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Weber State Students

Energized by Serving Others

Anna Robbins, Master of Professional Communication major and African Diaspora Student Senator, plans to use her education to be part of the change she wants to see.

Why would someone quit a successful job and move 2,000 miles across the country at the start of the third trimester of her pregnancy?

For Anna Robbins, the answer comes easy. “I always knew I would return because I had a piece of Weber State in my heart,” she said, explaining her move last summer.

Robbins first attended WSU in 2007 as a track athlete, fresh out of high school. Reluctant to leave the warmth of Arizona for Utah’s colder climate, she overcame her initial nervousness and made the most of her experience. “I jumped in, got involved and made friends,” she said.

She ran track, discovered rugby, got involved in housing, served as the student senator for diversity and pursued studies in athletic training. In hindsight, Robbins realizes she took on too many roles at once. She eventually left and finished her degree at BYU Hawaii.

When Robbins decided to pursue a master’s degree to better support her future child, her heart led her back to Weber State. Again, she left her comfort zone, this time a successful job in personal training in Virginia, for Utah. After giving birth to her son, Rio, last October, Robbins laughs that everyone knew her as the person who brought her baby to class.

In May, Robbins combined her passion for fitness and desire to serve by enrolling in the Salt Lake Police Academy, days before George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.  

For Robbins, that was even more of a reason to pursue her new career.

“I’m a supporter of Black Lives Matter, and that can be awkward when you are in law enforcement,” Robbins said. “We need good police officers. We can’t let a few bad eggs ruin all the positive. The academy does not teach us to use excessive force.”

She recently switched her graduate program to the Master of Professional Communication degree at WSU, in hopes that she’ll learn how to de-escalate situations, and use communication skills to educate and dispel misunderstandings.

During the 2020–21 academic year, she will serve as African Diaspora Student Senator for the WSU Student Association.

“I love getting involved,” she said. “That is my energy. That’s what drives me.”

Someone Who’s Going to be There

Crystal Crest winner Armand Berry was inspired to inspire others

Ogden High School physical education teacher and baseball coach Troy Kolan treated Armand Berry and his twin brother, Antonio, differently than some K–12 teachers had in the past. 

“He treated us like we were normal,” Armand said.

Armand and Antonio were born premature and are shaken baby syndrome survivors. The brothers’ retinas were damaged when they were shaken as infants, and, as a result, they are both legally blind. Armand also has multiple sclerosis, and Antonio was recently diagnosed with cancer. 

Armand said Kolan inspired him and Antonio, a WSU family studies major, to stay active and get involved in sports, despite their physical limitations. 

Armand, a WSU physical education major with minors in sport coaching education, family studies and health promotion teaching, hopes to emulate Kolan in his career. As the 2020 Crystal Crest Awards winner for Wildcat Achievement, he has already inspired the Weber State community with his story.

While Armand said he has benefitted from accommodations from WSU faculty and Disability Services staff, college has been difficult.

“Walking around, it’s a struggle,” he said. “Sometimes, my hands lose their feeling, so I can’t grip onto a pen to write.”

It will all be worth it, though, when he’s able to pay it forward by inspiring children with disabilities to strive for success.

Armand has a nearly perfect GPA and has participated in Weber State’s Child & Family Student Association, Future Educators Association, First Generation Club and anthropology and sociology clubs. He is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and volunteers at the Treehouse Museum.

“Hopefully, I can take everything I have learned and give it back to future generations,” he said. “Kids don’t need more authority figures; they need someone who’s going to be there.”

Armand plans to graduate in 2022. Until then, he will learn as much as he can to one day help as many kids as possible.

“I’m really glad I’ve had the professors I’ve had,” he said. “I’m thankful for the inspiration and the mentorship.”

Opportunities Ahead

A Wildcat Scholars student looks toward a future in healthcare

At only 18 years old, Jollyn Mukura has already spent more than one year working on earning her RN degree from Weber State University.

In the fall semester of 2019 Mukura was a Wildcat Scholar, a program designed to support the next generation of leaders by revamping the first few years of college. Wildcat Scholars have the opportunity to skip non-college credit courses and receive free books and parking, along with other benefits. First-generation, low-income and undocumented students are encouraged to apply.

Mukura is an international student from Rwanda who graduated from Layton Christian Academy before attending WSU. She said the program was immensely helpful because she was able to get help with English classes as well as additional advising.

“Most international students need to be in that program because they have no idea what they are walking into,” she said.

Mukura chose to attend WSU because of its proximity to Layton Christian Academy, where her younger sister is still a student. 

“I didn’t know a lot about Weber but when I got there it was so exciting to know they have an amazing nursing program and a good support system,” she said.

While she initially thought about pursuing a business degree, Mukura ultimately chose nursing because she didn’t want a job sitting behind a desk.

“I’ve always had a passion for people,” she said.

That passion may one day take Mukura back to Rwanda, where her parents and siblings still live. She plans to graduate in 2023 and wants to then become a nurse anesthesiologist. 

Mukura said nurse anesthesiologists aren’t commonplace in Rwanda.

“I would be able to help a lot of people,” she said.

