Senior Dinner shines spotlight on graduating class
Story by Jeannette Cruz
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
As if getting through college isn’t enough, Grand Canyon University’s students excel in multiple areas of life — serving the community, maintaining high grade-point averages, and leadership. You wonder how they do it all.
But they do, and the best of the best were honored Wednesday night at GCU Arena in the second annual Senior Dinner, sponsored by the Alumni Relations office. The event celebrated the accomplishments of the graduating senior class, honored notable staff members and recognized nine distinguished graduates in GCU’s Class of 2016.
In his keynote speech, President Brian Mueller noted that the blessings of God are visible in the transformation the University has borne — a change inspired by the students who spread their love beyond the campus and into the surrounding community.
“If Jesus came to the Valley, where would He go?” Mueller said. “If you read in the New Testament, He probably wouldn’t go to Scottsdale. He probably wouldn’t go to Paradise Valley. He’d probably come here — to a neighborhood that has the greatest amount of need. I really want to thank you for your willingness to go out into the world and get involved. You helped us not only build a University, but you helped us build a church that has a tremendous impact on a part of town that is being transformed.”
Guest speaker Jim Mostofo, GCU alumnus and College of Education faculty, tickled the audience with a confession about ditching class to avoid making a speech while still a student at GCU, then shared his four key strategies for success after college.
“If you ditched, remember: It will come back to you,” Mostofo said. “Now I have to give this speech.”
His first piece of advice: “Find God’s purpose and you will find your own.”
His second: “Bring passion into your life every day — like Mueller, who walks with a leap in his step.”
Third: “Be good tired — God renews our strength from doing good deeds to come back with passion the next day.”
Fourth: “Just breathe.”
Influential faculty awards
The Senior Dinner faculty and staff award recipients were selected by the graduating student class based on their influence, enthusiasm and passion for GCU. They are:
- Nicole Clifton, Residence Life
- Kelly Damron, Colangelo College of Business
- Daniel Diffey, College of Theology
- Pascale Lee, College of Nursing
- Jim Mostofo, College of Education
- Will Primack, College of Science, Engineering and Technology
- Sheila Schumacher, College of Fine Arts and Production
- Kevin Walling, College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Outstanding senior awards
Senior award recipients were proudly recognized for academic excellence, service, faith and GCU spirit:
Joshua Braun, Colangelo College of Business, is a starting guard for GCU’s men’s basketball team and overcame knee injuries to lead the Lopes to a record-breaking season. He was named the All-Western Athletic Conference First Team, led the WAC in free throw percentage, ranked second in scoring and third in three-point field goal percentage, and displayed excellence in the classroom.
Calie Donovan, College of Theology, is a Christian Studies student who excels in scholarship and service. She won the College of Theology’s best student paper competition in 2015 and exemplifies her mission to serve with a significant amount of volunteer work at Feed My Starving Children and a mission trip to Liverpool. She is an example of a well-prepared, Christian-focused leader.
Cody Dumas, College of Fine Arts and Production, has been an active influential member of GCU’s community since his freshman year while holding a job and student leadership position as student body president. He will be graduating summa cum laude. He has led several important, student-oriented initiatives, including the “It’s On Us” campaign, Mental Health Awareness Week and the Lopes Support Network. He will leave a strong legacy of leadership and service.
Alena Gladwin, College of Science, Engineering and Technology, has distinguished herself in many ways — she is a member of the Alpha Chi Honor Society, has earned two medals at the AzHOSA academic competitions and has traveled to Uganda on a GCU mission trip. This year, she has served as a life leader, is a member of the GCU pep band and has founded GCU’s first Science Research Journal Club while volunteering at the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center. She also will graduate summa cum laude.
Kelsey Hillman, College of Fine Art and Production, has been integral in the success of the theatre department, including in her role as stage manager and event coordinator. Despite the emotional demands of stage production and management, she has maintained academic excellence and has demonstrated her spiritual commitment by leading weekly Bible studies.
Brittany Holen, Colangelo College of Business, is an inducted member of GCU’s Honors College, a Delta Mu Delta and shines even brighter outside the classroom. She has earned an internship at Position Sports, Inc. where she has assisted in operations of the Chris Paul Basketball Camp, created content for the Basketball Hall of Fame social media accounts and traveled across the country to assist with Nike brand activation.
Jennifer Hotchkiss, College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, is described by her peers as a passionate, genuine individual who greatly impacts those around her even when she isn’t trying to. A servant scholar, Hotchkiss partners with a south Phoenix children’s ministry, in which she tutors and leads Bible studies for underprivileged children, and volunteers at the New Life Pregnancy Center to perform medical procedures. She will be graduating with B.S. in nursing in only three years.
Brenda Lara, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, is a Justice Studies major and an active member of GCU’s community. As a freshman, she was accepted to form part of the inaugural class at the Honors College and has not looked back. Because of her dedication to her position as the vice president of the Lopes Justice Society, she was recognized with the Honors College Leadership Award. As a volunteer at the CASA Academy in central Phoenix, she acts as a Spanish-English translator for the elementary school’s conferences and events.
Brenna Roth, College of Education, is well-known as cheerleader captain — one with a great amount of spirit. Her work in the classroom is exceptional while maintaining a busy cheerleading schedule. On several occasions she has led the basketball pregame prayer and is not shy about using her platform to share her faith.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.