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Idaho State University 2014 Outstanding Student Award Recipients Announced

Posted April 8, 2014

Idaho State University and the ISU Alumni Association proudly announce the 2014 Outstanding Student Award recipients who will be honored at Spring Commencement on Saturday, May 10, in Holt Arena.

The 12 Outstanding Student Awards are presented to recognize outstanding graduating seniors who have excelled in their programs, their extracurricular activities and have epitomized ISU’s outstanding student body. Students receiving these prestigious awards exhibit a readiness to graduate, high academic achievement, above-average dedication to academic and professional goals and involvement in professional societies. Work experience and community service are also considered.

The Outstanding Student Award recipients will be honored at a reception April 18 in the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. in the Marshall Rotunda, followed by the presentation of awards at 7 p.m. in the Bistline Theatre. To RSVP, call the Office of Alumni Relations at 208-282-3730 or e-mail

Outstanding Student Award recipients for 2014 are: Samantha Nicolello, from Boise, Division of Health Sciences; Elise Kimberly Barker, Topeka, Kan., Graduate School – Doctoral Recipient; Lori D. Barber, Idaho Falls, Graduate School – Masters Candidate; Nicole M. Blanchard, Mountain Home, College of Arts and Letters – Fine Arts and Humanities; Amy Messegee Denny, Skagway, Alaska, College of Arts and Letters – Social and Behavioral Sciences; Andrea Vicic, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada – College of Business; John Anthony Malamakal, Boise, College of Pharmacy; Carly Hutchings Maloney, Centerville, Utah, College of Education; Christopher John Reed, Boise, College of Science and Engineering – Natural and Physical Sciences; Antonio Diego Tahhan Acosta, Coro, Venezuela, College of Science and Engineering – Engineering; Daphne A. Eline, Seattle, College of Technology; and Kylie Pukash, Boise, School of Nursing.

Biographies of the 2014 Outstanding Award winners are:

Samantha Nicolello• Division of Health Sciences, Samantha Nicolello, Boise: “Sammie” as she is known to most people, is originally from Eagle River, Alaska, but considers Boise to be her home. Self-described as a “perpetual student,” Nicolello earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Idaho before enrolling at ISU. She will receive her ISU dental hygiene degree in May.

She has maintained a 3.97 GPA while traveling commuting every week from her home in Boise where she lives with her husband Tim and their cat, Vinnie. Nicolello has participated as a community volunteer and in public health opportunities, and served in leadership capacities in her program.

Nicolello has been the recipient of many scholarships and is graduating with high honors. She has served as an officer of the ISU chapter of the Student American Dental Hygienists Association and is secretary of the ISU Dental Hygiene Class of 2014.

She credits the passion and dedication of the faculty of the dental hygiene program for providing her constant inspiration in pursuing her career as a dental hygienist.

Elise Barker• Graduate School, Doctoral Candidate, Elise Kimberly Barker, Topeka, Kan.: Barker loved school and at an early age, developed a passion for reading literature – something that her parents and teachers encouraged and cultivated. When she was 10, she decided she would go to Bethany College, a small Swedish and Lutheran college in Kansas. She enrolled at Bethany in 1999 and was positive she had found her calling. She earned her Master of Arts degree in English in 2006 at Kansas State University and is now earning her Ph.D. at ISU with a 3.98 cumulative GPA. She is a lifetime member of Phi Kappa Phi, Honor Society.

Barker and her husband Chris Elston welcomed their son, Sam, in 2010, right in the middle of Barker’s graduate work on her dissertation proposal and internships. Although her Ph.D. will mark the official end of Barker’s life as a student, she is excited to continue her life in school as a teacher and as a curious person who will continue to ask questions and look for answers even when there are no tests to take.

Lori Barber• Graduate School, Master’s Candidate, Lori D. Barber, Idaho Falls, – Barber, while in her 40s, completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in history with minors in French and women’s studies from ISU in spring 2012 and she started the master’s program in interdisciplinary studies in the fall 2012.

She completed her master’s degree in December, maintaining a 4.0 GPA in her program with her areas of emphasis being history and anthropology. Barber’s thesis revolved around the history of food as it relates to gender and class. She is teaching two classes in the history and women’s studies departments.

