Young Alumni Award

The Young Alumni Award honors alumni who have achieved great success in their first ten years after graduation and/or service to the College. Each year, honorees offer inspiration and encouragement as models for principled leadership and a wholehearted commitment to serving others.

In addition, the Young Alumni Awards serve as an opportunity for current and future Albion students to recognize the tremendous accomplishments of alumni who have achieved notable success quickly following graduation.

Make a nomination

2023 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Melissa C. DiRado, ’12

Founding Partner, Stephens, DiRado & Caviness, LLP
Knoxville, Tennessee

Through her work as a criminal defense attorney and community involvement, Melissa DiRado demonstrates her commitment to fair justice, leadership and service. Melissa has defended clients at trial and won multiple “not guilty” verdicts, and she was recently instrumental in State of Tennessee v. Tyshon Booker, which ruled automatic juvenile life sentence requirements as unconstitutional. Melissa is involved in her community as a high school girl’s lacrosse coach and as a mock trial coach at the University of Tennessee College of Law, where she has led her students to two national mock trial title victories.

Melissa graduated from Albion College in 2012 with a degree in political science and philosophy and a concentration in law, justice and society. She graduated from Syracuse University College of Law in 2014 and began work at the Knox County Public Defender’s Office as a line attorney after passing the bar; she later became a team leader prior to becoming a founding partner of Stephens, DiRado & Caviness, LLP, in Knoxville.

Kate Webb, ’16

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts

Dr. Kate Webb’s research seeks to better understand the biological underpinnings of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and focuses on how structural inequities, individual characteristics and neurobiology interact to influence the course of psychological recovery after trauma. Her work has been funded through the American Psychological Foundation and National Institutes of Health. She has received recognition as an emerging leader in neuroscience from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the Council for Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, Society for Neuroscience and Society for Biological Psychiatry.

After graduating from Albion in 2016 with a degree in psychology, Kate earned her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As a postdoctoral research fellow at McLean Hospital in Boston with Dr. Kerry Ressler and Dr. Nathaniel Harnett, Kate continues basic and translational research using neuroimaging, behavioral assessments and molecular genetics. In addition, Kate works on neuroethical issues, including how to identify and address racial and phenotypic biases embedded in neuroscience technologies.

Alexandra Yaw, ’14

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Animal Science, Michigan State University
Lansing, Michigan

Dr. Alexandra Yaw researches the mechanisms by which light and other external cues control the timing and coordination of physiological processes and behavior. She has been awarded multiple postdoctoral fellowships from the National Institutes of Health and has nine publications, five of which she was the first author and several were in top journals for her field. Alexandra is an award-winning mentor for undergraduate student researchers and is active in community outreach.

Alexandra graduated from Albion in 2014 with a degree in Psychological Sciences. Through undergraduate research (FURSCA), she studied circadian rhythms and the role of sleep and nutrition on muscle performance in student athletes. Following the completion of her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences-Neurosciences from Kent State University in 2019, she has been a postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Hanne Hoffman in the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University.

2022 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Rachel Leads, ’12

Doctoral student, University of North Texas
Denton, Texas

Rachel Leads, Albion College Class of 2012As a graduate student studying microplastics contamination and toxicity in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor, Rachel Leads published five peer-reviewed articles and won five awards at national and international conferences. Now a doctoral student and research assistant at the University of North Texas, Leads’ work continues to advance the field of environmental toxicology. Her novel approach to studying the effect of crude oil and UV radiation on one of Texas’ largest commercial fish species has resulted in award-winning conference presentations and publications in peer-reviewed journals. Her interest in public education and STEM programs has led her to projects with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Belle Isle Aquarium, Dallas Environmental Education Initiative, and teaching initiatives in South Korea and Belize. At Albion, Leads held leadership roles with Kappa Alpha Theta and Student Senate and was a member of several academic honoraries.

Watch Rachel’s video profile

Brandan Walters, ’12

Product Manager, Bio-Rad Laboratories
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Brandan Walters, Albion College Class of 2012Brandan Walters’ role as a product manager involves the development of technology used in understanding and treating metastatic cancer. The technology he and his team are working on focuses on the isolation of rare circulating tumor cells which are shed from a tumor and spread throughout a body via the circulatory and lymphatic systems. His work involves collaborations with clinical and academic institutions, both domestically and globally. Recently, Walters and his team initiated a collaborative study between universities in Germany, France and Greece to better understand the use of this technology to process liquid biopsies and characterize cancer, monitor the disease, and begin assessing its potential use as guidance for treatment. At Albion, Walters was a chemistry tutor, a member of Union Board, participated in the Sleight Leadership program, and served as a tour guide and tour guide coordinator.

Watch Brandan’s video profile

2021 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Shea Gardner, ’12

Co-founder and Vice President, Maroon Village
Chicago, Illinois

With her husband, Gardner founded Maroon Village, a unique nonprofit organization designed to help student-athletes who are often navigating extreme and challenging circumstances, focusing on endurance and connectedness as important variables for success on and off the playing field. In addition, as a yoga instructor Gardner works with trauma survivors, both in person and via a YouTube channel. Her background includes more than 18 years of supporting nonprofit youth programming and instruction. Gardner also does program and instructor assessment for After School Matters, a nonprofit dedicated to young people throughout the Chicagoland area. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, in 2020 Gardner and Maroon Village provided successful in-person internships to two Albion College students.

Watch Shea’s video profile

Rhiki Swinton, ’16

Center Manager, Kalamazoo College Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership
Battle Creek, Michigan

In her role with the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, Swinton directs the day-to-day building operations and is the content producer and primary moderator for Radical Futures Now, the Arcus Center’s podcast. Swinton also develops curriculum and works with groups addressing antiracism, compassionate accountability and mass incarceration issues. Her personal passion for empowering Black women led Swinton to create a YouTube channel where she shares poetry as a form of literary activism. As a graduate student at Central Michigan University, Swinton organized and developed CMU’s first ever Women of Color Conference and was a member of CMU’s Black Graduate Student Association. After graduating from Albion College, Swinton worked in admissions as a regional counselor and played a central role in increasing the diversity of the student population, including strengthening the College’s relationship with Chicago Noble Network students.

