UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls

2017 Recipients

Alexandra KlapoetkeAlexandra Klapoetke - College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Alexandra "Alex" Klapoetke is a senior graduating in December 2017 with a major in agricultural education and a minor in biology with an emphasis in education. She has dedicated her time to research as an undergraduate. An opportunity to attend a national agricultural education research conference following her freshman year sparked an interest in undergraduate research that has not waned. 

Alex's research has focused on the troublesome shortage of middle and high school agricultural education teachers in Wisconsin. She has had the opportunity to present her work at numerous conferences, including the American Association for Agricultural Education Conference in 2016 and the 2016 National Conference on Undergraduate Research.  

In his nomination letter, Tim Buttles, agricultural education professor, praised Alex's articulate work and communication skills. "Very few undergraduates attend the regional or national conferences of the American Association for Agricultural Education and it is rare to see undergraduate research presented. At these conferences, Alex confidently explained her work to graduate students, faculty, and other agricultural education leaders. Many times she was asked if she was working on a master's or PhD. People were surprised to learn that she was still an undergraduate. This often led to invitations to complete a graduate degree at their campus." 

John Ewing, an associate professor of agricultural education at Penn State University, echoed those sentiments. "I continually have to remind myself that Alex is an undergraduate! She handles herself in a very professional manner and is conducting research that matters to the profession. As an undergraduate, Alex is setting a great example for others that may have an interest in becoming engaged in undergraduate research." 

Alex has spent the spring 2017 semester completing an international internship at Guy Healy Japan, an international education program in Nagasaki, Japan. There she has been facilitating English lessons for elementary students and tutoring students of all ages. While in Japan, Alex has continued her research work, researching the role of pre-student teaching classroom field experiences. She has been able to put her research into action during her time at Guy Healy.

In addition to her extensive research work, Alex has kept busy on and off campus. She served as the national student president of Alpha Tau Alpha, an honorary agricultural education organization. She has also served as a CAFES ambassador, and parliamentarian for the Wisconsin State FFA.

Christopher MorganChristopher Morgan - College of Business and Economics

In letters supporting the nomination of Christopher "Chris" Morgan, it was not uncommon to see words such as "committed, dedicated, and professional" used multiple times. A staunch advocate for a variety of important student issues, including sexual assault awareness, student mental health, and college affordability, Chris has worked tirelessly in service to UW-River Falls. 

A graduating senior majoring in economics and political science, Chris has been incredibly active in student government at UWRF. He has served as a student senator, director of external relations for SGA, and has spent two years as Student Senate president. 

During his time as Student Senate president, Chris worked diligently to better serve the student body. In a letter supporting his nomination, Alice Reilly-Mykelbust, director of Student Health and Counseling Services, described his impact. "I have worked in my position for over 20 years and have never seen a student as committed and determined as Chris in working toward the well being of our students and our campus. Chris has been willing to tackle very difficult, yet truly important, issues such as student mental health and sexual violence. Chris has been very deliberate and persistent in his mission to help address these important issues on our campus." 

Alice also described Chris as "polite, professional, and knowledgeable," a sentiment echoed by Amy Lloyd, assistant director of Student Involvement. "Chris is a forward thinking leader. He has accomplished a great deal during his time as student government association president. He has sacrificed much of his own time to commit to the greater good of campus.

Chris has been the driving force behind bringing the national "It's on Us" campaign to UWRF. A national effort for campuses to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported, "It's on Us" addresses crucial issues impacting student and his commitment to the campaign is an example of his devotion to fellow students. 

Paige MouaPang Tao Moua - College of Education and Professional Studies

Pang Tao Moua is a non-traditional student, a first generation student, and a McNair Scholar. A communication sciences and disorders major, Pang will graduate in May after having a profound impact on those she has encountered at UW-River Falls.

Natalie Strobach, former director of the McNair Scholars Program, summed up Pang in her nomination letter. "I have been working with McNair scholars for nearly a decade, and in that time I have met few students who demonstrated as much resilience, perseverance, and dedication to research as Pang."

Pang has dedicated her undergraduate career to research and inclusivity. She has served as a Chancellor's Student Ambassador and a Peer Research Mentor on campus. In her supporting letter, Melissa Wilson, director of Career Services, praised Pang's maturity, commitment, and passion. "As Pang has navigated being a non-traditional student, McNair Scholar, student leader, Honors Program student, Upward Bound volunteer, and sole financial supporter for herself and her education, I have witnessed her commitment to encouraging others, serving as a role model, and being dedicated to her research." 

Natalie echoed those comments, saying that Pang "is a sterling example of how much a dedicated student can achieve with brilliant talent, incredible hard work, and the support of an effective university support system. She has gone from a 13-year-old factory worker to a proud UWRF senior who will soon be entering a funded top-tier PhD program." 

In nominating Pang, Evan Matson, interim director of the McNair Scholars Program, spoke of Pang's research about Hmong language and commitment to inclusivity on campus. She has conducted intensive research on multi-generational fundamental frequency and fundamental variations on Hmong women. She has presented her work at numerous conferences and symposiums and gave the plenary address at the 23rd Annual California McNair Scholars Symposium in 2015. Matson said " Pang has positively impacted both non-traditional learners and international students on our campus. This can be displayed through Pang's research about Hmong language, work in the McNair Scholar's office, academic success and involvement with many organizations and events. She has been a true leader for inclusivity during her undergraduate studies."

