Here are the bios of the 34 Outstanding Seniors at WVU for 2010-2011:

Outstanding Seniors
Lauren Ayers, of Kirby, is well on her way to reaching her goal of becoming a certified public accountant and university professor.

The business administration major has earned a 3.97 GPA while volunteering and working on educational projects. She is part of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the WVU Accounting Club, Beta Alpha Psi and Beta Gamma Sigma.

She has worked as a Volunteer Income Tax Associate, organized Meet the Firms Night, and was a computer science teaching assistant. She has also worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and will intern with Dixon Hughes PLLC this summer.

As part of her honors capstone course, her group wrote a piece that has been accepted into the “American Business Journal” for publication.

She has received the Promise Scholarship, been named a Mountaineer Scholar and Boxwell/Churchill Scholar and is a member of the WVU Honors College. She’s also been on the president’s and dean’s lists.

Presha Neidermeyer, associate professor of accounting, said Ayers was vital to a fundraising project that was part of her capstone course.

“Her enthusiasm for community service has benefitted the organizations and the University in terms of enhanced reputation,” said Neidermeyer.

She is the daughter of Eric and Tammy Ayers.


Derrick Banerjee, of Wilmington, Del., will graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering. He holds a 3.97 GPA, is an Honors College student and received the National Merit Scholarship, Engineering Achievement Scholarship and the NASA Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Banerjee was the mechanical design team leader for WVU’s EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge team, which gave him the responsibility of outlining safety specifications and overseeing the project with a tight budget. He also participated in the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and Engineers Without Borders.

“In my classes I leaned not just about the physics and calculations of engineering, but also about the profession. We were taught that, as engineers, we have a duty to ensure the safety and welfare of society and the environment since we are the ones who have the skills to do so. This is something I will never forget and it is the most important thing I have learned at WVU,” Banerjee wrote in his application.

Outside of the engineering school, Banerjee was a team captain for intramural football and basketball, and was inducted into the Chimes junior honorary. He also volunteered with the Positive Spin Work Day, WVU Visitation Days, Movember Foundation Fundraiser, Make A Difference Day and the Dadisman/Stalnaker Student Conduct Board.

He is the son of Kathleen and Robbin Banerjee.


Kelly Bryant, of Morgantown, hadn’t been outside the U.S. before she became a Mountaineer. Since then, she’s been to Italy, Romania, Russia, Estonia, the Hague and Poland.

Bryant, who majored in International Studies, Foreign Language and Slavic and East European Studies, holds a 3.85 GPA. She has presented a classroom briefing to the CIA on Russia’s reaction to President Barack Obama’s election.

She has been involved with the WVU Russian Club, the Russian Conversation Table, the WVU Snowboard Club and was a delegate in the 2009 Model United Nations.

Bryant intends to earn a master’s degree in Russian and East European Studies to be able to pursue a career as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. government. Her senior thesis focuses on cybercrime, particularly in Russia and Estonia. In her capstone class, she co-wrote a play in Russian for the Russian group’s Spring Spectacular performance.

Lisa Di Bartolomeo, a professor in the Department of Foreign Languages, has known Bryant since the student took her Russian 101 course as a high school senior.

“She is among the best writers I have ever seen over the course of my career,” Di Bartolomeo said. “Her academic success has been a combination of hard work and intellectual talent, and I foresee for her a successful career with the U.S. government, as she trains her sharp analytical eye on intelligence work.”

Bryant received the West Virginia Promise Scholarship, the Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarship and the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Achievement Grant, among other honors.

Bryant is the daughter of Dan and Dana Bryant.


A Ripley native, Holly Casto knows more about the “Pride of West Virginia” than other state natives. That’s because Casto was a member of the Pride, the name of WVU’s popular marching band.

Being named captain of the color guard and assuming a leadership role was, “one of the greatest honors I have received throughout my college education?,” she said.

Her experience also reinforced to her the importance of the band and WVU to people of the state.

“Being in the band and making so many appearances at festivals, parades and events across the state opened my eyes to how much pride the citizens of West Virginia have for their home state and this university,” she wrote in her application.

When she wasn’t helping choreograph a routine, mentoring a new band member or practicing, Casto’s focus was on becoming a physical therapist. After a stellar career as an exercise physiology major at WVU, which included academic and extracurricular excellence, Casto was accepted at two outstanding Physical Therapy schools. She will continue her graduate work at WVU.

She completed volunteer hours with patients who needed aquatic therapy to help her better understand their needs, and performed research with an electronic device to see if it could predict maximum repetitions for certain weight lifting exercises her patients might perform.