Watch Rhiki’s video profile

2020 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Christopher N. Blaker, ’14

Editor, Marine Corps University Press, U.S. Department of the Navy
Quantico, Virginia

Christopher Blaker is an American historian who works for the Department of the Navy as a scholarly book and journal editor at Marine Corps University Press. Most of his publishing work focuses on political and military history, international relations, national security and geopolitics. He has published a book and numerous articles in journals and magazines, gives lectures throughout the country, has offered historical consultation on a Hollywood film, and was recently featured on NPR. At Albion, Blaker was president of Euphonics, historian for Phi Mu Alpha, and a member of the History and English Department honor societies.

Watch Christopher’s video profile

Soe Yu Nwe, ’13

Artist in Residence, Pottery Northwest
Seattle, Washington

Soe Yu Nwe earned an MFA in ceramics from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and since then has embarked on a successful international career as a professional artist. Currently a resident artist at Pottery Northwest in Seattle, Soe Yu has held residencies and participated in exhibitions on four continents, including her home country of Myanmar. Her work has been acquired by the esteemed Australian state museum, Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Soe Yu was Albion College’s youngest Philip C. Curtis Artist-in-Residence and in 2019 was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30: Art & Style list. While at Albion, she won the Michigan Mud student prize, an award rarely given to undergraduates.

Watch Soe’s video profile

2019 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Dannie Lynn Fountain, ’14

Account Representative, Search Ads 360, Google
Chicago, Illinois

Fountain, who started her first marketing business in high school, is the author of four books on entrepreneurship and travels the globe speaking about marketing and small business growth and development. Her work has been recognized by Bustle, Business Insider, Cosmopolitan, Forbes and more. Dannie has been involved in team projects that won prestigious international awards and is Creative Council chair for the Rising Tide Society, a 100,000-member organization for mostly millennial-age entrepreneurs.

Kwame Sakyi, ’09

Assistant Professor of Public Health, Oakland University
Rochester Hills, Michigan

Along with teaching biostatistics, research methods, and community and public health, Sakyi is a well-published expert on maternal, neonatal and child health in low- and middle-income countries. He is founder and director of the Center for Learning and Childhood Development, a nonprofit research organization that focuses on creating solutions to end newborn deaths and promote child development in Ghana. Via his service as an executive member of the National Institutes of Health’s Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program, Sakyi has also conducted global health training with socially and economically disadvantaged undergraduate and graduate students.

Rebekah Snyder, ’14

Victim Advocate, State of Michigan Office of the Attorney General
Royal Oak, Michigan

Snyder’s tenure with the Michigan Attorney General has coincided with the office’s task of preparing the state’s case against sports physician Larry Nassar. Snyder worked with hundreds of survivors to craft individual victim impact statements. She coordinated the presentation of nearly 200 live impact statements made during the 10-day sentencing hearing, reading many statements herself on behalf of victims who were reluctant or unable to address the court in person. As a graduate student, Snyder joined the State of Rhode Island Sexual Assault Task Force and was one of four statewide honorees recognized during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in 2016.

2018 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Brian Hearns, ’08

Dean of Students, Rowe-Clark Math and Science Academy, Chicago, IL

Through his leadership role at Rowe-Clark, Brian Hearns is part of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which educates students hailing from neighborhoods in both the Southside and Northside of Chicago. Hearns joined the Rowe-Clark faculty in 2011 and continues to coach three of its sports teams while simultaneously overseeing 40 staff members and 500 students. As a teacher, Hearns led many of his classes to higher scores on standardized math tests as well as the ACT. He is an alumnus of Teach For America. At Albion, he was a dual-sport scholar athlete playing both football and baseball while also serving as president of both Albion’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and the Interfraternity Council.

Joel McDade, ’08

Field Application Scientist, Sartorius, Watertown, MA

Joel McDade is a field application scientist at IncuCyte by Sartorius, supporting academic, biotech and pharmaceutical laboratories engaged in cutting-edge research involving the use of live-cell imaging. McDade operates at the interface between science and business, supporting a client base that focuses on cancer biology, neurobiology and immunology research. He provides training and support in experiment design, execution and data analysis in a fast-paced sales environment. Previously, Joel worked as a research fellow at the University of Michigan and as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School/Boston Children’s Hospital. McDade’s own work utilized live-cell imaging and, most recently, CRISPR/Cas9, leading to extensive grant funding and resulting in several publications in scientific journals.

Courtney Meyer, ’11

Communications Specialist, International Food Policy Research Institute, Arlington, VA

Courtney Meyer has built an impressive career speaking up on behalf of social justice initiatives. Her current role serves HarvestPlus, a program of the International Food Policy Research Institute and International Center for Tropical Agriculture that improves nutrition and public health by developing and promoting biofortified food crops. Meyer has also held communications positions with Helen Keller International, Kiwanis International and Think Africa Press. She was one of the first interns hired to the U.S. Embassy in Suriname and is a longtime volunteer with Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, organizing its Michigan Leadership Seminar, which brought 150 high school sophomores to Albion’s campus last June.

Christin Spoolstra, ’11

Deputy Country Director, Caring for Cambodia
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Christin Spoolstra has spent her entire post-Albion career in Cambodia. After two years teaching English for the Peace Corps and a year with the Corps’ Cambodia office, Spoolstra accepted the position as deputy country director with Caring for Cambodia, which provides pre-K through high school education to thousands of children. Working in Cambodian Khmer and English, Spoolstra not only directs a team of 10 Cambodian program managers, she also works with fundraising and development at the regional level and human resources at the organizational level. Spoolstra is also a Collaboration Cambodia steering committee member.

2017 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Lisa Anderson, ’09

Synthetic biochemistry researcher
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA

Lisa Anderson’s Albion and post-Albion careers demonstrate her short- and long-range, professional and personal, deep and deeper commitment to the environment. A synthetic biochemist at one of the world’s premier research instittuions, Anderson’s work with lipid production in algae holds great promise for the creation of new biofuels, some of which may be made while simultaneously cleaning wastewater. Anderson led a number of environmentally focused councils and initiatives while at Albion and the University of California-Davis, where she won a 2014 Greenovation Champion Award from Kimberly-Clark for implementing a laboratory glove recycling program, reducing waste by about two tons annually. At MIT, Anderson continues to serve in leadership positions on committees supporting environmental initiatives. In 2016, she received the New England BioLabs Passion in Science Award for Environmental Stewardship.

