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Professional Achievement Awards

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Idaho State University’s annual Professional Achievement Awards recognize some of the most influential alumni for their valuable and distinguished contributions to Idaho State, their profession and their community. 

Mark your calendars for a morning of inspiration and Bengal pride! Join us on Friday, May 3 at 9 a.m. in the ICCU Bengal Alumni Center. The morning will be a tribute to the hard work, enduring pride and outstanding achievements of our ISU alumni. Registrations are required


2024 PAA Recipients

College of Arts and Letters - Fine Arts: Valorie Watkins

College of Arts and Letters - Social Sciences: Brent Manning

College of Business: Don Burdick

College of Education: Jim Liday

College of Health: Becky Sulik

College of Pharmacy: Dr. Paul Black

College of Science and Engineering: Trisha Arave 

College of Technology: Trevor Steffler

Graduate School: Dr. Michelle Anderson

Congratulations to our 2024 PAA Recipients

Valorie Watkins
Valorie Watkins 

Valorie Watkins, a proud Idahoan, has dedicated her life to community development, education and public service. Graduating from Idaho State University with a Bachelor of Arts in French in 1966, Valorie's career journey began in Washington, D.C., where she served as a Staff Assistant/Secretary for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Returning to Idaho, Valorie taught languages at Irving Junior High School and later served as District Director for U.S. Senator Jim McClure. Her commitment to the community extended to roles, including Alumni Director for seven years at Idaho State University and extensive involvement in organizations like the Greater Pocatello Chamber of Commerce.

Throughout her career, Valorie has been honored with awards such as the Idaho Governor's Brightest Star Award and the Pocatello-Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award. Even in retirement, she remains actively engaged in community affairs, continuing to inspire others with her dedication to service and education. She is a pillar in our Idaho State University community as her family combined holds seven degrees from ISU.

Brent Manning

Brent Manning

Brent V. Manning is a founding partner of Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar, distinguished for his extensive legal expertise and community engagement. Recognized among The Best Lawyers in America® for Litigation – Antitrust and Commercial Litigation, he has also been honored as a Mountain States Super Lawyers® and among Utah's Legal Elite.

With a JD from Harvard University School of Law and a BA in Political Science from Idaho State University ‘72, Manning's legal career spans decades. He focuses on business litigation, intellectual property, class actions, and antitrust matters. His recent cases include diverse representations ranging from public interest groups to professional athletes and international corporations.

Active in professional affiliations, Manning serves on the Court Appointed Panel of Mediators and Arbitrators for the U.S. District Court, District of Utah, and has held leadership roles in various legal organizations, including the Utah and Idaho Bar Associations.

Manning's accolades include being AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell® and receiving recognition from publications like Utah Business magazine and The Best Lawyers in America®. He has also been involved in community initiatives such as the "And Justice for All" Campaign and served on several boards, including the Utah Tibet Foundation and the Bountiful/Davis Art Center.

Outside of law, Manning is an avid mountaineer and rock climber, having conquered the highest peaks on all seven continents. His commitment to pro bono representation underscores his dedication to serving the community and promoting justice for all.

Don Burdick

Don Burdick

Don graduated with an accounting degree from Idaho State University, where he was active in student government and served as the student body Vice President. He passed the CPA exam and worked at Price Waterhouse Cooper. He returned to his academic studies after this position and attended Seattle University Law School. He went on to practice law with Foster Pepper, a major Seattle Firm, settling complex corporate transactions.

He then became the Vice President and General Counsel for the entrepreneurial and real estate developer, Dave Sabey. Don joined Costco in 1992, serving in a variety of roles including VP of Legal Affairs, Senior VP of IT (Chief Information Officer), and SVP of Global eCommerce and Travel. In 2002, he spearheaded the Executive Membership program, which included a 2% reward, car purchasing, and other features. In 2002, Don became CIO. In 2012, he move to ecommerce and led the 12 websites to over $10 Billion in annual sales, plus over $2 Billion in annual sales at Costco Travel.

Don was re-married in December of 2021, and he is now retired and blissfully married. He now splits time between an Alpaca ranch in Bend, a home in Edmonds, and a condominium in Puerto Vallarta. He has been blessed with two successful and fiercely independent children.

