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Idaho State University 2018 Outstanding Student Award recipients announced

April, 11, 2018

POCATELLO – Idaho State University and the ISU Alumni Association proudly announce the 2018 Outstanding Student Award recipients who will be honored at Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 5, in Holt Arena.

Idaho State University 2018 Outstanding Student Award recipients announced

The 12 Outstanding Student Awards are presented to recognize outstanding graduating seniors who have excelled in their programs, their extracurricular activities and have epitomized ISU's outstanding student body.  Students receiving these prestigious awards exhibit a readiness to graduate, high academic achievement, above-average dedication to academic and professional goals and involvement in professional societies. Work experience and community service are also considered.

The Outstanding Student Award recipients will be honored at a reception April 25 in the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. in the Marshall Rotunda, followed by the presentation of awards at 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre. To RSVP, call the Office of Alumni Relations at 208-282-3730 or e-mail

Outstanding Student Award recipients for 2018 are: Heather Walser, hometown Warwick Rhode Island, College of Pharmacy; Jessalynn Dee Garnett, from Jerome, School of Nursing; Larinda Nichols,  Soda Springs, master’s candidate; Doug Colman, Alamosa, Colorado, doctoral candidate; Casetin Wade Lybbert,  Lewiston, College of Arts and Letters – Arts and Humanities; Jillian Christiansen, Meridian, College of Arts and Letters – Social and Behavioral Sciences; Kenneth Powell, Jerome, College of Technology; Benjamin Poulter,  Pocatello, College of Science and Engineering – Natural and Physical Sciences; Malcolm E. Tencate, Boise, College of Science and Engineering – Engineering; Jessica Downes, Pocatello, Division of Health Sciences; Brianna Gibson, Twin Falls, College of Education; Daniel Ortiz Flores, Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, College of Business.

Biographies appear below.

Daniel OrtizDaniel Ortiz: Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, Bachelor of Science Degree Finance, Management and Marketing, College of Business ­– Ortiz started his undergraduate education in business administration at the Autonomous University of Juarez.

He later did an exchange program to Reykjavik University in Iceland, and after that, he decided to finish his undergraduate degree in the United States at Idaho State University.

Now at ISU, he is graduating with a triple major in finance, management and marketing.

He is a member of the International Student Association and the Finance Association, and he has been awarded as the 2016 November's CPI of the month, and the 2016-2017 Second Runner-Up Student Employee of the Year.

Jessica DownesJessica Downes, Pocatello, Bachelor of Science Degrees in Radiographic Science and Health Science with an emphasis in Occupational Therapy, Division of Health Sciences ­– Downes grew up hiking the mountains of Idaho with her parents and her little sister. She graduated from Century High School in 2013, with highest honors.

She attended ISU from fall 2013 to spring 2018. She plans to seek certification in magnetic resonance imaging or nuclear medicine and go on to attend school to become a physician assistant.

Downes enjoys painting with oil and acrylic in her free time and continues to enjoy the outdoors. She was married to Jordan Ohmie in July of 2017.

She is currently employed at Portneuf Medical Center as a radiologic technologist student.

She will be taking the national registry exam to become a registered radiologic technologist soon after graduation.

Casetin LybbertCasetin Wade Lybbert, Lewiston,  Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology, Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish for Health Professions, College of Arts and Letters – Fine Arts and Humanities – Lybbert was born east of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Cardston, Alberta Canada where he spent much of his childhood fishing and hiking with his siblings, parents and grandparents. Lybbert has wonderful parents and seven amazing siblings.

Later he moved to Idaho and eventually settled in Lewiston where he grew up and went to most of his schooling. There he continued to fish, whitewater raft, hunt and he also enjoyed wrestling and playing football.

After he graduated high school he was called to serve a two-year mission in Southern California. Lybbert’s assignment was focused on the Latino Spanish speaking community. It was on his mission where he grew to love the Latino culture and where he learned to speak fluent Spanish.