Caitlin Burgess, ’10

Trial Counsel
Hamilton County (OH) Public Defender’s Office

Despite being a lawyer for only four years, Caitlin Burgess is recognized as both an advocate and activist on behalf of children in Ohio’s legal system. As a law student, Burgess supported needy children in child support and custody negotiations. After passing the bar, she worked as a volunteer helping a juvenile offender gain his legal right to education, and offered volunteer legal research to juvenile court attorneys. Now, along with her caseload as an attorney with the Hamilton County Public Defender’s office, Burgess was a part of a legal charge in Hamilton County that caused the Ohio Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of placing juvenile offenders in shackles during court appearances which resulted in a requirement that local courts adopt rules to regulate the shackling of youth. She is also one of her office’s specialists in human trafficking cases involving children, working both on individual criminal cases and as an advocate for legal reform in the local juvenile court related to the treatment of human trafficking victims.

Jaime Fornetti, ’06

Postdoctoral fellow
Huntsman Cancer Institute
Salt Lake City, UT

Since leaving Albion, Jaime Fornetti has gone from Colorado to Oklahoma and now Utah, hot on the trail of new treatments for breast cancer. Three years into her current work, Fornetti is studying a protein that promotes breast cancer metastasis in the bone. Using new drugs to interrupt the signals coming from the protein (RON kinase), Fornetti believes, could greatly reduce its devastating effects. A four-year basketball player at Albion, Fornetti graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was profiled in the NCAA’s “After the Game” feature series. She holds a doctorate in cell and developmental biology from the University of Colorado.

Kasey Kaplan, ’10

Co-founder, President and Chief Operating Officer
Urban FT
San Diego, CA

Seeing a market opportunity in the digital banking space, Kasey Kaplan co-founded Urban FT, a mobile platform used to conduct digital transactions and other business banking activity. Urban FT’s client list includes Sprint Mobile, Boost Mobile and the Bank of California, and the company now has 40 employees and three offices. Not surprisingly, Kaplan and Urban FT have won a No. 1 B2B Digital Banking Solution by, and received the 2015 Best in Show honor at the Innovation Project, an exclusive event for executives of industry-leading companies. Kaplan has also twice presented at Finovate, the leading showcase of innovations in banking, investing, insurance, lending, payments and other financial services technology. Kaplan teaches workshops and advises clients nationwide, and regularly lends his expertise to Albion College’s communication studies courses.

2016 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Amanda Millhouse, ’07

Vertebrate Paleontology Collections Specialist
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Washington, D.C.

Responsible for managing more than 150,000 vertebrate fossils, Millhouse explains some of the world’s oldest fossils to a 21st-century audience from all corners of the globe. In addition to leading multiple ongoing cataloguing and specimen reorganization projects, she also served as a project manager for the de-installation of the museum’s five fossil exhibit halls. This included developing workflows and procedures needed to de-install over 2,300 fossils, reconciling and updating exhibit data, and overseeing the schedule for 10 groups involved in the project. Prior to the Smithsonian, Millhouse worked for the University of Kansas Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Center, and excavated fossils at Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska following her graduate studies. Millhouse holds a master’s degree in geology from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Kansas.

Alyssa Wong, ’09

Health Scientist–Country Officer
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta, Georgia

As the CDC’s country officer for Senegal, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau, Wong oversees implementation of global health security agendas designed for that area of the world, serving as the primary point of contact for all CDC programs in the region. Wong and her team also travel throughout Africa, working with other CDC teams on technical assistance, training workshops and meeting planning. While in graduate school, Wong held a World Health Organization internship with its Cambodia country office, and she has also worked for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She earned her master of public health degree in epidemiology from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.



2015 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Cynthia Cardwell Fast, ’08

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Rutgers University
Piscataway, New Jersey

Cynthia Cardwell Fast By studying how past experiences affect learning and perception in the brains of mice, Fast hopes to someday explain and correct human memory problems and anxiety-related disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder, a pathological example of new behaviors that influence perception based on past experience, is one of many such conditions that could be treated with therapies based on Fast’s research. In four semesters at Albion, Fast presented five different research posters at national and regional conferences and Albion’s Isaac Symposium. At the University of California, Los Angeles, Fast received teaching and scholarship awards from the institution; she also received the Student Poster Award from the Pavlovian Society, and nomination to the New York Academy of Sciences James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award. At Albion, Fast was a member of the Equestrian Club and received the 2007 Kirsten D. Metalonis, ’99, Summer Research Fellowship, the Joseph Heston Award for Outstanding Senior Psychology Major, and the Ned S. Garvin Neuroscience Award.

Katherine L. Kirsch, ’12

Chief Marketing Officer, Sisu Global Health
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Katherine L. Kirsch Katie Kirsch focuses on Sisu Global Health’s image, lead generation, and partnership development along with establishing relationships with doctors and hospital administrators in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dedicated to designing and commercializing medical products specifically for emerging markets, Sisu has developed the Hemafuse autotransfusion device, which can be operated without electricity by just one person. While at Albion, Kirsch traveled twice to Suriname and three times to Cameroon doing research, study and internships. As the recipient of a Fulbright teaching fellowship, Kirsch taught English at INATEK University in Kibungo, Rwanda, and managed the first published literary journal with students at the National University of Rwanda. At Albion, Kirsch received a Jenkins Award, given to the top four honors theses in the class, and a Lux Fiat Award, given to the four seniors most distinguished for leadership and service; She was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Kirsch was also a member of Kappa Delta, Panhellenic Council, Mortar Board, and Bitone (supporting a Ugandan orphanage), and also served as a First-Year Experience mentor.

Jonathan E. Reynolds, ’09

Associate Pastor, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
Rochester, Michigan

Jonathan E. Reynolds In just over two years with the 2,300-member St. Paul’s, Reynolds has created and strengthened many of the church’s ministries. He gathered 90 congregants to participate in a half-marathon, raising more than $32,000 to help purchase malaria nets for use in Africa. He helps coordinate the church’s Food Basket ministry which provides over $15,000 worth of food to more than 130 families at Christmas. Reynolds leads service trips from St. Paul’s to Community Social Services (CCSS) in Detroit, and helped establish “Hands4Detroit,”” which attracts 1,000 volunteers annually. Beyond his church-based work, Reynolds volunteers with Red Bird Mission trips to Appalachia and Habitat for Humanity. As a minister at St. Paul’s, He developed the church’s first regular evening worship service. He received a Church/Volunteer of the Year award from CCSS. At Albion, he was a member of Alpha Phi Omega, Pi Sigma Alpha, Service Project Appalachia, Campus Crusade, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Chapel, Student Volunteer Bureau, Canoe Club, and the Ultimate Frisbee club team.

