University News

WIU Scholars, Convocation Speaker Named

May 2, 2005

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MACOMB, IL - - Seven students participating in Western Illinois UniversityÂ’s Spring 2005 Commencement Weekend Ceremonies May 13-14 have received the highest recognition from their college faculty for their overall academic excellence by being named College Scholars and the Academic Honors Convocation Speaker.

The 2 p.m. Friday, May 13 Academic Honors Convocation in Western Hall will honor College Scholars, Departmental Scholars, Honors Scholars and graduate candidates who have earned academic distinction throughout their Western Illinois undergraduate career. Students receive a medallion for each honor, which they wear at Commencement ceremonies. In addition, College Scholars received a $150 cash award from the WIU Foundation.

Academic Convocation Speaker
Jessica DennaJessica Denna (LaGrange, IL), a mathematics and secondary education major with a communication minor, is the Academic Honors Convocation Speaker. She will talk to her classmates about “Lifelong Leadership.” (Print-quality photo unavailable)

“I hope to reflect on the many leaders at WIU who have helped the student to be successful and then encourage the students to carry on that leadership,” said Denna, who will graduate with highest academic honors. “My main message is to listen to others, the people of our past and future, in order to be the most effective, successful lifelong leaders that we can be.”

A member of WesternÂ’s Illinois Centennial Honors College, Denna is also the Mathematics Departmental Scholar and an Honors Scholar. She is the founder and president of Mathematical Opportunities for Students and Teachers (MOST) of Math within WesternÂ’s department and has been honored for her research in mathematics education. Denna has served on WesternÂ’s Student Alumni Council, the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council and was a student ambassador and admission tour guide for the Discover Western program. She has received numerous honors including WesternÂ’s Phi Kappa Phi Nolen Scholarship and the National Collegiate Education Award.

DennaÂ’s career plans include teaching at the high school level before continuing her education at the masterÂ’s and doctorate level. Jessica, a 2001 graduate of Lyons Township High School, is the daughter of Elaine Smalley of LaGrange (IL) and John Denna of Villa Park, (IL).

Erin LaffertyCollege of Arts and Sciences Scholar
Erin Lafferty (Princeton, IL), a psychology major with a minor in sociology, is the College of Arts and Sciences Scholar and the Psychology Departmental Scholar. She will graduate with highest academic honors. (Download print-quality image)

The UniversityÂ’s recipient of the 2004 Lincoln Academy of Illinois Student Laureate Award, Lafferty was among an elite group of 10 collegians selected as a student fellow in the Summer 2004 Buffalo State University Psychology Department Summer Institute, which is part of the Health Issues in Applied Experimental Life-Span Development Psychology (R25) Education Project funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She also served as a research assistant to Western psychology professors Robert Intrieri and Paige Goodwin. Lafferty has been a resident assistant to 40 first-year Western students, a Student Orientation Staff leader, a member of WesternÂ’s All-Volunteer Effort (WAVE) student organization and MacombÂ’s Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. She has earned numerous academic honors including induction into Phi Kappa Phi, Blue Key, Mortar Board and Psi Chi National Honor Society in psychology.

“I know there are many other talented students who deserve this recognition as much as I do, so having been selected as the College of Arts and Sciences Scholar is a huge honor,” said Lafferty, who will attend graduate school in school psychology.

“I hope to be employed as a school psychologist by an elementary or middle school,” she added. “I love working with young children, so I hope to be in a setting where I can continue to do so.”

Erin, a 2001 Princeton (IL) High School valedictorian, is the daughter of Randy Lafferty of Princeton (IL) and Julie Fogarty of LaSalle (IL).

Bridget WalczakCollege of Business and Technology Scholar
Bridget Walczak (Davenport, IA), a marketing major with a management minor, is the College of Business and Technology Scholar and the Marketing Departmental Scholar. She will graduate with highest academic honors. (Download print-quality image)

Walczak serves on WesternÂ’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee and is co-captain of the Westerwinds tennis team, competing in the No. 5-6 singles and No. 2-3 doubles positions. She has earned WesternÂ’s Provost Student-Athlete Academic Achievement Award, the Collegiate All-American Scholar Award and WesternÂ’s Robert L. Nardelli Student Athlete Scholarship. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi and Beta Gamma Sigma honor societies as well as WesternÂ’s chapter of the American Marketing Association, for which she serves as secretary. Walczak is also an active volunteer, working with fundraisers for St. JudeÂ’s ChildrenÂ’s Hospital, Big Brother/Big Sister, Relay for Life and tsunami relief.

“Being named the College of Business and Technology Scholar is a great honor. I feel as though I am being recognized for the excellent work, dedication and discipline I have put into my classwork and studies over the past four years,” Walczak said. “My professors have seen that I do more than score well on exams, and that my GPA is only a reflection of the time and effort I put into every project, exam and assignment.”

