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Top seniors move on to brighter futures


By Cassie Blombaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
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Michael Reyes

Michael Reyes

GPA: 4.0

College: Education and Humanities

Major: Education and French

Because of the unique composition of its students, Reyes said becoming one of the top students in the College of Education was not an easy task.

"Proving to the college that I was an outstanding student was difficult," Reyes said.

Raised in Tucson by his Latino grandparents, Reyes became enthusiastic about education at an early age. Now with a degree in French and education, today he is currently a student-teacher at Rincon High School, where he is teaching first- and fourth-year French classes while finalizing his plans for graduate study.

Reyes has been accepted at several universities, including Cornell, yet is still seeking the institution that will be the most supportive as he goes on to earn a Ph.D. in French literature.

In October, Reyes also plans to go to the south of France to teach English to elementary school children.

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Clay Condon

Clay Condon

GPA: 3.98

College: Engineering

Major: Mechanical engineering and business economics

Clay Condon, a mechanical engineering and business economics senior, is an active student on campus who has successfully completed two degrees.

Condon said it took a lot of effort to become a top student in the College of Engineering.

"In some semesters I took as many as 30 units, which was very challenging at times," Condon said. "I always tell people that it isn't that bad until a week comes along when you have seven midterms, two essays and a project due."

Along with studying here at the UA, Condon has also studied abroad at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore where he took classes in engineering and business. On weekends he also worked with a local scuba diving company leading trips to Malaysia and Indonesia.

Condon also spent the summer before his senior year in Washington, D.C., conducting technology policy research and published a paper in the Journal of Engineering and Public Policy.

Condon has been involved with campus organizations, including the Mortar Board Senior Honorary and the UA Cycling Team.

After graduation, Condon plans on traveling to South America for the summer before starting with Exxon-Mobil in Houston in the fall.

Eventually he plans to return to school to pursue an MBA.

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Amanda Leister

Amanda Leister

GPA: 3.974

College: Agriculture and Life Sciences

Major: Agricultural economics and management and Spanish

Born and raised on a farm in Buckeye, Amanda Leister, a senior majoring in Spanish and agriculture economics and management, said she has always been interested in learning about agriculture.

"I was born and raised on a cotton, cattle and alfalfa farm," Leister said. "And I have a passion for agriculture, education and economics."

Leister has been deeply involved with her academics and has also been active in numerous organizations, including the Future Farmers of America, where she served as state president her freshman year.

She has also been a member of Chimes Junior Honorary, Mortar Board Senior Honorary, Alpha Zeta, a coed fraternity for the leaders in the world of agriculture, and is an Ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Leister has also studied abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico, for a summer, and in Madrid, Spain, last spring.

Leister has received a fellowship from Texas A&M University and will begin graduate study in the fall to pursue a master's degree followed by a doctorate.

Leister intends to become a professor of agricultural economics, specializing in international economic development and policy analysis.

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Rosaria Cabrera

Rosaria Cabrera

GPA: 3.986

College: Nursing

Major: Nursing

Rosaria Cabrera, a nursing senior, has excelled in academics as well as extracurricular activities.

Cabrera was a member of a number of organizations, including the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Society, Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society, Oncology Nursing Society, Association of Pediatric Oncology Nurses and the National Student Nurses Association.

After she moves to the California bay area with her husband, Cabrera said she intends on working at Stanford's Pediatric Hospital in the bone marrow transplant unit as a staff nurse.

Cabrera also plans on pursuing graduate school.

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Xuemei Cai

Xuemei Cai

GPA: 4.0

College: Science

Major: Molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry, and East Asian studies.

Xuemei Cai, a molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry and East Asian studies senior, has been active in academics and research.

Cai has done research in the Steele Children's Research Center in the lab of Emmanuel Katsanis on tumor-derived heat shock proteins as vaccines against cancers.

Cai was also involved in starting Premed-Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association her freshman year, and has taught MCAT for the Princeton Review and cardiopulmonary resuscitation for the Red Cross. Cai has also worked on smoking cessation with the Lung Association.

