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Theatre design students take top honors at Kennedy Center festival

Sweeny Todd

Weber State theatre design students Marley Keith and Porter Lance were honored for their work on the WSU production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at the National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C. 

After Keith won for lighting design and Lance won for scenic design in a regional festival in February, they again won in those categories in the national competition in April 2023. 

The judges also invited Keith to present her work as one of the American student representatives at the Prague Quadrennial international theatre festival in June 2023. Additionally, the judges selected Lance for the National Partners of American Theatre Andy Gibbs Design Award, which comes with a cash prize.

Collaborative research pieces together Utah’s geologic history

Collaborative Research

Kristin Rabosky, associate professor of physics, and Elizabeth Balgord, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, led a three-year project that spanned across physical science programs to receive Weber State’s Exemplary Collaboration Award. 

The project saw faculty and students collecting and analyzing zircon-bearing rock samples using electron microscopy and mineral separation techniques. Students in earth and environmental sciences collected, processed and ran samples to determine the age of the rocks, while physics students developed protocols for imaging the grains and processing those images, gathering information on the composition of various zones within the zircons.

The findings will be used to piece together the geologic history of northern Utah.

“It’s been an eye-opening experience to see students in the sciences talking to each other in a way that you don’t normally see at the undergraduate level,” Rabosky said. “It’s been fun to see our students grow through this project, and we’re excited to see where this takes us over the next few years.” 

The project resulted in a National Science Foundation grant to secure new equipment and collaborate with other researchers regionally and nationally.

Speech and Debate teams see success

Weber State’s speech and debate teams earned national recognition during the 2022–23 academic year.

After only four years of competing, the speech team became No. 6 in the nation. The team also won a series of regional tournaments, gaining the title of Northwest Forensics Champions. 

“Weber State is a place where we can delve into the difficult conversations that accompany personal growth and development,” said Mark Galaviz, speech team director. “Our scholars can compete with any program to ensure those conversations are occurring.” 

The university’s debate team also had a year of accomplishments, including attending the National Debate Tournament. Additionally, the team hosted two successful on-campus tournaments.

Lauren Johnson, debate team director, said participation numbers have been high.

“Debate is unique in its ability to truly teach students how and why to use their voice in the service of what matters to them,” Johnson said. “I am confident Weber debate will not disappoint in the years to come.”

Art professor recognized for putting teaching first

Art Professor

Weber State selected art professor Matthew Choberka as the 2022 Hinckley Award recipient for excellence in teaching, scholarship and community engagement.

Choberka came to WSU in 2005 and has served as a teacher, chair of the Department of Visual Art and Design and the director of the Matthew S. Browning Center for Design, a collaborative space focused on urban arts design and planning.

“Weber State is the kind of place where ambitions, and even daydreams, are rewarded,” Choberka said. “In my different positions here, I’ve been able to keep up my research and find that balance between my studio practice and teaching while also helping students become better artists and patrons.”

Choberka joined Deborah Uman, Lindquist College of Arts & Humanities dean; Lydia Gravis, director of art exhibitions and public programs at the Shaw Gallery; and many others in establishing Ogden’s Dumke Arts Plaza, a public space dedicated to art exhibits and performances. His art has been showcased nationally and internationally, including two solo exhibits in Beaux-Arts des Ameriques in Montreal, Canada.

Program helps foster kids attend, navigate college

Program helps foster kids

The U.S. Department of Education reports children in foster care are at high-risk of dropping out of school and unlikely to go on to college. 

That’s why the Youngberg family founded the Ogden Foster Scholarship Program, which provides financial and personal support to help foster youth enroll and graduate from Weber State. 

Scholarship recipient Raquel Andreasen said the program helped her stay in school and pursue her ambitions. 

“It really allowed me to focus on school and not have to worry about outside stressors,” Andreasen said. 

The Youngberg family’s donation covers a first-year student’s tuition, fees and housing. It also includes a stipend for books, computers or other unmet needs. Their support will give more students like Andreasen an opportunity to attend college.

Elite accreditation renewed for business and accounting

Elite accreditation

Weber State’s John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics is among fewer than 3% of business schools worldwide to receive Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accreditation for both business and accounting. 

AACSB renewed both of the accreditations during the spring 2023 semester. 

While over 900 schools have AACSB business accreditation, fewer than 200 have the supplemental accounting accreditation. WSU initially received the accounting accreditation in 1989, and the business accreditation in 1992. 

The recognition supports programs like the Jerry & Vickie Moyes Center for Supply Chain Excellence’s partnership with Red Barn Academy, a residential therapeutic center for men with a history of substance abuse. The program offers supply chain training to Red Barn residents, and welcomed its second cohort in fall 2022.

Science students’ research earns national recognition

Science Students

B. Drake R. Alton and Michael Anaafi have put in long hours in the labs at Weber State, and in 2022 it paid off. 

The two won third place in the Minorities Poster Session at the American Society for Cell Biology’s Cell Bio 2022 conference in front of an audience of 4,000 people in Washington, D.C. The recognition was the culmination of submitting an abstract to the conference, and then having their poster presentation scored by multiple judges.

“Michael and I would not have won this award if it weren’t for some very late nights we spent working in the lab and thoroughly preparing to present our discoveries,” Alton said. “It doesn’t take genius to be a top-notch researcher, it takes long hours of painstaking work.”

The pair first met in an organic chemistry lab group in fall 2020 and then their paths crossed again in an anatomy lab, but it was spring 2022 when zoology professor Barb Trask encouraged Anaafi to join Alton’s research project examining how the diabetic drug metformin affected certain breast cancer cells.

“The genes I focused on, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), are typically inactive in healthy individuals,” Anaafi explained. “In cancer patients, MMPs are activated and it triggers eating up the surrounding good tissue.”

For Anaafi though, this was personal. His mother lost her three-year battle with ovarian cancer in 2020.

“In conducting this research, I’ve come to understand so much more about cancer and how it affects the human body,” Anaafi said.

Their big win at the conference was further validation of all he’s learned.

Since then, the two have both graduated from Weber State. Alton started medical school at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix and Anaafi is in the process of applying to medical schools for fall 2024, and is considering a career in oncology.