WalczakÂ’s career plans include working in direct marketing and copywriting. She also plans to pursue a masterÂ’s degree and strive to be a published author.

Bridget, a 2001 graduate of Assumption High School, is the daughter of Richard and Mary Walczak of Davenport (IA).

Jessica DennaCollege of Education and Human Services Scholar
Sandra Meister (Kingsley, IA), a physical education major with an option in exercise science and fitness and a minor in nutrition, is the College of Education and Human Services Scholar and the Kinesiology (Physical Education) Departmental Scholar. She also was named the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) Student Major of the Year for 2005. She will graduate with highest academic honors. (Download print-quality image)

Following graduation, Meister will serve an internship in cardiac rehabilitation at McDonough District Hospital in Macomb. She plans to return to WIU in Fall 2005 to study dietetics, with the goal of earning a second bachelor’s degree and becoming a registered dietician. Meister also plans further study to become a certified diabetes educator “to train, educate and motivate all populations to become more proactive in the health, defending themselves against preventable diseases and helping control the diseases they may already possess,” she said.

She is a member of Golden Key International, Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Epsilon Sigma honorary societies. Meister serves a vice president of the Fitness Unlimited Club, a student-run fitness advocacy group, and is active in the Student Association for Nutrition Education. She serves as an undergraduate research assistant in WesternÂ’s Bella Hearst Diabetes Institute and as an aerobics instructor at the Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center.

“It is a true honor to have been named the College of Education and Human Services Scholar,” Meister said. This honor could not have been achieved without encouragement and support from professors in the departments of kinesiology and dietetics. These professors have expressed confidence in my abilities which pushes me to take on many tasks, knowing that I possess the skills needed to accomplish anything.”

Sandra, a 2001 graduate of Kingsley-Pierson High School, is the daughter of Paul and Jan Meister of Kingsley (IA).

Sarah ObertCollege of Fine Arts and Communication Scholar
Sarah Obert (Liberty, IL), an art major with a graphic communication minor, is the College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) Scholar and the Art Departmental Scholar. She will graduate with highest academic honors. (Download print-quality image)

She is active in WesternÂ’s chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts and Campus Students for Christ, and she has worked as a graphic assistant in the UniversityÂ’s Document and Publication Services office the past two years. Her work was included in the 2004 Sullivan Taylor annual juried art show in Macomb. Obert transferred to Western Illinois from John Wood Community College, where she had served as a career ambassador and a member of the Student Government Association.

“I feel privileged to be named the COFAC College Scholar,” Obert said. “I realize that few students are presented with this opportunity. I am honored that I was chosen as this year’s recipient, as I am sure that there were many well-deserving students.”

Following graduation, Obert will travel to Haiti on a brief mission trip. She also has participated in mission trips to Mexico and Minooka (IL) with Campus Students for Christ.

“After I return, I hope to be working as a graphic designer in the Midwestern Illinois area,” Obert said. “I am also looking forward to spending more time with those people whom I haven’t seen very often during my stay at Western.”

As for her long-term goals, Obert said, “I have learned that plans change. The important thing is that you are successfully enjoying what you do, so my plan is to do just that.”

Sarah, a 2001 graduate of Liberty High School, is the daughter of Stanley and Marilyn Obert of Liberty (IL).

Ryan GordonCentennial Honors College Scholar
Ryan Gordon (Browning, IL), who is graduating with a double major in physics and mathematics, is WesternÂ’s Centennial Honors College Scholar, the Physics Departmental Scholar and an Honors Scholar. He will graduate with high academic honors. (Download print-quality image)

Gordon, a member of WesternÂ’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, was among 40 students nationwide who recently received the national Phi Kappa Phi Award of Excellence, which includes an award of $2,000 toward graduate study. He is also a recipient of the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the premier undergraduate award in the field of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering, which includes an award of $7,500 toward graduate school. Since his sophomore year, Gordon has worked with physics Professor Mark Boley conducting research on superconductivity. He has made presentations on his research at two national American Physics Society meetings, Argonne Science and Engineering Undergraduate Research Symposiums and at state and local conferences. In Summer 2004 he served a 10-week summer internship in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The internship, sponsored through the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), included a $4,000 stipend and living expenses.

“Being named the Honors College Scholar is a wonderful achievement, and I am fortunate to receive it,” Gordon said. “I have worked very hard in all of my courses and done very well. The project that I have spent the most time with is my Honors physics research, under the supervision of Dr. Mark Boley. I have studied the strange phenomenon know as superconductivity using the technique of Raman spectroscopy to detect wavenumber shifts near the critical temperature of magnesium diboride. The project has shown to be fruitful in terms of data collection and presentations made at conferences.”