“For this project, I did the background research, recruited subjects and conducted testing sessions, along with other members of my class,” she wrote in her application. “This was a wonderful experience and I don’t know of many other students who were able to work so actively in a research experiment during their undergraduate careers.”

She is the daughter of Kerry and Jackie Casto.


A love for WVU runs deep in Brendan Cline’s family. The double major in biology and philosophy from Morgantown will graduate with a 3.97 GPA, and will attend WVU’s medical school in the fall.

Both of Cline’s parents are WVU graduates.

“Throughout my time as an undergraduate, WVU has, like it did for my parents, made me into the person that I am today,” he wrote in his application. “I know that in medical school, and throughout my life and career, I will encounter many challenges, and they will likely be harder than anything I have faced yet. It is somewhat intimidating, but with the confidence and ability that I have gained at WVU, I know that I will be able to succeed.”

At WVU, he has been active in the Helvetia, Chimes and Mortrar Board honoraries, Alpha Phi Omega fraternity, intramural soccer, the WVU Ethics Bowl and Debate Team.

He has volunteered at Camp Mountain Heart and the Bartlett House. Cline has also participated in a research internship at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.

He is the son of Tracy Coup and David Cline.


WVU has shown Ryan Coder, of Graysville, Pa., that the sky is not the limit when it comes to realizing his dreams.

As a freshman, Coder, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, joined a team of students who designed and built an unmanned aerial vehicle for a competition and, from there, his involvement with flight research took off.

By his sophomore year he was leading the team and that summer, had an internship at NASA’s Langley Research Center. As a junior, he joined WVU’s Microgravity Research Team, which produced a project that led them to a tour of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The team was escorted by WVU alumni who worked for NASA and Coder had the opportunity to visit Mission Control, participate in a space shuttle simulator and experience zero gravity while flying in an aircraft at high altitude.

“The entire experience was something that I could have only dreamed about as a kid,” Coder wrote in his application. “And that week in Houston is a memory that I will retell as an old man with the same excitement I had as it happened.”

That same year he was awarded an Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the West Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

He has used these opportunities to land an undergraduate research position in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering where he is helping to develop a ground control station to support the flight testing conducted by WVU’s Flight Controls Research Group.

“I feel that West Virginia University has been the perfect ‘launch pad’ for my career,” he wrote.


After graduating in December with a degree in history and a 3.92 GPA, Alexandra Coffman of Grafton has proven herself to be quite the well-rounded student.

From the 4-H club to the German Club and the “Pride of West Virginia” Marching Band, Coffman has demonstrated leadership through student organizations and volunteer work throughout the community. She served as the vice president of the German Club, secretary for Phi Alpha Theta and committee chair for the Mountaineer Week Committee.

Coffman has been recognized as an Eberly Scholar, Delta Phi Alpha Honorary member, Mortar Board National Senior Honorary member and was awarded the WVU McKay Coast Scholarship for the 2009-2010 school year.

During the summer of 2009, Coffman had the opportunity to study abroad in Germany and participate in an International Summer University, where she studied German.

“I feel that West Virginia University has made an effort to have an outstanding honors program. Without the Honors College, I would have missed out on vital experiences that have made me who I am today,” Coffman wrote in her application.

Coffman has volunteered for Relay for Life, WVU Hospitals, Make a Difference Day, the Bartlett House, public library and more.

She is the daughter of Bert and Suzanne Coffman.


While an undergraduate at Potomac State College, Renee Conneway earned the nickname “All or Nothing” because of her commitment to projects and causes. With Conneway at WVU, it’s been mostly “all”.

The native of Augusta achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA and, after transferring to WVU’s main campus as a junior, earned a McNair scholarship. The award provided mentor guidance, research opportunities and financial assistance as part of WVU’s Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program.

As part of the program, the horticulture major conducted research and studied in Europe with horticulture professor Sven Verlinden.

“I think very few other schools would have been able to give me the opportunity to not only travel, but to do so with my horticulture professor ? and learn about issues relating to my major,” she said. “The biggest take home experience was witnessing the advanced technology that relates to my field and the approach that the Europeans take.”

Conneway has been involved in numerous service projects and organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Potomac State’s student government and Common Ground Diversity Club and was president of Relay for Life at PSC.

As president, she helped jump-start the effort through public relations and networking and helped raise enough to meet the $10,000 goal despite an abbreviated race due to thunderstorms.

She is the daughter of Russell and Julie Conneway.


Claire Dolan, of Wheeling, is that rare combination of scientist and communicator.

