2020 Distinguished Student Awards

The Distinguished Student Award is one of the top honors given at OSU-Cascades and recognizes one graduating student in each degree area for outstanding achievement in academics and contribution to their field.

Here's what our faculty shared about the honorees:

Kevin Ramsden

Bachelor of Science | American Studies

Kevin has been an exceptional student and a trailblazer —  he was the first American studies student to earn a Layman Fellowship and to present his research at the Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium. He is an exemplar of literary citizenship for OSU-Cascades, founding the Write the Wrong Club and serving as its president and co-president in 2018 and 2019, and organizing and hosting multiple local reading events, most notably a reading where Bend Creative Laureate Jason Graham (MoWo) served as a judge. Kevin has published several poems in journals during his time at OSU-Cascades. He would like to hone his gift for the teaching of literature and is applying to graduate schools.

Summit Kuehn

Bachelor of Science | Art: Studio Arts

Summit initially pursued a degree in liberal studies, then found her passion for the studio arts. She has an incredible drive to observe and analyze visual culture, a habit that will continue to enhance her creative practice. After graduating, Summit is excited to put her degree to work in the body art/modification industry and plans to pursue a career in either piercing or tattooing.

Tessa Moody

Bachelor of Arts | Arts, Media & Technology

Since Tessa’s first visit to OSU-Cascades she has shown a both drive and composure. She is has grown to become a proven leader in our academic program, as well as in extracurricular activities. Tessa’s future in the marketing and creative arts will no doubt be worth celebrating; she's sure to become a talented and productive alumna of OSU-Cascades. After graduating, she plans to move to Berkeley, California to pursue a career in graphic design and eventually to attend graduate school.

Holland Bills

Bachelor of Science | Biology

Holland is recognized for academic excellence, high engagement in biologically related endeavors, and her role as a model student in the biology program. She is gifted and applies knowledge she has gained to her own, self-motivated research. Holland has an innate curiosity about the world around her, and a deep passion for all living systems, especially animals. She plans to apply to graduate school where her hard-working and curious nature, along with her intelligence, will be her springboard to success.


Denali Ravera

Bachelor of Science | Business Administration

Her faculty are proud to see Denali represent the business administration program. She is professional, personable and engaging. As an active participant during her classes, it was clear she came prepared as her contributions left no doubt that she had mastered the material. Her teamwork was also evident on group assignments. Denali graduates with the highest GPA in the program this year.

Johnny Phelan

Bachelor of Science | Computer Science

Unanimously praised by his instructors and peers, Johnny has worked hard to overcome challenges in a rigorous academic program. Before starting his college degree, Johnny worked full-time as a teller at First Interstate Bank. He soon realized he needed more time to devote to his studies. He left his full-time job — it seemed a risky decision at the time — and took on a part-time position as a computer lab attendant. The extra time, along with scholarship support, made a huge difference. His faculty have watched him grow, succeed and transform.  They are confident that the optimism, professionalism and spirit he has brought to his academic career, will be a strong foundation for his professional career.

Victoria McGee

Bachelor of Science | Energy Systems Engineering

Tori is academically outstanding and has contributed to her degree field outside of the classroom. Most recently she has served as president of the OSU student chapter of the Association for Energy Engineers and is an active ambassador for the ESE program. Tori has grown from a talented undergraduate student into an amazing engineer. She has a true joy of learning, endless optimism and genuine enthusiasm for all things engineering. Tori plans to work in the electrical energy industry for a company dedicated to solving the world’s energy problems, to study systems and develop a reliable grid, and to contribute to the implementation of efficiency upgrades.


Harley Coldiron

Honors Bachelor of Science | Hospitality Management

Harley seized every professional opportunity that came his way at OSU-Cascades, both within the campus and in the surrounding community. He actively engaged with Central Oregon's hospitality community, becoming a wonderful student ambassador for our program and campus. He completed multiple internships and took on special projects inside and outside of the classroom. He is also the hospitality management program's first Honors College student; his thesis analyzes the impact of the vacation home business model on travel. The hospitality industry took note of Harley and, a full six months before graduation, he had seven job offers. Upon graduation, Harley plans to move to San Antonio to take a job with Hyatt Hotel Group.

Nathan Schierbeek

Bachelor of Science | Human Development and Family Sciences

Nathan's 4.0 GPA speaks to his academic abilities, but the number does not accurately capture his many strengths. One faculty member noted, “He has solid writing skills, demonstrates strong critical thinking, and is more than adept at applying theory to real-world contexts." His faculty thought so highly of him, that one instructor uses his papers as models, so that students new to the subject have concrete examples of the kind of work they can aspire to. Nathan completed a 20-hour preschool practicum at Aspen Academy, where he was described as an asset to the classroom community. In spite of a busy academic schedule, Nathan balanced having a job, too.  He will begin the OSU-Cascades Master of Arts in Teaching program this summer, and hopes to become an elementary educator.

Colin Hagie

Bachelor of Science | Kinesiology

Colin has been a mature and engaged student. More than that, he steps up to help peers understand class material, and engages with challenging topics around diversity in a way that removes barriers and creates an open conversation. He has balanced the demands of a busy academic schedule and as a professional snowboard coach with the Mount Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, where he has developed a 14-year career. Colin was an integral member of a snowboard bioenergetics research team, under the mentorship of instructor Tim Burnett. Colin’s peers have looked to him as a content expert and leader in the major. He plans to stay in Bend for a year after graduation, evaluating graduate school options that combine his athletic interests with the knowledge he has accumulated during his time at OSU-Cascades.