Jim Liday

Jim Liday

Jim Liday is a distinguished educator with a remarkable career devoted to enhancing the educational landscape. He holds degrees in Elementary Education and School Administration from Idaho State University, where he excelled academically. Jim's journey in education began as a fourth-grade teacher, eventually transitioning into elementary school administration.

Throughout his extensive career, Jim served as an exemplary principal, demonstrating a deep commitment to his students and staff. Notably, he played a pivotal role in fostering unity among faculty members during a challenging time, showcasing his leadership and interpersonal skills.

Jim's dedication to special education integration earned him recognition as Idaho's National Distinguished Principal in 1988. He also contributed significantly to educational software development, aiming to streamline school processes and enhance parent-teacher communication.

Beyond his professional endeavors, Jim has been actively involved in volunteer work and community service, making a tangible difference in the lives of many. His contributions extend to various organizations, including the Special Olympics, Knights of Columbus, and the National Ski Patrol.

Jim's legacy is characterized by his unwavering commitment to education and community betterment. His leadership, compassion, and dedication have left a lasting impact on the educational field and the communities he has served.

Becky Sulik
Becky Sulik

Becky Sulik is a dedicated professional committed to advancing diabetes education and advocacy. Graduating with honors from Idaho State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics in 1995, she actively participated in the Phi Upsilon Omicron society. Prior to this, Becky pursued studies in Medical Technology/Biochemistry at Utah State University, with a minor in Chemistry.

Certified as a Diabetes Care & Education Specialist since November 1998, Becky has been instrumental in various volunteer initiatives. Serving as the Public Education Chair for the Pocatello Chapter of the American Diabetes Association since April 1993, she has played a crucial role in community engagement and education. Additionally, Becky actively contributes to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, participating in events such as the annual Walk to Cure Diabetes in Idaho Falls, ID, since May 2009.

Professionally, Becky has been the Director of Education at Rocky Mountain Diabetes & Osteoporosis Center since June 2000. In this role, she coordinates comprehensive diabetes education programs and serves as a research coordinator for diabetes drug and device trials. Furthermore, she has held leadership positions, including Chair of the Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education from January 2021 to January 2023.

With her extensive experience and unwavering dedication, Becky continues to make significant contributions to diabetes education, advocacy, and research, leaving a lasting impact on the field and the community.

Dr. Paul Black

Dr. Paul Black

Dr. Paul Black obtained his doctor of pharmacy degree from Idaho State University in 1998 and completed his residency in Ambulatory Care at the Boise VA Medical Center. He is currently the PGY-1 Residency Program Director and Associate Chief of Pharmacy for Clinical and Educational Services at the Boise VA Medical Center. He was an Ambulatory Care Clinical Pharmacist for 15 years at the Boise VA before taking his current position. 

Trisha Arave

Trisha Arave

Trisha Arave is an accomplished professional currently serving as the Plant Manager at J.R. Simplot Company, Inc. based in Pocatello, Idaho. With a strong background in project management, she has been an integral part of the company's operations since August 2016.

In her role as Plant Manager, Trisha oversees all aspects of plant operations, ensuring efficiency, productivity, and adherence to quality standards. She brings over seven years of experience to the position, demonstrating her exceptional leadership and strategic management skills.

Trisha is a proud alumnus of Idaho State University, where she acquired the knowledge and skills that have contributed to her success in the industry.

With her dedication and expertise, Trisha continues to drive excellence in plant management at J.R. Simplot Company, making significant contributions to the company's growth and success.

Trevor Steffler
Trevor Steffler

Trevor Steffler is a distinguished two-time graduate of Idaho State University’s College of Technology, holding an A.A.S. in Instrumentation Tech and a B.S. in Instrumentation & Controls Engineering Technology. With a rich educational background, Trevor has emerged as a seasoned project manager, recognized for his ability to deliver exceptional results across diverse industries.

Currently serving as a Project Manager at Electrical Werx & Construction, LLC since December 2022, Trevor excels in overseeing on-site operations and ensuring projects are executed efficiently to meet client expectations. His outstanding contributions have been honored with prestigious awards, including the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Business of Distinction Award for Agribusiness in 2022 and the Rockwell Automation PlantPAX System Integrator in 2022.

