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Alumni Awards for Excellence 2024

Alumni Awards for Excellence 2024

We are pleased to announce the outstanding recipients of this year’s Alumni Awards for Excellence. This prestigious award is given to graduating students and faculty members who have gone above and beyond in the Mountaineer community. Please join us in congratulating them!

“This event truly exemplifies and celebrates the unique bond created between our faculty and students made possible by the care, dedication, and inspiration our intimate classroom environment offers,” Western’s Vice President for Advancement, Mike LaPlante, said. “This connection is what makes Western truly transformative, so we take the opportunity to honor and commemorate this at the Alumni Awards for Excellence.”

For the last 27 years, members of Western’s Alumni Advisory Council have met each spring to consider the nominations of students from nearly every department. The committee’s goal is to find the most select group of nominees who have spent their time on campus committed to being the best version of themselves and exemplify what it means to be a Mountaineer.


Allie Weatherill | Art and History major

Headshot of Allie Weatherall.

Weatherill graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Art, a B.A. in History, and a minor in Environment and Sustainability. Immediately after graduation, she will work in seasonal positions in the fields of history, archaeology, and museum studies before going on to pursue a graduate degree.

“I feel so very humbled to receive this award. I followed my passions while at Western, and I am extremely grateful for my professors and faculty who always believed in me–I couldn’t have done all that I did without their encouragement and support,” Weatherill said. “And being the daughter, granddaughter, and great-niece of Western alumni, it is such an honor to be recognized with this award.”

While at Western, Weatherill was involved in Western Club Figure Skating for five years and the club’s president for two years. She was also the Club Sports Council Treasurer for more than three years, involved in Western Honors, played in the Western Steel Band for five years, was a part of the Western Percussion Ensemble for five years, played in the Western Symphonic Band for three years and the Western Drumline for two years. She was also Western’s NAfME (National Association for Music Education) chapter member and treasurer for three years.

In addition to her success in academics and music, she had the opportunity to work with Gunnison’s Pioneer History Museum to research, create, and install a postal exhibit. Weatherill was also an intern and indispensable leader of the team that worked with noted artist and filmmaker Patricia Amlin to manage her film cell collection, working past the end of her internship to see Amlin’s work safely delivered to a California film museum.


Brayden Kammers | Politics and Government, emphasis in Pre-Law and Philosophy minor

Headshot of Brayden Kammers.Kammers will graduate Magna Cum Laude with a degree in political science with an emphasis in pre-law and a minor in philosophy. He will go on to attend Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for an MBA in Leadership after receiving a scholarship there to continue his cheerleading career on a national championship team.

“Winning this award proves to me that good things take time. Something students constantly struggle with is feeling appreciated for everything they do, and I definitely have struggled with that,” Kammers said. “Receiving this award means that my hard work has paid off, and it means the world to me. The challenges I overcame were well worth it!”

While at Western, Kammers was involved in the Cheer team, which is what initially brought him to Western. He was involved in Student Government as a senator, senate chair, and vice president. He was also president of the Spectrum (LGBTQIA+) Club as a senior and worked in the [Leadership, Engagement, and Development] Office as well as being a Peer Success Coach.

In addition to his athletic and academic success, Kammers had the honor of being chosen as a Geiman Fellow. The purpose of the fellowship was to broaden Kammers’ perspective of the changing global economy and help him develop as a productive member of our global society.


Amelia Lukassen | Communication Arts, emphasis in Strategic Communication and ESS-Sport Psychology minor

Headshot of Amelia Lukassen.Lukassen will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts with an emphasis in Strategic Communication and a minor in Sport Psychology.

“Receiving this award means a lot to me, but most of all, it is reassurance that I made the right decision to stay home and go to Western for school. I had lots of opportunities to go elsewhere, but I ultimately felt like this was the best fit for me,” Lukassen said. “Western exceeded what I thought my college experience would be like, having grown up in Gunnison. This award feels like recognition for years of hard work throughout both high school and college, as well as the acknowledgment of mentors along the way.”

While at Western, Lukassen sang in the concert choir, was a staff writer, photo editor, and photographer for The Top O The World student newspaper, was a sports information intern for two years, was a public relations team member for a campaign project; and played women’s club softball.


Matthew Harris | Masters of Science in Ecology

Headshot of Matthew Harris.Harris will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Master of Science in Ecology from Western’s Clark Family School of Environment and Sustainability. After graduation, he plans to continue his work as a park ranger for the Bureau of Land Management’s Gunnison Field Office.

“Receiving this award is a recognition of my contribution to the Western and, more broadly, Gunnison communities,” Harris said. “Over the years, it has been a pleasure to work with many friends and wonderful mentors in the pursuit of new knowledge and improving equity through providing renewable energy to those in greatest need.”

While at Western, Harris competed on the freeride ski team for two years and was a founding member and vice president of the Western Solar Society. The Society’s mission is to educate the public about renewable energy and engage with the community to promote the adoption of renewable sources of energy.


Bailee Phillips | Communication Arts, emphasis in Film Studies and Art minor

Headshot of Bailee Phillips.Phillips will graduate Summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts in communications, with an emphasis in film and a minor in art.

“I am deeply honored to receive the alumni award for excellence, representing not just four years of dedication in college, but a commitment to excellence that will continue to inspire and guide me throughout my journey,” Phillips said. “This award is not only a recognition of my accomplishments and hard work but my dedication to learning.”

While at Western, Phillips was the co-director for Mountaineer Media, which is Western’s student-run media production company. She also worked for the University’s Office of Academic Affairs as well as The Center for Learning and Innovation and was part of the Council of Creative Expression. She also wrote a short play that was produced last year for the student-directed One Act Plays.


Rebekah Herrera | General Studies (Adult Degree Completion)

Headshot of Becky Hererra.Herrera will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree in General Studies, focusing on Teacher Licensure in Secondary English. She plans to stay in Gunnison, Colorado, and pursue a teaching position in Secondary English in the local district there.

“Receiving the Alumni Award for Excellence holds immense significance for me,” Herrera said. “It validates the dedication and hard work I’ve invested in my academic and extracurricular activities. This recognition not only honors my achievements but also fuels my drive to pursue excellence in all facets of my educational journey.”


Kira Cordova | Spanish and Recreation & Outdoor Education double major, Humanities & Diversity and English double minor

Headshot of Kira Cordova.Cordova will graduate Summa Cum Laude with two bachelor of arts degrees in Spanish, and Recreation and Outdoor Education, along with minors in English and Humanities, and Diversity, and a certificate in Professional Writing.

After graduation, Cordova will start working as a maritime interpreter at Fort Ticonderoga in New York State and pursue a low-residency MFA in Nature Writing through Western’s Graduate Program in Creative Writing and start the U.S State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship program to learn Russian.

“I took significant time away from Western when I was a junior to study abroad, and that year evolved into a gap year afterward. When I came back to Gunnison to finish my degree in August, I was worried about being able to reinvest in the community. Receiving this award feels like an affirmation that I have been able to,” Cordova said.

While at Western, Cordova raced on the University’s Mountain Bike Team, going to Nationals in 2019. They also competed on the Climbing team and participated in the Polynesian Chant and Dance Club, the Western Theatre Company, the dance team, the Western Mountain Rescue Team, Wilderness Pursuits, and LEAD Sustainability, which is a student-led program aimed at creating a culture of sustainability through education, collaboration, and unification. Cordova also played in the University’s orchestra and jazz band.


Unlike the Latin honors granted on graduation day, the Alumni Award for Excellence (AAE) doesn’t only reward a high GPA, although an outstanding academic record is necessary for consideration. Instead, the award is a reward for students willing to give their time and talents to make Western an exceptional community.


Author Credit: Seth Mensing
Photo Credit: Courtesy

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