Outstanding Students Recognized at Spring Awards Ceremony

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: 05-21-2014

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs
530-898-4260

California State University, Chico honored its best and brightest at the 25th University Awards Reception on April 8. The annual event recognizes student achievements in academics, leadership, athletic excellence and community service. 

Taylor Herren and David BuckleyThe reception is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Associated Students (AS) and Student Life and Leadership. Among other awards, the Outstanding Student Leader awards from each college were presented, and the Chico State Outstanding Student Leader was selected from among that group. This year’s recipient was recent agriculture graduate and 2013-14 AS President Taylor Herren.

Award winners and their achievements are described below.

Kasey Barnett was selected for the College of Communication and Education’s Outstanding Student Leader Award, sponsored by Lance Lew (in memory of Norman J. Lew). Barnett is the conference champion in the long jump and pole vault two years running. She was twice named California Collegiate Athletics Association (CCAA) Field Athlete of the Year and holds the University’s record in pole vaulting. She was also a member of the fastest 4-by-100 meter relay team in University history. Barnett graduated on May 18 with a degree in recreation, hospitality and parks management.

Justin Besotes, Taylor Herren, Thomas McGuan and Rhea Menegon, and were selected for the University Advisory Board’s Outstanding Student Service award, sponsored by the board. (Herren’s accomplishments are noted later in this release.)

Besotes is a three-year volunteer with CSU, Chico’s annual service project, Blitz Build, and served as project manager in 2013-14. In that role, he oversaw construction of two duplexes for the Salvation Army, the largest Blitz Build project to date. He was also active in Design Build Institute of America and Associated General Contractors of America, and served as treasurer of Construction Management Association of America student chapter. Besotes graduated May 17 with a bachelor’s in construction management.

McGuan is a member of CSU, Chico’s running teams and will begin his senior year in the fall. As co-president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, he has led his peers to participate in numerous service projects. He also directed and produced a four-minute video titled “You Can Play,” which sends a message welcoming all potential CSU, Chico athletes, regardless of gender or sexual identification or orientation. The video earned the Department of Athletics the University’s 2013 Champions of Diversity award.

Since she began her master’s program in kinesiology in 2012, Menegon has assisted local children with physical or developmental challenges through multiple organizations, including FlOCK (Feeling Like One Common Kid), Ability First sports camp, Little Red Hen, ARC of Butte County and Autism Sensory Motor Clinic. She is the co-chair of The Yellow Door, a nonprofit that supports families of individuals with autism, and a coordinator for Chico Walks for Autism. She graduated May 16 with an option in adapted physical education.

Calley Bonnikson and John-Michael Dyer were selected for the Ron Rohde Memorial CAVE (Community Action Volunteers in Education) Scholarships, sponsored by Barbara and Paul Dickinson.

In her role as coordinator of CAVE’s Adopted Grandparent program, Bonnikson has expanded the number of facilities CAVE serves, and recruited and trained dozens of students to develop meaningful connections with older adults. In addition, she has interned at the Community Legal Information Center (CLIC) and is a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority and the Wildcat Leadership Institute. She begins her junior year as a political science and legal studies double major in the fall.

A junior studying international relations and French, Dyer has served in a number of volunteer leadership positions, including as a leader for the Chico Homeless Ambassadors. In that role, he helped his group raise funds to purchase supplies for 200 dental packets for clients of the Jesus Center and the Torres Shelter. An excellent student, he also works full time as a campus resident advisor and is an officer in the Habitat for Humanity club.

John Brunk was named the Bud Hanna Scholar Athlete, sponsored by InterWest Insurance Services, Inc. 

A second-year kinesiology graduate student, Brunk is a top decathlete on the CSU, Chico track and field team, holding the third highest point total (7,262) in the University’s history. He is also a two-time recipient of the All-West Region and the All-CCAA awards. He served as team captain in 2013-14 and was co-president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Lauren Crane was selected for the Glenn Kendall Public Service Award, sponsored by President Emeritus Glenn Kendall. A dedicated volunteer, she served as administrative director for CLIC and as vice president of the Criminal Justice Student Association. She was also a researcher for the Butte County Alternative Custody Supervision program and provided legal information for inmates. Crane graduated May 17 with a degree in criminal justice and a paralegal certificate.