During her time at WVU, the double major in biology and chemistry maintained a 3.9 GPA while serving as a teaching assistant, a member of several honoraries, a member of the Stalnaker Community Service Club and Emergency USA of WVU, a group she co-founded that provides health care to victims of war and poverty.

She also volunteered at the Betty Puskar Breast Care Center and at a medical oncology office. Her minor in English took her to Oxford in England for a summer.

Pat Conner, Eberly College Centennial Professor of the Humanities, noted that Dolan’s “devotion to the sciences has taught her to be precise in what she says or writes, which is refreshing.”

“I really admire the student who can admire the play of language in a good poet, but who uses it herself above all to make clear what she knows and what she believes.”

During her college career, she has received the Henry Hurlbutt Research Award, became a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and presented her research at the 2011 Drosophila Research Conference in San Diego, Calif.

Dolan has been accepted into the WVU School of Medicine.

She is the daughter of Bernie and Jeannette Dolan.


Maryam Famouri, of Morgantown, wants to help control infectious diseases around the world.

She will be graduating from WVU with a 3.95 GPA and dual bachelor’s degrees in biology and philosophy.

Dedicated to her cause, Famouri founded Mountaineers for International Disease Awareness while at WVU. She will be attending Columbia University in the fall.

“I have succeeded in seizing the opportunities the University has given me, and I intend to take these invaluable experiences to the next chapter of my life,” she wrote in her application.

In addition to her student organization, Famouri has been involved in A Cappella at WVU, Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, Honors Student Association, Philosophy Club, tutor at Chemistry Learning Center and editorial board member of “THINK: WVU’s Undergraduate Philosophy Journal.”

She has volunteered her time as a student ambassador for Youth AIDS, vice president of Lincoln Hall Community Services Club, patient visitor at WVU Hospitals and has worked with WVU Habitat for Humanity and Your Rights, Your Health.

She is the daughter of Parviz and Tammy Famouri.


Brittany Fink, of Charleston, wants to become a lawyer focusing on international law or immigration. In her time at WVU she’s already had experience hearing out those in trying situations.

Fink, who majored in political science and Spanish with a 3.98 GPA, interned with the legal division of the West Virginia Department of Highways and served on WVU’s Student Conduct Board.

“Even though I have not personally experienced economic, social or educational disadvantages throughout my life, I believe serving on that board opened my eyes and mind to different viewpoints I never saw before,” Fink wrote in her application. “I sometimes left the room feeling distressed after recommending sanctions of suspensions or expulsion, but each experience made me stronger and more informed of all the different types of people and problems in the world.”

As a student athlete on the women’s varsity track team, Fink stayed involved in her classes, her sport and a variety of activities. She served as the Off-Campus Housing director for the Student Government Association, a peer mentor and tutor for residence halls, and served on the Study Abroad Club and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

As a member of the committee, she coordinated a Haiti earthquake relief fundraiser. She is a member of the Mountain Honorary, was a finalist for Miss Mountaineer and studied abroad in Spain.

Fink has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarship and has been named to the dean’s list and athletic director’s academic honor roll.

She is the daughter of Ralph and Theresa Fink.


Matthew Gryskevich, of Morgantown, had already started his own landscaping business at the age of 16 – a business he co-owned and operated for six years.

The landscape architecture major with a 3.85 GPA volunteered with Friends of Decker’s Creek, served as a class assistant and was an officer of the WVU Student Society of Landscape Architecture.

He placed third in the “PRT: connect” national design competition.

“Our Earth is meant to be touched – felt between our hands and molded with our spirit,” Gryskevich wrote in his application. “I want to touch the lives of those around me and impact the world through my passions. As a landscape architecture student, I am driven by the possibility of creating a world that is more livable, more sustainable and inspirational.”

He received the Promise scholarship, has made the WVU president’s and dean’s lists and is a member of the Honor Society of Sigma Lambda Alpha. He interned with All Outdoors Inc.

He is the son of the late Paula and John Gryskevich.


Being a WVU student fueled Laura Harper’s love for learning.

The South Charleston native and dual major in speech pathology and audiology and Spanish will graduate with a 4.0 GPA.

“I loved university. From the moment I stepped foot on campus everything felt right,” she wrote in her application. “I remember positively shaking with excitement as I walked to my first class at 8:30 Monday morning?I have never lost that love for learning.”

At WVU, Harper has been active in the marching band, Mountaineer Chorale, Student Government Association, Honors Student Association, Latin American Student Organization, National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association and Campus Ministry.

She has volunteered her time as a mentor, ESL Conservation Partner, president of the Honors Hall Community Service Club and at the Morgantown Theatre Company.

She is the daughter of Rich and Peggy Harper.


