Leadership Banquet Honors Students and Faculty


Michelle Tuineau, Student of the Year

Las Vegas, N.M. – Highlands University students, faculty and staff were honored for their outstanding leadership and other contributions to the university at the 19th Annual Student Leadership Recognition Banquet April 6.

The Office of Campus Life, directed by Margaret Gonzales, organizes the event each year.

“Our theme for the banquet this is year is Ralph Marston’s quote, ‘What you do today can improve all your tomorrows,’” Gonzales said. “Indeed each and every nominee in all the categories have collectively improved all our tomorrows through their contributions to the university.”

Michelle Tuineau was named Student of the Year. She has earned a 3.88 GPA to date and will graduate in May with a B.A. in biochemistry and a minor in English writing.  She was nominated by chemistry and English faculty as well as ARMAS, where she is currently a supplemental instruction leader for organic chemistry.

“Highlands has embraced me as a nontraditional student, and it’s been an incredible growth experience for me here because of my interaction with passionate and exceptional faculty, students and staff,” Tuineau said. “There’s a powerful community that we created at Highlands that supports us along our academic and personal journeys, which aren’t always smooth.”

Brooks Maki, organic chemistry professor, said Tuineau is held in very high esteem by both the chemistry and English faculty.

“Michelle is among the most intellectually successful and active students that I have worked with at Highlands,” Maki said. “Her curiosity about science and the world in general is always evident. Michelle’s leadership as vice president of the Highlands Chemistry Club has had significant impact generating interest in science among local youth through outreach to schools.”

English professor Lauren Fath said: “What’s especially commendable about Michelle’s writing is her natural sense of cadence, her careful attention to word choice, and her candid narrative persona. She is a student who shows promise not just for her extraordinary intelligence, but for her diligence, sense of responsibility, and respect for her peers and professors.

The 25-year-old Tuineau, an ARMAS scholar, was also tapped for the Dr. Robert Amai Outstanding Graduating Chemistry Senior Award and the American Chemical Society Organic Chemistry Award.

Tuineau said she plans to continue her education at the graduate level.

“I will be taking time to explore careers in science writing as well as science advocacy in underrepresented communities,” Tuineau said.

Other honorees include:

  • Professor of the Year – Gil Gallegos, Computer Science
  • Staff Member of the Year – Melissa Bassett, Recruitment and Undergraduate Admissions
  • Club of the Year – Art Club
  • Biology Department Awards – Jaleen Arguello, Outstanding Undergraduate; Steven Sallinas and Nicasio Gonzalez, Outstanding Graduate Students
  • Robert Amai Award in Organic Chemistry – Brandon Maes
  • Robert Amai Award in General Chemistry– Victoria Sena
  • American Chemical Society Analytical Chemistry Award – Onnica Pino
  • English Department Awards – Justin Rogers and Kelly Lucero, graduate students; April Crispin undergraduate
  • Counseling Department Award – Xiaowei Wu
  • Highlands University Geological Society Awards – Sarah Shields and Zakiya Shivji
  • Leadership in Geospatial Technology Awards – Sal Sena, student, and Joe Zebrowski, adviser
  • Visual and Performing Arts Award – Kim Schlosser
  • Native American Center Awards – Lenaya Martinez and Tyrell Morgan
  • Who’s Who Among Students in American University and Colleges (undergraduates)

Alma Garcia, Berenice Venegas, Brandon Trujillo, Christina Mbadie, Christopher Quintana, Destiny Pacheco, Estrella Gutierrez, Fabian Duran, Makenzie Gruenig, Janel Herrera, Elena Jimenez, Keith Romero, Krystol Myers, Logan Wolfel, Natasha Lujan, Tamlyn Crain, Jessica Estrada, Zachary Martinez, and Diana Martinez

  • ARMAS Awards – Sandra Espinoza, Student Engagement Liaison of the Year; Jose Castillo-Tovar and Gustavo Echeverria, Math Mentors of the Year; Kathryn Storms, ARMAS Intern of the Year; Logan Wolfel and Joslyn Rowin, Supplemental Instruction Leaders of the Year
  • Art Club Award – Kim Schlosser
  • Office of Campus Life Awards – Liyah Lujan, Kylee Norman, and Clorisa Gutierrez, Intramural Programs; Joshua Areanas and Janel Herrera, NMHU Game Room
  • Housing and Student Conduct Awards – Diana Martinez, Jesssica Estrada, Tamlyn Crain, Britney Johnson, and Leticia Merrills-Gonzalez