Gordon will attend the Iowa State University of Science and Technology, studying condensed matter physics and further investigating the field of superconductivity as a Ph.D. candidate. His career goals include teaching at the university level and continuing his research.

Ryan, a 2001 Rushville High School graduate, is the son of Georgeann Gordon and the late Jerry Gordon of Browning.

Rany JenkinsSchool of Extended Studies
William “Randy” Jenkins (Rio Vista, TX), a firefighter with the City of Cleburne, TX, is Western’s School of Extended Studies Scholar. He will earn the Board of Trustees Bachelor of Arts (BOT/BA) degree. Western’s unique BOT/BA program is designed to provide adult students with an opportunity to earn a regionally accredited undergraduate degree in a manner compatible with their educational needs and lifestyles. Jenkins began the degree program in 1994, after earning an associate of applied science degree in fire technology. (Print-quality image unavailable)

“I found out about Western’s program while attending a (U.S. Fire Administration) National Fire Academy class,” Jenkins said. “I learned how college credit could be earned for National Fire Academy classes and how to obtain my degree through distance learning.”

Jenkins has been with the City of Cleburne fire department for 17 years and has served as an assistant fire chief the past four years. His duties include serving as the emergency management coordinator of the city and HazMat team coordinator as well as working with technical rescues such as swift water, confined space and rope rescue. Jenkins earned his master firefighter certification in 1994. He received the Outstanding Achievement Award in Fire Technology in 1991 and was named CleburneÂ’s Firefighter of the Year in 1999 and Fire Officer of the Year in 2004.

“I’m very pleased to be honored with this recognition from Western Illinois,” Jenkins said. “I have been in this program for more than 10 years working to obtain my degree. The award symbolized to me that hard work and determination over time will have its reward. This degree will help me greatly in my current management position in the Cleburne Fire Department.

“I wanted to complete my bachelor’s degree to set a good example for my children on the importance of an education. The only problem is one of my daughters graduated college before I did and the other one is a sophomore in college,” Jenkins added. “Secondly, I wanted the education to improve my knowledge base and effectiveness in my job for the Cleburne Fire Department and enhance any job opportunities in the future.”

Jenkins and his wife LaDonna live in Rio Vista, where she has worked 16 years with the middle school. Their oldest daughter Lee is employed in a health clinic in Austin; daughter Jessica is a bio-chemistry major and studying to become a doctor.

Departmental and Honors Scholars
Departmental Scholars are the outstanding degree candidates in an academic major as determined by the faculty in the department. Honors Scholars are students in the WesternÂ’s Honors College who complete honors curricula in their major department or college and achieve a grade point average of at least 3.40 for both honors and cumulative course work.

Departmental Scholars and Honors Scholars are, listed by county and city:


  • CLAYTON – Robert Krueger, Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration Departmental Scholar
  • URSA – Stephanie Mewes, graphic communication major, Honors Scholar


  • PRINCETON – Erin Austin, sociology major, Honors Scholar


  • NEW BADEN – Jamie Robinson, law enforcement and justice administration major, Honors Scholar


  • ALSIP – George Hufnagl, Music Departmental Scholar
  • ARLINGTON HEIGHTS – Kathleen Wickman, Computer Science Departmental Scholar and Honors Scholar
  • EVANSTON – Emilie Kahle, sociology major, Honors Scholar
  • 60629 – Diana Daniak, 5900 block of S. Kildare, communication sciences and disorders major, Honors Scholar
  • 60634 – David Styburski, 6100 block of W. Henderson, Journalism Departmental Scholar
  • CICERO – Patricia Salazar, double major in Spanish and law enforcement and justice administration, Honors Scholar
  • GLENVIEW – Amanda Tarkington, Elementary Education Departmental Scholar
  • PALATINE – David Laskus, law enforcement and justice administration major, Honors Scholar


  • BARTLETT – Lynne Senne, journalism major, Honors Scholar
  • VILLA PARK – Brian Damitz, graphic communication major, Honors Scholar
  • WOODRIDGE – Elizabeth Dehnert, French Departmental Scholar


  • CANTON – Alicia Cebuhar, Communication Sciences and Disorders Departmental Scholar


  • MORRIS – Kyle Bledsoe, law enforcement and justice administration major, Honors Scholar


  • HAMILTON – Sumer Allensworth, biological sciences major, Honors Scholar


  • GALVA – Robyn Anderson, Agriculture Departmental Scholar; Adam Jaquet, Construction Management Departmental Scholar


  • CARBONDALE – Daniel Russin, Geology Departmental Scholar and Honors Scholar


  • GALENA – Jennifer Berning, psychology major, Honors Scholar
  • STOCKTON – Stephanie Drane, psychology major, Honors Scholar


