University of Wyoming recognizes three students with Outstanding Undergraduate Award

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 5:58 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Release) - Three students have been named recipients of UW’s Tobin Memorial and Rosemarie Martha Spitaleri Outstanding Undergraduate Award. The award recognizes students for exhibiting the finest leadership, academic integrity, and citizenship qualities.

As a first-generation student, Wendy Luna Garcia, from Wheatland, has made the most of her opportunities at the University of Wyoming.

She is a high-achieving student who has accomplished many research and writing projects focused on timely subjects, such as social justice, the environment, and women’s rights, while also conducting meaningful research on campus. She is active both at UW and in various communities that affect the welfare of people.

Luna Garcia will graduate with a B.A. degree in international studies, with minors in honors, Latina/o studies and creative writing.

Most impressive is her ability to research, synthesize and process information. Luna Garcia is a diligent student who is involved in every aspect of college life, according to those who nominated her for the award. She was elected to serve in student leadership roles because of her attention to responsibility and accountability, says Cecilia “CC” Aragón, a UW theater and dance professor and the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference executive director.

“I strongly believe that Wendy has given 100 percent for her four years at UW,” Aragón says. “She has demonstrated academic excellence and achievement. Through her leadership, Wendy has demonstrated utmost character, citizenship, and stewardship to all facets of life at UW.”

She has been involved in the United Multicultural Council, Define America, the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan student group, and the Service, Leadership, and Community Engagement program. She participated in a project on the Pine Ridge Reservation; worked virtually with Nido de Vida, an Ecuadorian sustainability project, where she learned about alternative food systems, resource management, and the archival of flora and fauna on the local farm; and served as a peer mentor for the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference.

“Observing her growth in academia time and again, she has demonstrated a diligent work ethic. And she is an exceptional student and an excellent young scholar in the making,” Aragón adds.

Luna Garcia has distinguished herself in the classroom, through independent research and contributions made to communities within and beyond campus. Notably, as a McNair Scholar, she proved herself capable of producing and presenting original research and engaging in interdisciplinary research and community organization.

Among her original research, which showed her versatility, was producing “Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema: Reflections of Womanhood through Time” during the UW McNair Scholars Research Symposium. The McNair program encourages underrepresented groups and first-generation students to seek doctoral degrees. She received high praise for her work and was selected to present her project during the annual College of Arts and Sciences Honors Convocation.

“Wendy serves as an inspiration to other first-generation students,” said McNair Scholars Program Director Elizabeth Nysson and Susan Stoddard, the program’s assistant director. “Wendy has demonstrated strength in her academics and in her character. Wendy has shown a sincere dedication to her studies and to the UW community.”

Luna Garcia is most proud of her diverse work with underrepresented groups.

“My background encapsulates a diverse background, both in terms of the communities I am a part of and of the subjects that I have studied and worked with,” says Luna Garcia, who is applying to graduate school. “I found avenues to success by immersing myself in my community and seeking help from services offered at UW.”

During her five years at the University of Wyoming, Hannah Rhymes, from Oklahoma City, Okla., has learned what it truly means to serve others.

Rhymes will graduate next month with a B.S. degree in physiology and minors in honors and neuroscience. She carries a 3.45 grade-point average and plans to apply to medical school.

At UW, she has immersed herself in her academic classes while also serving in volunteer roles, not only on the UW campus but also in the community.

As a student, Rhymes has completed an internship in the New Mexico INBRE (IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence) Summer Experience. She also has completed an internship within the Todd Lab, where she has performed immunohistochemistry on brain tissue samples. She also has scored more than 100 behavioral videos to support the lab’s neuroscience research focus. William Todd, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Zoology and Physiology, leads the lab.

Rhymes has taken three upper-level physiology classes -- two also serve graduate students -- taught by Todd.

“In each, Hannah has stood out for her understanding and engagement with the course material. Because of this, I was thrilled when she asked to join my lab as an undergraduate research intern,” Todd says. “Simply put, my lab would not be where we are today without Ms. Rhymes. She has become highly proficient in several techniques for behavioral neuroscience research.”

