2019-2020 Student Awards

At the end of the academic year, the Paul and Virginia Engler College of Business holds an awards ceremony to recognize achievements and excellence of our students. While our on-campus ceremony was put on hold, we take this opportunity to highlight and recognize the students we are proud to honor for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Outstanding Student Awards

Paul & Virginia Engler
Student of Distinction

Elise Bunkowski
Major: M.S. in Finance & Economics
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Sparks, NV

My last semester at WT was an experience I will never forget as my state was locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While finishing my degree I was transitioning into my new role as Budget Director with unprecedented budget cuts to my institution and I was suddenly homeschooling my four kids. With the support of my family and the staff of WT, I successfully completed my degree and can focus on applying my knowledge to help advance higher education in my community.

– Elise Bunkowski

Paul & Virginia Engler
Student of Distinction

Ruth Cassidy
Major: M.B.A – General Business
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Valhalla, NY

When I decided to pursue the MBA, I was a Senior Vice President of my health system. I had been working in healthcare for over 30 years, with 15 years as an administrator.  The experience I had while pursuing my MBA degree afforded me growth on 3 dimensions:  

From an Educational perspective, the majority of my previous formal education for both undergraduate and my doctoral degree was on the clinical side. My goal is to become a COO or CEO of a healthcare facility, so I wanted to acquire a well-rounded education in business. Courses such as accounting, finance, project management and organizational behavior provided that knowledge. I found those experiences both rewarding and incredibly thorough in expanding my knowledge base in business.

From a Professional level, I was able to apply the knowledge I gained in real time at work. I could better interpret business statements, I could lead large projects with enhanced structure and real time metrics. In fact one of my strategic business proposals was accepted in 2020 as an organizational initiative.  This  project is set to launch in November.

Finally on a Personal level, the MBA taught me to not only lead others but to lead myself. I learned the detriments of burn out, and I reflected on my life goals. I learned skills to better manage my daily life, improve my energy and appreciate my accomplishments. 

– Ruth Cassidy

Paul & Virginia Engler
Student of Distinction

Becca Gerlich
Major: Computer Information Systems
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Canyon, TX

The College of Business provided an ideal learning and practical environment for me. Small classes and personal attention made it possible not only to acquire a wealth of knowledge, but also hands-on experience. I am grateful for all of the guidance and support I received along the way.

– Becca Gerlich

Paul & Virginia Engler
Student of Distinction

Madison Thetford
Major: Marketing
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Amarillo, TX

I am excited to continue my track career while also pursuing an MBA in Marketing at WT. Upon graduation in two years, I plan to help small, local businesses flourish. I strive for my skills in marketing to help these businesses gain the recognition and support they deserve. 

– Madison Thetford

Outstanding Accounting Student

Kennedy King
Major: Accounting
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Gruver, TX

I am so thankful I chose WT to be my home away from home for many reasons. Over the past four years I have built relationships with many of my professors and built friendships with peers that I will cherish forever. I owe so much to this University for bringing me lifelong friends and for pushing me further than I ever thought was possible. I am looking forward to continuing my education in accounting and I can’t wait to see what doors God continues to open for me – as always go Buffs. 

– Kennedy King

Outstanding Computer Information Systems Student

Nga Nguyen
Major: Computer Information Systems
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Amarillo, TX

Attending WT allowed me to enhance my knowledge, gain valuable skills, and forge lifelong friendships. My professors influenced my thinking and helped me become a more cultured person.

– Nga Nguyen

Outstanding Economics Student

Derek Israel
Major: Economics with a Law & Economics Specialization
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Austin, TX

I am a non-traditional student in that I retired from the Austin Police Department in 2017, where I had been a homicide detective. Immediately after retiring, I became a full-time student and enrolled at WT as an online-only student in order to finally get a college degree. My experiences at WT were fantastic and I was always made to feel like an equal member of the student body, despite living eight hours from campus. In fact, I participated in an undergraduate research symposium while enrolled, I was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society,  Alpha Chi Honor National Society, and was a member of 21st Century Buffs, a student organization for online students.

Immediately after graduating from WT, I started my first semester (summer semester) at Texas A&M School of Law, where I am currently pursuing a Master of Jurisprudence in Risk Management.

