It is the tradition of New Mexico State University Alumni Association to recognize the highest honor for a student with the Outstanding Graduate Award. This honors a graduating student from each academic college and Office of International and Border Programs, as well as a master’s student and a doctoral student from the Graduate School.
All honorees are named Outstanding Graduates by the deans or leaders of their respective colleges and programs, and then they are honored during a luncheon hosted by the NMSU Alumni Association. In the College of Education, the student is recognized with their peers at the Dean’s Academic Excellence Reception, which is hosted the Friday morning before commencements. This is a very special honor that carries with it the knowledge that, as an outstanding graduate, the recipient was not only marked by achieving high academic standards, but also by a high level of involvement in the community. These outstanding individual is a leader, as well as good student.
This award is presented every semester the Friday before commencement to those outstanding graduates who have demonstrated a tremendous focus on academics; active participation in activities that embrace their leadership skills; and an ability to conceptualize and communicate needed practices for success in their education and personal lives.
Recipients of the Outstanding Graduate Student Award
Tammy Benally,Outstanding Senior, Fall 2016
Tammy Benally has had NMSU influences in her life since she was born. She comes from a family of proud Aggie alumni. Her parents, Buddy Benally ’81, ’84 and Elaine Benally ’84, along with her sister Desiree ’01 and brother Marcus ’12 graduated from NMSU. Tammy will follow in their footsteps by earning her Bachelor of Science in Education this fall.
Tammy earned her Associates in Early Childhood Education in 2008 before transferring to NMSU from San Juan College to pursue her bachelor’s degree. She set the academic bar high by making the Dean’s List numerous times as a student, and then qualifying as a Crimson Scholar in addition to earning many competitive scholarships including the American Indian Program Scholarship and Presley and Patty Askew Student Teaching Scholarship.
Outside of the classroom, Tammy has taken an active role in different leadership opportunities in the College of Education. In her role as a Student Ambassador for the college, Tammy assists with recruiting potential students and creating student engagement programs. Additionally, she serves as the Undergraduate Representative on the Diversity Task Force. One professor described her as a model student and leader.
Through participating in student programs, Tammy has had the opportunity to serve her campus and community. As an Ambassador, she organized a food drive for the Aggie Cupboard food pantry. She is committed to serving the tribal community by participating in the Tortuga’s Tribal Cultural clean-up. Tammy will undoubtedly make an impact in the lives of her future students.
Zoë Dinger is characterized as one of the brightest students majoring in communication disorders. She is the recipient of several student awards, including the Dean’s List, Crimson Scholar, and has received several scholarships within the College of Education, including the Hunter and Lewis Scholarship and the Ryan Hyatt Memorial Scholarship. She was selected in fall 2015 to participate in the ASPIRE program at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign and recently received a fellowship to continue her graduate studies there.
Besides actively participating in research Zoë has conducted a small study, which she presented as first author at the 2015 ASHA Convention in Denver. Zoë was invited back to participate in the 2015 ASHA Promoting the Next Generation of Researchers Participants program.
Zoë has demonstrated her desire for personal enrichment by participating in the studies abroad program in Seville, Spain where, in addition to her studies, she volunteered at a local high school, teaching English for two days a week. Zoë has also demonstrated her commitment to leadership by participating with numerous campus organizations, such as NSSHLA, Student Aggies for Sustainability, and the International Club serving as an international student ambassador. She has acted as a student mentor for incoming freshman along with volunteering in the local community with Casa de Peregrinos, and has been a part of Earth Day for the past three years.
Proud Aggie parents precede Zoë, Peter Dinger ’84, ‘85 of Las Cruces and Elaine Gil ‘85 of Brooklyn, NY.
Andrea “Victoria” Villalobos, Outstanding Senior, Fall 2015
“One of the qualities that l respect the most about Victoria, and one in which she displays not only in her work life but also in her personal life, is her commitment to serving others. Her caring attitude and ability to connect with people has led to her many successes as a student.”