While it took a little convincing because her family wanted her to become a doctor, Mukura says she now has their full support.

“It’s really good I have a family that backs me up and tells me to keep going even though it’s hard,” she said.

During her first year at WSU, Mukura had the chance to shadow healthcare professionals at Intermountain Healthcare in Ogden. During that experience, she learned many nurses felt underappreciated.

“But they were able to show me there’s also a good side,” she said. “You’re able to treat the patients and I learned a lot.”

Raising Awareness

Communication graduate recognized for PR excellence

Weber State University took top honors in the 2019 Utah Public Relations Student of the Year Competition, hosted by the Salt Lake City chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. 

Karen Valdez, a communication major, shared first place in the contest with a BYU-Idaho student, and WSU students Kylie Harris and Conner Arvidson were selected as runners up.

“Honestly, it’s unreal,” said Valdez, who finished her bachelor’s degree in communication last spring. 

Students in the competition created a yearlong strategy to raise awareness for the Major Brent Taylor Legacy Foundation, which honors North Ogden mayor Maj. Brent Taylor, who was killed while serving in the Utah National Guard. The foundation is dedicated to making a difference in the local community, raising scholarship money and supporting military families. Finalists were selected for a live competition, where they presented their strategies, pitched news stories, wrote news releases, developed responses to a crisis and spoke to journalists in a mock news conference.

Valdez received $1,000 and was honored at the Golden Spike Awards. She later began an internship with the foundation and helped connect it with Ogden Peak Communications, WSU’s student-run public relations and advertising group.

Valdez relates the lessons Taylor taught his children and exemplified those she learned from her own parents, who pushed her to become the first in her family to attend college.

“My parents are such hard workers,” she said. “When I was young, my dad worked two different jobs, and he would get up really early, and he used to say, ‘If you’re ever going to do something, give it your best shot. If you’re not going to do your best, you might as well not do it at all.'”

The 2019 competition marks the seventh time since 2011 that Weber State students have earned a top prize in the competition.

“It’s honestly changed my life,” Valdez said.

MIS grads receive 100% acceptance to Carnegie Mellon

Weber State achieved a perfect score for recent management information systems graduates accepted to Carnegie Mellon University’s graduate program for information security and information management.

Five of the graduates started CMU’s master’s program this fall, and nine participated in the Summer Security Intensive Information Technology Lab to get a look at the rigors of the master’s program and complete three cybersecurity courses. After the summer program, students typically join the master’s program.

CMU has an average acceptance rate of less than 20 percent.

In the past four years, 20 WSU students have been admitted to the CMU graduate programs and 22 to the summer program.

In 2018, WSU was selected as a CMU National Education Partner, allowing admitted students to receive scholarships equal to at least 30 percent of tuition per semester with additional scholarships based on the strength of their applications.

“The students we are sending to CMU will go on to be leaders in the industry,” said Randy Boyle, WSU management information systems professor.

A Commencement to Remember

Wildcats displayed grit, tenacity, and a great deal of patience, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed the spring 2020 commencement ceremony to Aug. 29.

The long-awaited celebration closely followed health department recommendations for social distancing, while honoring the class of 2020 for reaching the major milestone.

“The graduating class of 2020 will always be remembered as those who had the determination to complete their college education during a time of historic tumult,” said WSU President Brad Mortensen. “I applaud their grit and tenacity and know they will use these strengths to continue to lead and succeed.”

Fast Track to Success

Wildcat Scholar Camille Lopez found her path at Weber State

Camille Lopez wasn’t always excited about going to school. In fact, she was told she should drop out of the alternative high school she attended while growing up in the Rose Park neighborhood of Salt Lake City. After being told she couldn’t walk at her graduation, she did drop out.

When she finally earned her last required high school credits at 23, she worked and tried furthering her education at one of Utah’s technical colleges where she found the experience impersonal and unfriendly.

But in the fall of 2019, Lopez found Weber State and the Wildcat Scholars program.

“I honestly don't believe I would still be in college today if it wasn’t for that program,” she said. “They give you all the tools you need to succeed and they’re super helpful.”

Not only is Lopez now a sophomore pursuing a career in special education, she is doing so while raising three young children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.

Lopez said Wildcat Scholars has helped her immensely. The program provides academic support to students who qualify. Lopez was able to fast track through her general education courses in the fall semester and earn a 4.0 GPA, all while potty training her kids.

“They teach you successful people don’t have more hours in the day, they just manage their time well,” she said.

With the help of a recommendation from professor Eric Amsel, Lopez was also able to secure a job as a registered behavior technician with the Neurobehavioral Center for Growth.

Amsel initially worried Lopez would be overwhelmed in his Designing Your Life class, formerly titled “Adulting,” but she excelled and became a leader in the class. “She didn’t force it but was always engaged, always asking questions,” Amsel said. “There was a lot of group work and she sort of pushed them.”

Lopez wants to work in an essential skills classroom for young children because she has seen her eldest daughter mistreated in school. Eventually, she plans to become a board-certified behavior analyst and earn a master’s degree.

“I knew I wanted to help people but I found my calling,” she said, “just like every freshman at Weber State University.”