After his mission he began his education at Lewis-Clark State College where he majored in biology and minored in Spanish. There he met and married his wife, Megan.

He later came to ISU and joined a top-notch research lab with faculty member Jason Pilarski. He took on a second major, Spanish for health professions. He was able to take pre-dental school courses to prepare for dental school. He also became affiliated with and served with Idaho Condor Humanitarian Services a non-profit medical mission trip to Peru, where he was able to combine his love for Spanish and dentistry. Lybbert and his wife are expecting their first baby this August.

Heather WalserHeather Walser, hometown Warwick Rhode Island, Doctor of Pharmacy program, College of Pharmacy – Walser earned her Bachelor of Science degree in clinical laboratory science from the University of Rhode Island.

She was previously employed as a medical technologist working in a hospital laboratory for seven years before deciding to pursue a career in pharmacy.

Walser has served in many leadership roles while attending ISU. She has served as a leader as part of the American Pharmacist Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists, Student Senate and the Drug Free Idaho Coalition.

She has been able to focus on educating on the dangers of misusing prescription drugs by volunteering at National Drug-Take Back events, presenting to middle school students, as well as creating a public service announcement that aired on the television station KBTV last spring.

These experiences have helped develop her career goals of working with those with substance abuse disorders and to continue educating the community about prescription drug abuse.


Jessalynn GarnetJessalynn Dee Garnett, from Jerome, Honors Bachelor of Science Degree Nursing, School of Nursing – Originally from Washington, Garnett spent her childhood hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors in southern Idaho.

She is a first-generation college graduate and the first to complete an Honors degree in the School of Nursing.


Her thesis is “Perpetrator Accountability, Propensity for Abuse and Aggression in a Male Sample Arrested for Domestic Violence in a Rural State.”

Garnett is eager to start in her career where in every shift is a testimony to the fact that every breath is a gift. She competed for two years on Idaho State University’s track and field team and currently serves as the vice president of her nursing class and as the student representative on the School of Nursing’s Undergraduate Committee.

Larinda NicholsLarinda Nichols, Soda Springs, Nuclear Science and Engineering, Master’s Candidate – On the day Nichols was born, her older brother Myron crawled under the kitchen table and cried. He was devastated that his mother had given birth to yet another girl and not the little brother he had wanted so badly. Like all good brothers, he decided instead to teach Larinda everything a boy should know-how to ride a bike, ride horses, snow machine and 4-wheel. He even taught her how to wrestle. The elementary wrestling coaches were sure it was only a joke when she showed up to practice in her black spandex shorts with the pink ruffle. But Larinda made her brother very proud when she took second place in the wrestling tournament that year.

When she entered high school, Nichols decided it was time to support her wrestling buddies in a “less awkward way”, so she turned in her wrestling outfit for a pair of pom-poms. After high school, Nichols went on to receive a degree in graphic communications from ISU. She worked in Pocatello for three years at Homeseekers Magazine until the birth of her first child Dennis, followed by his little sister Ayla two years later. Nichols stayed at home and raised the two children until the youngest started kindergarten.

But rather than going back to work, Nichols realized that nothing could be as challenging as raising two toddlers. So, she came back to ISU to embark on what would become a seven-year adventure in nuclear and mechanical engineering. Nichols would like her friends, family, and professors to know that she would never made it this far without their never-ending support, especially from her role-model and sister, Katreena.

Jillian ChristiansenJillian Christiansen, Meridian, Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Studies and Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science, College of Arts and Letters – Social and Behavioral Sciences – Christiansen is finishing up her two bachelor’s degrees in international studies and political science.

She began her journey at ISU in Pocatello in the fall of 2016 but she started taking classes from ISU during her sophomore year of high school.

She graduated with an associate’s degree from ISU before obtaining her high school diploma.

Upon graduation, she will be interning with a lawyer in Denver over the summer before beginning law school at the University of Idaho.

