2018 Spring Semester Outstanding Seniors

Monday, June 18, 2018
The Outstanding Seniors of Spring 2018.

Every semester, University of Arizona students volunteer, intern, conduct research, and persevere toward their professional goals and, in turn, stand out within their campus and local communities. To celebrate their hard work and outstanding achievements, CALS holds an Outstanding Senior Awards luncheon to honor these graduating seniors for their dedication, experience, and future goals. Meet the newest group of outstanding graduates.

Sarah DeVore

Major: Family Studies and Human Development

Hard-working, responsible, adaptable, organized, driven, and dedicated are a few of the reasons why Darin J. Knapp, assistant professor of practice in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, nominated Sarah DeVore as an outstanding senior. DeVore has worked toward graduate school since starting at the University of Arizona and was accepted into four different master’s degree programs. She planned her coursework around her goal and, along the way, became an eloquent speaker, concise writer, high-performing student with honors, focused researcher, influential member and officer of the Family Studies & Human Development Ambassadors club, community volunteer, and dedicated part-time worker and intern.

“I think it’s important to realize that her contribution and engagement has been made overtly and deliberately, over and above what many students consider a ‘doable load,’” Knapp said. “Sarah is a first-generation college student and an ideal example of academic, personal, and professional success to those in her family and community who look to her as a leader and aspirational figure.”

With all her hard work and long days, DeVore wouldn’t change a thing about her time with CALS.

“The best advice I can give to anyone coming to college is to try anything and everything! College is only as meaningful as you make it,” she said. “Get involved with your major, clubs, and community, and you will love this school as much as I have!”

Now fully equipped for her next step, DeVore joins Teach for America to become a secondary school teacher in Central Phoenix while working toward a master’s degree in education at Arizona State University.


Justin Johnson

Major: Natural Resources and the Environment — Ecology, Management, and Restoration of Rangelands Emphasis

To be a steward of the land, one another, and the enduring promise of better things yet to come is the mission that Justin Johnson lives by and holds himself to, which has led him to academic success among his peers.

"Evidence of his [Johnson's] performance is his seventh-place finish among 200 contestants in the Undergraduate Range Management Exam (URME) at the international meeting of the Society for Range Management in January 2018,” said Mitch McClaran, Chair, Ecology, Management and Restoration of Rangelands Program. “The URME is a very difficult exam that typically requires several years of preparation to complete a respectable performance; however, Mr. Johnson completed this outstanding performance during his first year of study with CALS. It also earned him the S.C. Martin Memorial Scholarship from the Arizona Section of the Society for Range Management."

Johnson, on top of an impressive beginning to his university career, graduated with a GPA of 4.0. His experience in Tierra Seca, the student chapter of the Society for Range Management, provided him with many opportunities outside of the classroom.

"By participating in the URME at the Society for Range Management Annual Meeting, I was able to showcase all of the things I had learned during the course of my studies. It helped pay for school through scholarships and played a role in securing my new job post-graduation,” Johnson said. “Tierra Seca is an amazing student organization! To new students, get involved early and often like I did. Creating a support network of professors and colleagues really pays off once you receive your diploma."

Johnson is working as an ecohydrology research specialist.


Meghan Marner

Major: Veterinary Science

Meghan Marner is highly spoken of by her nominator, T. Luise King, assistant professor of practice in the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences. Marner exhibits a strong sense of curiosity, great work ethic, professionalism, and commitment to veterinary science. She volunteered and worked at numerous veterinary clinics in the Tucson community, becoming an invaluable animal caretaker. In addition, Marner planned the State FFA Career Development Event for the last two years alongside King.

"Meghan is the student chair for this event, which involves many hours of commitment. She was so helpful in every way,” King said. “[Because of Marner], the event over the past two years was one of the most successful veterinary science competitions we've ever had."

Marner secured a spot at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine to pursue her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. After she earns her doctorate, Marner plans to serve as a mixed animal veterinarian in underserved rural communities.

"I have a strong passion for One Health and I'm incredibly excited to spend my life healing animals and serving the people who depend on them," Marner said. "My favorite aspect of CALS is the hands-on, practical learning experiences that help solidify concepts learned in lecture. One that has particularly impacted me was with Dr. Peder Cuneo's calving class. We spent 48 hours at the UA's V Bar V Cattle Ranch in northern Arizona helping heifers deliver their calves. I don't believe there is another program in the state that offers such a unique, hands-on experience."

In looking back on these shared memories with her peers and mentors, she imparts a piece of invaluable wisdom upon the incoming and current CALS students.

"Take advantage of all that CALS has to offer,” Marner said. “This is a very special program and you will receive so many opportunities to succeed and learn what you want to do for the rest of your life."


