Utah State University’s best students, faculty and staff were honored at the 50th Robins Awards celebration April 19.
The Robins Awards are named in memory of visionary Utah State student body President William E. Robins. Robins, who held office in 1949, died with his wife in a 1954 plane crash.
The featured award of the evening, the Bill Robins Memorial Award, went to Zach Ames. The award is presented to the student who excels academically, displays outstanding leadership ability and shows dedication to Utah State. Ames majors in sociology and economics with a minor in management. He has shown his academic success through his experience as an Undergraduate Research Fellow, Presidential Scholar, Mortar Board Honor Society member and a two-time nominee for Robins Award Man of the Year. He has also served on the Government Relations committee, President’s Cabinet and held the coveted title of Mr. USU.
“I have gained many valuable skills and the knowledge of how to be the best in my field of choosing,” Ames said. “I have created and trained with various development programs and made friendships to last a lifetime.”
Tracy Torman 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.
Torman has served as the Physical Education Club president, public relations chair for the ASUSU Athletics Committee and president of the HURD during its first year on campus when it grew to be the largest student club and raised more than $14,000. Outside of USU, Torman has been an intern in Washington, D.C., volunteering for Heart of America, a non-profit organization that provides greater reading opportunities to underprivileged children. She also served in the program “Redesign,” enabling people to rebuild school libraries.
Jaycee Carroll received both the Achievement of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year awards. In Carroll’s senior year on the men’s basketball team, he put together one of the finest seasons in USU history as the Evanston, Wyo., native set 10 school records, including becoming USU’s all-time leading scorer.
The Organization of the Year Award went to the Sigma Nu Fraternity for its annual Halloween party for special needs individuals in cooperation with the Best Buddies program. The fraternity has also performed two service projects helping to maintain the Common Ground facility.
Mary Jane Lee received the Talent of the Year award, which recognizes outstanding mental endowment or superior capacity in the field of music, dance, art or drama. Lee is a senior studying music who has starred in leading roles with USU Opera Theater productions and performed with the USU orchestra as well as the Hand Made Opera Company Orchestra.
“When I started at Utah State I could barely read music,” Lee said. “I worked very hard to catch up with my peers, but my lack of musical training caught up with me. I worked incredibly hard and I studied for countless hours. With the help of my teachers and tutors I was able to learn and understand the course content. I am so grateful for the struggle I had in those classes. I feel I am now a stronger musician because of it.”
The Female Athlete of the Year award went to volleyball player Amanda Nielson who demonstrated exceptional qualities of athletic skill, sportsmanship and determination. She brought recognition to Utah State when she became the 10th individual in USU history to earn All-American honors. Nielson also finished the year by being named first-team all-WAC after finishing second in the conference in both points and service aces per game, and ranking third in the WAC and 11th in the nation with more than five kills per game.
Dmitry Zubarev took home the Graduate Research Assistant Award for showing superior research capability and academic excellence. Zubarev entered the chemistry and biochemistry doctoral program at USU in fall 2004, and has since co-authored 15 publications in prestigious, peer-reviewed journals, being first author on a majority of them.
“Dmitry is the most talented graduate student I have ever met in my academic career,” one of Zubarev’s chemistry professors said. “He is also a very nice person, and it is a great pleasure to have him around.”
The Graduate Teaching Assistant Award went to Andrew Deceuster. Deceuster is completing his master’s degree in engineering and technology education while also working on his doctorate in biological engineering. Skilled in using classroom technology, and always exhibiting high fervor, he implements current teaching innovations that supplement his students’ education. The quality of his teaching is always reflected in his student course evaluations which are above department, college and university norms.
The Professional Advisor of the Year went to Kathy Bayn for providing students outstanding academic advising. Bayn serves as the academic advisor for the College of Engineering. She has served in a variety of roles at USU for nearly 35 years, where 22 have been spent as an academic advisor.
“Kathy Bayn stands out as an example in her field,” an engineering student said. “She is not only an advisor, but a mentor and a friend. She inspires us to be like her, well informed and smart with our decisions.”