Sierra Delorefice-Chicarino was selected for the College of Business’ Outstanding Student Leader Award, sponsored by the College of Business. As president of Phi Chi Theta, the professional business and economics fraternity, Delorefice-Chicarino helped grow membership and plan numerous events. She was also active in the Association of Women in Business and has volunteered regularly to raise funds for the Butte Humane Society, Making Strides against Breast Cancer, the American Cancer Association and the Alzheimer’s Association. She graduated May 17 with an option in marketing and a minor in psychology.

Malcom Dixon was selected for the Office of Undergraduate Education Outstanding Student Leader Award, sponsored by Star Community Credit Union. A staff member for the First-Year Experience, Dixon’s accomplishments include organizing hundreds of first-year students for a community project to aid the Jesus Center, and leading a student team in producing the Chico Great Debate. He is also a founder and former president of Black Leaders on Campus and has coordinated African American retreats for the campus’ Cross Cultural Leadership Center. He is a fifth-year communication design major with an option in media arts.

Loren Feulner is the recipient of the President’s Academic Excellence Award, sponsored by the Office of the President. She maintained a 4.0 grade point average throughout her four years as a nursing major and completed acute care clinical practicums at five local hospitals. Despite a heavy academic load, Feulner has been active in student organizations and in the community. She served as a coordinator for the California Nursing Students Association and as a delegate to the association’s convention in 2013. She graduated on May 18 with a bachelor’s in nursing. 

Courtney Hamilton was named the Richard Dahl Female Scholar Athlete, sponsored by the Dahl Athletic Scholarship Fund. A gifted point guard, Hamilton led the Wildcats to the 2013 CCAA title and three straight National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) championship appearances. In 2013-14, she led the conference and was third in the nation for assists. A recipient of the conference’s all-academic award, she graduated May 18 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology.

Hugh Hammond was selected for the College of Humanities and Fine Arts Outstanding Student Leader Award, sponsored by Brooks Thorlaksson and her friends and colleagues. An involved student, he has composed scores for three documentaries and written eight concert works performed on campus or in the community. For five semesters, he coordinated the campus’ Music for Wellness and Healing class, in which student musicians perform for patients and staff at the Enloe Medical Center’s Cancer Center. Hammond graduated May 18 with a bachelor’s degree in music.

Taylor Herren was selected for four awards, including the Chico State Outstanding Student Leader Award, sponsored by InterWest Insurance Services, Inc. She was also selected for the Mac Martin Award, sponsored by the Mac Martin Excellence in Leadership Endowment; the College of Agriculture Outstanding Student Leader Award, sponsored by Superior Ag; and the University Advisory Board’s Outstanding Student Service Award.

A dedicated leader and volunteer, Herren’s most visible achievements have been with Associated Students (AS), where she served as president in 2013-14. In that role, she represented CSU, Chico students and the AS Corporation on campus and in the CSU system, and advocated for safe and caring student behavior. A recent agriculture graduate, her involvement in the College of Agriculture includes participating in the Alpha Zeta honor society, Future Farmers of America and the Pre-Vet club. She is also the founder, student advisor and former executive vice president of Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), which promotes safe behavior and activity. She has been reelected AS president for 2014-15 and begins her master’s program in genetics in the fall.

Egypt Howard and Pheng Yang received Enhancement of Multicultural Understanding awards, sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs.

In her four years on campus, Howard has worked with the Cross Cultural Leadership Center (CCLC) to organize and host workshops, conferences and retreats geared toward building confidence and community among marginalized groups. She was also a member of Black Leaders on Campus, Women of Excellence, the Black Leadership Academy, LeadCat and the AS Multicultural Affairs Council. She graduated May 17 with a bachelor’s in multicultural and gender studies. 

Yang has served as president of the Student Support Service Leadership Council and the Hmong Student Association. He is the Northern California representative for the Hmong Student Inter-Collegiate Coalition, and attended the Hmong National Development Conference in 2013. He also helped coordinate this year’s Unbounded Lines, a retreat dedicated to breaking barriers for the Asian Pacific Islander community. He is majoring in business information systems and plans to graduate in 2015.