Danielle M. Wysocki, ’10

Senior Booker, Comcast Sportsnet Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

Danielle M. Wysocki Danni Wysocki has lined up over 2,000 interviews featuring such sports stars as Mike Tyson, Dwyane Wade, and Terrell Owens, as well as other celebrities. She has also worked with CSN Chicago’s SportsTalk Live special programming, including Bears pre- and post-game reporting, the March of Dimes Sports Awards, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase, and the Crosstown Cup. She also helped cover the 2012 Ryder Cup and the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Her work earned her a 2013 nomination for a 2013 Midwest/Chicago Emmy; she won the Emmy in 2014 for Best Live Sporting Event. At Albion, Wysocki founded a sports blog for women,, developed under Fox Sports’ Yardbarker blog site, and was sports editor and multimedia editor for the Pleiad. She was a member of Alpha Chi Omega, Order of Omega and Alpha Phi Omega, and Best Buddies.

2014 Young Alumni Award Recipients

From space research to market research, city planning, pediatric medicine and mathematics education, Albion College’s 2014 Young Alumni Award recipients represent the diverse fields of endeavor open to Albion graduates. A dinner and ceremony honoring this year’s awardees was held Saturday, April 26 in Albion College’s Science Complex Atrium.

Congratulations to the 2014 honorees!

Andrew Beck, ’04

Post-doctoral researcher in planetary geology, Johns Hopkins University
Silver Spring, Maryland

Andrew Beck is a postdoctoral research associate at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, analyzing data gathered by NASA’s Dawn Mission to asteroid 4 Vesta. His doctoral dissertation focused on anchondrite meteorite petrology and the geologic evolution of 4 Vesta, a protoplanet in the asteroid belt thought to be similar in construction to the protoplanets that coalesced to form Earth. Not only has Beck won a number of awards for research excellence, over the past seven years he has published 15 papers in refereed journals. Beck was also a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, where he supported Smithsonian outreach programs as a presenter at science-centered museum events.

Daniella Frank, ’05

Pediatrician, U.S. Army
Tacoma, Washington

Led by deep concern for the less fortunate, Daniella Frank spent two years learning Mandarin and teaching English in China before entering medical school. While a student at Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, Frank did clinic work with Haiti Health Ministries, spent six weeks in a public obstetrics-gynecology ward and pediatric malnutrition unit in Malawi, and returned to China to work with volunteer orthopedic and reconstructive surgeons. Now a captain in the U.S. Army, Frank is stationed as a pediatric resident physician at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington.

Stephen Gordon, ’04

President, Global Visibility Group
Royal Oak, Michigan

Steve Gordon is founder of Global Visibility Group, a world-class development, sales and marketing firm in the supply-chain arena for the defense, automotive, heavy truck, aerospace and construction equipment industries. The company expects to source and fulfill some $50 million in sales in 2014. He is also founder and president of the real estate management company Bright Black Investments. Gordon is a board member of the Michigan chapters of USA Cares and the National Defense Industries Association, is active with Habitat for Humanity and coaches an under-13 baseball team. Gordon has also made a major gift to the Albion Athletics Phase II project and has challenged his Briton baseball teammates to match his support.

Watch Steve’s address to event attendees on YouTube

William Green, ’05

Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Terre Haute, Indiana

Will Green is assistant professor of mathematics at Rose-Hulman, ranked for the last 15 years as U.S. News and World Report‘s best engineering program for undergraduates and master’s degree candidates. A productive researcher, Green was recently invited to the selective American Mathematical Society Research Communities program in partial differential equations, harmonic analysis, complex analysis, and geometric measure theory. Committed to undergraduate education, Green advises mathematics competition teams and advises and reviews undergraduate research for publication. He serves on the alumni advisory board of Albion’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, and has participated in the department’s seminar series.

Jennifer Swindlehurst Howland, ’04

Community Development Manager, City of Grand Haven
Grand Haven, Michigan

As community development manager for the City of Grand Haven, Jennifer Swindlehurst Howland oversees everything from planning, inspection and code enforcement to grant management, economic development, capital improvement planning and community redevelopment. She also serves as the city’s zoning administrator and in 2013 was interim director of Grand Haven’s Main Street Downtown Development Authority. Prior to her return to Michigan, Howland served as manager for the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, a $4.68 million HUD Sustainable Communities program in St. Louis, Missouri, overseeing the project timeline and budget and integrating input from more than 150 regional organizations.

2013 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Albion’s unique recognition of outstanding graduates, the Young Alumni “Top 10 in 10” awards brought a celebratory crowd to the Science Complex atrium April 19. From a hardworking professional poet to a tenure-track sociologist, a Mayo Clinic teaching physician and the owner of Mi Farm Market, the Top 10 in 10 again affirmed the diversity of fields—and successes—in which Albion alumni distinguish themselves.

The 2013 Top 10 in 10 Young Alumni are:

Deanna Babcock, ’06

Personal Trainer; International Sales Representative, Inside Out Sports
Durham, North Carolina

Twice named the Most Inspirational member of Albion’s cross country team, Babcock’s optimism was stretched to the limit in 2007 when a triathlon training accident resulted in a two-month hospital stay and the loss of her left leg. Nonetheless, Babcock has since completed two master’s degrees, in soil science and exercise science. She qualified for the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Trials in two swimming events, and is determined to compete in Brazil in 2016. Babcock also runs and swims competitively against able-bodied athletes.

Scotty Bruce, ’08

Co-Owner, Mi Farm Market
Ellsworth, Michigan

Bruce is a co-founder of Mi Farm Market, a family-based company that works with food producers, artisans, and artists, promoting their Michigan-made products to a national market of retailers and consumers. Begun in 2010 in the family garage, the company now boasts two retail stores, a mail-order catalog, and distribution partnerships with Traverse magazine and Pure Michigan. Bruce is currently developing a food logistics platform that gives chefs and restaurateurs a single “e-market” for finding and ordering Michigan-produced local and artisanal foods and ingredients.

Stephanie L. Edwards, ’09

Poet and Editor; M.F.A. Candidate, Cornell University
Ithaca, New York

Just four years post-Albion, Stephanie Edwards’ career would be enviable for a poet 10 years her senior. She has published 75 poems in many top-tier journals and anthologies, along with two chapbooks and one full-length collection; two of these books were the result of winning two national competitions. Edwards also spent two years in Chicago, working with literacy and arts programs focused on inner-city youth. She is in demand as a guest at poetry slams and similar events nationwide and is the founder of “Muzzle,” which made The Library Journal‘s Best New Magazines of 2010 list.