Katelyn C. Hlusko’s extracurricular activities and volunteer work show her well-rounded abilities.

Hlusko, of Fairmont, is graduating with a degree in animal and nutritional sciences and a 4.0 GPA.

Aside from academics, Hlusko has served as president, vice president, liaison to student council and sisterhood chair of the Sigma Alpha professional sorority; secretary of both the Block and Bridle Club and the Dairy Science Club; and has been a tutor and college mentor for the Davis-Michael Scholars Program.

Hlusko was given the opportunity to complete an animal science study abroad program in Belize, which enabled her to work with farm, wildlife and exotic animals in a clinical setting. She also devoted some of her time to community service by volunteering with Relay for Life, the Little Eastern Livestock Show, Food Fabric and Forestry Week, Davis College 4H Days and Veterinary Day and Kiddie Days at the WVU Animal Science Farm.

Katelyn is a recipient of the Promise Scholarship, the WVU Alumni Association Valedictorian Scholarship, the Belmont Berry Scholarship, the Davis-Michael Pre-Veterinarian Scholarship, the Berry Honor Scholarship and the Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society of Agriculture Outstanding Junior Award.

“The opportunities I have been given would not be possible without donations from the WVU alumni and the generous nature of so many of my professors. I am truly honored to be a Mountaineer and will remain a dedicated and loyal WVU family member wherever my future endeavors lead,” Hlusko wrote in her application.

She is the daughter of Lynn and Charles Hlusko.


Zain Jafri says his promotion of biometrics has been the best example of his leadership at WVU. He will be continuing his education at WVU with a graduate research assistantship.

The Bridgeport native will be graduating with a 4.0 GPA in biometrics systems and computer science.

Jafri earned the WVU Presidential Scholarship, Peggy Tierney Scholarship, Robert H. Mollohan Foundation Scholarship, West Virginia Engineering, Science and Technology Scholarship and Evelyn Carter Memorial Scholarship. He was the recipient of the SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience Program) internship.

Aside from his academic achievements, he has been a speaker for the biometrics major and curriculum at WVU’s engineering summer camp, and has presented at various SURE symposiums. He was also one of four students selected to represent WVU at the Biometrics Consortium Conference in Tampa, Fl. last fall.

“The research opportunities and success have given me the option to pursue graduate level education in computer science and biometrics at many universities including an offer for a graduate research assistantship here at West Virginia University,” he wrote in his application. “The immeasurable numbers of contacts I have made within the biometric community have given me the option to immediately pursue a career in governmental or industrial biometrics with numerous agencies along the east coast. It is a blessing to be overwhelmed by these opportunities and for that I will be forever grateful to WVU.”

He is the son of Tania Jarrett and Farrukh Jafri.


Brannan Lahoda’s time in WVU’s Honors College gave him what he needed to graduate near the top of his class.

The Saint Albans native graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a 3.87 GPA.

“It’s difficult to imagine where I would be today, academically, had I not been a student of the Honors College,” he wrote in his application. “My education through the College of Business and Economics and the Honors College pushed me to become an even better student than the one I was in high school, and made me realize that a life in academia is the life for me – someday.”

Lahoda has been active at The Daily Athenaeum, in WVU’s Student Government Association and intramural basketball.

He has volunteered his time as assistant and head coach of the boys basketball team at Andrew Jackson Middle School and as basketball camp director at the Tyler Mountain YMCA.

He is the son of Anna Lahoda.


Paige Lavender, of Charleston, made the most of her WVU experience while supporting her peers.

As a freshman, the news-editorial journalism major with a 3.84 GPA was a founding member of the WVU chapter of Ed on Campus, a group that supports students wanting careers in the magazine industry.

She worked as a freelance writer or intern for The Huffington Post, The Dominion Post, WSAZ News Channel 3, the WVU Extension Service, the Charleston Daily Mail, “West Virginia Living Magazine” and She also worked for the British travel company BritBound while in London and took a leadership role in the WVU journalism project West Virginia Uncovered.

Maryanne Reed, dean of the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, called Lavender one of her school’s best students because of her skill, involvement and personality.

“She is a top student in the School of Journalism, not just because of her good grades, but because she has forged her own identity as a multi-skilled, multimedia journalist who is poised to be a leader in her profession,” Reed said.

Lavender has received the Promise Scholarship, WVU Presidential Scholarship and Loyalty Permanent Endowment Fund Valedictorian Scholarship, among others.

She is the daughter of Paul and Patty Lavender.


For Hayley Leight, of Bridgeport, the most significant experiences she has had at WVU have been the result of her relationships with fellow students and faculty.

