Campus Leaders Get Student Appreciation Awards

Campus Leaders Get Student Appreciation Awards

Seven individuals and one student club were honored with the Student Appreciation Awards at a special banquet at the Fidel Center.

The honorees – while all academically gifted – are being recognized for contributing to the campus community through volunteerism. The 2016 honorees are Chris Crofton, Caleb Hightower, Lauren Long, Anthony Milana, Stipo Sentic and John Mark Stiles. The organizational award goes to the student chapter of the American Institute for Chemical Engineering, or AIChE.

Chris Crofton

Originally from New York, Chris Crofton joined the Macey Center staff, bringing a very unique skill set including the ability to operate the Macey Center light board. Nowka Leviner, Macey and Fidel Center manager, said she nominated Chris, “Quite frankly because he is brilliant, giving and kind! Chris has been a huge help to the event staff of NMT from the very beginning. He has saved our lighting system in the theater.”


Chris Crofton with Gloria Anaya (left) and Nowka Leviner. 

Crofton created glitter guns and candy cannons for parade floats. He has devised water fountains and water arches which have been features during the President’s Club Dinner.He has repaired Performing Arts Series vehicles and programmed all the ballroom projectors to show the same video. 

“Chris has been completely selfless and helps people with whatever challenges they face with no objection, no judgment and always with the positive response of “yeah, I think we can do that!’” Leviner said.

Crofton has produced light shows and acted as DJ for campus dances and special events. He has served the Student Government as Technical Director of the Student Activities Center including the procurement and operation of new audio/visual equipment. He also serves on the board of the New Mexico Tech Auto Racing Club, organizing and facilitating club events including AutoX and car shows.

Caleb Hightower

Caleb Hightower is the most beloved tutor at the Office of Student Learning, tirelessly and patiently helping students struggling with mathematics. He was nominated for the award by Drea Rae Killingsworth, Lisa Majkowski, Reynaldo Maestas and Ryder Fox.


Caleb Hightower accepts his award. From left are Drea Killingsworth, Lisa Majkowski, Hightower and Reynaldo Maestas.


They wrote that “He makes tutoring sessions fun and welcoming while giving students his undivided attention. Caleb regularly holds math review sessions and had been an integral part of the all night math review for finals offered by the OSL.  … Recently, Caleb instructs a series of LaTEX workshops, helping a wide range of students (and a faculty member) learn the basics of LaTEX typesetting, develop templates for labs, theses, and resumes. Mathematics is challenging and an absolute necessity for students in STEM fields, Caleb deserves recognition for the hard work and time he puts in to helping his fellow students with their academic success.”

“Caleb Hightower sets the gold standard for contributing to the success of students and programs at New Mexico Tech.

Starting as a Living/Learning Community participant in his freshman year, Hightower joined the team at the OSL in his sophomore year and is one of the most respected Learning Coaches on the OSL team. Caleb has undertaken a new responsibility this year - presenting and sharing the best practices of the Living/Learning Communities program. He joined the OSL team to present at the 2016 New Mexico Higher Education Assessment and Retention Conference in Albuquerque earlier this semester. OSL Director Lisa Majkowski invited Caleb to serve as a co-presenter at the 2016 Higher Learning Commission Annual Conference coming up in Chicago in April. These efforts help enhance the reputation of New Mexico Tech regionally and nationally, and contribute to the university's ongoing accreditation processes.

“Caleb’s enthusiasm for mathematics is infectious,” Majkowski said. “His tutoring sessions are always full and he is generous with his time and attention to each student. … Caleb truly exemplifies the spirit and sense of community in STEM and at New Mexico Tech.”

He has also volunteered for the Admission Office as a student ambassador for two years. He has helped with events like New Student Orientation, Counselor and Advisor Day, and two open houses that had over 500 people in attendance.

“He was a critical part of all of those events success,” Maestas said. “When I email the group for volunteers , he is always replying to help out. Caleb is very reliable and does an excellent job promoting Tech to all of these prospective students and their parents.

Ryder Fox wrote “In addition to working with students academically and giving tours, Caleb is dedicated to increasing inclusivity and bring attention to diversity at Tech. He attended the Ostem conference and used what he learned to help develop tutor training that helps to create a welcoming atmosphere for all students in the tutoring center. He is an active member of QUASAR and dedicates his personal time to focus improving student life on campus and off.”

Lauren Long

Lauren Long was nominated by Melissa Begay and a group of faculty and staff that includes Drea Rae Killingsworth, David Grow, Kevin Wedeward, Peter Anselmo, Lisa Majkowski and Jill Bratton.

  Lauren Long with her award. From left are Lisa Majkowski, Drea Killingsworth, Long and Melissa Begay.

An outstanding senior in the Mechanical Engineering Department, Long excels academically, mentors students at the OSL and provides leadership through the Student Government Association and the Society of Women Engineers. She also spends an evening per week doing outreach with 6- to 9-year-old future engineers with the Junior FIRST Lego League.

“Lauren provides a smiling face and expert knowledge to students coming in for help to the OSL in the mornings and is always the first to volunteer to help with outreach event,” wrote Majkowski and Killingsworth.

