SMU recognizes outstanding achievement at 2015-16 Hilltop Excellence Awards, Honors Convocation

Outstanding students, faculty, administrators and staff are recognized for their achievements.


SMU faculty, staff, administrators and students were recognized with teaching awards, service honors and the University’s highest commendation, the “M” Award, at the 2016 Hilltop Excellence Awards Monday, April 18.

SMU Mothers’ and Dads’ Clubs
Recognize 2016 Outstanding
Senior Women and Men

DALLAS (SMU) — The Mothers’ and Dads’ Clubs of Southern Methodist University recently recognized 20 candidates for the 2016 Outstanding Senior Woman & Man Awards and announced this year’s winners during April 18 recognition events.

Candidates for the annual awards are selected by the deans of each of SMU’s five colleges based on the nominee’s high academic achievement, leadership, character, community service and campus involvement. Candidates then conduct personal interviews with members of the SMU Mothers’ and Dads’ Clubs, who determine the Outstanding Senior Woman and Outstanding Senior Man Award winners. Award winners are given a $1,000 honorarium in connection with the distinction.

All nominees and their families were honored at an April 18 afternoon reception at the home of SMU President and Mrs. R. Gerald Turner. At the Hilltop Excellence Awards ceremony later that evening, Mothers’ Club President Julie Edwards and Vice President-Scholarship Michelle Allums announced Emily Towler, as the 2016 SMU Outstanding Senior Woman. Dads’ Club President Ken Davis and President-Elect Jay Miller announced Max Agadoni as the 2016 SMU Outstanding Senior Man.

Following are biographical highlights of the 2016 Outstanding Senior Woman and Outstanding Senior candidates (listed alphabetically by nominee’s school):

Cox School of Business

Kimberly Beers, a finance major from Los Altos, Calif., is a Provost Scholar and member of the SMU women’s golf team and Chi Omega sorority. Beers previously was named an American Athletic Conference Honors Award recipient for her performance in the classroom as well as her sport.

Sabrina Janski, an accounting major from Centennial, Colo., is a BBA and Founders’ Scholar and is in the University Honors Program at SMU. She has been a Resident Assistant (RA) for three years, as well as serving as an officer for both the National Residence Hall Honorary and her Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

Paul Nork, a financial consulting major from Lafayette, Calif., has served as president of the Boulevard Investment Group while at SMU and is a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. Nork previously received the Don Jackson Fellowship.

JB Stockslager, a finance major from Paradise Valley, Ariz., is a recognized scholar in the BBA, Provost and New Century Scholar programs at SMU. He has been a student representative on the SMU Board of Trustees, a student senator and has supplemented his studies with internships with the Bush Institute, Ernst & Young, Aspen Healthcare and the SMU Athletic Department. He previously served as president of his Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences

Matthew Anderson, a bachelor’s candidate in both English and music from San Antonio, Texas, is a Hunt Leadership Scholar, a Dedman College Scholar and also served as an RA for three years. Anderson also was a founding member of SMU’s Residential Commons Leadership Corps. Anderson also studied abroad in the SMU-in-South Africa program.

Emily Dombrowski, a history major from Flower Mound, Texas, is a member of the University Honors Program and served as a student representative on SMU’s Board of Trustees on the Academic Affairs Committee. Dombrowski also served as Chief of Staff of the SMU Student Senate and student senator for Dedman College, while also serving as an RA and officer in her Alpha Chi Omega sorority.

Justin Hicks, a bachelor’s candidate in both biological sciences and Spanish from McKinney, Texas, is a President’s Scholar and participated in the Embrey Human Rights Program through which he studied human rights abroad in El Salvador, Costa Rica and Chile. Hicks also is an Eagle Scout.

Emily Towler, a bachelor’s candidate in Spanish, economics and secondary education from Tulsa, Okla., is a Hunt Scholar, a Dedman Scholar and is in the University Honors Program. During her time at SMU, she has been involved in the Mustang Heroes service organization, a singer in the Belle Tones A Cappella Choir and served as philanthropy chair for her Chi Omega sorority

Lyle School of Engineering

Max Agadoni from Leawood, Kan., will receive both his bachelor’s degree in management science and his master’s degree in operations research from SMU this May. Agadoni is a scholar in the Provost, Hilltop and Engineering Fellows programs and a member of Omega Rho honor society. While at SMU, Agadoni has served as a student representative to the Board of Trustees, as well as serving as an officer in Student Foundation. As part of his studies, he has worked on projects for American Airlines, AT&T and Engineers Without Borders.

