One of the most exciting experiences I have enjoyed in higher education is seeing our students achieve at high levels and receive recognition for their accomplishments. I’m certain many of our faculty members share this sentiment, as it is their direction and instruction that lends to our students’ ambitions.
Throughout my career I’ve had the opportunity to witness many outstanding student achievements and work side by side with some of them on their research. Without reservation, I can tell you Texas Tech University is home to some of the brightest, determined and caring students in higher education. Some examples include:
- Jeevan Maddala, who, in addition to earning a Ph.D. in chemical engineering in August, received a $225,000 National Science Foundation Small Business Technology Transfer grant to assist in commercializing his doctoral work. Jeevan’s research could take years off biomedical and pharmaceutical trials, and thereby save lives.
- The Law Advocacy Team – Aaron Tatyrek of Vernon, Bridget O’Shaughnessy of Austin, and Drew Robertson of Fort Worth. Continuing a long tradition of success, they brought home the program’s 29th national advocacy championship after winning the Hassell National Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition in Virginia Beach, Va.
- Caleb Fisher, a senior marketing and energy commerce major. Caleb owns C. Fisher Productions, a business dedicated to videoing weddings and events. Combining his passion for video production with his desire to help people, Caleb is donating 10 percent of his earnings to the International Justice Mission, a human rights organization, which is helping end human trafficking.
- Women’s track athlete Ifeatu Okafor, who received the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year Award from the national organization last month. More than 450 student-athletes were nominated for the honor. Ify holds two degrees from Texas Tech in exercise sport science (’12) and human sciences (’13). She is currently pursuing a master’s degree at UT Southwestern with plans to become a physician’s assistant.
- Ryan Gregory, whose research in organic cotton garnered the plant and soil science doctoral candidate a $125,000 grant from Seed Matters. The organization fosters the promotion of more organic seed research and funds plant breeders that will help protect organic seed diversity.
- Faith Jurek, a graduate student in agricultural communications, who was named president of the National Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow (NACT). NACT is a collegiate organization, which develops and strengthens agricultural communication students through professional opportunities and educational programs.
- Kennedy Kithuka, the 2012 NCAA Cross Country champion. Kennedy is undefeated in his Texas Tech cross country career, including five events this fall. Also a winner of the 2013 NCAA Indoor title, Kithuka is the first Texas Tech athlete in history to run a sub-4 minute mile, accomplishing the feat at the Texas A&M Challenge last spring.
These students represent just a snapshot of the successes that consistently occur on our campus. As administrators, faculty and alumni, I know we are all proud of the many achievements of our university community and the contributions they – and you – continue to make beyond graduation.
We have such a rich history of pride in our great university that extends beyond fields of play and academic and national rankings. We are measured in many ways, but the successes of those who came before us to those who are currently achieving to those who will accomplish great things in the future are what set us apart.
Join me as we honor our students – past, present and future – and encourage many successes and achievements moving forward.
M. Duane Nellis, Ph.D.