Josh L. Fales, ’06

Founder, President, and CEO, CreateMyTee
Ann Arbor, Michigan

CreateMyTee has its roots at Albion College, when Josh Fales hit upon T-shirt design/printing as a way to make some spending money (he earned some $25,000 before graduation). CreateMyTee became Fales’ full-time job in 2009, providing professional custom design and quick service. The company currently boasts 10 professional team members and Fales has a long-term plan to expand into a national market. Fales was a founding sponsor of WorldClothesLine, a successful philanthropic enterprise created by Mallory Brown, ’08; he continues to be active with the Gerstacker Institute‘s Student Ventures program.

Kristina G. Jelinek, ’05

Project Manager, Office of Achievement Resources
New York City Department of Education
New York, New York

From her first-year seminar through off-campus experiences in Mexico and Bolivia, Jelinek did first-hand studies of immigration issues. As a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in the Netherlands, Jelinek added graduate study in intercultural communication. This unique background and expertise led to a spot in Columbia University’s New York City Teaching Fellows program and spending six years in teaching and school administration. She now designs and delivers citywide professional development programs for educators, impacting the education delivered to some 1.1 million students.

Jessica L. Joanis, ’04

Director of Residence Life, Ripon College
Ripon, Wisconsin

Joanis was hired as a hall director at Ripon College with the expectation that she’d leave after two years for greener pastures. Two promotions later, Joanis is Ripon’s director of residence life, a position she has held for three years. Joanis’ excellence has been noted beyond Ripon’s campus; she has received two Program of the Year awards from the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and was recognized by the national St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Foundation as its Collegiate Advisor of the Year. She has also received the Ripon College Faculty/Staff Mentor Award.

Michael T. Light, ’07

Ph.D. Candidate, Pennsylvania State University
State College, Pennsylvania

Freshly minted Ph.D.s rarely land tenure-track positions, let alone at Division I research institutions. Light, however, will pick up his doctorate this spring, then join Purdue University’s sociology department. Light is an urban sociologist, researching citizenship and racial/ethnic inequality under the law, racial/ethnic stratification and criminal offending, and the role of social context in determining the trajectory of the U.S. color line. Several national and Penn State entities funded his work, which has been published in professional journals and national media, including The New York TimesLos Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune.

Matthew R. Meunier, ’04

Physician/Senior Associate Consultant, Family Medicine, Mayo Clinic
Rochester, Minnesota

Meunier is currently an instructor as well as an attending physician with his clinic’s Newborn Nursery Hospitalist Service and Obstetrics Service. His Mayo appointment followed on the heels of his work, during the 2011-12 academic year, as a clinical lecturer in the University of Michigan’s Department of Family Medicine. Meunier’s practice, teaching, and research revolve around women’s and infant health. He has conducted research on the use of antidepressants during pregnancy and is developing a tool to improve fetal monitoring education in family medicine residency programs.

Sarah A. Slamer, ’07

Assistant Director, the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC)
Starr Global Learning Network
Albion, Michigan

In her role with TLC, Slamer conducts training nationally and internationally for schools, agencies, and Starr Commonwealth staff. Within the Starr Commonwealth organization, she provides case consultation and supervision of staff as they implement TLC trauma intervention programs with the young people they serve. Slamer assists with community outreach for trauma-related incidents and continues to provide individual therapy for survivors of complex traumas. She has co-authored professional resources for the treatment of trauma victims and recently developed a free online resource for military families and professionals.

Kristen Mitchell Wooden, ’09

Exploration Geologist, Chevron Corporation
Houston, Texas

As an Albion undergraduate, Wooden participated in a research project north of the Arctic Circle; today, she’s still exploring, providing the research expertise needed for successful deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. At the University of Nebraska, Wooden was elected president of the student chapter of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG). She led her chapter to a fourth-place finish in an international AAPG competition and organized a “Dinosaurs and Disasters Day” event that drew several hundred community members. Wooden is active with Chevron’s Humankind service program, with a leadership role in her business unit’s support for a homeless rehabilitation organization.

2012 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Albion’s unique recognition of outstanding graduates, the Young Alumni “Top 10 in 10” awards, brought a celebratory crowd to the Science Complex atrium April 20. From the governor’s office to a racetrack, from Arlington to São Paolo, the “Top 10 in 10” again affirmed the diversity of fields – and successes – in which Albion alumni distinguish themselves.

The award recognizes noteworthy and distinctive achievements made by alumni who have graduated within the past ten years.

“These outstanding young people highlight the impressive achievements our alumni make, even just a few years out of college,” explained Tim Newsted, ’78, assistant director of alumni engagement. “We have thousands of fantastic alumni, and it’s a pleasure to celebrate their successes.”

The 2012 “Top 10 in 10” Young Alumni are:

Derek Burkholder, ’04

Doctoral candidate and graduate assistant
Florida International University
North Miami, Florida

Having worked for National Geographic immediately after graduation from Albion, Burkholder is currently working with PBS in the Florida Everglades studying bull sharks. He has recently researched the ecological role of green turtles and tiger sharks in the pristine shallow sea grass ecosystem of Shark Bay, Western Australia. Burkholder is presently finalizing his dissertation at Florida International University, but manages to find time for his passion of underwater/natural-setting photography.

Iain Charnley, ’05

Chief resident, Grand Rapids Family Medicine
Grand Rapids

Charnley is chief resident for Grand Rapids Family Medicine Residency and looks forward to joining Advantage Health Physician Group in August 2012. Charnley recently received a commendation for outstanding pediatric rotation performance. He is the coordinator of “Fit Kids 360,” a Grand Rapids effort to curb childhood obesity. He is also active in the Grand Rapids First Methodist Church, serving on the leadership team and as a member of the chancel choir.

Grace Keeney, ’08

Intern, Custom Comercio Internacional
São Paulo, Brazil

In 2009, Keeney moved to Rio de Janeiro as a Fulbright scholar, studying Brazilian AIDS-related non-governmental organizations and their efforts to secure access to medicines. In 2010, she was awarded a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in international business at the Grenoble École de Management in France, and followed that with a teaching assistantship at Harvard University. Keeney is currently back in Brazil, completing her internship in international supply chain management at Custom Commercio Intenacional in São Paulo. Keeney speaks and reads four languages: Portuguese, German, Spanish, and French.