Leight will graduate with a 4.0 GPA and a bachelor’s degree in biology.

“My academic experience at WVU has been excellent – challenging, through-provoking, multidisciplinary and comprehensive, and I feel well-prepared to face the challenges of graduate and professional school that lie ahead,” she wrote in her application. “My experience at WVU has not only provided a well-rounded education with an appreciation for science and the arts, it has also given me the tools to ‘build community, connect globally, launch ideas and create impact.”

Leight has been active as a member of the Emergency: WVU student organization, Honors Student Association, Beta Beta Beta biology honorary, Alpha Epsilon Delta medical honorary, French Club and as a tutor.

She has volunteered at a homeless shelter, Relay for Life, Woodburn Elementary School, UNICEF, Salvation Army, Ruby Memorial Hospital, Rosenbaum Family House and Amizade Water Walk.

She is the daughter of Susan and Victor Leight.


Although Evan Moore, of Morgantown, is definitely proud of his grades, he is most proud of the hands-on experiences he has been part of at WVU.

The journalism major will graduate with a 3.96 GPA.

“By taking part in programs and opportunities such as West Virginia Uncovered and the Kimball African-American World War I Memorial, I have discovered a sense of pride that can come from honest, hard work that truly impacts members of the community,” he wrote in his application.

He has been active in the marching band, Helvetica and Chimes honoraries and Sigma Theta Epsilon fraternity.

Moore volunteered his time as an assistant coach for the Morgantown High School Boys Lacrosse Team.

He is the son of Tom and Rebecca Moore.


A first-generation college student from a small town could have been overwhelmed by the experience but instead Candace Nelson, of Wellsburg, has flourished.

Nelson rose through the ranks at the school’s student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum, while achieving a 4.0 GPA in her dual major of journalism and English. The DA’s editor-in-chief, Nelson started at the paper as an unpaid junior staffer.

Along the way, she has helped the paper win national awards, served as a tutor in the WVU Writing Center, and studied in Italy and France. She was selected for a Kerns Fellowship though the P.I. Reed School of journalism that allowed her to travel to Paris to cover and present at an international UNESCO conference on European media. Her academic success and work experience helped land her an internship as an editor with USA Today.

“Coming from a blue-collar, working family, I’ve had to support my education with income from my jobs and scholarships,” Nelson wrote in her application. “This has made me appreciate the amazing opportunities I’ve been afforded at West Virginia University. Without the help of faculty, staff, advisors and mentors I would not have been able to accomplish what I have.”

She is the daughter of Frank and Cathy Nelson.


Most of Tommy Nester’s, of Keyser, accomplishments center around his future work: West Virginia’s high school students.

Nester is majoring in history and interdepartmental studies and striving toward a master’s in secondary education while part of the WVU Benedum collaborative.

A longtime 4-H member, Nester has volunteered as a leader’s assistant with the Mineral County 4-H Teen Leader Club, which he will lead upon his return to the county after graduation. He has been named a West Virginia 4-H Allstar and lifetime member.

While earning a 3.84 GPA, he served as a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success chapter at WVU, and a member of the WVU Student Education Association. He was active in theater productions at Potomac State College of WVU.

He worked as an intern with WVU Extension in Mineral County and volunteered in multiple places, including a stint with AmeriCorps as part of Energy Express.

He is the recipient of the West Virginia PTA Scholarship, the Dominion Resources Scholarship, Sidney Harris-Dean Frank Mauzy History Award at Potomac State College of WVU and Betty Schoenbaum Scholarship/Loan Endowment.

“My life has changed for the better because of WVU and the Mountaineer pride the institution has instilled into my heart,” Nester wrote in his application. “WVU has become my second home and I have so much love for this school that I want to spread it to others and encourage them to become a Mountaineer.”

He is the son of Martin and Tammy Nester.


Elizabeth Parnicza, of Weirton, is a 4.0 student graduating with a degree in history.

She is a member of the Honors College and Helvetia Honorary.

Parnicza’s achievements have earned her the McKay-Coast Scholarship, the President’s Volunteer Service Award and the honor of being a WVU Bucklew Scholar.

“The open, encouraging atmosphere of WVU and the history department has fostered my creative and critical thinking skills, which have already resulted in many ideas beneficial to my development as a historian. My life is going in a clear direction, and I have built a solid foundation at WVU,” Parnicza wrote in her application.

As for extracurricular activities, Parnicza served in the Phi Alpha Theta History Honorary as the president for two terms, was a member of the WVU Swing Dance Club and was the founding member and president of the Stalnaker Hall History Club.