– Derek Israel

Outstanding Finance Student

Isaac Cardenas Casillas
Major: Finance
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Sioux Falls, SD

My three years at WTAMU were some of the best of my life, where I experienced invaluable growth as a professional, and as a person.  That is why I am proud to continue my education at WTAMU in the MSFE program, where I hope to grow even more.  

– Isaac Cardenas Casillas

Outstanding General Business Student

LaShell Robbins
Major: General Business with an Entrepreneurship Specialization
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Canyon, TX

My future plans consist of furthering my education through graduate school. I hope to attend Texas Tech University in 2021 to pursue a J.D. and M.B.A.

– LaShell Robbins

Outstanding Management Student

Kaitlyn McCalib
Major: Management
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Norfolk, VA

The professors at West Texas A&M University are remarkable academic leaders that manage to facilitate a positive learning environment while teaching challenging coursework to ensure their students flourish and achieve success. In the fall of 2020, I will be attending the College of William and Mary in the pursuit of earning a Master of Business Administration degree. I aspire to make a positive impact on the world and I know that if I apply a strong work ethic, expertise, and ethical practices, coupled with an MBA, I can become an executive leader that breaks the mold for other women in business.  

– Kaitlyn McCalib

Outstanding Marketing Student

Sofia Torres (not pictured)
Major: Marketing
Graduate Date: May 2020
Hometown: Amarillo, TX

Carey Lyles Emerging Technology Award

Phelps Merrell
Major: Computer Information Systems
Graduation Date: December 2020
Hometown: Chicago, IL

Thanks WT for helping me find my passion for code. I found a career and a hobby and that will last forever.

– Phelps Merrell

Outstanding Undergraduate Business Student

Becca Robinson
Major: Finance and Accounting
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Amarillo, TX

I am starting Graduate school at WTAMU in the fall to obtain an MS in Finance and Economics. I enjoyed my time as an undergrad in the COB and am thankful for the many professors that helped me be successful in my studies.

– Becca Robinson

Outstanding Graduate Business Student

John Capua
Major: MBA – Healthcare Management
Graduation Date: May 2020
Hometown: Des Plaines, IL

My two-year MBA journey at WT includes late-night studying and listening to lectures after a full day’s work. However, the cumulative knowledge and practical skills I gained from the program’s rigorous curriculum empowered me to become an effective contributor to my organization. I plan to leverage my MBA education to address the growing healthcare complexities and take on future leadership roles to improve quality of patient care.

– John Capua

Student Organization Leadership Awards

Accounting and Finance (AFA) Leadership Award

James Hancock
Major: Finance and Accounting
Hometown: Carrollton, TX

James has been involved in the AFA for several years in multiple leadership roles culminating with him presiding as President of the AFA for the 2019-2020 academic year. During his tenure, James facilitated the association’s meetings which hosted community leaders coming to campus in order to engage with students about careers in accounting and finance. He also helped to coordinate the AFA’s annual community outreach project which supported the local Canyon Snack Pak 4Kids initiative.

– David Clark and Karen Cooley, AFA Faculty Advisors

American Marketing Association (AMA) Leadership Award

Benjamin Sprague (not pictured)
Major: Marketing
Hometown: Amarillo, TX

Ben Sprague is a hard-working student with a pleasant personality who has been actively involved in WT’s American Marketing Association Chapter. Ben has helped us in our monthly seminars and other AMA programs. Ben’s contributions and value-added to the Chapter are meaningful and long-lasting. We are always impressed by Ben’s initiatives and participation in the classroom as well. Overall, as the Chapter President, Ben was instrumental in taking care of the Chapter’s logistical activities, planning, and membership drive. His support and help are highly appreciated

– Dr. Syed Anwar and Dr. Turkan Kilic, AMA Faculty Advisors

Association for Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA) Leadership Award

Heidy Valverde Rodriguez
Major: M.S. in Finance & Economics
Hometown: Peru

Ms. Heidy Valverde Rodriguez served as the President of the ALPFA (Association of Latino Professionals for America) student chapter and in her role; she stood out the most with her willingness to serve beyond the call of duty. She served with a big smile in several service projects such as the Membership Drive, Winter Can Drive, Angel Tree Program, and as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army. She also led several career development workshops for other students and coordinated our top event of the year featuring motivational TedX speaker and CEO, Dr. Jose Luis Zelaya via Zoom. Her passion, determination, and willingness to serve students and community members make her deserve this leadership award.     