Nastasha Gerlt, an electrical engineering major from Dallas, has been a teaching assistant in the Lyle School of Engineering for two years, while also serving the school as an administrative assistant. Gerlt served as conference chair for SMU’s Society of Women Engineers and also as a captain of the Mustang Mavericks country dance team.

Austin Wells from Slidell, La., will receive both his bachelor’s degree in computer science and master’s degree in design and innovation from SMU this May. He is a scholar in the National Science Foundation IDEAL and Lyle School of Engineering programs. Wells previously has served internships with Google and Microsoft and has been involved in research and development projects with the U.S. Marine Corps. He has been a teaching assistant for two years in engineering design and is the founder/executive director of Hack DFW, a student-led hackathon event with a $500,000 annual budget.

Alexandra Yauch, a civil engineering major from Grapevine, Texas, is a Lyle Scholar, Founders’ Scholar and IDEAL Engineering Fellows Scholar. She has been a four-year member and past president of the Lyle Ambassadors, as well as a research analyst in Lyle’s Innovation Gym and a teaching assistant for the engineering school. She has served as an RA for two years and was a captain of the Mustang Mavericks country dance team.

Meadows School of the Arts

Nicolas Gonzalez Morales, a studio arts major from Dallas, transferred to SMU after receiving his associate’s arts degree from Brookhaven College. His paintings and sculptures have been featured in numerous galleries and exhibitions throughout the Dallas area including three consecutive years as part of the annual Dallas Arboreteum and Botanical Gardens’ Hollywood Home and Garden Tours. He currently is working on a public mural project with local children Dallas’ Pike Park that chronicles the history of Dallas’ “Little Mexico” community.

Rebekah Tate, a journalism major from Plano, Texas, has combined her love for journalism and politics by serving internships with Glenn Beck’s The Blaze TV, KRLD News Radio Production and the Children’s Medical Center Seacrest Studios. A former member of the SMU rowing team, Tate has also served as executive director for SMU-TV’s Real Talk weekly political broadcast and Daily Update programs.

Chris Warley, a bachelor’s candidate in both journalism and business from Atlanta, Ga., is a scholar in SMU’s BBA, Meadows, Sewell Merit and William O’Neill Scholar programs. A Don Jackson Fellow and member of the Robert S. Hyer honor society, Warley has served as a student senator and is a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Jennifer Zotz, a bachelor’s candidate in both communications studies and international studies from McKinney, Texas, is a President’s Scholar and member of the Robert S. Hyer honor society. Zotz served as Student Foundation president and as a student representative to the Board of Trustees and Student Affairs Student Advisory Board. She is a member of Chi Omega sorority.

Simmons School of Education and Human Development

Ariana Dubelko, an applied physiology and health management major from Santa Monica, Calif., attended SMU on an athletic scholarship as a member of the SMU Equestrian Team. As part of her studies, she has served as a research assistant in SMU’s Integrated Physiology Lab working on multiple sclerosis research and as a medical coordinator for Dallas Pets Alive.

Sarah Hurley, a bachelor’s candidate in both English and educational studies from Mineola, Texas, is a Founders’ and Hilltop Scholar and a section/squad leader in SMU’s Mustang Band. Hurley also has served as a Dedman College Ambassador and communications director for the Mustang Band’s annual Homecoming event “Pigskin Revue.”

Brian Schoelzel, a sports management major from Englewood, Colo., has supplemented his studies with internships with the Denver-based Kroenke Sports and Entertainment and Mile High Sports and Dallas-based Learfield Sports and the Dallas Stars hockey team. Schoelzel, a member of SMU’s ice hockey club team, is a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

Nate White, a bachelor’s candidate in both economics and education from Lexington, Ky., is a Provost and Mustang Scholar, as well as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Lambda Theta and Omicron Delta Epsilon honor societies. White has broadened his studies through several international programs including SMU-in-Madrid and SMU-in-Oxford. He has served the SMU community as a Peruna (school mascot) handler and in a variety of leadership roles in his Beta Upsilon Chi fraternity.


See the list of award winners
from Honors Convocation 2016

On the same day, the University honored its best students at the 19th Honors Convocation. The address was delivered by Fred Chang, director of SMU’s Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security, the Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security and professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering.

An internationally renowned expert in cyber security and former director of research of the National Security Agency, Chang is also a Senior Fellow in the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and a Distinguished Scholar in the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin.