~ Rene 0. Guillaume, Ph.D., College of Education
Victoria has demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence since 2012 by consistently making the Dean’s Honors list, and in 2013 by joining the Honors College and becoming a Crimson Scholar while maintaining a 4.0 grade average.
The normal workload of her classes did not hinder Victoria from excelling in extracurricular activities that impact the community. Serving as a child facilitator for the NMSU Wellness Program and community outreach chairperson and president for the Counseling Undergraduate Society are a few examples of her dedication to leading others. Because of her outreach, she received the 2015 NMSU Pistol Pete’s Unsung Hero Leadership Award and a 2015 nomination for NMSU Student Leader of the Year Leadership Award.
The past year and a half, Victoria has been networking with local nonprofit agencies in the community to find out how she and the NMSU Counseling Undergraduate Society can assist others in need. As part of her mission to serve the community she led efforts to help organize the Thanksgiving Drive for La Casa Domestic Violence Shelter, an event that helps feed families and victims of domestic violence. She not only extended her service to the local community, but also to NMSU by organizing fundraisers such as the Pie in the Face event and by assisting in the Child Advocacy Studies Committee by organizing and leading a Child Abuse and Prevention Awareness event last April.
Through her senior project, it was important for Victoria to bring awareness to mental health for students by becoming a campus advocate and presenting to the student body on how students can benefit from mental health services.
Victoria is a prime example of the core values of discovery and possibility that make an NMSU Aggie. Victoria’s parents Jaime and Rebeca Villalobos both reside in El Paso, Texas.
Scheryiah Romero, Outstanding Senior, Spring 2015
“Scheryiah’s ability to participate in campus activities and service, maintain her grades, and juggle schoolwork and an active student life is a measure of her determination, enthusiasm, and discipline.” ~Linda J. Spencer, Ph.D. SLP
Scheryiah Romero will receive her degree in Communication Disorders with a minor in Linguistics. Because of a strong work ethic she says has been instilled in her since childhood, she has maintained a 3.954 GPA, and a 3.967 in her field of study. She has been named a Crimson Scholar since 2011, and been on the Dean’s Honor List since 2012.
Scheryiah has had many opportunities and responsibilities that have heightened her desire to continue her education and pursue a career as a Speech-Language Pathologist. She has been an active member of the NMSU National Student Speech Language Hearing Association since 2012. During that time, she served as Vice President of Activities. She has also devoted much of her time assisting Dr. Alfred Valdez in his research work in the area of cognitive theory and educational technology.
Scheryiah is actively involved in various honor societies. Since 2011 she has been most active in the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, serving as secretary of the NMSU chapter for two consecutive terms. Additional volunteer commitments Scheryiah has maintained throughout her academic career include Keep State Great, The Big Event, after school enrichment at Hillrise Elementary School, and Convoy for Hope among many others.
Scheryiah’s parents, Angela and Julian Romero, reside in Capitan, NM.
Flor Ogaz Ceballos-Outstanding Senior, Fall 2014
Flor Ogaz Ceballos from Deming, NM, has been named the outstanding graduate for the College of Education for the December 2014 Commencement. She has a double major in physical education and Spanish and a 3.7 GPA. She has earned endorsements in Teaching English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL) and Bilingual Education.
She is a Crimson Scholar, on the Dean’s List and the recipient of several scholarships during her college career. These include the Fabian and Virginia Samaniego Memorial Scholarship, College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Alumni Scholarship, Roberts Memorial Student Scholarship and the Danny Villanueva Endowed Scholarship; to name a few.
As the daughter of parents who moved to the United States and have worked as farm laborers, Flor found a comfort zone in the CAMP program at NMSU beginning in her freshman year. During her junior and senior years, she served as a peer mentor for the program, attended several national leadership conferences and served as president of the CAMP student council.
