Schnurr, York, Tschida take top student awards

Marmian Grimes

Dozens of students were honored at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ annual student awards breakfast on Saturday. Each spring, UAF honors students who have distinguished themselves throughout their academic careers.

Among those honored were the winners of the Marion Frances Boswell Memorial Award, the Gray S. Tilly Memorial Award and the Joel Wiegert Award. The awards recognize the accomplishments of three top graduating seniors each year.

UAF photo by Todd ParisTheresia Schnurr
UAF photo by Todd Paris
Theresia Schnurr

Theresia Schnurr is the recipient of the 2013 Marion Frances Boswell Memorial Award for outstanding graduating senior woman. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry/biochemistry in December and is now pursuing a master’s degree in chemistry and molecular biology. Schnurr came to UAF from Buhlertal, Germany. She is a member of the UAF cross-country skiing and running teams, where she is a three-time NCAA Championships participant, twice with skiing and once with running. In 2011, she led the Nanooks’ cross-country running team to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA West Region Championship and the entire team’s first-ever bid to the NCAA Championship. When she wasn’t competing and training, Schnurr volunteered her time with Team Alaska, a group of student-athletes who raised money to travel to Mexico to build a house for a homeless family there. She has also contributed many hours of her time assisting with local youth skiing and running events. In the classroom, she maintained high grades and was known for her positive attitude and initiative.

“As an undergraduate researcher, Theresia immediately engaged in her project, learning techniques quickly and contributing to the improvement of the project,” wrote one of her nominators. “What was truly amazing is that, within a few short months, she started volunteering her time to train graduate students from other labs on equipment.”

UAF photo by Todd ParisPaul Tschida
UAF photo by Todd Paris
Paul Tschida

Paul Tschida is the recipient of the 2013 Joel Wiegert Award, which is given to the outstanding graduating senior man. He will be receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, with a concentration in biochemistry/molecular biology. Tschida transferred to UAF from the University of Alaska Anchorage in the fall of 2011 and is completing his degree in three years. In addition to his demanding academic schedule, Tschida works as a tutor at Student Support Services, where he is known for his kind demeanor and ability to explain material in a way that students can quickly understand. He is a member of the American Chemistry Society and Golden Key International Honor Society and has received multiple scholarships and awards during his time at UAF, including five consecutive semesters on the Chancellor’s List. After graduation, Tschida plans to attend pharmacy school in Scotland, where many of his family members live. Multiple people noted Tschida’s integrity in their nomination letters.

“Paul has an incredible work ethic and an outstanding dedication to his education. He is willing to spend his time helping students and promoting the university in the community at large,” wrote one nominator.

UAF photo by Todd ParisJenny York
UAF photo by Todd Paris
Jenny York

Jenny York is the recipient of the 2013 Gray S. Tilly Memorial Award, which is given to an outstanding graduating nontraditional student. She is receiving a bachelor’s degree in social work. York, who is from Tok, left high school at 14 when she was pregnant with her eldest child. In 1992, she was pregnant with her second child and had just left her marriage when she decided to return to school, first to get her GED and then to pursue an associate degree. After a short stint Outside, York returned to Alaska to be closer to family and began taking distance courses through the Interior-Aleutians Campus Tok Center. While she was able to earn her associate degree, it would be several years before York was able to begin working toward a bachelor’s degree. Today, the single mother of five works full time at the Tok Center and has been an active volunteer with a variety of organizations in Tok and Fairbanks. She did her practicum at the Birch Center, where she served as a visitation monitor for noncustodial parents convicted or accused of domestic violence and child abuse. York plans to pursue a master’s degree and eventually do social work within the criminal justice system.

“Jenny is really the kind of student that you hope for in your class. She works incredibly hard at the course content and brings meaning to her work, but also challenges and thinks critically about content,” wrote one nominator. “Jenny has allowed other students to grow by her modeling critical thinking and independence.”

NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos of Schnurr, Tschida and York, along with a complete list of student award winners, is posted online at If a student or department is not listed, it may be that the outstanding student for that department has a confidential hold on his or her academic record.

2013 student award winners

Specialty awards

Crystal Pitney, Scholar Athlete

Steven Thompson, Scholar Athlete

Community and Technical College

Michael Ford, Airframe and Powerplant

Esmirina Cruz, Applied Accounting

Sonya Hale, Applied Business,

Benjamin Pysto, Construction Management

Jenevie Burgess, Culinary Arts

Pearl Savage, Dental Assistant

Abe Christenson, Diesel and Heavy Equipmen

Adina Keirn, Drafting Technology

Chasity Evanow, Early Childhood Education

Delmari Tyndale, Fire Science

Matthew Read, Human Services

Jericho Tyler, Instrumentation Technology

Tracy Magill , Information Technology Specialist

Stephanie Lucio, Paralegal Studies

Janesther Daway Bennett, Medical Assisting

Kraig Bryan, Paramedic Academy

Neil Ollenburger, Process Technology

School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences 

Jacob Hakala, Forest Sciences

Jason Theis, Geography

Nathan Heeringa, High Altitude Agriculture

Rafael Rodriguez , Humans and the Environment

School of Management

Julie A. Gilhuly, Accounting

Kyla Hovda, Business Administration

Emily Elterman , Economics

Amber Lammers, Emergency Management

John William Jennings II, Military Science and Leadership

School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences 

Michael Courtney, Fisheries

School of Education 

Emily Gray, Elementary Education

Thea Sundown, Rural Elementary Education

College of Rural and Community Development

Sharon Hildebrand, Alaska Native Studies

Gladys C. Landlord , Child Development and Family Studies

Shee’lene Fields, Construction Trades Technology

Christa Chavez, Developmental Education

Lisa Ellanna Strickling, Rural Development

Wanda Moses, Rural Nutrition Services

Jessica Boyle, Tribal Management

Billyann White, Veterinary Services

College of Natural Science & Mathematics 

Daniela Wilner, Biological Sciences

Paul Tschida, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Rebecca Parrish, Geology & Geophysics

Lander Ver Hoef, Mathematics

Levi Cowan, Physics

Andrew Slagle, Statistics

Travis Lapointe, Wildlife Biology

College of Engineering and Mines

Levi Overbeck, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Jack LaSota, Computer Engineering

Zakoriah Williams, Computer Science

Russell Carroll, Electrical Engineering

Jocelyn Simpson, Geological Engineering

Daniel F. Updegrove, Mechanical Engineering

Justin White, Mining Engineering

James Petrilli, Petroleum Engineering

College of Liberal Arts

Chelsey Zibell, Alaska Native Languages

Ian Wilkinson, Art

Valerie M. Collins, English

Aaron D. Gordon, Film

Shaun Nesheim, Foreign Languages

Lindsay Saunders, History

Robin D. Wood, Journalism

Mamie Claire Davis, Justice

Kraig F. Smyth, Linguistics

Michael L. Keller, Music

Chris Wizda, Northern Studies

Matthew R. Smith, Philosophy

Joseph Byrnes, Political Science

Lacey Brewster, Psychology

Heather Helfrich, Social Work

Megan McClain Carpenter, Sociology

Deirdre D. Adams, Theatre

Leah M. Hill, Women’s and Gender Studies