Alexa Tawzer

Honors Bachelor of Arts | Liberal Studies

Alexa has been a collegial force in everything she has done at OSU-Cascades. Her academic writing has covered subjects from Puritan sermons, to 1960s protest music, to Walt Whitman, to Abstract Impressionism, to the bumbling schlemiels of Thomas Pynchon’s postmodern Los Angeles. As an undergraduate, she embraced research, co-authoring conference papers with faculty members Natalie Dollar and Nick Dahl. “Communication Improvisation as Dialogue: A Framework for Understanding Phans and Deadheads” was presented at the Phish Studies Conference at Oregon State. “Community Dialogue and Storytelling: A Roundtable Discussion of the Community Dialogue Project” was presented at the Northwestern Communication Association Annual Conference. Alexa earned a 4.0 GPA. In the fall, she will begin graduate studies in the OSU-Cascades MFA in Creative Writing program.

Darla Clowser

Bachelor of Science | Natural Resources

A veteran, Darla came to OSU-Cascades after serving with the U.S. Coast Guard. She is demanding of her class peers, compassionate and committed to science. She has worked side-by-side with her professors, assisting in their research work and, as an undergraduate student, presented at a research conference and prepared the work for publication. She participated in a study abroad program to Costa Rica where her perseverance, compassion for others, and grit was evident. She volunteered for numerous natural resources-related activities, including at the High Desert Museum. Darla was helped lead the student Natural Sciences Club, and was a Layman Fellow and a liaison for other student veterans at OSU-Cascades. Darla is interested in career paths that focus on restoring degraded and damaged ecosystems. This summer she will serve as a seasonal fisheries technician for the U.S. Forest Service in Colville, Washington.

Calyssa Harris

Bachelor of Science | Social Science

Calyssa Harris exemplifies the relevance and value of social science in our lived experiences through her proficiency with critical thinking, analysis of problems and synthesis of data. Her passion for and commitment to situating course assignments in current community concerns, most often around health care issues, demonstrates an intellectual curiosity that often separated Calyssa’s work from her peers. Some examples include her research with Chris Wolkso on cultural attitudes that lead parents to become either vaccine hesitant or vaccine accepting, her exceptional research on the motivation and perspectives of alternative health care practitioners, and course assignments in which she evaluated how psychologies of classical conditioning seemed to violate consumers’ ability to reason effectively regarding pharmaceutical products.

Nicholas White

Bachelor of Science | Tourism, Recreation & Adventure Leadership

Nick has the highest GPA of eligible TRAL students for this award. He has shown an extreme depth of curiosity, very diligent work ethic, and overall genuine interest in what he is learning. His motivation to do well is contagious and has motivated others in classes and the TRAL program in general. You can always count on Nick to show up with challenging questions.


Abby Kelley

Master of Counseling: Clinical Mental Health

Abby is recognized for her professionalism, leadership and outstanding academic performance. Abby consistently goes the extra mile. She took a leadership position in the counseling department as a TA, counseling clinic intern, and student coordinator. It’s common to see her volunteering for “extras” such as admissions day or acting as a liaison with other students. Abby is opening a private counseling practice, partnering with a local mental health agency (Northwest Youth Discovery Outpatient Services) as well as opening a home-based telehealth counseling practice. Her home-based practice will offer low or no cost counseling services to people impacted by COVID-19 or who are experiencing other access issues.

Malie Neese

Master of Counseling: School

Malie is recognized for her professionalism, advocacy for K-12 children, leadership during her graduate program, and high academic performance. She consistently took leadership roles in Chi Sigma Iota (a national honor society for counselors), and during practicum and internship. As a practicum student, Malie completed a work sample even though she was not required to do so (she is already a licensed teacher). The faculty describe Malie as responsible, kind, and consistent, and she made a strong impression during her internship at Three Rivers K-8.

Lindsey Brodeck

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Lindsey Brodeck’s been fascinated with language and the natural world since a young age. She spent her early years in Index, a town of less than one hundred people about an hour and a half northeast from Seattle, in a cabin built by her father. Lindsey is a true artist, a writer who draws few impermeable boundaries between herself and the world, a writer who sees the connections between the universal and the particular, a writer who recognizes herself in the other, and stands witness to the oft-overlooked connections between all living things. Lindsey wants to use art to build a better tomorrow.


Leslie Bartlett

Master of Arts In Teaching: Elementary

Leslie has balanced the weight of coursework, student teaching and her family with the highest degree of poise. She is humble and open to coaching, despite her already strong skills. Mentor teachers she has worked with call her a “superstar,” citing her metacognition and reflection on her teaching practice. Leslie was meant to work in service to our students. She is an exceptional role model who will support her students academically, socially, and emotionally. She is a lifelong learner, who is equally dedicated to high quality work at the university and in her student teaching placements. Leslie plans on working as an elementary educator in Central Oregon after graduating.


Christopher Bowen

Master of Arts in Teaching: Secondary

Chris uses education as the path to bridge cultural and ideological differences, whether in Afghanistan mentoring and teaching Afghanis while embedded in their village, or designing STEM and social studies robotics lessons for Central Oregon high school students. In the Educational Philosophy chapter of his master's degree thesis, Chris wrote, “Teachers ultimately serve as the bridge between the student and citizenry, and with that awesome responsibility, the educator is a pillar that supports and nurtures their students’ development. My calling as a teacher is to serve each one of my students and be that pillar of support that they can call upon at any given moment. I will be in the corner for my students and uplift them, stand beside them in times of distress, and cheer on their successes, in order that they can become citizens that I pass the torch to and who will make a difference in their communities.”

Distinguished Students Archive: