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Western Faculty Member, Grad Students Receive Distinguished Achievement Award

Western Faculty Member, Grad Students Receive Distinguished Achievement Award

Distinguished Achievement Award

A recognition of their hard work and community impact

GUNNISON, Colorado: Three graduate students from Western Colorado University were chosen to receive an inaugural Distinguished Achievement in Graduate Studies Award to recognize their exceptional work and unique contributions to the community while working toward a master’s degree. Pat Magee, associate professor of Wildlife and Conservation Biology, won the student-nominated Faculty Mentor Award.


Spencer Smith: Impact Award Recipient

Spencer Smith, who graduated in the spring with a Master of Behavior Science, was chosen to receive The Impact Award in Graduate Studies for his work in suicide prevention. For his thesis project, Smith hosted suicide prevention forums for students on Western’s campus, as well as SafeTALK trainings for the University’s students, faculty, and staff.

SafeTALK stands for Suicide Alertness For Everyone Talk. The program teaches people to recognize and engage those who might be having suicidal ideations and connect them with community resources that can provide long-term help.

Smith, who was also a member of the Mountaineer football team, then followed up on the training with focus group discussions to evaluate the effectiveness of the training and look for additional ways the Western community can help prevent suicide. The training was sponsored by the Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention (GCSAPP) program, whose leadership was so impressed by Smith that they asked him to host two SafeTALK trainings off campus in Gunnison and Crested Butte in May.

“This work was amazing to be a part of, and it was truly amazing to hear how people were using the skills they learned in the training within their lives and with the people around them,” he said. “Western helped me to grow in my academic career, professional life, and most importantly, as an individual figuring out who I am and what I want to become. Receiving the Impact Award is easily the proudest moment of my career here at Western.”


Allison Dages: Excellence in Scholarship, Research, or Creative Work

Allison Dages received the Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Research, or Creative Work in Graduate Studies after completing her Master of High Altitude Exercise Physiology degree, which culminated in a thesis project titled, The Effects of High-Intensity Functional Training on Insulin Resistance in a Metabolic Syndrome Population.

The payoff for Dages was the opportunity to present her work at the Rocky Mountain American College for Sports Medicine conference and the intention to publish her findings in the International Journal of Exercise Science.

In addition to her impressive scholarship, the Award is also a recognition of the positive impact Dages’ work will have on improving the health of people at Western and beyond by using exercise as a therapeutic intervention.

“This award has immense meaning to me because I feel that the graduate school and my peers see the value in my research just as much as I do – finding healing in disease through exercise,” Dages said. “Exercise is medicine, and I feel I can convey this through my research.”

Corinne Ryan: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Award Recipient

Corinne Ryan earned the Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility as a second-year Master of Science in Ecology student for her work making outdoor spaces more inviting, especially to members of the LGBTGAI+ community.

While working on her degree, Ryan helped organize and instruct the Safety in the Field workshop at the annual Colorado Chapter of the Wildlife Society meeting in Grand Junction and participated in the Out in the Field organization sponsored by The Wildlife Society.

The inaugural year of the Distinguished Achievement in Graduate Studies Awards also included an award of $500 for the students and $1,000 in professional development funds for the faculty mentor.

For more information about the Distinguished Achievement in Graduate Studies Awards or the graduate programs available at Western, visit western.edu.
About Western Colorado University: Established in 1901, Western is a four-year public institution in Gunnison, Colo. that offers undergraduate and graduate programs in over 100 areas of study. Our campus on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains is home to more than 2,000 resident students, while approximately 1,600 additional students take courses at the University remotely.


Author Credit: Seth Mensing

Photo Credit: Courtesy