Fidel Ilustre was selected for the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Outstanding Student Leader Award, sponsored by Valene Smith. Ilustre is a tireless mentor to youth, volunteer for community service and advocate for health education. He has taught environmental health lessons at Chapman Elementary, planned physical education courses for Neal Dow School fifth-graders, and developed a nutrition decathlon for students at Rosedale and Little Chico Creek schools. He has also served as a mentor for Hmong youth through the Leaders for a Lifetime program and as a peer advisor for the University’s Summer Orientation. Ilustre graduated May 17 with a degree in health science.

Aleksander Irvin was selected for the Chris Hilbert Outstanding Chico State Friend, sponsored by the Hilbert Family and Friends. A dedicated advocate for LGBTQ+ students, Irvin created North Campus Conundrums, a program which encourages campus residents to ask questions related to diversity and other issues. A journalism and public relations major, he led a group of peers in rebranding Butte County’s Child Welfare Association after it merged with another department. He is a first-generation college student and will be the first in his family to travel outside the U.S. when he studies in Australia’s Gold Coast region this fall.

Darion Johnston was selected for the Jackie Faris-Rees Award, sponsored by the Jackie Faris-Rees Student Leadership Endowment. A double major in communication studies and political science, Johnston has demonstrated extensive leadership in her three years at the University. In addition to serving on the AS Legislative Affairs Committee, in 2013 she was selected by President Paul Zingg for the Panetta Institute Congressional Internship in Washington, D.C. There, she worked with Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24) conducting research and developing legislative proposals. She has also served as a paralegal intern at CLIC and as a voting member of the AS Bell Memorial Union Committee.

Taylor Klein received the Outstanding CAVE Volunteer Award, sponsored by Longs Drug Stores Foundation. A junior majoring in child development, Klein has volunteered in three programs since starting with CAVE in fall 2012 and is currently a group leader for Special Pals, serving children with special needs. In that role, he helped twin brothers with learning disabilities improve their language skills. He has also served as a classroom aide and has helped restore national park habitat through CAVE’s Golden Gate program.

Natalie Oelsner was selected for the Mac Martin Award, sponsored by the Mac Martin Excellence in Leadership Endowment. A senior majoring in agriculture, Oelsner has presented at conferences and workshops for the state and federal FFA and volunteered for its annual Field Day, which attracts 2,500 high school students to compete in 22 events. She coached a high school women’s basketball team, worked as a summer camp counselor and participated in the Farm Bureau Discussion Meet. She has also been involved in women’s rugby on campus, serving as team president and receiving the Most Inspirational Player award. 

Alexandra Oran was selected for the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management Outstanding Student Leader Award, sponsored by Judy and Gary Sitton. As president of the campus chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Oran helped create a mentoring program connecting juniors and seniors with incoming freshmen. She was chosen from an impressive pool of candidates to work on the Engineer IT project, creating educational videos that explain engineering principles. Oran graduated May 17 with a bachelor’s in civil engineering and a minor in math.

Political science professor Ryan Patten was selected for the Myles Tracy Student Organization Advisor award, sponsored by Friends of Myles Tracy. Patten joined the Department of Political Science in 2007 and is coordinator for the criminal justice program. He has also served as advisor for the Criminal Justice Student Association for the last six years. In that role, he is credited with increasing the organization’s membership, connecting members with valuable internships, inviting valuable expert speakers to campus, and coordinating prison tours and ride-alongs. Patten holds master’s and doctorate degrees in criminal justice from Washington State University.

Crystal Vasquez was selected for the College of Natural Sciences Outstanding Student Leader Award, sponsored by Smucker Natural Foods. Vasquez is the founding president of the Embodied student club, which promotes good nutrition and exercise for health. She is also a nutrition and exercise counselor with the FitU program on campus and is actively involved in research projects with CSU, Chico faculty. A recent nutrition and food sciences graduate, she begins work on her master’s degree in nutritional science at the University this fall.

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Photo caption: Recent agriculture graduate Taylor Herren, left, received the 2013-14 Chico State Outstanding Student Leader Award. Associated Students Executive Director David Buckley, right, presented the award.