Mark Ostach, ’04

Founder, Mentalspace Manager and

Ostach is the creator of Mentalspace Manager, a plug-in for web browsers that enables users to manage their Internet behaviors. helps people understand and evaluate the negative effects the Internet can have on emotions, moods and health. Ostach is also the COO of Digerati, responsible for the project management office and staff augmentation.

Sarah Padilla, ’03

Associate veterinarian, Daryl Easley equine practice
Lexington, Kentucky

Padilla has been treating thoroughbred race horses at Keeneland Racetrack since 2008. The year prior she received her DVM with honors from Michigan State University, which included the presentation of the J.P. Hutton-W.F. Riley Equine Award for outstanding abilities in equine surgery and medicine. Padilla has also been affiliated with Phi Zeta, the national honor society of veterinary medicine, since 2006 and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa at Albion.

Jonathan Smith, ’08

Financial consultant, The Wall Group of Wells Fargo Advisors
Providence, Rhode Island

With assets under management worth nearly $200 million (as of March 30, 2012), Smith works as a financial consultant with The Wall Group of Wells Fargo Advisors. He has received recognition within the Rhode Island branch for his achievements in 2011. Smith is also a member of the USGA and the Providence Chamber of Commerce and is a volunteer teacher for the youth caddy program at the Rhode Island Country Club. In addition, he is the chair of Albion College’s New England alumni chapter.

Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC Member FINRA/SIPC

Mike Thomas, ’06

Head basketball coach, Kalamazoo Central High School

In four short years, Thomas has established a legacy of coaching success, guiding Kalamazoo Central to back-to-back state championships in 2010 and 2011. Along the way he has received Coach of the Year honors from The Detroit Free Press and the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan while amassing a 92-11 overall record at K-Central. The Saginaw native and four-year Albion starter was an assistant coach for two seasons at Northwood University soon after graduation.

Jordan Troisi, ’06

Visiting assistant professor of psychology, Widener University
Chester, Pennsylvania

Troisi’s research on the psychology of food has received media coverage from 21 countries and appeared in O, The Oprah MagazineScientific American,, Yahoo! News Canada, the German newspaper Die Welt, and many others. Currently visiting assistant professor of psychology at Widener University, Troisi also coordinates Widener’s Social Science Colloquium and is a member of its Gender and Women’s Studies Committee. He enjoys ultimate Frisbee and everything that has to do with tea.

John Paul Walters, ’02

Computer scientist, University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute
Arlington, Virginia

A noted expert in his field, Walters has been published in domestic and international computer science and engineering journals and has co-authored Computation Checkpointing and Migration. Additionally, Walters was a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship fellow during his Ph.D. studies. He currently works with agencies such as NASA through his position at USC.

Sara Wycoff, ’08

Strategic adviser, executive office of Gov. Rick Snyder

Wycoff works alongside Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, serving as strategy adviser to the governor, policy analyst for the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and fiscal analyst intern for the Michigan Senate’s Fiscal Agency. She also serves on the 14th Congressional District Republican Committee.

2011 Young Alumni Award Recipients

Albion honored some of its many outstanding graduates on Friday, April 15, 2011 as alumni, faculty, staff, family, and friends gathered to celebrate the College’s second annual “Top 10 in 10” Young Alumni Awards (watch our YouTube video of the event). The award, established as part of the College’s 175th anniversary celebration in 2010, recognizes noteworthy and distinctive achievements made by alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years.

“It’s important to recognize the many accomplishments of our alumni who have achieved so much so quickly following graduation,” remarked Sue Van Wassenhove, associate vice president for annual giving and alumni engagement. “You, our ‘Top 10 in 10,’ are beacons of inspiration and encouragement to students. You model meaningful work and service; you personify what Albion College is all about.”

Mallory E. Brown, ’08

Owner and founder, World Clothes Line
Farmington Hills, Mich.

World Clothes Line is a unique enterprise inspired by Brown’s travels in Asia and South America. For each item of clothing it sells, World Clothes Line donates an identical item of clothing through its direct contacts in Indonesia, Peru and the U.S. Brown and her company have been featured in the Detroit Free Press and on WJR radio’s “Breaking the Cycle” series, for making a positive difference in metropolitan Detroit and beyond. Brown majored in French and economics and management at Albion, and was a member of the Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management.

Jeremy C. Gouldey, ’05

Doctoral candidate in earth science and geochemistry, Northwestern University

Gouldey studies ancient climates and the chemical evolution of the oceans, focusing on one of the most hotly debated topics in the geological community, the “snowball earth” theory. He has most recently conducted field research in Namibia. As a graduate student at the Ohio State University, Gouldey conducted fieldwork in Antarctica, camping on a glacier and hiking through treacherous mountain terrain. An article based on this research was published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

Sarah L. Heddon, ’07

ESL instructor
Oakland, Calif.

Inspired by an undergraduate research experience in Kenya, Heddon founded the Albion College Bitone Project, which supports the Bitone Center, rehabilitating orphaned children in Uganda through dance, music, theater, and folklore. Heddon was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and lived in Tanzania for a year, conducting research on Swahili cultural and religious festivals. She also helped promote grassroots arts organizations. She first joined the International Rescue Committee as an Americorps VISTA volunteer coordinator; more recently she has served that organization as an English as a Second Language instructor and now is a development associate. Heddon continues to volunteer for the Bitone Children’s Center and Troupe as its director of international programs.

Kelly D. Kobus, ’07

Owner, A Piece O’ Cake
East Lansing, Mich.

A French major at Albion College, Kobus took a postgraduate year in France, studying language and taking several classes at Le Cordon Bleu. Upon returning to the U.S., Kobus interned with the executive chef and owner of Le Chat Gourmet in Eaton Rapids, Mich., and then opened A Piece O’ Cake! in Lansing. Her creations have been recognized with awards from, and The Knot and she has been featured in The Greater Lansing Business Monthly, the Lansing State Journal, and other publications. Kobus is an active community volunteer, providing nutritious snacks and French lessons to Lansing public school children; she also donates baked goods for charitable causes.

Michael T. Kopec, ’05

Family medicine resident, University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Currently serving as chief resident with the University of Michigan, Department of Family Medicine, Kopec graduated with high distinction from Wayne State University’s School of Medicine. Kopec was the recipient of the Karmanos Hospice Volunteer of the Year, the Department’s 2009 Research Award, and the North American Primary Care Research Group 2007 Research Award. Kopec has also given his time to Sister to Sister Health Screenings, the Violence Awareness Organization, Cass Clinic, Senior Citizen Outreach Project, Habitat for Humanity, and Code Blue. Kopec partnered on a research project conducted at Sinai-Grace Hospital and a separate project through the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at Wayne State School of Medicine. His research into risk factors for depression in Detroit youth has been published in Family Medicine.