She recently volunteered to talk to a full house of visiting students and parents in Macey Center about her positive experience at Tech. She was also a visiting engineering student to the first-year STEAM LLC lab to talk about the research she does with the Robotic Interfaces Lab and helped with a demo on gear systems.

“Lauren has shown significant initiative in her role as a learning coach. She has really helped Dr. Wedeward and me stay organized so that we have been able to focus on teaching of the course.  Especially given our otherwise busy schedules, has been vital to our success in the classroom,” wrote Dr. Grow.

Melissa Begay wrote, “I have had the pleasure to work with Lauren Long for three years in student government and student activities. Lauren became a senator in the SGA her freshman year. Not many freshmen are appointed as senators.”

Long was the head of the Publicity Committee where she initiated the first SGA Facebook group, Twitter feed and Snapchat account. During her junior year, she was the Student Activities Chair Director.

She organized and ran events such as student 49ers events, Comic Con and at least five major events during orientation week. She also managed to be active in the NMT Volleyball club and competed in the Lobo League in Albuquerque every Sunday. She joined SWE her sophomore year, was the public relations officer her junior year and this year (her senior year) she is the president of SWE.

Through SWE, Lauren has volunteered for Discover STEM, Sweeter Futures and various other fundraisers and outreach events in the Socorro elementary schools, middle and high school. Last year to current, she joined the Hi-Tech Ambassadors with the Admission Office.

Anthony Milana

Anthony Milana is a senior in the Mechanical Engineering Department and was recently named a Macey Scholar for the 2016-17 school year.


Anthony Milana with Dr. Julie Ford.



Dr. Julie Ford wrote, “We describe Anthony as an ‘American success story’ and we are happy for the opportunity to share this remarkable story. Anthony is a 38-year-old high school dropout who never attended college, until recently. “

Milana spent 15 years in fine jewelry sales and reached the top of the industry, but he was not truly happy with his career. Then, he met several engineering students one day and was amazed. Although he was a great sales person, he realized that his true passion was engineering. While continuing to work 60 hours a week at the jewelry store, he spent all his free time learning algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus on Khan Academy. In two months, he went from having practically no math skills to testing into Calculus I.

After spending several years at a community college, he discovered New Mexico Tech and saw it as a place where valedictorians go for a challenging and rewarding education.

  “From the first day Anthony stepped foot on our campus, he has shown initiative and a genuine interest in actively participating in the broader NMT community beyond the passive role of a student taking required coursework,” Ford wrote. “It was clear to both of us that Anthony was motivated to do well in his studies and learn as much as he could through coursework and hands-on opportunities, but that he also had an interest in contributing to the larger NMT student community.

Anthony’s involvement in extracurricular activities is extensive. Not only does he hold a 4.0 GPA, but he holds several leadership positions in student organizations, some of which he was responsible for spearheading. He founded M-Lab with several other friends while he managed to get the signatures of 350 students and administration’s support.

Now, NMT has its first MakerSpace for student innovation which is a movement happening around the nation. He currently serves as the organization’s Vice President and also holds the role of Treasurer for the NMT Chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In August 2015 he founded the NMT chapter of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and currently serves as President.

“He is an integral part of helping to organize a large OOE ceremony at the end of the semester. The goal is to get all graduating engineering seniors inducted to the Order of the Engineer and to increase awareness for the importance of professionalism and ethics among engineering students. Anthony’s accomplishments were recognized in February 2016 when the New Mexico professional chapter of NSPE awarded him the 2016 NMT Outstanding Engineering Student of the Year runner up award.

In addition, Anthony is a member of Tau Beta Pi and Phi Theta Kappa honor societies. He belongs to several professional organizations including the Society of Collegiate Inventors, NSPE, ASME, the Society of Automotive Engineers, and the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

  Hannah Romberger with Dr. Mehrdad Razavi

Hannah Romberger

Hannah Romberger was nominated by Dr. Mehrdad Razavi of the Mineral Engineering Department.

“In August 2015 Hannah asked me whether she could get involved in any of my research projects as a volunteer,” Razavi wrote. “I realized that she was so enthusiastic toward one of my research projects with Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC). I have treated Hannah as one of my graduate students since then; despite of her heavy workload, she has considered a significant amount of her time to work on the research as a volunteer. She has impressed me with her passion for learning new things and hard work. Hannah is very talented and dedicated student who is fast in learning new materials. She is a pleasant, trustworthy, reliable, punctual, and responsible person.”

Romberger is a lifeguard and teaches swimming at the Swim Center. She has volunteered at Finley Gym for the Community Arts Party with Chemical Engineering Club. She is also an active member of the Chemical Engineering Club at New Mexico Tech.

Stipo Sentic

A graduate student in the Physics Department Stipo Sentic has been an active member Graduate Student Association who has engaged in exemplary educational outreach efforts to the Socorro Community.