Originally from Oklahoma, Barber has lived throughout the United States and in Southern France. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she loves to travel, cook, run and do yoga. She is married and has two children, Dylan, 21, and Jackson, 17.

Nicole Blanchard• College of Arts and Letters, Fine Arts and Humanities, Nicole M. Blanchard, Mountain Home: Blanchard completed her course work for her degree in mass communications and French in December 2013. She is now at Northwestern University working on her master’s degree in journalism with a magazine emphasis.

At ISU she received a Presidential four-year scholarship, Associated Students of ISU scholarships six times, an Idaho Press Club scholarship, a Sam Bennion Honors Scholarship and a Freshman Leadership scholarship.

She was an active and involved student. In addition to the Honors Program and Honors Program envoy, she was a member of Pi Delta Phi. The last three semesters at ISU, Blanchard served as the ISU Bengal newspaper’s editor-in-chief. Blanchard loved this position, saying it enhanced her education by allowing her to work in her chosen career field. She was able to cover breaking news, interview celebrities and even host a radio show at KISU during her last semester.

Amy Denny• College of Arts and Letters, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Amy Messegee Denny, Skagway, Alaska: Along with being a student, Denny is wife, mother of two daughters, Daytona, 15, and Dallas, 14, and an avid volunteer.
Her career path has been one of accepting challenges and succeeding in every possible way. She’s lived in 10 different states. She has lived in a boat, a boxcar, a barn, – with and without electricity and running water. Denny has been a bartender, hairdresser and a firefighter/EMT. She has competed in triathlons and even danced in the Blue Danube.

When her husband Shawn was deployed during her sophomore year at ISU, she home schooled her daughters. She remains active in the POW-MIA group.

Denny earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in economics and philosophy this May. She had a cumulative GPA of 3.89. She and her family will be leaving Pocatello as Denny has been offered her dream job, a position as a financial planner.

Andrea Vicic • College of Business, Andrea Vicic, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada: Vicic’s management assistant professor Alex Bolinger describes her as a critical thinker and a natural leader who asks thoughtful questions and looks for connections beyond memorizing course material. During her time at ISU, Vicic has been on the dean’s list every semester and has a 3.81 cumulative GPA. During her sophomore year she won the Clark Carlile Speech Competition.

Vicic is a member of the ISU Cross Country and Track teams and is a championship-caliber heptathlete. She received All-American Academic awards in both cross-country and track. She also served as president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and been a leader of Chi Alpha.

Summers for Vicic were not a time to relax. If she was at home in British Columbia, she taught at volleyball camps for middle school and high school. However, that only happened when she wasn’t traveling the world. She went to Peru as a volunteer for World Vision one summer to build a house for Habitat for Humanity. The other summers were spent interning in Vancouver with financial advisors with the Royal Bank of Canada.

John Malamakal• College of Pharmacy, John Anthony Malamakal, Boise: Malamakal is the second of his family to be recognized at ISU with the Outstanding Student Award. His younger brother Roy received this honor in 2011 from the College of Science and Engineering.

During his remarkable college career, Malamakal completed both his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from 2005 to 2010. He was accepted into the pharmacy program at the ISU-Meridian Health Science Center in 2010 and is graduating with his Pharm.D. degree. During his nine years at ISU, Malamakal has been on the dean’s list every semester. His cumulative GPA is 3.76.

Malamakal took an active role in pharmacy student activities and chaired Operation Diabetes for the ISU-Meridian campus. He is a member of Rho Chi Honor Society and Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical fraternity and had the wonderful opportunity to complete a competitive pharmacy internship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Malamakal met his fiance, Misty Strain, at ISU. Malamakal plans to continue his pharmacy training by completing a residency and aspires to be a clinical pharmacist.

Carly Maloney• College of Education, Carly Hutchings Maloney, Centerville, Utah: Maloney always knew that she wanted to be a teacher. She started her “career” at age 5 or 6 with an easel her parents gave her. Maloney will graduate with honors with a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education, with emphasis in English and psychology. Her cumulative GPA is 4.0. She has been in the Honors Program and on the dean’s list her entire college career.

