2024 Distinguished Student Awards

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


Portrait of Gabriela Williams

Gabriela Williams

Bachelor of Arts
American Studies

Gabriela entered the American studies program as a non-traditional student, bringing innate intelligence and intellectual curiosity. She quickly excelled in a class on American philosophical pragmatism, developing skills in scholarly research, writing and critical thinking. She now brings her hard-won range of knowledge, skills and determination into the OSU-Cascades Master of Arts in Teaching program and then into Oregon schools.

Portrait of Meisen Hu

Meisen Hu

Bachelor of Science
Arts, Media and Technology

Meisen's knowledge of theater crafts, animation and design has cemented him as a dedicated maker and artist. He championed others in the classroom and has contributed to the campus community in many ways, including filming and producing nine home cooking episodes for OSU's KBVR TV station. He is a friendly and kind person who believes in his classmates, community and the power of making art. Meisen plans to apply to OSU-Cascades' Master of Counseling program.

Portrait of Jennifer McCabe

Jennifer McCabe

Bachelor of Science

Jennifer graduates with a 4.0 GPA. She participated in multiple student research projects, including three years of microbiology research with the Wolf Bacteriology Project. Jennifer has co-authored several research manuscripts and presented multiple research project posters. In addition, she worked as a part-time technician in the chemistry lab and tutored biology. Jennifer possesses the attributes that make for a successful future in science and scientific research. She plans to join a local bioscience company in the future.

Portrait of Daniel Schimmoller

Daniel  Schimmoller

Bachelor of Science
Business Administration

Daniel graduates with a 4.0 GPA. He actively participated in class discussions and offered a mature and thoughtful perspective. He demonstrated the strongest sales skills in his section — surpassing those of many seasoned professionals! His kindness and thoughtfulness also set him apart. When a fellow student had to leave school and a group project due to a family emergency, Daniel advocated to keep him listed and receive credit due to his earlier contributions. Post-graduation, he aims to secure a job that allows him to grow, and remains committed to his goal of owning and managing a business.

Portrait of Kimberly Markley

Kimberly Markley

Bachelor of Science
Computer Science

After more than a decade in the restaurant industry, Kimberly started a new chapter by enrolling in the computer science program. In her first week of school, she knew she was in the right place. "I was surrounded by smart, opinionated women dedicated to spreading the joy of studying computer science," she said. Kimberly was president of the OSU-Cascades Association of Computing Machinery (ACM-W) chapter, where she worked tirelessly to promote inclusivity and support for fellow non-traditional students in the field. Through her efforts to connect industry leaders with students, Kimberly bridged the gap between classroom learning and real-world applications. After graduation, Kimberly will head to Seattle for a software engineering internship at Pacific Northwest National Labs. She'll be halfway through grad school this fall in OSU's accelerated master's program.

Portrait of Dallas Bennett

Dallas Bennett

Bachelor of Science
Energy Systems Engineering

Dallas is OSU-Cascades Engineering and we don’t just say that because she is on the website, a banner outside the dining hall, and featured in every flyer! She embodies all that the OSU-Cascades engineering program holds true. She is outstanding academically — earning the highest GPA of her very talented class. Dallas also engaged fully, taking advantage of all the program and campus had to offer, including working as an undergraduate researcher who became an indispensable part of the Energy Systems Laboratory. She is also a successful climbing team member, qualifying for the Collegiate National Championships at the end of May. Maybe most important — everyone knows Dallas. She is the glue that holds the close-knit program together — an integral part of why engineering at OSU-Cascades is so special.

Portrait of Thomas Nguyen

Thomas Nguyen

Bachelor of Science
Engineering Science

Thomas came to OSU-Cascades after graduating high school early. During his time here, he matured into an excellent engineer. He mastered all the disciplines the broad engineering science program covers with impressive speed. Thomas developed from a quiet first-year student into a team leader who spearheaded his projects technically and presented with confidence. He was also a consummate team player who always helped everyone around him. Thomas finished the program in less than three years and will soon start a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. As the first graduate of the engineering science program, he has set a high bar.

Portrait of Will Stewart

William Stewart

Bachelor of Science
Environmental Sciences

William took advantage of the many field courses, networking events, internships and research opportunities offered by the program. He interned in the City of Bend Water Conservation Program, redesigned Bend Park and Recreation's riparian health survey protocol for his capstone project, and completed a Cascades Research Fellowship project, where he used remote sensing data to learn more about groundwater springs in Central Oregon. He is also a co-founder and was the president of the Natural Sciences Club. This summer, he will work with the Forest Service as a fisheries and stream survey trainee and plans to continue exploring topics related to hydrology, stream management and restoration.

Portrait of Lucia Pigni

Lucia Pigni

Bachelor of Arts
Hospitality Management

Lucia moved to the U.S. from Argentina in 2019 and fell in love with Central Oregon, leading her to pursue a bachelor's degree in hospitality management. Spanish is her first language, and at OSU-Cascades she became proficient in English. Lucia was awarded the INTO OSU Continued Success Scholarship and the Robin and Curt Baney Hospitality Management Scholarship. She worked as a research assistant in the Sustainable Tourism Research Lab, gaining valuable insights into ecotourism and sustainability. Lucia currently works at Sunriver Resort as a concierge, gaining practical experience in the hospitality industry. Her long-term goal is to open a boutique hotel by the ocean, where she can integrate sustainable practices.