Parnicza gave back to the community by serving in blood drives for the Red Cross, participating in Relay for Life and volunteering at the Hancock County Museum.

She is the daughter of Roberta and George Parnicza.


Until Steven Rhodes, of Parkersburg, studied abroad in Japan, he had never been out of the United States or flown on an airplane.

The mechanical engineering major, with a minor in Japanese studies will graduate from WVU with a 3.97 GPA.

“I went far away from my comfort zone to take advantage of a great opportunity, and it paid off,” he wrote in his application. “Of course my Japanese greatly improved, but also I learned quickly how to get around in a foreign place without a single familiar person around me. This experience will forever reassure me of my ability to be self-reliant and work in harmony with people of wide backgrounds and personalities.”

While at WVU, Rhodes has been active in Engineers Without Borders, Society of Automotive Engineers, WVU Steel Pan Ensemble, WVU African Ensemble and WVU Taiko Ensemble.

He has donated his time to the Japanese Exchange Student Pronunciation Workshop and Monongalia County Habitat for Humanity.

He is the son of John and Christine Rhodes.


Walter Rockhill III, of Belle Mead, NJ, says his college experience has contributed to his maturation from a high school student to the confident, intelligent, hard-working man he considers himself today.

Rockhill is graduating with a finance degree and a 3.97 GPA.

“Every part of this amazing University has helped to shape me as the man I am today, and I feel as though when I graduate I will not just be leaving with a piece of paper that says I completed four years of classes,” he wrote in his application. “Rather I will be leaving my alma mater with memories, skills and a sense of unity with the entire school that I could have never envisioned when I was a 17-year-old high school student trying to make my college decision. Although there are over 25,000 people at this school, it has come to feel like home.”

Rockhill served in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in many executive positions, most recently as the vice president. He was inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi honors fraternity, and participated in the WVU Sports Management Club. His community service work includes volunteering for the Boys & Girls Club, shed construction for the underprivileged and shoveling for the elderly.

Walter was a recipient of the Vickers Scholarship from the College of Business and Economics, the Charles C. Collins Award for Outstanding Overall Achievement from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Foundation Scholarship Committee, and a merit-based scholarship from the CIMBA Italy Program he put toward a study abroad trip in 2008.

He is the son of Linda and Walt Rockhill.


Christine Schussler, of Milton, is graduating after just three years in college with a bachelor’s degree in English and a 3.9 GPA.

Her most rewarding experience as a student at WVU has been serving as the editor-in-chief of the University’s award-winning literary magazine, “Calliope.”

“I am proud that this project brings such positive recognition to WVU,” she wrote in her application. “This shows the rest of the country what beautiful work can come out of our students and how truly talented they are.”

In addition to devoting many hours to “Calliope,” Schussler has served as a member of the West Virginia Literature Symposium steering committee, Chimes Junior Honorary, Sigma Tau Delta English honor society, WVU English Club, Mountaineer Maniacs and Women’s Club Volleyball.

She has donated time to the American Red Cross, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church and Cabell Midland Track and Field.

She is the daughter of Greg and Sue Schussler.


Whether it was volunteering at Ruby Memorial Hospital, shadowing doctors or conducting research that may help people produce artificial limbs, biology major Payal Shah, of Charleston, is determined to make a mark in the health care field. After graduation, she will train as a physician in the WVU School of Medicine.

“I am thrilled to be able to study medicine in a school ranked in the top ten for rural medicine,” she wrote in her application. “This opportunity will allow me to eventually give back to my state.”

Shah was the epitome of a well-rounded student as an undergraduate.

As president of the Alpha Epsilon Delta pre-health honorary, Shah was instrumental in organizing outreach activities and also enriching the education of fellow students by bringing in guest speakers. She was also co-captain of the WVU Bhangra Team, an Indian dance squad which performed at regional competitions and events.

She worked as a tutor in the Academic Resource Center at the Wise Library, helping students improve study habits and understanding of biology, chemistry and organic chemistry. She was also a member of the Beta Beta Beta biology honorary and Helvetia, Chimes and Mortar Board, honoraries for sophomores, juniors and seniors at WVU.

One of her greatest experiences at WVU, was her participation in study abroad tips to Jordan, Dubai and Spain.

“Through WVU I have been given the opportunity to sleep in Bedouin tents in the deserts of Jordan, float in the Dead Sea, see the baptism site for Jesus Christ and walk the luxurious streets of Dubai,” she wrote. “I learned about Islam first-hand and previous stereotypes I had of the Middle East quickly diminished. Furthermore, I was able to spend a month in Spain where I met Queen Sofia, experience the nation’s patriotism as Spain won the 2010 FIFA World Cup and greatly enhance my Spanish-speaking abilities. The experiences I have had abroad have given me appreciation for cross-cultural perspectives and will have a lasting impact on me.”