  • AURORA – Susan Sells, English Departmental Scholar
  • BATAVIA – Kellen DeCoursey, construction management major, Honors Scholar


  • OSWEGO – Kerstin Valencia, double major in Spanish and law enforcement and justice administration, Honors Scholar
  • YORKVILLE – Samantha Feltes, double major in psychology, and law enforcement and justice administration, Honors Scholar


  • GALESBURG – Daniel Larakers, Accountancy Departmental Scholar
  • RIO – Todd Guidinger, Information Management Departmental Scholar


  • ISLAND LAKE – Melissa Branson, recreation, park and tourism administration major, Honors Scholar


  • ALTON – David Fitzgerald, journalism major, Honors Scholar


  • VARNA – Jessica Russell, Family and Consumer Sciences Departmental Scholar and Honors Scholar


  • MASON CITY – Jacob Hoberg, physics major, Honors Scholar


  • BLANDINSVILLE – Katerina Koscova, psychology major, Honors Scholar
  • MACOMB – Tammy Thompson, Community Health Departmental Scholar;
  • Nannette Lawrence, Instructional Technology and Telecommunications Departmental Scholar;
  • Madeline Sullivan Howd, WomenÂ’s Studies Departmental Scholar and Honors Scholar;
  • Christine Banach, psychology major, Honors Scholar;
  • Jacob Gamage, English major, Honors Scholar;
  • Amber Moore, elementary education major, Honors Scholar;
  • Marie Papini, psychology major, Honors Scholar;
  • Daniel Guinn, history major, Honors Scholar;
  • Renee Smith, biology major, Honors Scholar


  • CRYSTAL LAKE – Amanda Knutson, Biology Departmental Scholar and Honors Scholar; Amanda St. John, Communication Departmental Scholar
  • HUNTLEY – Sarah Lund, Law Enforcement and Justice Communication Departmental Scholar and Honors Scholar
  • WONDER LAKE – Reagan Strueber, double major in English and WomenÂ’s Studies, Honors Scholar
  • WOODSTOCK – Bridget Dhom, Individual Studies Departmental Scholar


  • TALLULA – Jennifer Deluka, biology major, Honors Scholar


  • VIOLA – Timothy Anderson, Philosophy Departmental Scholar and Honors Scholar


  • POLO – Joseph Eichholz, double major in computer science and mathematics, Honors Scholar


  • PEORIA – Brian Johns, Graphic Communication Departmental Scholar


  • EAST MOLINE – Marty Johnson, Manufacturing Engineering Technology Departmental Scholar
  • MILAN – Samantha Sims, journalism major, Honors Scholar


  • DAWSON – Stephanie Wedel, political science major, Honors Scholar
  • RIVERTON – Michael Bowsher, Chemistry Departmental Scholar
  • SPRINGFIELD – Jacob Burress, physics major, Honors Scholar; Joseph Sherman, biology major, Honors Scholar


  • CAMDEN – Sarah Jamison, Social Work Departmental Scholar


  • WYOMING – Scott Dehaan, Broadcasting Departmental Scholar


  • EAST PEORIA – Chad Fouts, computer science major, Honors Scholar


  • MORRISON – Kristy Dykema, psychology major, Honors Scholar
  • STERLING – Michael Harrington, History Departmental Scholar


  • PLAINFIELD – Jacob Bledsoe, law enforcement and justice administration major, Honors Scholar
  • ROMEOVILLE – Linda Tornero, law enforcement and justice administration major, Honors Scholar


  • LOVES PARK – Joseph Waters, computer science, Honors Scholar; Rachel Frantz, computer science, Honors Scholar
  • MACHESNEY PARK – Lisa Spears, English major, Honors Scholar


  • BOONVILLE – Miranda Wire, biology major, Honors Scholar


  • BURLINGTON – Deanne Krieger, elementary education major, Honors Scholar
  • DANVILLE – Rachel Parrott, Economics Departmental Scholar
  • DAVENPORT – Shawn Jacques, Finance Departmental Scholar
  • DONNELLSON – Erin Zane, Special Education Departmental Scholar
  • FORT MADISON – Timothy VanGinkel, Art (Bachelor of Fine Arts) Departmental Scholar
  • MEDIAPOLIS – Cheryl Stoller, Spanish Departmental Scholar
  • MOUNT PLEASANT – Lacey Barron, Health Services Management Departmental Scholar and Honors Scholar
  • WILTON – Kristin Griglione, Political Science Departmental Scholar


  • SAINT CHARLES – Sharon Northrup, Theatre Departmental Scholar


  • CARROLLTON – Perry Cox, Management Departmental Scholar


  • KENMORE – Rachel DeShon, Musical Theatre Departmental Scholar

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