Portrait of Michael Azevedo

Michael Azevedo

Bachelor of Science
Human Development and Family Sciences

As a non-traditional student, returning to school was Michael's lifelong dream. From the moment he took a Families and Poverty class, he knew he was on the right path. At first, his goal was to earn a bachelor's degree. After spending time in the HDFS program, his plans dramatically changed. Inspired by the subject matter, the faculty, his internship and practicum — Michael applied for and was accepted into Portland State University's Master of Social Work program. He starts this fall. After earning an MSW, he plans on working as a therapist for underserved populations in Oregon.

Portrait of Bethany Burr

Bethany Burr

Bachelor of Science

Bethany started in the FORCE Lab in March 2022 as a research intern, and for the past two years she has fully immersed herself in the lab. She has co-led several research projects, including the lab’s work on running shoes and biomechanics, and drop-jump landing biomechanics in dancers and non-dancers. Bethany has twice been awarded OSU-Cascades' undergraduate research fellowship. She has presented her research at the Northwest Biomechanics Symposium and OSU-Cascades' Research and Scholarship Symposium. Bethany is OSU's recipient of the 2024 American Kinesiology Association National Undergraduate Scholar Award. She is also an author of an upcoming peer-reviewed publication, a first for an undergraduate student in kinesiology at OSU-Cascades.

Portrait of Ama Garza

Ama Garza

Bachelor of Arts
Liberal Studies

Ama graduates with a 4.0 GPA. Deeply thoughtful and wildly creative, Ama embodies the values of liberal studies. They engaged in vulnerable and unflinching self-examinations manifested in award-winning poetry and creative nonfiction essays — rich, thought-provoking work contesting white language supremacy in content and form. "One of the coolest experiences I had was in Community Dialogue when I was able to sit in a circle and engage in a discussion with people whose viewpoints did not match my own and reaching an understanding rather than winning or losing an argument," she said. Ama is a fierce fighter with the soul of a poet and a philosopher's unruly intellect, a change-maker. Ama plans to apply to graduate school to study Library Sciences.

Portrait of Haley Morh

Haley Mohr

Bachelor of Science
Natural Resources

Haley has a deep passion for Earth’s ecosystems. She worked with the United States Forest Service and Discover Your Forest to restore a mile-long trail between North and South Twin Lakes. In the summers, Haley works as a guide on a small expedition-based cruise vessel in Southeast Alaska. She takes guests sea kayaking, bushwhacking, cold water snorkeling and on zodiac tours. While in the field, maintaining strong group management is a must when in Alaskan brown bear country. Interpretation and education are the most important parts of her job, both in the field teaching about the flora and fauna, and on the vessel giving a self-created lecture on conservation. This winter she will head back to the Antarctic Peninsula to guide. This will be her last year of guiding and she looks forward to applying to federal natural resources and fish and wildlife positions.

Portrait of Soren Nyquist

Soren Nyquist

Bachelor of Science
Outdoor Products

Soren is an exceptional student who brings passion, intuition and compassion to the outdoor products program. His enthusiasm for product design is contagious, and he approaches each project with an innovative mindset. Beyond his impressive technical skills, Soren stands out for his genuine care for his fellow students, always offering a helping hand and encouraging others to succeed. For his capstone project with Argonaut Cycles, Soren designed carbon fiber bike accessories, which allowed him to apply his skills in a real-world setting and collaborate with industry professionals. He also built self-contained, off-grid power systems during his internship. After graduating, Soren plans to work at Dometic Mobile Power Systems America to gain job experience and further develop his skills.

Portrait of Mari Pilskow

Mari Pliskow

Honors Bachelor of Science

For her Honors College thesis, Mari researched the Long-Term Outcomes of Wilderness Therapy for Adolescents and Young Adults. She conducted an in-depth literature review, designed a qualitative study methodology, received approval for the study from the Institutional Review Board for Human Research Ethics, collected and analyzed data, and completed a thorough written report of results. The study's results showed the complexity of going to Wilderness Therapy and the impact the experience had on the individuals and family members. The results were not short-term, as previous studies had reported, but stories that included impacts realized years later. Mari is not only an asset to the OSU-Cascades community of learners but also an asset to the field of psychology. She plans to apply to graduate programs and pursue a career as a therapist.

Portrait of Olivia Handran

Olivia Handran

Bachelor of Science
Social Science

Olivia maintained one of the highest overall GPAs for the program. Her research on first-generation college students identified factors that positively influence first-generation students to continue higher education. Her internship with OSU-Cascades' Human Resources helped her learn the essential qualities of effective recruiters and how to support existing employees. Outside of classes, Olivia could be found behind the bar of Study Grounds, rock climbing at Circuit or studying in one of her favorite coffee shops with her social science peers. Olivia has accepted a position as a student recruitment coordinator for the Colorado School of Mines. “I am eager to leverage my background in social science and my passion for education to make a meaningful impact on student recruitment and engagement,” she said.