She is the daughter of Dr. Jayesh and Vanita Shah.


Along with earning a perfect 4.0 GPA, Sardar Musa Shah-Khan made a habit of giving back to his fellow students at WVU. His future plans include expanding on that notion of service.

“I have lived in West Virginia for most of my life,” Shah-Khan, of Beckley, wrote, “and becoming a physician has been a goal of mine since I was young. Growing up in West Virginia has allowed me to see the problems of medical care in underserved, rural areas. A personal goal of mine after I complete my medical education is to spend time working in areas of West Virginia that have been generally underserved by the medical community.”

A biology major who will train to be a physician at WVU’s School of Medicine next year, Shah-Khan initiated a head-start on his career by volunteering to work in the lab of Dr. Letha Sooter in the Department of Biology. His four-year project aimed at creating biosensors for melamine, a toxic compound that is often illegally added to food products such as milk, to fool protein standards. The presence of melamine poisoned thousands of Chinese in 2008.

He further prepared by working internships the past two summers at Stanaford Medical Clinic in Beckley and volunteering at Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Away from the labs and clinics, Shah-Khan was a biology tutor and member of the Muslim Students’ Association and the Pakastani Students’ Association. As treasurer of the Alpha Epsilon Delta biology honorary, he helped them recover from a budget deficit by organizing and contributing to several fundraisers.

He was also a member of Helvetia, Chimes and Mortar Board, honoraries for sophomores, juniors and seniors at WVU.

He is the son of Amina JaFary of Beckley.


Molly Simis relates her most significant academic experiences to her undergraduate research and diverse coursework.

The Fairmont native is graduating with dual degrees in environmental geosciences and biology with a 3.91 GPA.

“While at WVU, I have had so many opportunities that let me create my own path – namely my research, the journal and the symposium,” she wrote in her application. “Starting from my very first experience with undergraduate research, I took a less conventional path and worked on a project that was freestanding and not part of a graduate student’s project. I am fortunate that my faculty mentor was so supportive and from this experience I learned an incredible amount about the research process.”

She currently holds the title of president of the Honors Student Association, and has served in the past as the founder, editor-in-chief and advisor of the “Mountaineer Undergraduate Research Review,” Honors College academic and community ambassador and the new student orientation coordinator for the Honors College.

Her academic success has earned her the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Scholarship, Earl L. Core Memorial Scholarship, Henry W. Hurlbutt Memorial Research Award and WVU’s Presidential Scholarship. She also participated in the WVU Geography and Biology departments as a research assistant and intern.

She is the daughter of Mary Ellen and Richard Simis.


Marci Smeltz of Harrisburg, Pa., entered WVU without much of an idea of what she wanted to study. She’s leaving not just as an outstanding graduate but as an accomplished researcher and a budding forensic scientist with a bright future in front of her.

This past summer she completed a research internship at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, S.C., where she worked at the Radiological Evidence Examination Facility. During the previous summer, as an undergraduate research assistant with WVU professor Suzanne Bell, she investigated the metabolic and toxicological aspects of controlled substances and illicit drugs.

“Conducting research at WVU has clearly influenced my future career path,” she wrote in her application. “Paired with Dr. Bell, I developed a love for exploring basic toxicology principles, explosives and instrumentation operation.”

Smeltz was one of the first students in school history to earn a scholarship from the Department of Homeland Security, which she found out about through WVU’s Advanced Academic Scholarship Preparation and Intellectual Resources Exposure program. She also took advantage of the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience at WVU, which linked her with Dr. Bell.

An outreach coordinator with the Forensic and Investigative Science Department, Smeltz helps coordinate campus tours and events with prospective students. She is also a member of the Honors College, Forensics Club and Phi Lambda Upsilon, a chemistry honorary.

She is the daughter of Elaine and Ronald Smeltz.


Grades were never a problem for Keith Teltser at WVU, but he admits it took awhile to figure out what he wanted to pursue rather than what he didn’t. The change came in the form of one course. In taking “Contemporary Moral Problems,” a philosophy course, Teltser not only found a passion he hadn’t discovered but also a career path.

“The education I received before this point had not challenged me at all, or did it interest me very much,” Teltser wrote in his application. “After taking this course, I changed majors from accounting and finance to philosophy. I still, to this day, regard that decision as one of the greatest I have ever made.”

Graduating with dual degrees of philosophy and economics, Teltser plans to pursue a doctorate in economics with the goal of teaching. He’s interested in how social and political theory can translate into economic well-being.

