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 Tabitha Lazenby. The award is presented to the student who excels academically, displays outstanding leadership ability and shows dedication to Utah State. Majoring in both international studies and public relations with a minor in sociology, Lazenby created a successful, well-rounded college experience through her dedication, volunteerism and hard work. She impacted the campus community as a volunteer in the Val R. Christensen Service Center, various multicultural student organizations, the Utah State Service Learning Scholars program and the Honors program. She represented USU while studying abroad in Chile, Nicaragua and Uganda, and conducted undergraduate research at conferences in El Salvador, Rwanda, Scotland, Kenya, Boston and Chicago.
“I know that wherever my path takes me, whether it is to the rural coffee grounds of Nicaragua, urban Kampala or the good ol’ River T Ranch, I will always be an Aggie and I will always have a home at Utah State University,” Lazenby said.
Ashley Walker 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.
Walker is a senior with a dual major in environmental studies and international studies. While maintaining a 3.8 GPA, Walker was involved with both on- and off-campus organizations grounded in service, sustainability and community outreach, including the College of Natural Resources student council, Sustainability Council, Engineers Without Borders, Aggie Cat Services, Cache Valley Humane Society, Common Ground, been a volunteer English teacher and, for the past few years, she has been the director of the USU Aggie Recycler Program.
“I truly believe that one can make a difference in the lives of others because it is through service that we make our communities safer, stronger and make relationships more meaningful,” Walker said. “I know that as I serve at USU as well as in the community I am contributing to something that is much bigger than myself.
Daphne Bukirwa received the Achievement of the Year Award. In the last year, Bukirwa helped found the Human Rights and Fair Trade Club at Utah State. The club focuses on making USU students aware of human rights abuses all over the world. Bukirwa grew up in an environment where the rights of women, children and men are neglected every day. She wants to make sure that the voices of impoverished children, rape victims in the camps of northern Uganda and the cries of war victims from the last 18 years are heard.
The Organization of the Year Award went to the HURD. The Hurd became the largest club on campus in its first year and doubled in size in its second year. The HURD currently has about 1,400 members and is still growing. The HURD will always be at any athletic, club or recreational event — full of Utah State pride and dressed in Aggie Blue.
Brandon 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 majoring in music, piano performance. He has studied music with professor Gary Amano since 1998. Lee has received first place awards in both national and international competitions and has performed with the Utah Symphony on three occasions. He recently won the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra competition and will perform the entire Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto with the orchestra in October.
“There is no student in our music department or, for that matter, in any other music department in the state of Utah who even comes close to his level of performance or to the record of his accomplishments,” Amano said. “Not only is he an incredible musician, he is also one of the most sincere, humble and caring human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching.”
The Female Athlete of the Year Award went to soccer player Candice Clark who demonstrated exceptional qualities of athletic skill, sportsmanship and determination. Clark had a solid senior campaign for the Aggies, scoring five goals with two assists for 12 total points. She earned her second all-WAC award and helped USU soccer become the first WAC team since Southern Methodist in 2001 to go undefeated in league (7-0).
The Male Athlete of the Year Award went to USU track and field athlete John Strang. Strang earned indoor track and field All-American honors after finishing eighth in the heptathlon at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field National Championships. In the process, Strang set a new career best, Utah State school record and improved on his WAC record of 5,532 points.
Boris Averkiev took home the Graduate Research Assistant Award for showing superior research capability and academic excellence. In the fourth and final year of his doctoral program in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Averkiev has been involved with quantum-chemical calculations of inorganic clusters. His work has transferred the concept of aromaticity from organic chemistry to the field of inorganic clusters.
The Graduate Teaching Assistant Award went to Sita Bell of the Department of English. As the daughter of blue-collar immigrants, Sita was expected to immediately enter the workforce after high school. The dream of pursuing an advanced degree waited many years to be realized but, this year, Bell will complete her master’s degree
“I love watching the light go on in a student’s eyes, participating in that ‘aha’ moment, because is more gratifying than any accolades,” Bell said.
The Professional Advisor of the Year Award went to Susan Parkinson. 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.