Portrait of Danielle Logan

Danielle Logan

Bachelor of Science

Danielle has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to her craft and an ability to inspire and nurture her students. Her exceptional skills in creating a safe and inclusive classroom environment fosters an atmosphere where students feel empowered to engage in meaningful discussions and work diligently to grasp complex concepts. Danielle's patient, reflective and curiosity-oriented teaching style sets her apart as a truly gifted educator poised to make a lasting impact on the lives of her future elementary students. This past year, Danielle participated in a National Science Foundation grant for disrupting inequities in mathematics. She is applying to be an elementary educator in the Bend-La Pine School District and hopes to continue her work to create equitable learning opportunities for children from underserved populations.

Portrait of Jorge Aguileria Lopez

Jorge Aguilera Lopez

Bachelor of Science
Tourism, Recreation and Adventure Leadership

Jorge has been a constant source of energy, curiosity and professionalism in the TRAL program. He has consistently stepped up to support his peers and elevate the program through community partnerships and academic success. Jorge has become a leader within the greater OSU-Cascades community through the trail running club, rock climbing team, paddle club, culture club and Cascades Adventures. He is also one of the primary instructors and staff members of Vámonos Outside, where he has created partnerships and workshops with OSU-Cascades and helped bring the outdoors to everyone by creating a safe and inclusive space for Latine and BIPOC communities. Jorge will start his first season as an instructor with Northwest Outward Bound School, leading rock climbing, rafting and backpacking trips with students.


Portrait of Shonna Edwards

Shonna Edwards

Master of Counseling
Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Shonna consistently demonstrates her reliability and commitment to her work. She collaborates effectively with her peers and faculty, showing a strong willingness to learn and grow. Her sincerity and readiness to assist others create an inviting atmosphere around her. Shonna's talent for connecting with people, fostering engagement and providing support has greatly enriched the cohort. She served as the social justice and advocacy chair for OSU's chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, the international honor society for counseling students. This fall, she is excited to begin her journey in private practice, where she plans to support those who have experienced significant trauma, grief and loss.

Portrait of Kiran Kuiper

Kieran Kuiper

Master of Counseling
School Counseling

Kieran has exemplified exceptional leadership, unwavering commitment, and a genuine passion for learning and the counseling profession. His curiosity and willingness to learn pushed him to strive for growth and excellence. Kieran was president of the OSU chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, a national counseling honor society, and was a speaker at the Oregon Counseling Association Conference. Deeply committed to the K-12 students he serves, Kieran implemented a college career readiness intervention for seniors that included additional advising, classroom lessons, and a field trip to COCC. After graduating, he plans on working at a high-needs, rural high school in Central Oregon.

Portrait of Melissa Smith

Melissa Smith

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Melissa's thesis director Jeff Fearnside writes: "Melissa is an exemplary MFA candidate: hardworking, intellectually curious, focused and at the same time open to new ideas and experimentation — everything a good academic and literary writer should be. Melissa's thesis project has extremely strong potential to become a published book someday that will contribute to the field of speculative fiction a fresh, original voice. Melissa herself shows every capability and inclination to become an active and impactful member of the larger literary community." Melissa plans to finish her novel — and hopefully publish it — within three to five years.

Portrait of Daniela Calle

Daniela Calle Quezada

Master of Arts in Teaching
Elementary Education

Language acquisition has become one of Daniela's passions as an English learner. During her time at OSU-Cascades, she has filled her teaching toolbox with research-based strategies. "I have become a confident teacher, ready to serve my students and their families," she said. Daniela continuously reflects on her teaching and looks for ways to make things more effective, equitable and engaging for her students. This year, she represented OSU-Cascades at the Future Educators Fair at COCC and talked with high school students interested in becoming teachers. After graduating, she will be a first-grade teacher in a dual immersion program in Central Oregon.

Portrait of Shawn Boyd

Shawn Boyd

Master of Arts in Teaching
Secondary Education

Shawn Boyd has demonstrated an unflagging commitment to the highest standards of learning and teaching. Even while juggling student teaching, managing a business, and being a dad, his work and participation were consistently excellent across settings. His mentor teachers shared glowing feedback on his work and connections with students. Shawn was always ready to support others, showing compassion and thoughtfulness embodied in his inclusive, critical and inquiry-based social studies instruction. "With this degree, I will be able to teach locally or go back to living abroad and serving students around the world," he said.


Portrait of Samantha Noregaard

Samantha Noregaard

Doctor of Physical Therapy

A first-generation college student, Samantha has shined academically and clinically in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. She has been a stellar student and has demonstrated strong organizational and leadership skills. Samantha went above and beyond serving as a DPT student leader, volunteering for the DPT dissection lab, and helping to organize events like a DPT rural outreach day with students from Dufur High School. She has also excelled during her clinical rotations, including a challenging rotation in the OHSU hospital system, which entailed managing complex clinical cases. After graduation, Samantha plans to work as a physical therapist in Bend. "I have a passion for pelvic health, orthopedics, and concussion/vestibular rehabilitation," she said.

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