SOCORRO, N.M. April 24, 2012 – Four New Mexico Tech students and two student organizations are the 2012 winners of the Student Appreciation Awards.

These outstanding contributors to campus life are Alyssa Rose, Allen Erickson, Brittney LeMay and Alan Benalil. The group winners are the student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

Nominated by faculty and staff members, the winners represent the most dedicated and involved students on campus. Not an academic award, these annual awards identify those students who contribute through volunteerism, community service, leadership and mentoring.

The four individual winners all share a common trait of being involved in many different organizations, clubs, teams and jobs. They all excel academically and were noted in their nominations for their positive attitudes.

The winners were officially recognized at a special dinner Sunday, April 22, at the Fidel Center ballroom.

Alan Benalil

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Alan Benalil


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Allan Erickson with professor Dr. Michael Heagy




In his nomination letter, electrical engineering professor Dr. Kevin Wedeward, said Benalil “exemplifies the mix of attributes one would hope to find in a student, which include quality of and balance between academics and extracurricular activities.”

A native of Socorro, Benalil is the president of the Miners Soccer Club, volunteers as Peer Facilitator with the Center for Student Success and serves as Student Senator. He served as team leader in both junior design and senior design projects and is involved with the IEEE student club.

“I find Mr. Benalil a friendly, reliable and conscientious individual with whom myself and others enjoy interacting,” Wedeward said. “His accomplishments and service have brought credit to himself and to New Mexico Tech.”

Allen Erickson

Chemistry professor Dr. Michael Heagy nominated Erickson based on his participation in the New Mexico Science Olympiad and the student chapter of the American Chemical Society (which won the group award in 2011).

Erickson designed a fun and interesting competition for the chemistry event known as Food Science. On short notice, Erickson devised a cup-cake baking event with various ingredients to challenge high school students to create a fluffy, well-prepared cupcake.

Heagy and Erickson made the event unique by adding fluorescent colored food dyes to the events’ ingredients. Erickson generated the quizzes and other tests required by the event.

“I only learned later that Allan was involved in two other Science Olympiad events that same day. Incredible!” Heagy wrote.

In the fall of 2011, Erickson helped the Chemistry Club plan special presentations for second-graders in the campus chemistry labs. Erickson provided a generous helping of TATP (triacetone triperoxide), which produces a small but dramatic fireball when touched with a match.

“Allen took none of the credit and, due to classes, was unable to see the effect it had on the kids,” Heagy wrote. “Yet every morning we did the show, there was another 5 grams of the precious powder used to compliment our multi-demo show.”

In closing, Heagy wrote that, “His contribution to the campus and surrounding community goes well above and beyond the call of duty. He’s been an outstanding role model in my view.”

Brittney LaMay

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Brittney LaMay (right) with Career Services Coordinator Christina Anthony.

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Alyssa Rose (right) with Chemical Engineering associate professor Dr. Michaelann Tartis ... and little James Tartis. Dr. Tartis, who earned her bachelor's at Tech in 2002, won the same award when she was a student at Tech.


A senior majoring in chemistry, LaMay has made her mark in the Student Affairs office and with the Tech Tonics volleyball team. She started working as a student assistant three years ago and is now the International Programs Assistant.

In her nomination letter, Career Services Coordinator Christina Anthony said, “Brittney is an incredibly hard worker whose generosity knows no limits. … The staff in Student Affairs does not think of Brittney as a student worker; she is remarkably capable and can handle just about any issue that arises.”

LaMay is the president of the volleyball club and has spent countless hours on budgeting, planning tournaments, arranging travel and baking goodies for fundraisers.

“She always thinks of others before herself. Brittnney is always willing to help anyone in need,” Anthony said. “It is what she does on top of her coursework that makes her a standout Techie.”

Alyssa Rose

A Chemical Engineering standout, Alyssa Rose is also a 2011-2012 Macey Scholar, which is Tech’s highest academic award. Nominated by professor Dr. Corey Leclerc on behalf of the entire department, Rose has made her mark by tutoring fellow students, serving as an instructor, writing laboratories and volunteering for campus events.

Rose helped Dr. Michaelann Tartis redesign the First Year Experience program, a program that she was involved with in 2008. She has served as a Teaching Assistant for Engineering Science 111 and taken on duties normally reserved for graduate students, Leclerc said. She also wrote a new chapter related to MATLAB, which she introduced via lecture.

“She has performed at a level that would rival most full-time graduate assistants who have helped in the past,” Leclerc said. “She leads by example and is a fantastic role model, bringing humor, confidence and accountability to the classroom. Many freshmen will benefit greatly in their academic tenure from this experience with Alyssa.”

Also this year, Rose helped Dr. Michael Riley formalize a trouble-shooting element that was incorporated into the Chemical Engineering 445 class. Her efforts contributed to a poster at an ASEE conference that Riley is presenting this summer.

As the current president of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, Rose has planned and organized review sessions for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. She has also volunteered as a judge for Science Olympiad and Science Fair.

“Her contributions will last well beyond her years here at Tech,” said Leclerc, further noting that she has a perfect 4.0 GPA. “She has done so much for the department and New Mexico Tech and kept her level of performance in the classroom at the top of her graduating class.”

Kappa Sigma

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Kappa Sigma representatives (from left) Hal Wagner, Eric Peterson, Xavier Quintana and Nick “Dallas” Chavez.


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Society of Women Engineers representatives (from left) Samantha Pfeiffer, Victoria Ramirez and Kathleen Huynh.

The fraternity on campus, Kappa Sigma, earned the Student Appreciation Award for their tireless and continuous support of Tech activities and the greater Socorro community.

Dr. Dan Walsh, Associate Vice President of Research, nominated the fraternity largely due to the group’s efforts in food drives and fund drives to help the homeless of Socorro. The group donated $1,000 to the homeless shelter last fall and collected six truckloads of food during the holiday season in 2011.

Walsh enumerated the fraternity’s volunteer efforts, which include serving as dealers and pit bosses for Casino Night and helping organize the Paint the ‘M’ event, both during 49ers. Members volunteered to help the Office of Advancement stage black light parties for visiting high school students during the Science Fair and Science Olympiad.

For the past year, the group has also served as the Special Events Committee for the Student Activities Board, despite not receiving support or funding from the Student Association.

Society of Women Engineers

The Society of Women Engineers student chapter (yes, men are allowed to join) is another highly active and visible club on campus. Earlier this semester, the club – behind president Victoria Ramirez – rallied more than 50 students to help with a maintenance project at the historic San Miguel Catholic Church.

Club members volunteered to help facilitate the Career Fair this spring, which was the main basis for their nomination. Club members provided an unloading service to the visiting recruiters, helped them find parking and, in general, made sure the visitors would see friendly faces immediately upon their arrival at Tech.

Career Services Director Lillian Armijo said, “We in Career Services believe that this was a very important service, as many of the recruiters were attending Tech’s Career Fair for the first time.”

The club has also been involved in outreach efforts at Sarracino Middle School in Socorro and Manzano High School in Albuquerque.

“New Mexico Tech will benefit greatly as these young students are encouraged to pursue a degree and eventually a career in technology.”

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech