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A-State Announces 2017 Distinguished Service Award Winners


JONESBORO – Eight outstanding students will receive a 2017 Distinguished Service Award (DSA) at Arkansas State University at a recognition dinner, Thursday, April 27, at 6 p.m. at the Cooper Alumni Center, 2600 Alumni Boulevard, on the A-State campus.

The eight are Arnelle Jones of Osceola, Blaise Taylor of Jonesboro, Emilee Taylor of Jonesboro, Erin Langley of Beebe, Jared Gowen of Garner, Kelly Mendes of Jonesboro, Monica Norman of Hot Springs and Patrick Dietz of Searcy. 

The DSA recognition comes during A-State’s Convocation of Scholars, an annual celebration of academic achievement that includes college and departmental awards and recognition events. One of the eight will be announced as the recipient of the university’s highest honor, the R.E. Wilson Award, at the dinner.

The Distinguished Service Award winners are recognized as the institution’s most-outstanding graduates because of their leadership, scholarship and citizenship. Faculty, staff, advisers to student organizations and other members of the campus community submit nominations for these prestigious awards.

All of the nominees have provided countless hours of service to the community, their classmates, their departments and colleges and to Arkansas State University. A committee comprised of students, faculty, staff and past Wilson Award recipients makes the final selections.

Patrick Dietz

Dr. Kate Krueger, associate professor of English and coordinator of the women and gender studies program, nominated Dietz. Dietz is a biology major and will graduate in May with a grade point average of 3.81. He plans to attend pharmacy school in the fall.

He is also a global student leader and traveled for a week to Belize to learn about the country’s economic, political, ecological and environmental conditions.

A member of the Honors College Association, Dietz traveled to Lanjarón, Spain, as part of the Honors Study Abroad program. While there, he lived in a Spanish village of 3,000 people for a semester learning Spanish special topics, Spanish literature, political philosophy and the Spanish language.

As an undergraduate researcher in 2014, he worked under the supervision of Dr. Argelia Lorence, professor of metabolic engineering, carrying out plant tissue culture. He planted, harvested and cataloged seeds of rice plants and collected and weighed plant tissues and root systems. He also helped to complete a study of six different genetic lines of rice plants in order to find strands that were salt tolerant. The long-term goal was to help ease world hunger by finding genetic strands of rice plants that could produce food for those in areas that were unable to farm due to high salt content soil.

Jared Gowen

Dr. Anne Grippo, associate dean of undergraduate programs and professor biology, nominated Gowen. Gowen will graduate from Arkansas State in May with a degree in biological sciences with a minor in chemistry and a grade point average of 4.00. His goal is to become a physician.

Among his academic achievements Gowen has been on the Chancellor’s List each semester since 2013 as well as the Honors Director’s List. He is the recipient of an A-State Leadership scholarship, the Arkansas Challenge Lottery scholarship, the Sound of the Natural Band performance scholarship and is a member of the Honors College.

In addition, he participated in environmental research of symbiotic relations in aquatic species. The research was based upon determining the type of symbiotic relationship present between a particular fish and the organism that was commonly attached in order to predict the implications of the relationship for the future of two organisms.

He is part of the Taste of Italy study abroad experience this spring and summer.

Gowen serves as president of the Chancellor’s Ambassadors, an elite group of students who act as an advocate group for the university to potential students and their families. He is also the president of the Student Conduct Board, a student-driven body that hears information concerning alleged violations and ensures that all students are treated fairly.

Arnelle Jones 

Sandra Combs, associate professor of multimedia journalism production and adviser of A-State’s student newspaper, The Herald, nominated Jones. Jones is a communication studies major and will graduate in May with a grade point average of 3.97. She carries a minor in Spanish.

Jones was recently selected from over 10,000 applicants nationwide as one of the three Fulbright grant recipients from Arkansas State. She will spend 10 months as an English teaching assistant in Manizales, Caldas, in Colombia.

Jones is the recipient of an A-State Scholar Award each semester since fall 2013. Also, she has been on the Chancellor’s List and the Honors Director’s List every semester during that time span. Jones received the Governor’s Scholar Award, and an Academic Challenge Lottery Scholarship since 2013. 

Her honors senior thesis is titled “Breaking the Dichotomy: A Study on How Gender-Neutral Language Can Impact Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Individuals.”

Erin Langley

Langley was nominated by Dr. Argelia Lorence, professor of metabolic engineering, and is a biological sciences (pre-professional) major. She will graduate in May with a grade point average of 4.00 and plans to become a veterinarian.

A member of the Honors College, her academic achievements include being selected to the A-State Chancellor’s List each semester since fall 2013. She is also a recipient of the A-State Scholar Award scholarship that includes $15,000 annually, earning it for four years of undergraduate studies for having a 4.311 high school GPA and a 31 ACT composite score.

In May, Langley will travel to Italy as part of the A-State Honors Taste of Italy study abroad program and will earn an additional three hours of academic credit.

She worked as an intern in the behavioral husbandry department at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere for 10 weeks in the summer of 2016. While there, she was responsible for the care of a variety of animals for the zoo.