  Stipo Sentic with Dr. Sharon Sessions

Dr. Sharon Sessions said, “Stipo is an excellent mentor for undergraduate student researchers. I have had several undergraduate researchers over the past few years, and he has been an amazing resource in helping these students with computer issues as well as conceptual aspects of their research projects. He is always very patient and cheerful, and he genuinely enjoys helping others (indeed, he has helped me with my research!). He is a go-to person in department events, always volunteering to participate at a very high level

Probably most deserving of a special appreciation is the effort he has dedicated to outreach. For several years, he has been a volunteer tutor at the Boys and Girls Ranch in Belen, commuting weekly to help kids with reading and math. He has participated in several events focused on physics demonstrations on campus for elementary school students.

In the past year, Stipo applied for and received an Outreach mini-grant from the

American Physical Society (APS). This grant provided funds for equipment and travel related to outreach. The outreach project focused on the teaching children about properties of light and science related to the interaction of matter and light. He organized a small group of Tech students to visit classrooms at most of the Socorro schools, as well as some schools in Belen. Youngsters were introduced to the concept of spectroscopy, and were given materials to go home and make their own spectroscopes using the camera and display from a smartphone. Stipo also organized a small group to facilitate a demonstration booth at Sarracino's Math & Science Night.

“No matter what the venue, Stipo is careful to cater to the audience members at their level by breaking down complex scientific concepts into simple ideas based on analogies. The kids ask relevant, inquisitive questions that is a strong indication at the care that Stipo gives to a quality demonstration.

Recently, Stipo traveled to Baltimore, Md., to present this outreach project at the APS annual March Meeting.

“While still in Baltimore, he emailed me with lots of ideas for community outreach that he learned about at the conference which could be extended to Socorro,” Sessions said. “He is truly passionate about sharing the love of science with everyone, and to kids specifically.”

John Mark Stiles

John Mark Stiles was nominated by rugby coach Dave Wheelock and Reynaldo Maestas of the Admission Office.

  John Mark Stiles with Reynaldo Maestas (left) and Dave Wheelock)

Maestas wrote, “During his time as a student employee he has done so much more than what a normal student worker would do. His constant smile, good mood, energetic personality, and work ethic have contributed tremendously to the success that the office has had. His interactions with prospective students and parents are one of the main reasons (as far as I’m concerned) that students end up accepting their admission into Tech. He is honest, upfront, and really goes above and beyond what is expected when interacting with these students. Whenever we need extra help or a volunteer, he’s right there.

Stiles recently traveled to Farmington to help Maestas with an evening receptions for prospective students and parents. From set up, and figuring out the computer and projector, to talking with everyone and answering their questions, he never complained and the event wouldn’t have been such a success.

“John Mark has been a tremendous asset to the Office of Admission, and he will be greatly missed upon graduating,” Maestas wrote.

Stiles has been a member of the New Mexico Tech Rugby Club since his arrival at the university in the autumn of 2014.

“Since then he has demonstrated commendable development and leadership on the playing field, in the classroom, and by all accounts, a student employee in the offices of the Health Center and Admissions Department,” Wheelock said.

In 2015 the team selected John Mark to receive the coveted Jeremiah Wright Memorial Trophy as Tech’s leading rugby player, a rare feat for a junior classman.

“John Mark always remains aware that rugby is a game and therefore meant to be enjoyed,” Wheelock wrote. “On a personal note what I may miss most after John Mark graduates this spring is his occasional laughter in the midst of battle. I can’t think of a better way for a fine player, or person, to be remembered.”

American Institute of Chemical Engineers


Dr. Michaelann Tartis with members of the AIChE campus club.  From left are Allen Erickson, Matt Davenport, Kevin Reed, Dr. Tartis, Aaron Melad and Danielle Richards. 



In her nomination letter, Dr. Michaelann Tartis highlighted the ways that she has interacted with them personally. The AIChE President and Vice-President (Kevin Reed and Danielle Richards) were “peer facilitators” in her introductory course for chemical engineers, ChE110 and the associated lab. Another AIChE Officer, Madeleine Bodine, also helped with the ChemE Car design Mentorship Program, where upperclass students volunteered to help freshmen learn the design process, find resources on campus, and utilize engineering tools (both physical and software related).

“This year I received the highest teaching evaluation since we designed this course. I believe much of this credit goes to the participating members and leadership of AIChE to help on matters that a single professor cannot get to in a large class setting,” she wrote. “In addition, they truly care about outreach in the community and helping those that come after them in our program.

Over the past year alone, the club has been involved in Orientation for Freshman, the Club Fair, two food drives for the homeless shelter, President’s Golf Tournament, advising party for underclassmen support, Casino Night waiters and dealers, renovation project for the homeless shelter, mud mission renovation at San Miguel, Engineering barbecue, freshman design project, sleeping bag drive, weekly tutoring at the Boys and Girls Ranch, club outreach, Exploration Day presentation and tours, Resume Writing/Internship Application Workshop, MATLAB Workshop, ChemE Car Project and Poster, Community Arts Party, Sister Chapter Conferences, Annual Engineering Week Outreach for Grade School Students, Science Olympiad and Science Fair

“The neat part is that they are getting a lot out of these experiences, while helping the kids of New Mexico,” Tartis wrote.

– NMT –