She is an avid collector of all things Snoopy.


Malcolm TencaMalcolm E. Tencate, Boise, Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering – Engineering – Tencate has lived in Bonaire, Colombia, Seattle, and Boise.

He ran in varsity track and cross country for Capitol High School in Boise.

At ISU, he competed as a sprinter and decathlete.

Tencate is the president of Crossroads Christian Fellowship, is a member of the University Honors Program and is a member of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society. 


Douglas ColemanDoug Colman, Alamosa, Colorado, Experimental Psychology, Doctoral Candidate – Colman will be graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in experimental psychology this May.

Prior to coming to ISU, he completed Master of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in leadership from Adams State University in Southern Colorado, where he is from.

He already has eight publications, half of which he is the first author, 33 conference presentations and has independently taught 10 different courses.

Furthermore, he has numerous manuscripts in the works and was recently invited to write a book chapter.

Outside of his academic life, he enjoys spending time with his wife and their dogs as well as exploring the outdoors-especially while fly fishing.


Jake PowellKenneth “Jake” Powell, Jerome, Associate of Applied Science Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology, College of Technology –Powell grew up in Idaho’s Magic Valley, where he enjoyed hunting, camping and being outdoors. He enjoys working with animals and is planning on raising a small number of cattle and horses in the near future with his wife Katherine.

Powell had the opportunity to serve a religious mission February 2013-15 in the Philippines for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

He came to ISU two years ago because he wanted to develop a hands-on skill set that would lead to a successful career; the Energy Systems Technology and Education Center program at the College of Technology has provided just that in the form of his electrical engineering technology degree.

Powell has always been excited about how things work and has found a passion in working with electricity.

He was married to Katherine Smith in May of 2015 and they have two wonderful children. He was the son of Bill and Cathy Powell and is the third of five sons.


Ben PoulterBenjamin Poulter, Pocatello, Bachelor of Science Degree Chemistry with Minor in Mathematics, College of Science and Engineering – Natural and Physical Sciences – Poulter attended Pocatello High School and spent his senior year studying abroad in Poland.

Now, he is a senior at ISU and will be graduating in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry with a minor in mathematics.

Throughout his undergraduate career, Poulter has worked in the research lab of ISU chemistry Professor and Chair Rene Rodriguez, which has resulted in two journal publications and numerous conference presentations.

Poulter is also currently the president of the ISU Chemistry Club, whose main goal is promoting scientific knowledge to the community.

After graduating from ISU, Poulter will pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry at either University of Washington or University of Colorado-Boulder.


Breanna GibsonBrianna Gibson, Twin Falls, Bachelor of Arts Degree, Honors Secondary English Education and English Literature, College of Education –Gibson comes from a family of teachers and is honored to follow in the footsteps of her sister, father and mother, all alumni of Idaho State University.

Gibson defended an undergraduate honors thesis for the University Honors Program and will be awarded an Honors Degree in May. Having been on the Dean’s list every semester of her undergraduate career, Gibson will graduate with a 3.92 GPA. She is currently teaching at Century High School.

Gibson thrived at ISU as she involved herself in a variety of departments and organizations throughout her colligate journey.  She is a member of Kappa Delta Pi, Sigma Tau Delta, and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Societies. She is also an executive board member of the 1901 Student Alumni Association, Writing Center tutor, Honors Program Career Path Intern, Department of English Undergraduate Committee student representative, and cellist in the Idaho State Civic Symphony.

Gibson was voted “Coordinator’s Choice” and “Director’s Choice” for outstanding leadership for her work as a New Student Orientation coordinator for two years. Gibson received financial support of her education through scholarships including the Opportunity Scholarship, Laura Moore Cunnigham Scholarship, Bennion Honors Scholarship, Idaho Civic Symphony Scholarship, Jay G and Mary Donna Jensen Scholarship and several others.






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