Brittany Rambatt - College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Brittany Rambatt, a graduating senior with an agricultural education major, is described as mature, energetic, and dedicated in letters supporting her nomination, but the common thread that stands out most is her compassion. 

Brittany spent last summer as an English as a Second Language teacher in Honduras where she taught English classes to students in a rural village. She also completed several trips to Honduras and one to Haiti, where her compassion shined. During her trips abroad, she helped install water filters, pour floors, and assisted with basic medical care. She volunteered at an orphanage, helped improve homes, and established gardens. In his nomination letter, James Graham, chair of the Agricultural Education Department, described Brittany's spirit. "This caring and heartfelt compassion for others is far more than what can be gained through formal education, but truly is something to be recognized for." 

Brittany focused her honors research project on her summer experiences in Honduras. She documented how the knowledge and skills learned on campus contributed to her success in teaching English and implementing community development projects. 

She also examined how her experience built skills that will support her work as an ag education teacher in the U.S. Tim Buttles, professor of agricultural education, described Brittany's ability to balance everything. "Brittany balanced her global engagement with active involvement on campus and strong academic achievement. She provided outstanding leadership as an officer in the Agricultural Education Society and Alpha Tau Alpha student organizations. She utilized these roles to help promote involvement in global service experiences and campus international programs. Brittany's commitment to global engagement through service sets her apart."

Closer to home, Brittany has been involved with the America Reads Program at Westside Elementary School in River Falls and Big Foot FFA. She is an Honors Program student and is on the Dean's List. 

Kate TheisenKate Theisen - College of Business and Economics

In her nomination letter, Cindy Holbrook, head women's basketball coach, describes Kate Theisen as "as an extraordinary student athlete at UW-River Falls." 

A senior business administration major with emphasis in management and economics, Kate has been heavily involved during her time on campus. Holbrook summed up Kate, saying "Her daily commitment to UWRF core values, her positive and inspiring attitude and her courageous leadership all make her a tremendous candidate for this award. In 17 years as a head coach, I have never coached a student-athlete that I could recommend more highly than Kate." 

Kate has served as a campus visit intern and a recruitment and enrollment team member with the Admissions Office, an innovative research member in the Business Administration Department, a research presenter, and captain of the women's basketball team. 

Yunge Dutton, operations manager for Admissions & New Student and Family Programs, described Kate's recruitment efforts within the Admissions Office as "remarkable," saying "she not only performed to our high standards for inclusivity, knowledge sharing, and personal engagement with prospective students and families, she performed to her own high expectations for herself." 

In his supporting letter, Economics Professor John Walker described Kate as "an excellent student in every way." He said that on the basketball court, "she showed formidable leaderships skills. Even more important," he explained, "was the support Kate showed her teammates no matter what the circumstance. It is clear that Kate inspires her teammates as a result of her positive attitude and dedication." 

Assistant Athletics Director Kellen Wells-Mangold spoke highly of Kate's character. "She is a fantastic role model for young women. She recently gave a remarkable speech during the Athletic Department's National Girls and Women in Sports Day luncheon. Kate's determination to succeed is not just commendable. She is the exemplary model of a strong female presence using her efforts to improve the world around her in a multitude of ways and that is exactly the type of student UW-River Falls hopes to develop." 

Xiaoqi WangXiaoqi Wang - College of Arts and Sciences

Xiaoqi "Kiki" Wang is a graduating senior with a major in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). In letters of nomination, she is described as "cheerful," "enthusiastic," and as an "ubiquitous force." 

In his nomination materials, Doug Margolis, assistant professor in the TESOL program, told a story about Kiki jumping out of a plane to describe her attitude. "The courage Kiki revealed when she jumped out of a plane last August with a handful of other brave souls from UWRF illustrates the qualities that guide her. She carefully plans and prepares for everything that she does. She networks broadly and links people together, bridging divides with humor and respect, ensuring that she has the support needed. Finally, she faces her fears, whether they are handling culture shock, living an ocean and a continent away from home and family, or jumping into a great unknown, she trusts in herself to land on her own two feet.

Kiki came to campus as part of a cohort of Zhejiang International Studies University Students in 2013. Since then, in the words of Alex Hathaway, associate lecturer of English as a Second Language, she has "thrived here on campus and helped others to thrive." 

She has presented her research at multiple conferences, served as an orientation transition leader through New Student and Family Programs, served as an orientation team leader for International Student Services, and volunteered as a programming coordinator for the Global Programming Society. She has been vice-president of the TESOL club, served as a Chancellor's Student Ambassador, led the Chinese Culture Club as co-president, and participated in Dance Theatre. Kiki has also served as a Chinese class facilitator, ESL tutor, and teaching assistant at UWRF.  

While her involvement list is long, Kiki has continually stepped up. Rhonda Petree, director of the English Language Transition Program, described Kiki as "a gem." "Kiki has represented the university with such positivity and enthusiasm through her many public roles." 

Doug summed up Kiki's strengths. "Xiaoqi is not only an impressive student, committed professional, and effective scholar and presenter, she is also a person who will someday lead the TESOL field. Mark my words!"