Maloney came to ISU on a full-ride soccer scholarship. Her love of soccer started about the same time she decided to become a teacher – both at a very young age. She has achieved as much success on the soccer field as she has in the classroom. Her soccer team won the Big Sky Championship in 2012. After two years on the team, Maloney suffered a broken leg just before her junior season and spent the next year and a half in intense physical therapy.
In her sophomore year, she married Jacob Maloney. During the first year of their marriage, in addition to her classes, soccer team responsibilities and a broken leg and her own physical therapy, her husband had three surgeries.

Maloney finished her coursework in December, and is now teaching 12th-grade English in Bountiful, Utah.

Chris Reed• College of Science and Engineering, Natural and Physical Sciences, Christopher John Reed, Boise: When it came time to make a choice for a college, Reed followed in his mother Freda’s footsteps and chose ISU. Freda obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from ISU in 1987. While a student at Mountain View High School in Boise, Reed greatly enjoyed his science classes, so it wasn’t a great surprise that he declared biochemistry as his major and began volunteering in the research lab of his chemistry associate professor, Caryn Evilia.

Reed continued to work in the chemistry lab and assumed a prominent leadership role in helping students as well as maintaining order and respect in the classroom. He began teaching general chemistry labs and discovered his joy of teaching and has become very good at it. He has been a teaching assistant for one and a half years.

An active student, Reed was a volunteer for the Idaho Museum of Natural History’s ScienceTrek, introducing chemistry to third, fourth, and fifth graders. He is a member of the ISU Chemistry Club and a volunteer coordinator for the Idaho Science and Engineering Festival. Reed maintained a 3.94 GPA and will earn his biochemistry Bachelor of Science degree in May.

Antonio Tahhan Acosta• College of Science and Engineering, Engineering, Antonio Diego Tahhan Acosta, Coro, Venezuela: As a child growing up in Coro, Venezuela, Acosta wanted to be a race car driver. Getting a degree in nuclear and mechanical engineering wasn’t even on his radar. However, with the encouragement of his parents and after some time and lots of practice, he became very good at math and later in physics and chemistry.

It was only when he began to apply to U.S. universities that nuclear engineering became a viable option. Living near Caracas and experiencing the “big city” didn’t really prepare Acosta for Pocatello and the transition for him was difficult at first. Looking back, ISU was a great choice for him and he credits the people in Pocatello for making him feel so welcomed and helped ease him into the Pocatello and ISU communities.

An active student, he is a member of Tau Beta Pi-Engineering Honor Society and secretary of the ISU Beta Chapter. He is also president of the ISU American Nuclear Society and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi. He has continually been on the dean’s list and has a cumulative GPA of 3.78.

Daphne Eline• College of Technology, Daphne A. Eline, Seattle: Referring to herself as an average student, Eline didn’t have the grades to go from high school directly to college so she joined the Army at age 18. Several years later, she married and had a daughter but still did not have the college experience.

Life seemed to get in the way of Eline going to college, even though it was something she wanted to do. In 2006, her family moved to Pocatello to start a business. Her first contact with ISU was the Center for New Directions. She enrolled for tutoring assistance so she could help her daughter with her homework and the rest is history. She enrolled at ISU and helped herself as well.

Eline received many scholarships, which were critical to her continuing her education at ISU. She became a single parent and the caregiver for her aging parents who moved to Pocatello for her to care for them. Her mother passed away last summer and her father is now in assisted living care. Through all of this, Eline continued to excel in her program, Computer Aided Design Drafting, maintaining a 3.83 GPA.

Eline has also volunteered at Benny’s Pantry and completed an internship with the ISU Facilities department.

Kylie Pukash• School of Nursing, Kylie Pukash, Boise: Graduating with her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and carrying a 3.95 cumulative GPA is a tremendous accomplishment for Pukash. Her parents, Kory and Michelle Pukash, have been with her every step of the way as has her sister Katie, and her fiancé John DiLulo (pronounced dee-loo-low), her high school sweetheart. Pukash is getting married in July 2014.

Pukash is a member of the Student Nurses Association, a member of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, a volunteer and member of Gate City Christian Church, a volunteer at Family Services Alliance Crisis Line and a senior mentor for the ISU School of Nursing. She has been on the dean’s list from 2010-2013 and will be recognized with high honors at commencement.

Some of her very best friends are those she met at ISU and she has loved every moment at ISU, from freshman activities and living in the dorms, to the grueling hours of studying for nursing. She said she wouldn’t change her experiences for anything.