Prior to his current role, Trevor demonstrated his project leadership skills as the Automation & Controls Project Manager at Automation Werx, LLC for over a decade. During his tenure, he showcased his ability to navigate complex projects to successful outcomes, establishing himself as a valuable asset in a hybrid work environment.

Trevor’s journey in project management began as an Automation Engineer at Control System Technology, where he refined his skills in developing and implementing automation solutions. His diverse technical experience includes roles such as Flow Measurement Instrumentation Technician at CH2M HILL and Nuclear Operator II at Idaho National Laboratory.

Driven by a passion for sharing knowledge, Trevor served as an Energy Systems Instrumentation and Controls Instructor at Idaho State University, where he imparted his expertise to aspiring professionals, shaping the next generation of talent in the field.

Throughout his career, Trevor has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to excellence, leveraging his technical prowess and leadership acumen to drive projects forward and achieve remarkable success. His adaptability to changing environments and dedication to continuous improvement underscore his value as a trusted leader in any team.

Dr. Michelle Anderson

Michelle Anderson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, FAANP

Michelle Anderson is a Clinical Associate Professor at Idaho State University in the School of Nursing Graduate program. Dr. Anderson is a graduate from the first ISU DNP cohort. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner for the past 23 years, having practiced in rural and urban settings. She has owned and operated her own NP clinic in rural Idaho for 12 years prior to transitioning to education. She teaches one of the fundamental core courses for DNP students, Advanced Health Assessment, along with other didactic courses. Soon after starting at ISU on the Meridian campus, Dr. Anderson wrote the business plan for the ISU Meridian Health Care clinic which is a faculty run clinic. This clinic was actualized within 5 months of the business plan creation and has continued to grow over the past two years. The clinic now serves the students and faculty and staff on the Meridian campus, as well as the community. Students precept through the clinic, learning the valuable importance of interdisciplinary teamwork. Dr. Anderson is the Clinic Director, managing the needs as they arise, as well as being a provider.

Dr. Anderson has received professional awards for her service through recognition in her community as a top healthcare provider, state recognition with a preceptor of the year award, and national recognition through the American Association for Nurse Practitioners (AANP) for Clinical Excellence in 2013 and Advocacy in 2018.  She was awarded Fellowship through AANP in 2019, an award that only 3 other NPs in the state hold, and less than 1000 NPs hold nationally. Since starting at ISU, Dr. Anderson continues to grow in her service and has received ongoing recognition for that with two recent prestigious national awards through the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties. The first award was in regards to Health Policy in 2023 and the Rising Star award in 2024. These accolades and achievements are based strongly on her distinguished service at a community, university, and professional discipline level. Some of these distinguished service areas include recent Governor appointment to the Idaho State Board of Nursing, ongoing Executive Board member for a rural critical access hospital in Northern Idaho, elected state of Idaho representative for AANP, and national NP residency site accreditor for the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Dr. Anderson resides in Meridian, Idaho and enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, and staying active in the community. 

Make a Nomination

Given annually during Commencement, the Professional Achievement Awards recognize Bengal alumni for their valuable and distinguished contributions to Idaho State University, their professions and to their communities.

Nominations for Professional Achievement Awards are directed to and accepted by the individual college Deans and unit heads throughout the year. Nomination packets are due to the dean of each college by Decembe 1. The dean from each college selects the recipient for this award. Nominate a deserving Bengal alumna or alumnus today.

Qualifications for nomination:

  • Must be an alumnus of Idaho State University.
  • Must show significant success and/or accomplishment in nominating field.
  • Must have been out of school for at least 10 years.

Criteria and materials reviewed by selection committees include:

  • A completed nomination form.
  • Three letters of support - one may be from the nominator.
  • A current resume or vitae for the candidate and other supporting materials such as newspaper articles, publications, or other resources that speak to the candidate's achievements.

Alumni are honored with Professional Achievement Awards from the following colleges and schools:

College of Arts & Letters - 2 honorees

  • Fine Arts 
  • Social & Behavioral Sciences

College of Business - 1 honoree

College of Education - 1 honoree

College of Health - 1 honoree

College of Pharmacy - 1 honoree

College of Science & Engineering - 1 honoree

College of Technology - 1 honoree

Graduate School - 1 honoree