Within the College of Education she became a peer advisor in the college’s Living Learning Community (LLC). She has been successful in creating programs that foster community building and served as a mentor to her residents. During New Student Registration she met with new students and their parents, offering campus tours and information about the dormitory where the LLC students reside. She was also a member of the college’s student ambassadors.
Leslie Maria Guzman- Outstanding Senior, Spring 2014
Leslie Maria Guzman will receive her Bachelor’s Degree in communication disorders. Leslie has received numerous scholarships, including the Ryan Hyatt Memorial Scholarship and the Lucky Day Scholarship. She has worked with Dr. Youkyung Bae as a research assistant for the Voice and Resonance Laboratory. Leslie’s academic performance is in the top one percent of all students nationally. Leslie has been recognized as a Dean’s Honor List recipient and a Crimson Scholar at NMSU for seven consecutive semesters. Leslie’s academic endeavors are not limited to the coursework concentration; she has demonstrated genuine interest in scholarly activities. She has also been actively taking part in reviewing relevant literature, brainstorming ideas, and interpreting findings with other lab members. Part of her endeavors resulted in a poster presentation at a nation-wide conference (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention, Chicago, November 2013). Leslie currently holds the Vice President position for Fundraising in the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association local chapter. Leslie has met all the academic and extra-curricular demands while working over 20 hours per week throughout her undergraduate program. Leslie portrays a positive attitude in all new tasks that she attempts. Her parents Manuel and Maria Guzman both reside in El Paso. Maria is a 2010 (Bachelor of applied science) and 2013 (Master of Arts in education) graduate of NMSU.
Michael Leslie-Highest Honors & Outstanding Senior, Fall 2013
“His fundamental philosophy is to work in a career where he can help others.”
Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology, Michael is on the path to successful career in the field of Emergency Medicine. During his time at New Mexico State University, Michael maintained a 4.0 GPA. As a freshman, Michael was awarded the Medical Auxiliary Scholarship provided by the Los Alamos Medical Center for this academic standing and interest in medicine along with the College of Education Alumni Scholarship his junior year. In order to succeed in the field, Michael wanted to acquire the leadership qualities that were essential to maintain the pace of work required in the Emergency Department, and in 2012, he began working as a medical scribe in the Emergency Department at Mountain View Regional Medical Center. Throughout his college career, Michael volunteered in multiple medical facilities where he directly assisted patients or shadowed doctors. Outside of the medical field, Michael is a leader in his campus ministry, Reformed University Fellowship. Here Michael focused on spreading kindness throughout the city by painting and maintaining houses for the less fortunate and extensively maintains the property for an elementary school. His community service has even extended to Branson, Missouri where Michael worked with the underprivileged you by getting inner city children into an environment that provided safety and rest. He believes this experience allows children to change for the better. Michael plans to attend Medical School after graduation. Michael’s father Paul graduated from NMSU in 1988 with a degree in mechanical engineering along with his mother Carolyn who graduated the same year with a degree in finance.
Morgan Harding- Outstanding Graduate, Fall 2013
It is evident from her accomplishments at NMSU, in her career, and in the community that she is the epitome of what this award stands for.”–Dr. Monica R. Brown, NMSU Professor of Special Education
Morgan will graduate with a Masters of Arts in Special Education with a specialization in autism. She is currently teaching Mayfield High School students with low incidence disabilities, academic and functional skills needed to transition into adulthood. Morgan has also exceeded in the public schools involvement by being awarded the Special Olympics Project Unify grant money to organize a track meet unifying students with and without disabilities. Morgan is an industrious teaching searching for resources to give her students the skills needed to be successful in the school, community, and home environment. She has a special way of working with kids with exceptionalities because of her kind and patience. In 2012, Morgan was awarded a slot on the MN-PASS Program Grant which prepares graduate students to be specialist in ASD. Morgan was also awarded the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Beginning Teacher of the Year Crystal Apple Award in that same year. In regard to her New Mexico State University involvement, Morgan has conducted multiple research experiment trials with children with autism to determine the effects of using Mr. Potato Head toy to teach facial recognition and emotions.