A teaching assistant in the Department of Philosophy and a research assistant in the College of Business and Economics, Teltser’s love of teaching was sparked by his experience as a tutor in the Mountaineer Academic Program. More than helping students with papers and test preparation, Teltser gives tips on time management and general study habits. He said he has seen significant improvement in the grades of the students he tutors.

Teltser has presented several of his papers at conferences and at least one is up for consideration from a professional journal.

He is the son of Gail and Martin Teltser.


Spencer Teufel, of Wheeling, helped to build a water filtration system for communities in Nicaragua during his time as a member of WVU’s Engineers Without Borders.

“The project enhanced my academic experience more than I ever could have imagined,” Teufel wrote in his application. “Seeing how people live in third world countries and learning about out translator’s experiences changed my view on life and made me realize how lucky I am to live in the United States.”

The civil and environmental engineering major will graduate from WVU with a 3.94 GPA.

In addition to Engineers Without Borders, Teufel has been active in the Tau Beta Pi Honor Society, intramural Flag Football, Snowboard Club, Young Life Leadership and was a teaching assistant.

He has volunteered at the Wheeling 10k Veteran’s Memorial Race, Murder Mystery Lunch, Barnes and Noble gift wrapping, Engineering Career Fair, Red Cross Blood Drive, Post Office Food Drive and winterization of homes, among other things.

He is the son of Paula Teufel.


Matthew Thompson, of Franklin, a chemical engineering major with a 4.0 GPA, has had a wide variety of pursuits at WVU.

Thompson has researched with the Materials Chemistry Division of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory where he studied polymers and composite materials. He has been involved with Habitat for Humanity, WVU’s high school visitation days, and he studied abroad in central Europe, Italy and Greece.

He is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, has presented at the Undergraduate Research Days at the Capitol, and is expecting to publish in “Canadian Plastics Journal” and “Mountaineer Undergraduate Research Review.” Thompson intends to earn a master’s degree at WVU.

He believes the most important skill he’s found is to present research in a clear and concise way.

“If you cannot convey what you did and what you found to the world, then you might as well have not done it all,” Thompson said. “Through my undergraduate experience here at WVU, I have learned to present information in small and large groups, and more importantly, I have learned to better communicate with strangers, a valuable skill for building a professional network.”

He has received the National Merit Scholarship, WVU Presidential Scholarship, the Promise Scholarship and the Robert C. Byrd Scholarship, and Valedictorian Scholarship through the Loyalty Permanent Endowment Fund, among others.

He is the son of Craig and Teri Thompson.


Lindsay Thornhill, of Whitmer, is graduating from the nursing program with a 4.0 GPA. Her academic achievements have earned her the Martha Hawkins Scholarship, the Promise scholarship, Mountaineer Scholarship and the June B. Satterfield Scholarship.

Thornhill says that being selected and recognized as the Outstanding Junior Nursing Student of the Year for 2009-2010 was her greatest accomplishment, which acknowledged her academics, leadership qualities, communication skills and determination.

Her activities outside of academics include the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and the Student Nurses’ Association. She volunteered for the American Heart Association, the Pencil Pal Project, the March of Dimes, Relay for Life, the Ronald McDonald House and more.

“This program has provided me with the knowledge, skill and preparation needed to succeed as an individual, team member, and most importantly, a nurse. I am proud to speak so highly of my educators, mentors and preceptors and privileged to have WVU’s values instilled into my own as I begin a successful future,” Thornhill wrote in her application.

She is the daughter of Terry and Daniel Thornhill.


Jennifer Weigand, of Morgantown, attributes her success as a student to the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

Weigand has a 4.0 GPA, and will graduate with a degree in chemical engineering.

“Between the challenging curriculums provided the sophomore and junior years and the irreplaceable experiences of the senior year, the chemical engineering program at WVU is an amazing opportunity for any individual aspiring to be a chemical engineer,” Weigand wrote in her application. “I truly feel that no other university would have provided me with the solid foundation in technical skills along with the confidence I have developed as a student here.”

Weigand is a recipient of the Promise Scholarship, the Presidential Scholarship, Academy of Engineers Scholarship and West Virginia Engineering, Science and Technology Scholarship. She was also elected chief engineer for the senior design project of her chemical engineering class.

Her community service work includes various 5k runs and walks for benefits such as Make A Wish Foundation, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Relay for Life and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Weigand served as the vice president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and was a member of the Society of Women Engineers, Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and the Chemical Engineering Car Team.

She is the daughter of Marguerite and Patrick Weigand.



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