institute Scholarship and graduated Cum Laude with her bachelor of science degree. She has been published in the Utah Mathematics Teacher and has presented in local and national conferences.
The Professional Advisor of the Year Award went to Krystin Deschamps. Her concern for students, her innovative advising programs and her willingness to assist others in helping students succeed is a sign of a committed and caring advisor.
“Krystin is an outstanding student services professional who exhibits all that is exemplary in those who work tirelessly to help ensure the success of USU students,” said James Morales, vice president of Student Services.
Taking home the Faculty Advisor of the Year Award was Shannon Browne. Browne advises many undergraduate students as well as the USU student chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Browne received the award because he exemplifies the best in compassionate, knowledgeable and accessible student advising.
James S. Cangelosi, a professor of mathematics, took home the Professor of the Year Award. Cangelosi combines extraordinarily innovative mathematics teaching with impressive scholarship of teaching. He’s shown incredible passion for engaging students in math throughout 27 years of service to USU.
“Dr. Cangelosi’s passion and knowledge are obvious and contagious,” writes Tammy Short, one of Cangelosi’s many students. “You not only want to learn the subject matter, you want to master it.”
The Scholar of the Year is Angela Dixon. This award is presented to the student who demonstrates outstanding knowledge and skill in a particular field and makes a singular contribution in research, application and determination to succeed.
Dixon is a senior, set to graduate in May with her bachelor’s in biological engineering with a minor in chemistry. Her accomplishments include being recognized as the outstanding senior of the College of Engineering and the Biological Engineering Department for 2010, the Outstanding Junior of the Biological Engineering Department for 2009, USU Research Fellow 2006-2010, recipient of the Lillywhite Scholarship and many other academic honors. Dixon has also held many positions of leadership throughout her time at USU, including E-Council president and Engineering President’s Council vice president. Service has also been an important part of Dixon’s time at USU, as she’s served with Special Olympics, the Big Brother Big Sister Program and tutoring student in mathematics, chemistry, biology and engineering.
Scott Hinton, the Dean of the College of Engineering, described Dixon as “the highest quality of the undergraduate students in engineering.”
Stephanie Baldwin received the Gerald R. Sherratt Award. This special award goes to an individual of the university administration or staff who displays superior leadership skills and abilities, as well as unsurpassed dedication and service to students. Baldwin has served as the assistant director in the Student Involvement and Leadership Center for the last four years. As an advisor for ASUSU, Greek life, Aggie Blue Fall Leadership and Connections, she was recognized for her long hours of work and support to help students and colleagues achieve success.
Ben Crowshaw is Utah State’s Man of the Year, and Josie Olsen is Utah State’s Woman of the Year. Crowshaw and Olsen were chosen for making exceptional contributions to the university and for exemplifying traits that set them above their classmates.
As a graduate student, Crowshaw has served as the Academic Senate president, where he was involved in overseeing all of the academic legislation that is passed by student officers. Crowshaw also led the student senators to manage the Academic Opportunity Fund, Sophomore Scholarship Program and Classroom Improvement Fund. Additionally, he participated with 24 other committees as a solo student representative, working with central administration and faculty in advising students, evaluating faculty performance, coordinating efforts from students and professors across campus and even leading the charge to keep the library open an additional 12 hours during finals week.
Olsen has devoted this last year to not only to obtaining a master’s degree in human environments but in making a difference in the campus, local and global communities. Academically, she has undertaken a heavy course load in order to enable her to complete the program in one year, while it is usually done in two years. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA despite the additional stresses created by accelerating her program. Josie has been a research and teaching assistant in her department which allowed her to present her research to the Interior Design Educators Council. In the 2009 fall semester, Josie participated in Koch Scholars, an invitation-only reading and discussion group on the topics of economic and social liberty. 
Olsen has also been very involved in the university this academic year, serving as the College of HASS senator in ASUSU. As a part of her responsibilities, she is a member of several committees, including the Classroom Improvement Committee, the Capital and Support Committee, the HASS Dean’s Undergraduate and Graduate Advisory Committee and she was the chair of the Music and Theater Fee Board Committee. In addition to her commitment to the university, Josie sits on the board of directors for two local nonprofit organizations — the Sparrow Alliance and Union Preschool. 
“One of my long-term goals is to use the skills I have learned at USU in both my undergraduate and graduate degrees to help people in my community and throughout the world to improve their situations,” said Olsen.
Carrie Young, biology major at the USU Uintah Basin campus, was awarded the Undergraduate Researcher of the Year Award. Young is studying the genetic structure of two geographically separate groups of white-tailed prairie dogs in the Coyote Basin. Using multiple polymorphic microsatellite markers, she is testing the hypothesis that genetic variability infers relationships and dynamics within and between these groups. Her interest in the project stemmed from her extensive field experience through USU internships at the Vernal Field Office of the BLM.
Faculty Researcher of the Year went to Brian Higginbotham. Higginbotham, a faculty member in the Family, Consumer and Human Development department, was given the award for his extensive work within the university. Since 2007, he has 21 scholarly articles published or accepted in peer-reviewed journals. His Extension publications are equally noteworthy due to the outreach mission of the university, particularly his Utah Marriage Handbook. To date, more than 30,000 copies have been distributed via county clerk offices when couples apply for a marriage license. Higginbotham’s aggressive pursuit of extramural funding has resulted in almost $5 million in awards by various entities in five years. Over the last three years, he has conducted  nearly 20 Extension presentations throughout Utah and has been part of 30 scholarly presentations at state, regional, national and international conferences.
Andrew J. Hobson took home the Legacy of Utah State Award, created in memory of those involved in the 2005 USU van accident. The award is given each year to a student who embodies the true spirit, heart and soul of USU and demonstrates love and support for the university family, while leading with a vision of hope for the future.
After losing both of his parents, Hobson came to Utah State in the summer of 2005 at the end of an eight-year term of service in the war in Iraq. Since coming to USU, he has received an A-Pin award, the Junior of the Year award and a $20,000 research grant and was invited to share his research at the state capitol with 33 other Aggies. He also formed the USU WEAU chapter that won a state competition,  got first place in a graduate level competition with his design, completed an URCO grant, helped with SOAR, Connections, Engineering State, Aggie B.L.U.E,  served as the Engineering Senator with ASUSU’s Academic Senate and was selected the Pre-Professional Student of the Year for Civil Engineering. He competed nationally in a water competition, became the vice president of Tau Beta Pi and recently enrolled in ballet classes with his wife.
The Robins Awards and ceremony were organized by Stephanie Baldwin, Utah State's assistant director of student involvement and leadership center, and Traditions Director Crystal Degen.
More than 100 nominations are received every year for the Robins Awards.

Writer/Contact: Sarah Reale, (435) 797-2759,

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