The lead inventor on two U.S. patents, Chang has twice served as an expert witness at hearings convened by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. In addition, he has served as a member of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency and as a member of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies. Most recently, Chang was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and will be formally inducted during a ceremony at the NAE’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 9, 2016.

Congratulations to SMU faculty, staff and students who were recognized at the 2016 Awards Extravaganza on Monday, April 18.

Receiving the “M” Award, SMU’s most prestigious honor, are five faculty and staff members and 10 students (see below) whose contributions to the University are “above and beyond the call of duty.” Faculty and staff recipients include:

  • Charles Curran, Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values 
  • Michael Hogan, assistant to the dean and coordinator of student life, Office of the Dean of Student Life 
  • Robert Krout, professor and chair of music therapy, Division of Music, Meadows School of the Arts, and founding faculty-in-residence, Mary Hay/Peyton/Shuttles Commons 
  • Rev. Dr. Stephen Rankin, chaplain and minister to the University 
  • Martha Starke, coordinator of the President’s Scholars Program, Office of the Provost

The Students’ Association Awards recognize faculty, administrators, staff members and trustees for giving unselfishly to the students and the University as a whole. The recipients are:

  • Outstanding Administrator – Albert W. Niemi Jr., dean and Tolleson Chair in Business Leadership, Cox School of Business 
  • Outstanding Trustee – Connie O’Neill ’77, Dallas civic and philanthropic leader 
  • Outstanding Staff Member – Abigail Hernandez, Facility Services

The Willis M. Tate Award, also given by the Students’ Association, was presented to Maureen Armour, associate professor and co-director of the Civil Clinic, Dedman School of Law. The award honors an outstanding faculty member who has been involved in student life.

Recipients of the Outstanding Professor Awards presented by the Rotunda yearbook include:

  • Jill Allor, professor, Department of Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development 
  • B. Sunday Eiselt, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies, Department of Anthropology, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences 
  • Simon Mak, professor of practice, Department of Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Business Economics, and associate director of the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship, Cox School of Business
  • Laurence Winnie, senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies, William P. Clements Department of History, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences

Receiving the Extra Mile Awards, presented by Students for New Learning for graciousness and sensitivity to students with learning differences:

  • Sheri Kunovich, associate professor, Department of Sociology, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences
  • Steve Lee, adjunct lecturer, Division of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, Meadows School of the Arts
  • Laurie Nuchereno, adjunct lecturer, Department of Economics, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences

The Office of Community Engagement and Leadership’s Outstanding Faculty/Staff Volunteer Award was presented to Jay Miller, executive director of Student Media Company, Inc. The award honors exemplary community service outside the University.


Student recipients of the “M” Award:

  • Carlton Adams 
  • Max Agadoni 
  • D’Marquis Allen 
  • Jacob Conway 
  • Tien Dang 
  • Emily Dombrowski 
  • Jamie Hinz 
  • Justin Mueller 
  • J. Barrett “JB” Stockslager 
  • Charlie Weber

Other students recognized with special awards include:

  • Meaghan Shaw – James E. Caswell Award, based on contributions to resident student life 
  • Nohemi Mora – Umphrey Lee Award, based on involvement in the SMU community 
  • Keya Tollossa – Avella Winn Hay Award, based on scholarship, character and contribution to the SMU community

Receiving John L. Freehafer Awards based on recipients’ interest in student life, activities and government are:

  • Aveline Chan 
  • Richmond Dewan 
  • Clark Holt 
  • Jessica Mitchell 
  • Alex Silhanek 
  • Angela Wang

Presidential Awards of Excellence:

  • Avery Acker – Scholar/Athlete Award 
  • Katie Maiers – Scholar/Leader Award 
  • Anna Norkett – Scholar/Volunteer Award

SMU Dads’ Club – Outstanding Senior Man Award:

  • Max Agadoni

SMU Mothers’ Club – Outstanding Senior Woman Award:

  • Emily Towler

Office of the Chaplain – Sheri Mooney Memorial Scholarship Award:

  • T.I. Atkins
  • Katie Logsdon
  • Lee Mak

Women & LGBT Center – Emmie V. Baine Legacy Award:

  • Jennifer Torres

Students receiving the A. Kenneth Pye Outstanding Greek Leader Award are:

  • La’Keisha Adams 
  • Jason Barnett 
  • Caroline Deaton 
  • Hannah Hess 
  • Carmen Maciel 
  • Jennifer Torres