Debora A. Makuei, ’08

Master’s in counseling candidate, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
East Grand Rapids, Mich.

A refugee adopted by a former member of Albion’s English department, Makuei is a community leader for Sudanese in the U.S. and at home. Makuei serves as a member of the Duk County Board of Directors, which oversees construction plans for a school and hospital in Southern Sudan, and assists Duk people in the U.S. She is also vice president of the Duk County Women’s Association, raising money for a women’s center in Duk. Makuei is also active with the Bor Community, State of Michigan and the Greater Bor Community, USA, and was one of three representatives from the U.S. invited to attend a Sudanese summit in November 2010, where fifteen young Sudanese leaders from around the world discussed the future of Sudan.

Kurt A. Medland, ’02

Intelligence analyst, CIA
Alexandria, Va.

Recruited in 2004 as an intelligence analyst for the CIA, Medland has worked for the government in several international positions, earning the CIA Meritorious Unit Citation and Exceptional Performance awards. In November 2010, he was hired as a political officer for the U.S. Department of State. He had previously served the department as a desk officer detailed from the CIA. A double major in political science and philosophy at Albion, Medland earned a master’s in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Chicago. During that time, he was named Teacher of the Year in the University of Chicago Neighborhood Schools Program. At Albion, Medland was named Phi Beta Kappa, received Albion’s Presidential Project 250 Award, was a member of the lacrosse team, and helped reinstitute the Philosophy Club.

Justin C. Newingham, ’01

Private-practice dentist
Rochester, Mich.

Within five years of graduation from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Newingham completed two post-doctoral programs and opened his own practice, The Beautiful Smile, in Bloomfield Hills. Newingham has been named a mentor at the Spear Dental Institute in Arizona and is working toward mentorship at the Kois Center in Washington. He has passed the American Academy of General Dentistry Fellowship exam and was selected by his peers as one of Detroit’s Top Dentists in 2010 by Detroit’s Hour magazine. The Consumer’s Research Council also honored him as one of America’s Top Dentists in both 2010 and 2011. Newingham opened his own school for dental assistants and is a founding member of a case study club which provides Detroit area dentists with opportunities to present their most difficult cases for review, providing valuable insights for treatment options. A biology major at Albion College, Newingham was captain of the baseball team and a member of the football team.

Moose M. Scheib, ’02

Founder and CEO,
Dearborn, Mich. is a home loan modification firm specializing in loss mitigation, private placements, homeowner retention and neighborhood stabilization. While leading, Scheib co-founded Aleph Advisors, a boutique advisory firm assisting U.S. companies doing business overseas. Scheib has been interviewed by media including ForbesThe Washington Post, and Fox Business News, and received the 2004 Jallow Award for Public Service, the Arabian Business 30 under 30 Award for 2010, and the 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the American Arab Chamber of Commerce in Dearborn. An economics and management major, and a captain of the football team at Albion College, Scheib is also a graduate of Columbia Law School and previously clerked with the New York State Supreme Court and practiced corporate law with an international law firm in New York City.

Daniel L. Westerhof, ’04

Peace Corps information and communications technology coordinator
Washington, D.C.

Following graduation from Albion with a degree in psychology, Westerhof joined the Peace Corps and went to Paraguay, where he taught rural farmers to manage community agricultural and beekeeping programs. Westerhof also unofficially trained a women’s committee on community organization, record-keeping, and disease prevention, in addition to designing a beekeeping curriculum for a regional agricultural school, and coaching local businessmen in creating the first and only Internet café within 80 kilometers. Westerhof was then named to the position of information and communication technology volunteer coordinator for the Peace Corps in Paraguay. Westerhof returned to the U.S. in 2009 and currently serves as special assistant to the deputy director of the Peace Corps, working in the Office of Congressional Relations.

2010 Young Alumni Award Recipients

The Albion College Alumni Association Board of Directors presented the first annual Young Alumni Awards: Top 10 in ’10 during ceremonies on Friday, April 23, 2010. These awards recognize Albion College graduates from the last ten years with notable endeavors in the areas of career achievement, continued education, community service, and/or commitment to their alma mater. The event honoring graduates from 2000-09 was held in conjunction with the Elkin R. Isaac Student Research Symposium.

Nate Sowa ’03

Chapel Hill, NC
M.D. candidate, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Albion major: Biology

Sowa did both undergraduate and graduate research with the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda before beginning a combined Ph.D./M.D. program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sowa finished in the top two of his medical school class during the pre-clinical years, earning the David R. Clemmons and Francis S. Collins Loyalty Fund Merit Scholarship. Simultaneously completing a doctoral thesis in neurobiology, Sowa studied nervous system proteins that might transform chronic pain therapy. His discoveries led to the publication of four papers, including a cover feature in the prestigious journal Neuron. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provided Sowa with a fellowship to fund his dissertation research and two full years of his medical school education. In addition, he won a University of North Carolina Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Award, and has been nominated for the Linda Dykstra Distinguished Dissertation Award. More importantly, Sowa’s work has led to further collaborations with researchers and pharmaceutical companies to develop his findings into safe drugs for the treatment of pain. Sowa is spending the spring of 2010 doing AIDS research in Africa.

Allison Beers ’01

Traverse City, MI
Owner, Events North, Traverse City, Mich.
Albion majors: English and Speech Communication

Beers worked in events management in Philadelphia and taught events management certification classes at Temple University before founding Traverse City-based Events North, an events management company specializing in corporate, nonprofit, and social events and meetings. She was named one of the “40 Most Influential People Under 40” in the Grand Traverse region by the Traverse City Business News in 2008 and 2009. Events North was nominated for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, and Beers is a finalist for Michigan Meeting & Events Magazine‘s Best Meeting/Event Planner award. Beers teaches events management courses at Northwestern Michigan College, covering legal and insurance issues along with industry resources and trends involving diet, nutrition and event planning. She sits on the board of directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Michigan, and volunteers with Traverse City organizations including the Women’s Resource Center, Chamber of Commerce, Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival. She is a contributing writer for Meetings & Events.

