Student Appreciation Award Winners Honored

SOCORRO, N.M. May 7, 2014 -- New Mexico Tech honored seven students and one organization with the 2014 Student Appreciation Awards.

Melissa Begay, Director of Physical Recreation and Student Activities, hosted the event and presented the awards. The winners are Elizabeth Barteau, Kyle Benalil, Rebecca Clemens, Andrew Godsil, Robert Johnston, Bryan Morales, Sam Rochelle and Alpha Sigma Kappa. 

The Student Appreciation Awards were created 17 years ago to recognize outstanding New Mexico Tech students and clubs demonstrating generosity of spirit and performance above and beyond the call of duty.  What all award winners have in common is that they were nominated by Tech faculty and staff for contributions to Tech and the larger Socorro community.

Elizabeth Barteau

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Elizabeth Barteau accepts her Student Appreciation Award. From left are Ifan Payne, Barteau, Melissa Begay and Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming.

 Photos by Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech


A fifth year senior. Barteau isearning a bachelor's in technical communication and civil engineering. She is the president of the New Mexico Tech Trinity chapter of the Society of Technical Communication, a current member (and running for office) in the student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter.

In her free time, Elizabeth also volunteers at the Socorro Storehouse as a cook and helps them fundraise. She also walks and socializes dogs and cats at the local animal shelter. Elizabeth works with Habitat for Humanity throughout New Mexico. Last summer, Elizabeth had the opportunity to take a class called Engineering for developing communities in Nepal.

“While living in rural villages, she worked on developing solutions to alleviate water shortages in the area. She also built up a high resistance to extremely spicy Nepail chilies,” wrote Ifan Payne in his nomination letter.

Kyle Benalil

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Kyle Benalil accepts his Student Appreciation Award. From left are Melissa Begay, Elaine DeBrine-Howell, Benalil, Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming, Dr. Nadir Yilmaz and Brad Winton.


A native of Socorro, Benalil is in his third year at New Mexico Tech studying Mechanical Engineering with an outstanding GPA of 3.87. Kyle’s academic achievements resulted in awards and honors such as valedictorian, Standout Techie, President’s Honor Roll and New Mexico Tech Scholar. He was also nominated for the Engineering Student of the Year. Besides his outstanding academic performance, he has proven great leadership as the student president of the Society of Automotive Engineers collegiate chapter at Tech. He is also a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and American Society for Engineering Education.

He is also the president of the Men’s Soccer Club. He volunteers for the State Science Olympiad and Science Fair. Just this February, Kyle helped organize a trash clean-up with the city of Socorro as part of “Keep Socorro Beautiful.” He is a key figure in organizing volunteers for Socorro Fest and Socorro Arts Party. He also coaches and referees in the American Youth Soccer Organization.

Dr. Nadir Yilmaz wrote in his nomination letter that “Kyle promotes a high standard of research, academic excellence and leadership. His voluntary service to the university and the community goes beyond that of his peers.”

Soccer coach Brad Winton wrote, “Kyle has gone above and beyond my expectations this past year as club president. He is someone to look up to and he is very dependable”.

Elaine Debrine Howell wrote, “Kyle is quietly kind, humble and incredibly generous of this time and talent. He is exactly the type of student for whom we designed the Student Appreciation Award.”

Andrew Godsil

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Andrew Godsil accepts his Student Appreciation Award. From left are Melissa Begay, Dr. Julie Ford, Godsil and Melissa Jaramillo Fleming.


Andrew Godsil will be graduating this May with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. Andrew has served as the student supervisor for the departments’ machine shop. Beyond his assigned duties of overseeing the safe and proper use of machining processes and tools in the shop, Andrew has offered his prior machining expertise in supporting several of our undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty who needed parts machined.  

Andrew has approached his studies with the same sense of professionalism he brings to the machine shop, as reflected by his GPA of 3.75. In the junior and senior design clinic, Andrew stood out as one of the top students. The team he led for the last three semesters won first prize in the advanced category, beating out 20 schools from all over the United States as well as other countries at the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition in Green RiverUtah, this past June.

Andrew’s most recent accomplishment includes representing New Mexico Tech at the International Test and Evaluation Association conference in El Paso in March. He was awarded a top prize in the outstanding paper competition.