Taking home the Faculty Advisor of the Year Award was Frank ‘Fee’ Busby. For 30 years Busby has impacted countless lives in the College of Natural Resources by teaching the wildland resources orientation class for incoming students. He recognizes that each new student will need individualized help, and for the first week of every semester, Busby is stationed at a table in the CNR atrium, where he meets with a continuous stream of students.
Jeffrey Doyle, a professor of accounting, took home the Professor of the Year Award. He is known as much for the rigor and difficulty of his classes as he is for excellent teaching. Doyle combines a thorough demanding approach to the subject matter with an ability to motivate.
“I believe that many students would agree that Dr. Doyle’s class was one of the most demanding classes we have taken here at Utah State,” said student Natali Naegle. “However, I believe that the difficult nature of the class is the key to its success.”
The Scholar of the Year is Jennifer Roth. This award is given to someone who demonstrates outstanding knowledge and skill in a particular field and makes a singular contribution in research, application and determination to succeed. Roth is only the second ever in her department to have achieved the Goldwater Scholarship as a sophomore. Almost immediately after enrolling at USU, Roth became involved in a project studying radio wave absorption in the Earth’s atmosphere using a riometer at USU’s Bear Lake Observatory. Her analysis of the riometer data uncovered surprisingly low latitude anomalies only previously observed near the arctic.
“Beyond what I imagine will be a highly creative and productive scientific career, I believe that Jennifer’s demonstrated interest in bringing science to youngsters indicates that she might well rise to a position of leadership in science education,” Roth’s professor, David Peak said.
The USU Librarians 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. Working behind the scenes to ensure that students have all the resources they need, USU’s librarians are unsung heroes. Each year the USU librarians give more than 1,600 presentations across campus and help countless students find the resources they need.
Coy Whittier is Utah State’s Man of the Year, and Brooke Evans is Utah State’s Woman of the Year. Whittier and Evans were chosen for making exceptional contributions to the university and for exemplifying traits that set them above their classmates.
Graduating this spring in public relations, Whittier plans to continue his work to find new ways to continue making a difference in Africa and beyond. More than two years ago, Whittier was one of three USU students who started the campus organization Aggies for Africa in an attempt to raise campus awareness of African conflicts and issues. He had the opportunity to serve as president, and during this time the organization saw an increase from 200 to more than 500 student activists. Additionally, Whittier worked closely with a group of USU students to launch an organization called the Ungana Foundation. “Ungana” is a Swahili word meaning “to come together for a purpose.” This non-profit organization now has offices in Washington, D.C., and Kigali, Rwanda.
Evans is a junior studying French and geography, with an emphasis in sustainability in West Africa. While maintaining a 4.0 GPA, she is a member of the USU Sustainability Council, French Club, Aggie Recyclers Club, Fair Trade and Human Rights Club, Invisible Children Club, Polynesian Student Union, Aggies for Africa and STAB. After graduation, she plans to work with the Peace Corps, serving the people of West Africa.
“Learning is so much more than reading books and sitting in a classroom,” Evans said. “It is about learning from other people through life experiences. The relationships and memories that are made in college are the ones that last.”
Trenton Olsen, an English major, was awarded the Undergraduate Researcher of the Year Award. While his main interest lies in British poetry, much of Trenton’s work has taken an interdisciplinary approach and transatlantic scope to the study of nineteenth century literature. His current research project compares the poetry of the contemporary Irish poet Seamus Heaney, to the famous Romantic writer William Wordsworth. Olsen presented his research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in April and plans to submit his work for publication later in the year. After graduating in May, Olsen plans to enroll in a doctoral program in English literature.
Faculty Researcher of the Year went to Ron Gillam. Gillam’s research focuses on practical issues related to the assessment and treatment of children with language impairments. He was the principal investigator on a national clinical trial to compare three language intervention programs. Currently, Gillam directs a federally funded study of diagnostic markers of language impairment in bilingual children. In January, he was the keynote speaker for the first International Speech, Language and Hearing Conference held at the University of Talca in Chile.
Heather Barger 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.
As a child, Barger battled and won the fight with cancer not once, but twice. This battle allowed Barger to succeed at USU. Barger serves as the co-president of the USU chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, coordinates community outreach, yearly service projects, sends books to an orphanage in Mexico and works at the USU Bookstore.
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.