Yukiko Tanaka ’02

New York, NY
Musician/Concert Pianist, New York, N.Y.
Albion major: Music

Tanaka’s current career as an orchestral soloist, chamber ensemble member and accompanist was jump-started with her 2005 win in the 33rd Artist International Audition and subsequent sold-out, critically-acclaimed Carnegie Hall debut. She has performed in Canada, Spain, Japan, and in many venues across the U.S. She released her first CD, Yukiko Plays Mozart, Ravel, Albeniz and Granados, in 2007. Tanaka is also on the piano faculty of Long Island University and is music director at St, John’s Episcopal Church in Union City, N.J. She frequently volunteers her talents at libraries, retirement homes, hospitals, churches, and public schools, for educational and philanthropic functions. With a great interest in the classical piano music of Spain and South America, she travels a few times each year to the Academia Marshall-Granados in Barcelona to study and has met and worked with composers from South America. Tanaka holds a master’s degree in music and piano performance from City University of New York Brooklyn College where she studied with German Diez.

Sam Hogg ’05

East Lansing, MI
Founder and CEO,, Lansing, Mich.; Market Specialist, NextEnergy, Detroit, Mich.
Albion major: Political Science

A graduate of the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University, Hogg coordinated LEED certification for Albion’s Science Complex as an employee with Christman Company. He has also worked for Vail Resorts as an associate environmental manager and the MSU Foundation commercializing university research. A graduate class challenge to create a business around efficiency and sustainability led Hogg to launch, a virtual gift card kiosk in November 2008. He and were Michigan Business Review’s “Most Innovative Business” in 2009 and were runner-up “Best New Business Idea” in the 2009 Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest competition. Hogg was featured in the November 2009 and April 2010 issues of Entrepreneur Magazine. Hogg helped establish a $20,000 endowed scholarship for Albion’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

Levi Straight ’04

Baltimore, MD
Math Department Chair and Math Instructional Support Teacher, Northwestern High School, Baltimore, Md.
Albion major: Mathematics

A high school educator in Baltimore City Public Schools since graduating from Albion, Straight has worked tirelessly with teachers and students to raise test scores, graduation rates and math skills of his students. Beyond the classroom, Straight coaches varsity baseball and junior varsity and varsity football. Further, he has served as class chairman, organized proms and school events, accepted vacant coaching positions for girls’ soccer and swimming and worked nights and weekends tutoring students. Straight is a regional trainer for Texas Instruments. He was chosen by his peers to receive the Reginald F. Lewis Outstanding Mathematics Teacher Award in addition to being named W.E.B. Dubois High School Teacher of the Year for 2005–2006.

Ligia Paina ’05

Washington, DC
Doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
Albion major: International Studies

In 2007, while working on her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, Paina participated in the Albert Schweitzer Fellows Program working on immigrant and refugee health care needs. As a doctoral student, she has a research assistantship, assessing U.S. National Institutes of Health training programs for researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Paina previously spent two years traveling around the world for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), assisting local health care providers in bringing better care to their communities. USAID granted her their Exemplary Achievement Award for her contributions to the Global Health Bureau and for her involvement in the Health Systems 20/20 Project. Paina also previously served the French Ministry of Education Academy of Orleans-Tours in Lucé, France as an English language assistant.

Catherine Fontana ’08

New Haven, CT
Doctoral student, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, Conn.
Albion majors: English and Biology

As a 2008 George Mitchell scholar, Fontana received her master’s degree in environmental science from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. In her first semester of graduate school, she developed and coined a new theory in microbial ecology – “climate history” – which suggests that microbes’ basic and survival mechanisms were strongly influenced by exposure to different climates and that these influences can still be detected today. The Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies is currently funding this research, and Fontana also holds a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Fontana tutors at New Haven Reads, an afterschool homework help and literacy non-profit organization, and at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. She is a volunteer and docent-in-training at the Yale Peabody Museum which recently hosted an exhibit of Fontana’s current climate history work. A former Mortar Board president at Albion, she is working with Louisiana Mortar Board Chapters, particularly at Tulane University, to organize a book drive for the Andrew H. Wilson School in New Orleans, reopened in January 2010 with the help of the US-Ireland Alliance and the 2001-2009 classes of George J. Mitchell scholars.

Anna Gladstone ’06

Grosse Pointe, MI
D.O. candidate, Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, East Lansing, Mich.
Albion majors: Biology and Art

Despite losing part of her leg shortly after graduating from Albion College, Gladstone has demonstrated an ability not simply to achieve, but excel, in the rigorous challenge of medical school. She currently serves as the Class of 2012 president of the American Holistic Medical Association chapter at Michigan State University, and is active in the Undergraduate Academy of American Osteopathy. Also a committed volunteer, Gladstone works with medical mission trips and community medicine clinics, and has participated in domestic and international service trips as both a participant and a leader/counselor. Gladstone is the daughter of the late Joe Stroud, former Detroit Free Press editor and director of the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Public Policy.

Nicholas Whitney ’00

Bradenton, FL
Postdoctoral Scientist, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, Fla.
Albion major: Biology

Whitney’s current research uses accelerometers (the same technology used in iPods and the Nintendo Wii) to study fine-scale behaviors in sharks, and has expanded his work to include sea turtles and Burmese pythons. Now in his second decade of shark research, Whitney has been awarded more than 15 competitive research grants totaling nearly $200,000. His work has appeared in many scientific and popular publications including Hawaii Skin Diver, Endangered Species Research, Environmental Conservation and the Marine Ecology Progress Series. A recipient of master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Whitney has authored seven peer-reviewed scientific papers and presents research at national conferences.

James Gignac ’01

Chicago, IL
Midwest Director, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, Chicago, Ill.
Albion majors: History and Political Science

In his work with the Sierra Club, Gignac helps coordinate and manage the Beyond Coal campaign’s legal, organizing, and communications activities across a fourteen-state region. Gignac’s interest in environmental law was sparked at Albion, through an environmental history course and participation in multidisciplinary summer research projects on a local watershed. At Harvard Law School, Gignac served as executive director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, was elected president of the Harvard Environmental Law Society, and received a Dean’s Award for Community Leadership. After graduation from Harvard, Gignac spent a year as a judicial law clerk for the Alaska Supreme Court, then worked as an associate in the environmental practice group with the law firm of Mayer Brown, LLP in Chicago. Gignac returned to campus in 2009 as the Elkin Isaac Alumni Lecturer, part of the Elkin R. Isaac Research Symposium.