Dr. Julie Ford wrote, “Not only does Andrew possess the analytical skills and technical abilities that will result in a fine engineer, but he is a skilled leader, a motivator, and the type of person who will make a positive impact in whatever environment he finds himself.

Bryan Morales

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Bryan Morales accepts his Student Appreciation Award. From left are Melissa Begay, Lyndsey Lewis, Danielle Ochoa, Tristine Hayward, Morales and Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming.


Bryan is a junior majoring in civil engineering and is in the top 15 percent of hisclass. Bryan has worked for the Office of Admissions for two semesters now and goes above and beyond the call of duty. As an employee of the admissions department, he conducts campus tours for prospective students; however, Bryan also volunteers his time on evenings and weekends to help organize special tours.

“I am constantly told by our visitors how helpful, knowledgeable, and polite Bryan is”, wrote Lyndsey Lewis.

Tristine Hayward, admissions counselor wrote, “I am quite sure he is a large part of why these students leave the school with a great image of NMT in their minds.”

Danielle Ochoa, administrative assistant for the Admissions Department, also wrote that “after Bryan’s tours, the office of Admissions is flooded with positive feedback. The parents and students really enjoy the time they spend with Bryan.”

Bryan is not working or volunteering his free time to showcase our campus, he is also actively involved in the American Society of Civil Engineers club organizing and arranging activities that encourage students to become engineers. He was awarded American Society of Civil Engineers Dr. Eldred Harrington Scholarship this year.

In the summer, Bryan works and volunteers his time as a Hot Shot and Forestry Technician promoting fire awareness programs. This at times results in him wearing the Smokey Bear costume. So the next time you spot Smokey Bear, it might very well be Bryan.

Sam Rochelle

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Sam Rochelle accepts his Student Appreciation Award. From left are Melissa Begay, Dave Wheelock, Rochelle and Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming.


A senior, Sam is graduating this May with a Physics and Earth Sciences degree with an outstanding GPA of 3.94. Sam will be accepting a Graduate Fellowship Award to begin his Ph.D. studies at Arizona State University in the fall.

Sam has many academic achievements on his record, including being a Tech Scholar with several presentations and publications to his credit. As Dave Wheelock, Sport club Coordinator and Rugby Director worded it, “Sam is no bookworm lost to the society around him.”

Throughout Sam’s time at New Mexico Tech, he has participated in extracurricular life serving as an active member and as an officer in three sport clubs; Climbing, Caving, and Biking. As the current president of the biking club, Sam has been instrumental in establishing and volunteering for the club’s weekly “wrench-a-thons” where countless members of the Tech and Socorro community have brought their bikes in for repairs and instruction.

He is the treasurer for the Caving Club and is a member of the new competitive climbing team.

Wheelock wrote that “Sam carries himself through the many facets of his life with an unfailing air of modesty, cheerfulness, and humor. He is universally well liked and respected. It has been a pleasure to work with Sam Rochelle through the sport club program.”

Kathleen Trujillo

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Katie Trujillo accepts her Student Appreciation Award. From left are Melissa Begay, Vicky Gonzales, Trujillo and Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming.


Kathleen, or Katie, is graduating this May with a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. Katie was one of the founding members of the New Mexico Tech’s first sorority, Alpha Sigma Kappa. She has been a member and an officer for the Society of Women Engineers and is currently an officer for the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers. She is also an active member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Believe it or not, but Katie finds time for athletics as well. She has been a member of the Queens Rugby Club and participates in the Socorro City league softball.

Katie also volunteers as a tutor and mentor for children in the Socorro community. Vicky Gonzales, Director of Accounts Payable wrote, “Katie is a considerate, knowledgeable and a competent student leader who deserves proper recognition. She has balanced her extracurricular and academic responsibilities and made a lasting impression on me and the other people who have had the privilege of having known her.”

Rebecca Clemens

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Rebecca Clemens accepts her Student Appreciation Award. From left are Melissa Begay, Dr. Steve Simpson, Clemens and Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming.


Rebecca is currently pursuing a master’s in mechanical engineering with a specialization in solid mechanics. She came to Tech after several earlier careers including a technologist at Sandia National Laboratories; a telecommunications administrator; a librarian; and a commercial baker.

