Esther Bellinsky is an activist and a change-agent dedicated to contributing to a more peaceful society. As a passionate advocate of peacebuilding, Esther has developed a variety of independent projects including a video series called Reflections of Peace, which documents conversations around peace and conflict between young Israeli and Palestinian women. Esther has also co-founded the PeaceXchange organization, in collaboration with the Rotary club and the University of Colorado Denver Political Science department. PeaceXchange provides academic resources, professional development opportunities, internships, career options, and more for young students interested in peacebuilding. Esther graduated from the University of Colorado Denver in December of 2019 with a BA degree in International Studies with an emphasis in Peace, Human Rights and Security in the Islamic World. Esther speaks Arabic, English, and Hebrew and intends to utilize these languages in the future to create constructive dialogue between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab World. When she is not passionately working towards a more peaceful future, Esther can be found curled up inside with a good book, practicing yoga in the grass or taking care of her plants.
Outstanding Bachelor of Arts Spring 2020
Alyssa Romero (English Writing and Philosophy)
Alyssa began her academic journey at the Community College of Denver where she graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Paralegal studies. She transferred to CU Denver to pursue her Bachelor’s in Philosophy and English Writing. She is currently in a leadership role with CU Denver’s chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), works as a manager of a restaurant and volunteers at an immigration law firm. She originally wanted to become an addiction counselor in order to help good people who may have made bad decisions and later came to focus on Law as a career, realizing a lot of people struggle with addiction and mental health issues partly because of a failed legal system. Alyssa says, “I enjoy working with people who are nothing like me, because this is when I learn the most about myself…My passion to see people happy goes beyond the tasks I complete and transfers to people I am able to work with.” She will graduate summa cum laude, will apply to law school in the Fall and plans to impact her community on a legislative level.
Outstanding Bachelor of Science Fall 2019
Anna Karymeé Jensen (Integrative Biology)
Anna Jensen is a first-generation student and is the first woman in her maternal lineage to make it past middle school. She is very service oriented and started an organization to help cancer patients feel more connected to their community through hats and letters and has shaved her head for donations to The Childhood Leukemia Foundation. Anna got involved in the food justice movement and began volunteering regularly at pay-what-you can gardens as well as grocery cooperatives. Throughout her time at CU Denver, she worked in Dr. Reed’s research lab on a pharmacogenomics project via computational chemistry. In her last semester, Anna published a portfolio of poetry, a long-time project of hers with mentor Dr. Eliot Wilson. Graduating at 19 years old with a B.S. in Biology, Anna plans to continue her studies and pursue a PhD in genetics. Anna aims to help people understand themselves and make informed decisions about their bodies and lives. This extends into her preferred area of research, which includes gene editing therapies for diseases such cystic fibrosis and cancer.
Outstanding Bachelor of Science Spring 2020
Shaely Folger (Integrative Biology)
Throughout her four years at CU Denver Shaely was involved in a variety of student organizations and professional associations such as The National Society of Leadership and Success (Sigma Alpha Pi) and the Pre-Physician Assistant Club, among others. The Golden Key International Honor Society invited her to join the International Scholar Laureate Program - Delegation of Medicine and Science in Australia. This program provided her a life-changing educational and cultural opportunity to further her education in the global medical field with other scholars across the world. Shaely volunteers at OrthoColorado Hospital, part of Centura Health, focusing on giving patients the most comfortable experience throughout the stages of orthopedic surgery by nurturing the health of those in their community. She is also a clinical research intern at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes at University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine. Her future goals include attending the PA Program at the University of Colorado Anschutz and becoming an Orthopedic Physician Assistant specializing in sports medicine.
Outstanding Master of Arts Fall 2019
Kaylyn Mercuri (History)
Kaylyn is committed to bringing academic history to the public and involving students in her Department’s culture. She received a Koch Fellowship at Colorado History, edited the Colorado Heritage Magazine, led educational tours, participated in the museum’s historic preservation projects, and processed nominations for the National Register of Historic Places. Through her Public History coursework, Kaylyn designed an exhibit for the Fort Vasquez Museum, managed collections at the Denver Firefighters Museum, and planned a “Women in the West” Lecture at the Byers-Evans House Museum. Kaylyn also oversaw the department’s website transition to Drupal and created and maintained new webpages enabling students to view past course rotations and plan future course selections. She is currently working on a pop-up exhibit on Women’s Suffrage that will circulate between the History Colorado Community Museums and is looking forward to entering the professional world of museums.