Taking home the Faculty Advisor of the Year were David Peak and Brian Warnick. From the Physics Department, Peak’s intervention with students has helped the department field a Rhodes Scholar, Marshall Scholar, Fullbright Scholar, five Goldwater Scholars and two honorable mention Goldwater Scholars. Warnick is the undergraduate faculty advisor in the Department of Agricultural Systems Technology and Education. While being a caring and helpful advisor, Warnick also assists students in learning important life skills by providing a structure in which they can learn to solve their own problems and make their own decisions.
Timothy Taylor, a professor of engineering, took home the Professor of the Year award. When Taylor was hired at USU in 1999, he was given the rare opportunity of defining the curriculum and educational philosophy of the entire Biological and Irrigation Engineering Department.
“I feel the level of commitment and caring Dr. Taylor demonstrates for the students is one of the reasons this department is what it is today,’ a student said. ‘Dr. Taylor is a phenomenal educator and mentor that I believe the department would not be the same without.”
The Scholar of the Year is Kaitlin Neville. This award is given to someone who has demonstrated outstanding knowledge and skill in a particular field and has made a singular contribution in research, application and determination to succeed. With a 3.87 GPA, Neville specializes in structural engineering with underlying interests in the aesthetic preservation of historic buildings using 21st century technology on 19th century materials and design. As a student leader and mentor, particularly for the women of engineering students, Neville has devoted time as a leader to the Engineering Council, Society of Women Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Alan Andersen, director of USU Dining and Food Services, received the Gerald R. Sherratt Award. This special award goes to an individual of the university administration or staff who has displayed superior leadership skills and abilities, as well as unsurpassed dedication and service to students. In a difficult and competitive industry, Andersen has built an organization focused on customer service and attention to detail. Andersen has rearranged and introduced new outlets in The Hub, implemented the “Be Well” program and developed several marketing campaigns to create awareness of the excellent services provided by Dining and Food Services.
Jacob Roecker is Utah State’s Man of the Year, and Amberly Bown is Utah State’s Woman of the Year. Roecker and Bown were chosen for making exceptional contributions to the university and for exemplifying traits that set them above their classmates.
Roecker, majoring in speech communications, is an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow, swimming tutor and creator of the Cache Valley Salute to raise awareness of sacrifices from military veterans. A veteran himself, Roecker endured two deployments to Iraq where he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his positive impact and high energy amongst his unit.
“Old Main stands like a lighthouse to the valley,” said Roecker. “My education will be the beacon I can use from this point forward.”
Bown is a senior studying social work with a minor in psychology. While maintaining a 3.99 GPA, Bown serves as vice president of the USU chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and is a peer advisor. Bown is also a member of the Phi Alpha Honor Society and has participated in the Volunteers Involved in Development Abroad organization, as well as the Best Buddies program. Bown will graduate in May and prepare for a master’s degree in social work.
“I will take from USU a desire to make a difference and a sense of direction to get there, Bown said. “I found a major that I love and something I feel passionate about.”
Adam Kynaston, a psychology major, was awarded the Undergraduate Researcher of the Year award. Focusing on behavioral pharmacology, Kynaston worked with his mentor Amy Odum to create numerous presentations and publications. Kynaston plans to study pharmacology at the University of Michigan in fall 2008.
Faculty Researcher of the Year went to Jagath Kaluargchchi from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Kaluargchchi’s research has led him to become an expert on the intricate workings of groundwater. His work has earned him both national and international recognition among civil engineers. In 2004 he was named a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and in 2007 he was named Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Bradley Hintze 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.
Hintze, a senior pursuing a degree in biochemistry, was born with a mild case of cerebral palsy and diagnosed with cervical dystonia in his early teenage years. Hintze’s academic capacity, enthusiasm and perseverance have largely overcome his physical limitations.
“Brad’s dedication to science is clear,” said Sean Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “He is one of the most inquisitive students I have ever met, and his influence is felt throughout our department. One of the top performing students in our departmental courses, Brad is constantly sought out by other students who are struggling to understand the coursework.”
The Robins Awards were organized by Tiffany Evans, Utah State’s director of student activities, along with Organizations and Traditions Vice President Staci Meacham. More than 100 nominations are received every year for the Robins Awards.