Beyond her prowess in the lab and in the classroom, Rhymes has shown leadership in extracurricular activities at UW, including serving in the Associated Students of UW (ASUW) student government as a senator and chief of staff for ASUW’s executive branch. She has served as an advisory board officer for the Service, Leadership, and Community Engagement office, where she has held multiple leadership roles. Rhymes was a founding member of the Nontraditional Student Council and participated in UW’s First-Year Institute. These experiences opened her up to the possibilities of student leadership roles. She also volunteered in the community.

“In truth, I am waiting for the time when Hannah runs for political office, and I will be her top campaign volunteer,” says Ryan O’Neil, UW’s dean of students and associate vice president for student affairs.

In reflecting on the collection of experiences and lessons she’s learned over the past five years, Rhymes says it is evident that none of these experiences can be compartmentalized or separated from one another.

“Like a tapestry, all of these experiences are woven into each other, connected and ignited by my sincere belief that the best leaders are those who serve, encourage, and lift as they climb,” Rhymes says.

As she enters the final stretch of her UW undergraduate career, Rhymes finds herself overwhelmed with gratitude.

“My experiences aren’t confined to the vacuum of college life, ceasing to bear meaning after I graduate,” Rhymes says. “Rather, these experiences are catalyzed by the values and beliefs that UW has instilled, developed, and refined in me over the past five years. When I leave this campus, I will take with me a robust passion for empowering my peers and my community.”

Before coming to the University of Wyoming to continue his education in nutritional science, Connor Rindler, of Laramie, was a professional chef. Now, as a nontraditional UW student, he has approached his classes in a different way.

“I have been able to treat my classes as a job,” says Rindler, who will graduate next month with a 3.9 grade-point average and will receive a B.S. degree in family and consumer sciences, with a concentration in dietetics. “My previous career in the kitchen installed a maturity and unique attitude that helped me develop solid study habits as a student.”

Rindler has been accepted into a dietetic internship and master’s degree program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he plans to study sports nutrition.

“While my individual pursuits and accomplishments have been a valuable part of my academic career, I also have appreciated the opportunities to lead, guide, and shape fellow students,” he adds.

Throughout his UW career, Rindler has been active in several organizations, such as Phi Upsilon Omicron as its president; the Student Dietetics Association as vice president; and Mortar Board in various capacities. Additionally, he has volunteered with Healthy Kids Rx; was an AmeriCorps Vista summer associate for Feeding Laramie Valley; and is a teaching assistant for classes in the UW College of Business as well as in the UW Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

“Connor is an excellent leader with a positive attitude; a willingness to engage and empower others; and responsiveness to any request or question, whether it is with instructors, peers, or students,” says Jill Keith, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. “He is relational and shares open and engaging conversation with everyone he interacts with. Connor is an outstanding student who is passionate about the role of nutrition in health and physical performance.”

Christine Wade, chair of the UW Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and adviser to UW’s chapter of Mortar Board, cites Rindler’s work outside of the classroom that makes him a student deserving of the award.

“I have had the pleasure of working closely with Connor, as he has led our Mortar Board events this year,” Wade says. “I cannot speak highly enough of his work ethic, tenacity, dedication, and overall positive attitude.”

With all of his academic endeavors, perhaps his proudest moments among his many accomplishments have come during his community involvement.

“As a community member, I have been blessed to spend time working with kids at Healthy Kids Rx, providing nutritional education to parents and leading physical activities for children ranging from kindergarten to high school,” Rindler says.

As an AmeriCorps Vista summer associate stationed at Feeding Laramie Valley, Rindler says he had the opportunity to help shop, plan, cook, package, and distribute more than 6,000 meals to children and adults who needed summer meal assistance.

“Each day I spent at UW shaped me into the man I am today,” he adds. “I am grateful that UW has put me on a path to success in future careers.”

The University of Wyoming graduation ceremonies will be held on Saturday, May 14.

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