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Outstanding Grads Continue to Make UNLV Proud

Two exceptional graduates share their thoughts on the paths that UNLV led them to take

People  |  May 10, 2011  |  By University Communications

Chelsea Milko is a Peace Corps worker in Uganda

At every commencement, UNLV honors some of its most notable students for their academic and personal accomplishments. Two of our past Outstanding Graduates recently wrote from afar to express their appreciation for the opportunities UNLV gave them.

Chelsea Milko

'09 BA Political Science and BS in Kinesiology

Milko is now living in Uganda as an economic development volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps. There, she is working at the St. Francis School for the Blind, building a Braille library using recycled materials, and starting a village savings-and-loan association. She's also completing her master's of public administration at Rutgers University.

"UNLV placed in my path fantastic opportunities to grow personally and professionally. I threw myself into CSUN, Rebel Pride Council, Circle K, the Student Ambassador program, etc. I met local and world leaders, help start traditions and programs, and ultimately decided what to do with my life.

"After I graduated, I embarked on a MPA program in International Development at Rutgers University. The road towards grad school began with my professors and peers at UNLV. They helped to make me more sensitized to the global issues I now dedicate my life to. Essentially, my time at UNLV will always remain one of the most illuminating epochs of my life.

"The Guinn Millennium Scholarship kept me in Nevada. That deepened my attachment to the state and my community. Without the Millennium, I may have not been able to recognize the full worth of my birthplace.

"Splicing and dicing apart the scholarship would be one of the worst disinvestments our state leaders could ever make. From my firsthand experience teaching in Africa, I can tell you that education is the surest safeguard against the deterioration of democracy."

Leonardo Banchik

'10 BS Mechanical Engineering

As an undergraduate, Banchik seized the opportunities at UNLV to work alongside his professors on solar energy projects. He says that experience set him up well for a series of intensive internships. This fall he is heading to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to get his master's degree in mechanical engineering. He plans to focus on alternative energy research.

"Everything in my life that I deem to be a successful marker in my development has roots in my experience at UNLV. Without embellishment, I would not be in the same place if I had not attended UNLV.

"Because of UNLV's class sizes and structure, lectures were capable of involving the whole class. I have memories of these spirited discussions etched into my being -- from world literature, sociology, honors, and engineering classes. I laud the UNLV teachers that shook me out of my post-high school malaise and inspired me to help change the world.

"One of UNLV's great attributes is that professors are willing to hire undergraduate students to work on research projects. My experience in the Center for Energy Research was the steppingstone to my first internship in Washington D.C. Then I had an internship at Lawrence-Berkeley National Labs, another internship at the largest national laboratory in the United States, and admission to a graduate school I could previously only dream of attending. UNLV was there between each experience, preparing me academically for the next steps.

"UNLV really is a gem. I know UNLV could help transform Nevada into a beacon in the fields of energy and engineering research, hotel and tourism, and many other disciplines. I hope my voice is able to encourage readers to envision the pride and tremendous opportunity that can result from a state that supports higher education."