– Dr. Leslie Ramos Salazar, ALPFA Faculty Advisor

BuffTeks Leadership Award

Gabriela Valenzuela (not pictured)
Major: Computer Information Systems
Hometown: Pampa, TX

Gabriela Valenzuela, “Vanessa,” is the consummate leader. As the President of the BuffTeks – a student organization dedicated to developing applied experiences with purposeful applications of information technology – Gabriela understood the importance of leading by example and the value of inspiration. Having guided website development projects in service to the community and to Enactus, Vanessa provided the reliability and stability for her peers that is often required to maintain productivity and focus in any student organization. I am proud of Vanessa as I know her classwork, internships, and leadership of BuffTeks have provided her with the experience that will continue to positively shape her career.

– Dr. Jeffry Babb, BuffTeks Faculty Advisor

Charted Financial Analysts (CFA) Research Team Leadership Award

Payton Witthar
Major: Finance and Accounting
Hometown: Amarillo, TX

Payton, as part of the valuation team, painstakingly created the spreadsheets for the valuation estimation for the CFA Research Challenge.   He spearheaded the five variable revenue driver matrix to project revenue.  Payton strived throughout the competition to elevate the analyst report and presentation.  The team advanced to the oral competition round in Houston.  Payton is an inquisitive student who increases the quality of discourse in the classroom.

– Dr. Anne Macy and Dr. Barbara Wang, CFA Faculty Advisors

Enactus Leadership Award

Bailey Caraway (not pictured)
Major: Management
Hometown: Amarillo, TX

Bailey Caraway was awarded this leadership award for her outstanding performance as a project manger for the Path Project. She immediately established connections with the Amarillo Area Foundation, leaders, and entrepreneurs in our community, excelled in recruiting new members, and consistently included and educated members in the process of project planning. Bailey is an incredible, dedicated student who finds passion in all that she does, and her love for Enactus and its members is always apparent.

– Dr. Marisa Crisostomo, Enactus Faculty Advisor

Econ Club Leadership Award

Alexis Hext
Major: M.S. in Finance & Economics
Hometown: LaJunta, CO

Alexis excelled in her role as the Economics Club Student President. She was stellar in managing the intricacies of the club and her dedication to the club was outstanding. Alexis demonstrated a high capacity as a leader, showing her ability to balance responsibilities on a near weekly basis. Her work highlighted her communication, organizational and interpersonal skills.

– Dr. Lee Stitzel and Dr. Ryan Mattson, Econ Club Faculty Advisors

Media Minds Leadership Award

J. Roman Gray
Major: Marketing
Hometown: Amarillo, TX

Roman was selected for this award for his leadership on Media Minds’ grant-funded project to create a financial literacy video library to benefit the entire university. Roman has been a long-time member of Media Minds, and his creativity and expertise have been integral to Media Minds’ success, including at the recent Telly Awards competition where a number of his videos won awards.

– Dr. Heidi Huntington, Media Minds Faculty Advisor

Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) Leadership Award

Adriana Garcia
Major: Management
Hometown: Glendale, CA

Adriana represents many of the non-traditional students that SHRM is proud to include in our WTAMU Chapter. She is a full-time practitioner of HR with over 6 years of experience in the field, currently working at a large public organization and holding several titles including Personnel Analyst and Benefits Analyst. What is perhaps most impressive about Adriana is the fact that she is also a full-time mother of two young boys, and a full-time online/distance student based in southern California. As a student officer, she made incredible strides in her role as the Digital Media Coordinator of SHRM, updating and enhancing the SHRM experience for our in-person and online-only students. Reliability and conscientiousness being among her core strengths, we are very proud to choose Adriana to receive SHRM’s leadership award.

Dr. Rahul Chauhan and Dr. Jillian Yarbrough, SHRM Faculty Advisors

Student-Managed Investment Fund (SMIF) Leadership Award

Candace Tarver
Major: Finance and Accounting
Hometown: Guthrie, TX

Candace Tarver was a team leader for the Student-Managed Investment Fund, working to create the annual report and revise the portfolio holdings.  With a delightful personality and diligent work ethic, Candance steadily guided the process.  In the classroom, Candance is a methodical note taker who focuses on the nuances of the analysis. 

– Dr. Anne Macy, SMIF Faculty Advisor

For more information about Undergraduate Programs in the Engler College of Business, contact COBundergrad@wtamu.edu or 806-651-2525.