Cai has been accepted to Harvard University and intends on attending medical school in the fall.

"I'm going to miss Tucson next year, especially since I will freeze in Boston, even during their so-called summer," Cai said.

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Brett Berry

Brett Berry

GPA: 3.96

College: Social and Behavioral sciences

Major: Regional development

Born in Gilbert, Brett Berry, a regional development senior, is graduating after three years. Along with working as an opinion columnist for the Arizona Daily Wildcat for two semesters, Berry has also been involved with the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Berry has been active with intramural sports on campus and has spent a lot of time playing music on and around campus with his band.

After college, Berry plans on attending the Eller School of Management in pursuit of an MBA degree.

"Beyond that," Berry said, "I am planning on pursuing a career in economic development."

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Ashley Davidson

Ashley Davidson

GPA: 4.0

College: Honors College

Major: French

Ashley Davidson, a senior majoring in French, was chosen as the outstanding senior for the Honors College and has been involved in various clubs within the UA.

Davidson has been a member of the UA chapter of Amnesty International and has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity in Nogales, Mexico.

Davidson plans on attending graduate school and concentrating on International Relations at L'Institut d'Etudes Politiques, in Paris.

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Elaine Bilby

Elaine Bilby

GPA: 3.98

College: Eller College of Management

Major: Finance

Elaine Bilby, a business administration and finance senior, is graduating magna cum laude this year.

Bilby has been an intern for Honeywell, a student coordinator for the Eller College of Management early outreach program known as the Eller-Rodel Pipeline for Excellence, and a member of the Financial Management Association.

Bilby has volunteered for three years as a Big Sister for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Organization and has been a preceptor for numerous classes including Finance 312.

Adding to her achievements, Bilby has played an important role in facilitating the partnership between the Eller College and Junior Achievement by organizing several spirit days in the Tucson community.

Bilby said she plans on working for Honeywell Engines & Systems Corporate Headquarters in Phoenix upon graduation.

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Ryan Meeks

Ryan Meeks

GPA: 3.8

College: Architecture

Major: Architecture

Ryan Meeks was chosen as the outstanding senior for the College of Architecture because of his five years of hard work and dedication.

"Five years in architecture is the closest thing to a small college experience you could have at the university," Meeks said. "The work is intense and you get to know everyone fast, for better or worse."

Outside of studying, Meeks said he has also been involved in sports and has experience doing architecture and cabinetry in Seattle, New York and Georgia over previous summers.

Meeks plans on traveling to Europe after college for a few weeks, and afterward he intends on working at a firm in Chelsea in New York City.

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Ryan Parker

Ryan Parker

GPA: 4.0

College: Fine Arts

Major: Visual communications

Ryan Parker, a visual communications senior, was chosen as the outstanding senior for the Fine Arts College because of his artistic talent and involvement in many organizations.

Parker, who has been in honoraries every year since he started at the UA, has also been active in community service. He participated in LifeCare Center Senior Prom and has read to elementary school kids.

Parker has also been involved in intramural volleyball and soccer and in various art clubs.

"I've been active in many clubs and been a part of about 10 gallery shows in the last four years," Parker said.

Among other things, Parker has served as public relations chair of Persona Undergraduate Magazine of Literature and Art at the UA, and has studied abroad in Orvieto, Italy, where he exhibited his work.

Parker intends on continuing his passion for art after graduation, whether it involves children's books, advertising or art shows.

Amanda Rodriguez Valenzuela

College: Public Health

Major: Community health education

After graduating from Cholla High School in 1997, community health education senior Amanda Rodriguez Valenzuela knew she wanted to go to the UA.

Valenzuela initially began her college career the fall semester following high school graduation, but took time off to get married and start a family.

After a few years, Valenzuela decided to return back to school and continue her education.

At the UA, Valenzuela worked with a variety of internship programs including Mano Amiga Inc., a child and adult food program that works specifically with day care providers.

Being a mother herself, Valenzuela was well suited for the job.

After graduation, Valenzuela intends to continue working at Mano Amiga Inc.



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