In addition, she received the undergraduate research fellowship; her thesis was titled, “Genetic Analysis of Adult and Juvenile Eastern Bluebirds in Northeast Arkansas.” Langley also was a contributing author to the publication “Functional Plant Biology,” on an experiment that tested the effect of drought (water limitation) on wild type Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage used in the study of plant biology.

Kelly Mendes 

Dr. Matthew Costello, director of undergraduate programs for criminology, sociology and geography and assistant professor of criminology, nominated Mendes. Mendes, who graduated with honors in December of 2016, earned two degrees in criminology and sociology with a grade point average of 3.7.

Mendes is a non-traditional student, balancing a full-time career, full-time graduate studies and mother to four teenagers.  She is the recipient of the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship, Angelo Humanities and Social Science Scholarship, and Single Parent Scholarship and Junior Auxiliary scholarship.

She is active in several leadership roles and organizations including, president of Alpha Kappa Delta, a non-traditional senator for the Student Government Association, Delta Epsilon Iota member, Phi Kappa Phi member and member of Alpha Phi Sigma, a criminal justice honor society. She was also the recipient of the Above and Beyond award for non-traditional students in 2013.

Academically, she was on the Dean's List and three-time member of the Chancellor's List. She graduated cum laude in December 2016. She also received the Presidential Drum Major Award for community service in 2016 and worked with A-State's disability services program as a ghostwriter, which aids students with disabilities in note taking for classes. Bi-lingual, she also mentored and tutored students in Spanish.

She is currently working on her master's degree in criminal justice and was selected to work on a grant with the National Institute of Justice as a research assistant. In her undergraduate career, she organized several events for her department, including the annual research symposium and prison tours. She presented her academic research, which was titled, "The Fine Crime: The Economic and Criminal Injustice of Excessive Fining and Poverty."

Monica Norman

Nikki Arnell, associate professor of graphic design, nominated Norman. Norman will graduate with honors in May with a degree in graphic design and a 3.7 grade point average. Her minor is international business.

A four-year member of the Honors College, Norman is the recipient of an A-State Pride Scholarship and Academic Challenge Scholarship. She has been listed on the Deans and Chancellor’s Lists each semester since 2013. She is also part of the Study Abroad program and visited Rome in the summer of 2015.

Norman served as a senator for four years in the Student Government Association and is a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. She was that organization’s publications coordinator in 2014 and the vice president of finance in 2015. In addition, she was the president of the Rotaract International and the founding officer of the Student Philanthropy Council.

A three-year member of the Professional Association of Design at A-State, Norman worked as the group’s publicist and was a cabinet member in 2015-16. She also worked with the American Advertisement Awards for Northeast Arkansas as a volunteer. A graphic designer for Pink Ink Screen printing, she was a freelance designer for United Way of Northeast Arkansas.

Norman also worked as a companion and staff member for Camp Quality summer camp for children with cancer in the summer of 2014, and has been a volunteer with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation 5k run since 2013. This spring, she was selected to be a part of the competitive internship program at St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital.

Blaise Taylor

Dr. Shane Hunt, dean of the College of Business, nominated Taylor, who earned his undergraduate degree in August 2016 in business administration. He graduated magna cum laude with a grade point average of 3.832. He took only two-and-a-half years to earn his bachelor degree, and Taylor is working on his master of business administration degree. Once completed, he plans to become a sports agent.

Among his other academic achievements, Taylor was a perennial member of the Chancellor’s List, always with a GPA of 3.667 or above. He also was listed on the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner’s List twice and the A-State Athletic Director’s Honor Roll twice. In 2015-16, he was named a Top 10 junior in the College of Business. He is a recipient of the Strong-Turner 3.0 Society award.

Taylor has been selected for the Study Abroad program and will travel to London this spring. The decision was based on his academic success and community involvement.

Even though he graduated in 2016, Taylor returned to school and played as a graduate student on the Red Wolf football team. A three-year letterman, he was a starter at defensive back and return specialist. He earned numerous honors, including second-team All-Sun Belt Conference, College Sports Madness Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference punt returner, and Phil Steele’s First Team All-Sun Belt punt returner.

Emilee Taylor

Dr. Ruth Owens, associate professor of Spanish, nominated Taylor. Taylor is a world languages and cultures major with an emphasis in Spanish, and will graduate in May with a grade point average of 3.70. She plans to become a volunteer for the Peace Corps. Following that goal, she wants to earn her master’s degree in College Student Personnel Services and aspires to work in higher education.Among her academic achievements, Taylor is a recipient of the Arkansas Promise scholarship, the Arkansas Lottery scholarship and the privately funded Warren and Lu Nedrow Trustees Scholarship. She is also active as a member of Sigma Delta Pi, a Spanish honor society; the Honors College; and the Chancellor’s List (2013-15).

She has received an invitation to the National Panhellenic Council (NPC) scholarship dinner for maintaining 3.8 GPA and is a three-time award recipient for earning the highest grade point average in her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta.

Active in the Student Government Association, Taylor served as a senator twice — as a junior and senior. A member of A-State’s award-winning cheerleading squad, she is a Global Student Leader, a program allowing students to serve as an ambassador for the university while visiting another country. Taylor traveled to Belize and Costa Rica as part of the Study Abroad Program and will travel to London in that capacity.

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