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NMSU Alumni Association honors Spring 2009 Outstanding Graduates

For their outstanding academic performance, leadership, scholarship and participation in university and community activities, the New Mexico State University Alumni Association honored nine Outstanding Graduates for Fall 2008.


An outstanding graduate was chosen from each of NMSU's academic colleges, as well as an international student and two graduate students. They will be honored at a luncheon at 12:30 p.m. Friday, May 8, in the Corbett Center Student Union West Ballroom.

The College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences will honor Colleen Keri Boyd of Alamogordo, an agronomy major. Boyd earned a 4.0 GPA, is on the Dean's List and was inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars in 2007. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and has received the Dr. and Mrs. Cotter Scholarship, the Smart Grant Scholarship and the Billy Melton Scholarship.

The College of Arts and Sciences will honor Jenna Michelle Painter of Las Cruces, a microbiology major. Painter earned a 3.97 GPA, is a Crimson Scholar and received the 2008 Danny Villanueva Hispanic Scholarship. She has served as a mentor in Big Brothers Big Sisters, has received the Llave Award for Leadership and Diversity and was a undergraduate teaching assistant for a microbial genetics class in Fall 2008.

The College of Business will honor Cecilia Diaz of Silver City, an accounting major. Diaz earned a 3.96 GPA, is a Crimson Scholar and is on the Dean's List. She has received the ACFE Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship and the Ernst and Young Business Leaders Scholarship, and she serves as vice president for the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting.

The College of Education will honor Kayme Burkeen of Carlsbad, an elementary education major. Burkeen earned a 4.0 GPA, is a Crimson Scholar and is on the Dean's List. Burkeen is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society, Who's Who Among American College Students and the Alpha Chi International Honor Society.

The College of Engineering will honor Dorothy Lanphere of Las Vegas, an electronics and computer engineering major. Lanphere earned a 3.75 GPA, is a Crimson Scholar and is on the Dean's List. She is the president and founder of the NMSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, has served as treasurer for the Tau Alpha Pi Engineering Honor Society and is a recipient of the 2008 Arizona Public Service Scholarship.

The College of Extended Learning will honor Suzanne Whitter of Las Cruces, who will receive a bachelor's degree of applied studies. Whitter has earned a 4.0 GPA, is a Crimson Scholar and is on the Dean's List. Whitter served as the treasurer for the College of Extended Learning College Council and has received the Ada P. Mills Memorial Scholarship and the American Association of University Women Scholarship.

The College of Health and Social Services will honor Amanda Kay Coull of Las Cruces, a social work major with minors in psychology and Spanish. Coull has earned a 4.0 GPA, is a Crimson Scholar and is on the Dean's List. She has served as both president and vice president for the Student Social Work Association and as president for the Alpha Chi National Honor Society.

The International and Border Programs will honor Paulina Zuniga of Guadalupe, Mexico, an industrial engineering major with a minor in environmental management. Zuniga has earned a 3.87 GPA, is a Crimson Scholar and is on the Dean's List. She is a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and was a Intercollegiate Tennis Association Scholar Athlete. She has played for the NMSU Tennis Team since 2005 and was chosen as WAC Player of the Week in February 2007.

The Graduate School will honor R. Iliana Ruiz-Cooley as the Outstanding Ph.D. Graduate Student and Rachel Tofteland as Outstanding Masters Graduate Student.

Ruiz-Cooley will receive a Ph.D. in evolutionary ecology. She has worked in research labs around the world, producing new insights on whales and squids. She has been invited to present her work in several countries, including the International Symposium of cephalopods in Lima, Peru, and the International Sperm Whale Workshop in Cape Town, South Africa. Her leadership at NMSU includes serving as a role model and mentoring undergraduate students interested in marine biology.

Tofteland will receive a master's degree in communication studies. She has given five conference papers at the National Communication Association Conference, including one titled "Change: Visual Code Words in the 2008 Presidential General Election." She is president of the Department of Communications Graduate Student Association and is regarded highly by her fellow students. She has also worked as a teaching assistant and an adjunct instructor on NMSU campus, taught English to 15 Japanese students from Kobe University and last summer she volunteered to teach English to school children in Tanzania, an East African country.

For more information contact the NMSU Alumni Association at (575) 646-3616.