Courtney Nash

Major: Retailing and Consumer Sciences

As Courtney Nash reminisces on the past four years within CALS, she’s proud of all she’s accomplished. She believes her time in CALS prepared her to become the best professional she can be, in part, due to the connections she's made at the University of Arizona.

"My favorite aspect of my overall CALS experience has been engaging with all my fellow students and the professors within my program. I was able to learn and grow so much from them,” Nash said. “I have been inspired every day to learn and continue to challenge myself because of them."

One of these influencers is Kylee Vanek, associate director of student leadership and Development at the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing. Vanek advocated on behalf of Nash being recognized as an outstanding senior.

"Courtney is kind, thoughtful, determined, hard-working, engaging and a role model,” Vanek said. “She is the prototype of an ideal student and motivates those around her to embrace challenges, opportunities, and strive for success."

Nash served as an ambassador for the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing, president of the National Retail Federation Student Association, chief justice for the Greek Standards Board , and retail manager for an off-campus store. She is the embodiment of the UA’s 100% engagement mission, having made it her goal to include her peers while distinguishing herself among them as a leader and future professional. Even with departing, Nash considers her peers and encourages them to become as a big a part of campus life as possible, hoping to guide them to the success she’s experienced.

 "Although cliché, these years go by fast. There is not a moment to waste nor time to let opportunities escape you,” Nash said. “Take advantage of our college engagement, it will bring you so far."

Nash plans to move back to northern California, her home before attending the UA, to pursue the first step in her career at Gap Inc. headquarters. There she will work under the Athleta Brand within the inventory management department.


Courtney Pijanowski

Major: Environmental Science

Courtney Pijanowski was nominated by Adam T. Naito, a postdoctoral research associate in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, for standing out among her peers. Pijanowski’s national and international field research experiences, leadership skills, passion for the environment, and promise as a budding scientist were a few reasons supporting his nomination. Naito worked with Pijanowski for two years and describes her as ethical, dedicated, passionate, positive, focused, and impressive. From her work in Namibia and Ecuador to her involvement in the UA’s Students for Sustainability club, Pijanowski represents a well-rounded student excelling in her field.

"Courtney is perhaps the most intelligent, eloquent, forward-thinking, resilient, and mature of the nearly 40 undergraduate students with whom I have worked with over the course of my career, Naito said. “She exemplifies the best of what students in CALS have to offer and sets a standard for a new generation of scientists and individuals dedicated to improving our environment."

Pijanowski is working with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Fairbanks, Alaska, for the summer studying entomology. Afterward, she will pursue a full-time position with NEON in another state.

"Be sure to pursue opportunities outside of the classroom,” Pijanowski said. “I learned the most about myself and my future career through the programs and labs that I became involved with."


Janelle Spry

Major: Agricultural Technology Management and Education — Education Agricultural Systems Management

Janelle Spry loves CALS’s Yuma campus for its engaging, industry-based learning opportunities for her major. Due to this, she took a leap and transferred to the Yuma campus for an experience she could get no where else.  There she met her mentor, Tanya Hodges, Agriculture Technology Management advisor for University of Arizona--Yuma.  Spry has exceeded academic expectations and is held in high regard as an intelligent, motivated, passionate, and reliable individual.

"Janelle is a motivated young lady who gives 100 percent to anything she does. She assumes responsibility and follows through on all personal and professional projects,” Hodges said. “In my opinion, her overall ability is beyond reproach. She is a tremendous asset to our Yuma Agriculture Technology Management program alongside the Yuma agriculture industry."

Spry is a first-generation student and worked as an intern while having a full-credit load, volunteering, and maintaining a strong academic report. Her experiences in Yuma have only supported her decision to pursue further education after graduation.

"I have had the pleasure of connecting with the local industry members and exploring various roles in the industry production process. These experiences in the Yuma program have encouraged my decision in furthering my education in Food Safety this fall, “she said  "My favorite aspect of CALS is that it's a family that you find after leaving yours back home. Together, students can grow into individuals." 


Other students honored at the Outstanding Senior Awards luncheon include:

  Christine Bradshaw - Microbiology

  Emily Derks - Agribusiness Economics

  Hailey Buell - Plant Sciences

  Jorge Cochran - Sustainable Plant Systems

  Kenneth Schakart - Biosystems Engineering

  Maria Hernandez - Family Studies and Human Development

  Preston Kramer - Sustainable Plant Systems

  Taylor Busby - Environment & Water Resource Economics


Congratulations to these spring seniors. We wish you well on the journey before you! Stay tuned for the Fall 2018 semester outstanding seniors and their accomplishments!