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Simply Outstanding

Nine students, including a mother of two who after years of working as a dental hygienist received her dental degree and became class valedictorian, are being honored as spring 2012 Outstanding Graduates.
Campus News  |  May 9, 2012  |  By Diane Russell

UNLV's nine Outstanding Graduates for spring 2012 include a student who has interned with a NASA consortium, a four-year starter and three-time captain of the Lady Rebels basketball team, and a mother who began her career as a dental hygienist and now graduates as a dentist and valedictorian of her class.

Another has studied the effects of hypnosis on motor skill learning and now is a certified hypnotherapist. And one is a single parent who returned to school at age 36 so that she could make life better for her daughter. Yet another is the first graduate of UNLV's Ph.D. program in public health.

Three were born in other nations and are either bilingual or trilingual.

They are, in all, an interesting group.

Joseph Asante -- Ph.D. in Geoscience

In America, ready access to water is easy to take for granted. Joseph Asante knows it's much different for people in his native country of Ghana. There, the completion of a new well is cause for communitywide celebration. The husband and father of two children is dedicated to helping build the technical capacity needed to tackle future water problems, especially in rural areas and developing nations. For his dissertation, he studied the lower Virgin River Basin with the goal of improving our ability to predict the quantity and quality of water in the area. Such work is crucial to the growth of Mesquite, Las Vegas, and the Southwest.

Ann Marie Frappier -- B.S. in Mechanical Engineering

Ann Marie Frappier exemplifies UNLV's growing reputation for undergraduate research success. A mechanical engineering major, math minor, and member of the Honors College, Frappier graduates with a 3.84 GPA. She interned as part of the Nevada NASA Space Grant Consortium, participating in the design, build, and successful test flight of a solar-powered, unmanned aerial vehicle. She also earned the nationally competitive U.S. Department of Defense Science, Mathematics & Research for Transformation Scholarship, Stan Fulton Honors Scholarship, and Phi Kappa Phi Emerging Scholar Award. A former valedictorian of Clark High School, Frappier earned the 2010 UNLV Greek Life Woman of the Year Award for her commitment to her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta; philanthropy; and incredible school spirit. She now begins her professional career working with a team of engineers at the Naval Weapons Air Station at China Lake, Calif., designing and developing naval artillery and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Sharon Jalene -- B.S. in Kinesiology

Sharon Jalene's perfect 4.0 GPA, charitable activities, and accomplishments in research are remarkable for an undergraduate. But then consider how she overcame financial hardships and worked full-time as she pursued her college degree. As a volunteer in the Motor Performance and Learning Lab, Jalene completed her own study on the effects of hypnosis on motor skill learning. Her results have been accepted for presentation at a national conference. She is a certified hypnotherapist and has developed guided meditations to relieve test-taking anxiety for fellow students. She also ran the nonprofit Yogis Unite, which provided free fitness classes to Las Vegas families and raised money for people facing health-related crises. She plans to continue her academic career in graduate school at UNLV.

Aubrey Knavel -- D.M.D in Dental Medicine

Aubrey Knavel graduates with a 3.99 grade point average and is the valedictorian of her School of Dental Medicine class. She began dental school 10 years after receiving her bachelor's degree, raising two sons, and working as a dental hygienist. Her academic career includes an induction into a prestigious dental honor fraternity, in which only the top 10 percent of dental students are accepted. She is a published researcher whose work includes investigating the correlation between oral health and body mass among Clark County students. Knavel also volunteered at dental school clinics, which provide free treatment to kids whose parents can't afford it. She next will continue her education in UNLV's orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics residency program.

Daniel Vincent Lacambacal -- B.S. in Biological Sciences

Daniel Vincent Lacambacal moved to the United States from the Philippines when he was 11. He overcame barriers, switching to English from his native Tagalog and adjusting to his new country. A member of UNLV's Honors College, he graduates with a 3.93 GPA. He participated in UNLV's study abroad program in Costa Rica with the specific goal of becoming fluent in Spanish in order to more effectively help patients during his nursing career. It is that nursing goal that Lacambacal, a hospice volunteer, will pursue next. His career plans include working first as a registered nurse and eventually completing a doctor of nursing practice degree to become a nurse practitioner.

Jennifer Pharr -- Ph.D. in Public Health

Jenny Pharr is the first graduate of UNLV's Ph.D. program in public health and has set the bar high for those who follow in her footsteps. She's already made a mark in the field of public health with eight peer-reviewed publications and has made it her mission to ensure that patients from underserved populations have equal access to health care. Her doctoral dissertation, based on her own personal family experience, found that many health care administrators around the nation are unaware of medical equipment available for persons with disabilities. She aims to put policies in place that would make health care administrators aware of available equipment. Pharr was awarded a multi-year graduate assistantship with the Lincy Institute, where she studied the effects of environment on individual health. This fall, she will continue as a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Community Health Sciences and the Lincy Institute.

Ricardo Rios -- B.A. in Psychology

Ricardo Rios already has accomplished goals usually reserved for those well into their careers. A member of the McNair Summer Scholars Institute, he has done extensive research ?on the influence of multicultural issues on body image in Hispanic men. Using information gathered in his research, he presented a poster at the Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies conference in Toronto, Canada. This Honors College student also is the second author, along with UNLV psychology professor Cortney Warren, of a manuscript that soon will be published in a journal of the American Psychological Association -- an extraordinary achievement for an undergraduate. A native of Chile, Rios has used his Spanish language skills to explore cultural competency in psychology.

Jamie Smith -- B.A. in Criminal Justice

Jamie Smith is a record-breaking student athlete who earned success both on the court and in the classroom. A four-year starter and three-time captain of the Lady Rebels basketball team, she graduates with an impressive 3.9 GPA. The former Hawaii high school Gatorade Player of the Year was named Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, was a three-time all-conference selection, and holds the all-time rebounding record at UNLV and for the Mountain West Conference. Off the court, Smith represents the women's basketball program on the conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, regularly visits Sunrise Children's Hospital as a Lady Rebel ambassador, and guided members of her team to volunteer with Three Square.

Karla Washington -- B.S. in Hotel Administration, Civic Engagement/Leadership Minor

Along with her traditional college degree, you could say Karla Washington also graduates with a degree in school spirit. Her inspirational story is that of a single parent who, despite limited financial resources and personal odds, went back to school at 36, maintained a 3.4 grade point average, and became a motivational student leader. She has served in student government and is a UNLV presidential ambassador. Washington successfully lobbied for scholarships for international travel and funding for industry networking events. As president of UNLV's chapter of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, she increased membership and enhanced programs. Since becoming a Rebel, she has encouraged students -- at any age -- to overcome challenges and realize their potential. Her journey is an example of how perseverance, dedication, and enthusiasm can lead to a dream coming true.