Rebecca has transitioned very well to her new “career” (student) as she has been highly successful in her studies and with her research. In March, Rebecca received an award for best graduate student paper at the 2014 meeting of the International Test and Evaluation Association in El PasoTexas.

Rebecca has worked as a STEM Communication Fellow in the Writing and Oral Presentation Center. She has taken the lead in setting up services in the Writing Center for distance students in Mechanical Engineering, Engineering Management, and the Master of Science for Teachers program. She has offered workshops for students participating in the NMT Student Research Symposium and has helped students in all disciplines prepare posters and presentations.

Dr. Steve Simpson said, “What impresses me most is the number of behind-the-scenes services Rebecca performs that makes her fellow students’ lives a lot easier, the sort of services that aren’t always recognized as they should be. Rebecca is selflessly dedicated to the success of students at New Mexico Tech.”

Robert Johnston

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Robert Johnston accepts his Student Appreciation Award. From left are Melissa Begay, Dr. Michaelann Tartis, Johnston, Dr. Snezna Rogelj and Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming.


Robert is a Ph.D. student in materials engineering and is expect to graduate in May 2016. Robert has been a very active student mentor for three departments: Biology, Materials Engineering, and Chemical Engineering.He has worked very hard to master skills in all three disciplines and navigate communication between people, departments, and collaborators at Sandia National Laboratories.

Dr. Michaelann Tartis wrote, “The point I’d like to emphasize is how much Robert gives to others on campus – of his most precious commodity: time. He is invested in the success of others, not merely his own”.

In spite of changing his fields, Robert has remained closely associated with the Biology Department's research and teaching. He regularly and voluntarily attends Dr. Snezna’s weekly Drug Discovery Group meetings and serves as the senior graduate student mentor to most everyone in the group.

Dr. Rogelj wrote, “He is our microscopy, tissue culture and spectroscopy instructor and expert. Robert is absolute pleasure to interact with at a professional and personal level; he possesses a stick-with-it attitude and a generous kindness, a spirited, curious and enthusiastic mind, an emotionally mature, dependable and honest personality …and is an altogether profoundly admirable young man.”

Several professors commented on Robert’s reliability when called upon and his willingness to get the job done. Robert is also an amazing athlete. He has been a member of the Men’s Tech Tonics Volleyball Club and assistant coach to the previous volunteer volleyball coach, Dr. Scott Zeman. After Dr Zeman left several years ago, Robert was the glue that kept the volleyball club together. He has continued to help organize fundraising tournaments for the club to attend the USA Volleyball National Championships for the past 4 + years. He also coaches and plays with the Tech Tonics in the UMN Lobo Volleyball League every semester. 

Alpha Sigma Kappa

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The women of Alpha Sigma Kappa accept their Student Appreciation Award. From left are Melissa Begay, Dale Procter, Katie Orona, Christina Navarez, Caitlin Guenther, Lillian Armijo and Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming.


Alpha Sigma Kappa (also known as ASK) is a social sorority for women pursuing degrees in architecture, engineering, mathematics and the sciences. The Tech chapter of ASK was founded in December 2010. Theirpurpose is to promote friendship, academic achievement, unity within the sisterhood, and philanthropy throughout the community.

Lillian Armijo, Director of Student Affairs, wrote “The woman of Alpha Sigma Kappa have demonstrated a willingness to continually contribute time and energy to New Mexico Tech. They diligently help not only the campus community with their service but also the Socorro community.”

Members of the club volunteer for events such as convocation, orientation, Career Fair, and Research@Tech Day, Community Arts Party, Science Olympiad and Science Fair, and activities related to science and math within the Socorro schools. The club organizes blood and clothing drives throughout the year. They give their time to the Socorro Animal Shelter and participate in the Rio Grande River clean-up. The members of ASK also host fun events on campus for students such as Monster Bash, Golf Scramble, barbecues during 49ers and recruitment events such as dances and game nights.

Alpha Sigma Kappa, Lillian. Representing the club at the awards banquet were Caitlin Guenther, Christina Navarez, Dale Procter and Katie Orona

Congratulations to all of our Student Appreciation Award winners.

-- NMT --