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UNLV Welcomes Newest Graduates During Spring Commencement

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More than 2,500 Eligible to Participate in Spring 2009 Ceremonies at Thomas & Mack
May 6, 2009  |  By UNLV Media Relations
Media Contact: Office of Public Affairs (702) 895-0893

WHAT: University of Nevada, Las Vegas Spring 2009 Commencement Ceremonies

WHEN: Saturday, May 9, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

9-11:30 a.m. - colleges and schools of law, fine arts, health sciences, liberal arts, sciences and urban affairs

2-4:30 p.m. - colleges and schools of business, dental medicine, education, engineering and hotel administration

WHERE: Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV

DETAILS: More than 2,500 UNLV undergraduate, graduate and professional students are eligible to participate in this year's spring commencement ceremonies.

UNLV will honor graduating students during each ceremony for their outstanding achievements both at the university and in the community (additional info on each of the students below). In addition, the university will recognize community members Jackie Robinson and Linda Smith during the morning ceremony and Larry Ruvo, Rossi Ralenkotter and Alden Levi Stewart during the afternoon ceremony as Distinguished Nevadans for their contributions to the community and support of higher education. Charles R. Donnelly (posthumously) will also be recognized as a Distinguished Nevadan.

For additional details, including guest and visitor information, please visit

NOTE: Media wanting access to the Thomas & Mack floor must obtain event-specific credentials prior to commencement by calling the Office of Public Affairs at (702) 895-0893 or (702) 443-3962 (day of).

Outstanding Graduates

Outstanding graduates are chosen each semester by UNLV President David B. Ashley through a semester-long nomination process. Students are chosen based on outstanding academic achievements, community outreach, and their ability to overcome adversity.

Outstanding UNLV Graduates - A.M. Ceremony

Thomas Willis - B.F.A. Fine Arts

Thomas Willis uses his success as an artist to brighten the lives of those in our community. Thomas, whose paintings have been the focus of two solo shows and more than 20 exhibitions locally and across the nation, shares his talent with local elementary students through the ArtsBridge America program. He's also among a select group of local artists who took part in Zap2, a community painting project with Clark County to brighten areas of Las Vegas' urban environment. Thomas won the Juror's Choice Award at the UNLV Juried Art Exhibition, is the recipient of numerous scholarships, and represented UNLV's art department earlier this year at the prestigious Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia.

Emily Powers - B.A. Political Science, B.A. English

Emily Powers' combination of academic excellence and advocacy for children's issues has made her one of our community's most promising young leaders. Last year alone, Emily became the first UNLV student in more than 20 years to earn the coveted Truman Scholarship, was named a Nevada Regents' Scholar, and served as field organizer for the non-profit Every Child Matters Campaign. Emily is graduating Summa Cum Laude with dual degrees in English and Political Science and minors in Theater and Communication Studies. During her time at UNLV, Emily also founded Art Smarts, an art therapy program at Shade Tree Shelter, co-founded the UNLV chapter of the National Organization for Women, and served as a press intern for U.S. Senator Harry Reid. This summer, she will join the Global Fund for Children in Washington, D.C. before starting the Master's in Public Affairs program at Princeton next fall.

Kyle Ethelbah - M.P.H.

Kyle Ethelbah has overcome personal adversity to achieve success both as a student and employee at UNLV. A first-generation college student and director of adult educational services for UNLV's Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach, Kyle has contributed greatly to the formalization of American Indian services and outreach for students at UNLV. A member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Kyle focused his academic pursuits on improving public health efforts among American Indians. His thesis, "Positive Native: Unheard Voices," serves as a resource and outreach tool for the growing number of American Indians living with or at risk for HIV.

Diane Welch - J.D., Thomas Welch - M.P.H.

Diane and Thomas Welch are mother and son outstanding graduates. Diane, as a working mother of two, earned an associate's degree from the College of Southern Nevada, a bachelor's degree from UNLV, and will today receive a juris doctorate from the Boyd School of Law with magna cum laude distinction. Diane was a member of UNLV's Moot Court Team, editor of the Nevada Law Journal, and recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Award from the Boyd Law School. Thomas, who also previously received a bachelor's degree from UNLV, is currently employed by a national health and wellness company and is committed to improving public health in Southern Nevada. Through a UNLV graduate internship with the Southern Nevada Health District, Thomas was part of the hepatitis C outbreak investigation team in Las Vegas and took action to secure the health and safety of Southern Nevadans.

Outstanding UNLV Graduates - P.M. Ceremony

Ken Hynes - B.S. Mechanical Engineering

Ken Hynes has achieved remarkable academic success at UNLV. Ken earned a 4.0 GPA in the difficult field of mechanical engineering while serving as an undergraduate research assistant in the Center for Energy Research. In 2007, Ken traveled to Munich, Germany to participate in the elite High Tech program, a series of international engineering student seminars sponsored by the German National Agency for the Support of International Cooperation. More recently, Ken was awarded the grand prize at the UNLV Senior Design Competition for developing a home power meter that promotes energy conservation by tracking home energy usage in real-time through a touch screen display.

Amanda Davis - B.S. Business Administration

Amanda Davis has taken student involvement at UNLV to another level. As program assistant for leadership development, Amanda regularly presents leadership programs to UNLV students and staff and serves as on-site coordinator for UNLV's Leadershape Institute - an intensive six-day training program on ethics-based leadership for student representatives. Amanda is also active in numerous student organizations and outreach initiatives including the Rebel Pride Council, Premiere UNLV, Alternative Spring Break, and the National Collegiate Leadership Conference. She plans to pursue a master's degree in student affairs.

Jungsun (Sunny) Kim - Ph.D. Hospitality Administration

Jungsun (Sunny) Kim has achieved remarkable success in both research and teaching while at UNLV. Sunny has published eight articles in industry journals and has six in preparation related to her research to develop a model of factors that influence the use of biometrics in the hospitality industry. She's also investigating the use of responsible gaming devices and the role of self service technologies in hospitality. As an instructor, Sunny translates her research success into practical knowledge for her students, earning her among the highest teaching evaluations from students in the college.

Dayne Jensen - D.M.D. Dental Medicine

Dayne Jensen's combination of medical research skills and keen aptitude for patient care has led to unparalleled success in the School of Dental Medicine. Dayne's research on the link between infectious agents and oral cancer, and a potential alternative treatment, resulted in numerous publications in top dental journals. Dayne has also compiled an impressive list of academic achievements. Dayne served as the school's student body president for the 2007-2008 academic year, was recognized as the top clinical producer in the UNLV dental clinic, and received both the William S. Kramer Award and Pierre Fauchard Scholarship from the National Dental Honor Society.