More than 2,500 newly minted UNLV graduates will cross the Thomas & Mack Center stage on Saturday, and each will hear their name called to the delight of family and friends gathered to celebrate.
For more than a decade, it's been UNLV tradition to highlight a select few of those graduates who are, in a word, outstanding. The university seeks campus and community nominations each semester for graduating students who excel in the classroom, are engaged in the community, and/or who have overcome personal adversity to succeed.
The five outstanding graduates selected this semester include an academic All-America soccer player with a knack for teaching math, two undergraduates using the skills acquired at UNLV to make a difference in communities around the world, a dental student who combines academic and research skill with service and legislative advocacy, and a scientist with a fascination for creatures that go bump in the night.
Spencer Armuth - Doctor of Dental Medicine
Before entering dental school, Spencer Armuth was on the staff for U.S. Rep. Dean Heller in Washington D.C., where he realized that every profession needs a passionate advocate to ensure lawmakers understand the demands of the industry. Spencer has taken an active role advocating for the dental profession since his arrival at the dental school. He has been the president of the School of Dental Medicine's Class of 2014 for three years and was a contributing writer in the American Student Dental Association Journal. Spencer became the legislative coordinator for UNLV's chapter of the American Student Dental Association and served as a voting member of the House of Delegates for the Nevada Dental Association. He also coordinated legislative advocacy efforts for Western dental schools as a member of the association's Council of Advocacy. Spencer is also actively involved in various community service projects, including the school's Children's Clinic. Later this summer, he will begin a six-year residency program at Louisiana State University, Shreveport, where he will pursue a specialization certificate in oral and maxillofacial surgery and earn a medical degree.
Bradley Davey - B.A. in German
Bradley Davey is the quintessential Renaissance man. An Honors College student who graduates with a perfect 4.0 GPA, Bradley is one of the rare individuals who can both translate a 300-page German novel into English and analyze the microbial structure of clouds, water, and snow to understand the Earth's atmosphere. But his road to success wasn't easy. Bradley overcame tremendous personal adversity -- which included dropping out of high school for a time -- to start his higher education career at the age of 21. He first entered the College of Southern Nevada and then UNLV as a chemistry and pre-med student. An interest in German language and culture led to a year of study abroad there, where he taught English to at-risk youth. With new inspiration and now a degree in German, Bradley will return to Germany this summer as part of the prestigious Fulbright Scholars Program to teach English and give students a perspective on American culture and education. His goal is to help at-risk kids realize that with hard work and a good attitude they can achieve anything.
Robin Gonzales - B.A. in Political Science, English; Brookings Minor
An immigrant who moved to Nevada six years ago, Robin Gonzales quickly overcame language and cultural barriers and transformed into a scholar and an involved agent of change. Robin is an English and Political Science dual major, a member of the Honor's College, and he graduates Magna Cum Laude. He is also one of the first two UNLV students to graduate with the Brookings Public Policy Minor, a unique program taught by UNLV faculty and scholars from the Brookings Institution. Active in student government, Robin served two years as the chief justice of the Judicial Council. He also twice attended the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference, which annually hosts university students worldwide to present innovative approaches to solving global issues. At the conference, Robin represented a health education project that he developed with high school classmates in his native Philippines. His on-campus involvement includes work with Circle K International, Rebel Service Council, and the honor societies of Pi Sigma Pi, Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law. He was honored this semester with the Rebel Awards' Outstanding Scholar Leader and with the prestigious Calvert Award for Undergraduate Research for his honors thesis, which analyzes and recommends solutions for international dispute over ownership of an island group in the South China Sea. He plans to pursue a law degree to continue his passion for justice.
Kylie Wassell - B.S. in Secondary Education
Kylie Wassell earned the starting goalkeeper position on the UNLV women's soccer team the day after her 17th birthday -- an achievement that proved to be just the beginning of a stellar college career both on the field and in the classroom. She graduates with a 3.97 GPA and for the past three years has had the highest GPA of any UNLV student athlete -- female or male. And, she is the first women's soccer player to earn academic All-America honors. She also is one of only 30 women's players announced as candidates for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award in collegiate soccer. To be eligible, she had to have notable achievements in four areas of excellence -- community, classroom, character, and competition. Excel in competition, she does. She started every game during the past four years and was the only goalkeeper in the Mountain West to earn all-conference honors in her junior year after setting a school record with 10 shutouts. This Bonanza High School graduate completed her student teaching at Fremont Middle School and has accepted an offer to teach eighth grade math there beginning this fall.
Michael Webber - Ph.D. in Biological Sciences
The sight of scorpions and snakes causes most to run, but not Michael Webber. Even as a child, the Las Vegas native was fascinated by venomous creatures of the night. So it's fitting that the Mojave High School grad, who already has an undergraduate degree from UNLV in biology, earns a Ph.D. for work that shines new light on the life history of the Arizona bark scorpion. Michael graduates with an impressive 3.97 GPA and already has seven research articles to her name, including work as co-author on an article about the landmark discovery of a new scorpion species in Death Valley. Her accomplishments also include earning a highly competitive Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation, the Wolzinger Family Research Scholarship, and participation in the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program. A frequent guest speaker in classrooms and wildlife parks across the region, Michael hopes her excitement for science will provide a spark for kids to consider a career in the field.