Outstanding Master of Arts Spring 2020
Katherine Bleakley (Economics)
Kate comes from a culturally diverse, mixed family that includes a Buddhist nun mother, a father from a low-income family, and an Uruguayan immigrant stepmother. She has been a Research Assistant in the Economics Department and was one of the founding members of the Economics Graduate Student Council. Outside of the classroom, Kate gives back to her community by volunteering for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. She is committed to pursuing a career as an academic researcher and professor in economics and intends to encourage younger female students to pursue economic research. Her master’s thesis is entitled “The Effect of Immigration Enforcement on Women’s Professional Advancement,” and studies the tradeoff between career investments and childcare for highly skilled women. Kate plans to continue on for the PhD and says “My specific fields of interest are labor economics, public economics, and health economics…and my long-term goal is to pursue a career as a tenure-track professor at a research university.”
Outstanding Master of Science Fall 2019
Thu Ly (Chemistry)
As a young scientist from Vietnam eager for growth and innovation, Thu wanted to advance her potential to the fullest and University of Colorado Denver was the springboard which jumpstarted her discovery of computational chemistry. With the encouragement of her professors, she is proud to have built a robust research portfolio specializing in chemical bond forming and reactions. Her insights have since been recognized in esteemed publications such as the Journal of American Chemistry Society, while paving the way for several more papers furthering her field. Thu says “I continue to carry CU Denver’s spirit of excellence through my work in food quality assurance, where I infuse my passion for chemistry with advancing the development of a sustainable global food supply chain.”
Outstanding Master of Science Spring 2020
Marianne Elizabeth Davenport (Integrative Biology)
During her MS program at the University of Colorado Denver, Marianne researched the life history biology of an important forest pest in the Ragland Lab and worked 6 months of each year at Forest Health Protection in the United States Forest Service (USFS). Some of her research accomplishments include; presenting at international and national conferences and earning Honorable Mention for the highly competitive National Science Foundation’s Graduate Student Research Fellowship. She also recruited and mentored more than 8 undergraduate students to engage in research projects in the Ragland lab. In addition to her research with CU Denver, Marianne has been able to directly engage in forest management in her position at USFS, promoting healthy and resilient forests in collaboration with a team of other researchers, forest pathologists and entomologists. In the future she wants to continue helping protect our forests by working in forestry research at a federal or state agency in a position able to make substantial applied contributions. Marianne says, “By researching forest pests, I can help inform future forest management practices that will have a direct and immediate impact on the future of our vast landscapes. The knowledge I have gained during graduate school, by learning more about the distribution and behavior of insects that affect our forests, will play an integral role...”
Outstanding Doctoral Student Fall 2019
Elizabeth Rose Pansing (Integrative Biology)
Throughout her time as a graduate student in the Department of Integrative Biology, Libby established a successful record of manuscript publication, acquired nearly $50,000 in funding for her master’s and doctoral research, and presented research findings at a variety of international, national, and regional conferences. She published two first-author publications, one chapter from her dissertation in the journal Forests and one resulting from her master’s work in the Journal of Ecology and Evolution. In addition, she has two manuscripts in review, and five in preparation in collaboration with researchers from CU Denver, the Rocky Mountain Tree Ring Lab, Montana State University, and Conservation Science Partners. Following graduation, she will be moving into a postdoctoral scholar position where she will investigate drivers of biodiversity in alpine plant communities across Europe and how those drivers change as a function of geospatial scale. Following her postdoctoral studies, she intends to pursue a career as a forest researcher with one of the national resource management agencies (e.g., US Forest Service, National Park Service).
Outstanding Doctoral Student Spring 2020
Holly K. O’Donnell (Clinical Health Psychology)
Holly O’Donnell is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Health Psychology program and pre-doctoral intern at Harvard Medical School/ Boston Children’s Hospital. As a graduate student, she worked on several NIH-funded Randomized Controlled Trials focused on integrating behavioral health services into routine care and addressing psychosocial barriers to adherence in youth with type 1 diabetes. During her graduate training, she published manuscripts in well-respected academic journals and a book chapter on self-management behaviors and adherence in pediatric type 1 diabetes. She will begin a T32 post-doctoral fellowship at the Barbara Davis Center on the Anschutz Medical Campus this summer.