2017 MSU Billings Outstanding Graduates
Since childhood, Seth Robertus has been fascinated with adventure, risk, and the great outdoors. When he turned four-years-old, a surfboard and para-glider were his preferred gifts, so it came as no surprise to his family that his major at MSUB was Outdoor Adventure Leadership (OAL).
The Joliet native is graduating with a major in OAL and a minor in Music.
Since joining the University family in 2013, Robertus has shown the faculty within the Department of Health and Human Performance his abilities in the hard skills of outdoors activities as well as a strong understanding of the soft skills of leadership, professionalism, decision-making and risk management.
For these outstanding efforts, in addition to excelling in the classroom, and for staying active with music, community service and many athletic and outdoor activities that Robertus is this year’s Golden Merit Award Recipient and one of ten Outstanding Undergraduate Award Winners.
His nominator said, “The Outdoor Adventure Leadership profession can challenge individuals both physically and mentally, which requires strong leadership, reliable communication, excellent judgement, and proficient problem solving. Seth has been a valuable asset from start to finish, demonstrating a competency in leadership style ranging from laissez faire to autocratic.”
Robertus has worked for Recreation Activities for the past three years, developing and supporting the recreation climbing wall program and volunteering with programs like Girls-n-Science.
His Outdoor Adventure Leadership activities have led to experiences with Refresh the Rims and rappelling workshops for Skyview High School.
Robertus has also served as a counselor/trip coordinator for Camp Bethel and worked with the Eagle Mount Swim Program.
He also loves music and plays the trumpet. Robertus has performed with the Billings Symphony, MSUB trumpet ensembles, jazz band, MSUB Pep Band and enjoys playing guitar.
“Performing at the college level has been a fantastic experience,” Robertus said. “From formal lessons to concerts to special occasions, including a stage performance with world class musician Wayne Bergeron, my skills have significantly improved and my desire to serve others through music has increased.”
He also enjoys fly fishing and has a passion for rock climbing.
After graduation, Robertus plans to pursue a degree in nursing.
“After participating in a Wilderness Medicine course, I’ve decided to recalibrate my route. I intend to pursue a degree in nursing to further my skills to help people in a different capacity,” he said. “So for me, life is a climb, but the view is great!”
It is challenging enough to graduate with a perfect GPA and Sarah Haight is doing it while juggling university life and working and maintaining a busy volunteer schedule. Moreover, she’s graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration through the College of Business, as well as with a minor in Accounting and an Interdisciplinary Honors minor, in only three years.
That is pretty impressive.
Her tenacity for excellence in scholarship and service is what sets her apart why she is being named as one of two Academic Honor Recipients and among this year’s cohort of MSUB’s Outstanding Undergraduates.
“It is such an honor to be receiving this award and I am so excited to be graduating from MSUB. It has been a truly remarkable experience,” Haight said.
Haight caught a faculty member’s eye as being an amazingly vibrant, bright, and ambitious individual.
Her nominator said, “Sarah is one of the most highly capable and responsible individuals I have come across as a professor. She really adds to the learning environment because she is always prepared for class and provides insightful comments in our discussions and analyses. She is one of the best students I have had in my 15 years at MSUB.”
Furthermore, the Billings’ native had leadership and organizational skills beyond her years.
“This course requires exceptional interpersonal skills to manage group dynamics, and Sarah exhibited those as she provided leadership for her diverse team of students …,” her nominator said.
Haight has contributed to MSUB and the Billings community in many ways.
She is currently writing a research paper with Dr. Christopher Craig, “Building Support for Clean Energy Among Millennials: A Community Resilience Approach.”
“After working with him on this paper since the start of the fall 2016 semester, I learned how to collaborate and write a research paper. I feel I have grown tremendously in this entire writing process, and I am excited that I was able to play a part in developing this paper that has been submitted for publication,” Haight said.
Haight has worked in several positions on campus since arriving in 2014 and is currently an office assistant for the MSUB Foundation.
Her volunteering efforts include chair and secretary on the College of Business Dean’s Student Advisory Board, member of the Honor’s Program and Accounting Club, serving the Work Study Service Team and volunteering bookkeeping services for FitGevity Fitness and Gospel Foundation Ministries.
While attending MSU Billings Tiana Hansen has been involved with numerous campus and community service organizations, all the while achieving a 4.0 cumulative GPA and constantly striving to learn and serve more.
For her commitment to excellence, to both academics, athletics, and community service she is being honored as one of MSUB’s Outstanding Undergraduates and one of two Academic Honor Recipient Award winners for 2017.
The Shepherd, Montana native is graduating with Bachelor of Science in Education with a Broadfield Major in Elementary Education.
Her nominator said, “Tiana has been involved with numerous campus and community service organizations. While she attended MSUB, our women’s basketball team has done many community service events including youth basketball coaching, tutoring/mentoring of elementary students at multiple schools, spending time with Eagle Mount students, assisting the Eva Project with promotion of breast cancer awareness through our THINK PINK annual game, and shopping for needy children for Christmas through the Salvation Army Angel Christmas tree program.”
Additionally, Hansen is an active member of her church and serves as co-captain of the MSUB women’s basketball team, which she has provided excellent leadership throughout the season.
Prior to enrolling at MSUB, Hansen spent two years at Sheridan College in Sheridan, Wyoming. She was a junior college All-American her final year there and earned 2nd team All-Conference Honors this year in the GNAC and also received All Conference, All-Region, and All-American honors excellence in academic performance this season.
Off the court, she worked with many teachers to hone her skills inside the elementary classroom, where she hopes to teach.
“(Tiana) has also worked with area teachers on many of the assignments she has been doing at her assigned elementary school and she has tutored young students through one of her classes as well,” her nominator said. “I have never seen someone as motivated to do well as her. She pushes herself towards excellence but also cares about everyone else, too.”
Upon graduation, Hansen hopes to lead classrooms to and teams to excellence and says MSUB has helped her along that journey.
“While I have attended MSUB, I have been involved in miscellaneous classes and in basketball. Some of the classes I have taken, like reading clinic, have allowed me to practice teaching students on campus. This was a great opportunity for me to gain experience in education,” she said. “I have sincerely enjoyed my time here and I believe that it has made me a better person.”
The accounting major at the College of Business is known as a demanding program and Amy Bieber is not only graduating but is being honored as an Outstanding Undergraduate for her excellence in the classroom and for her dedication to helping others succeed.
“Amy has completed the 150 credit hours for the license while at MSUB starting in fall 2013 and will be graduating in spring 2017. Amy takes challenging classes, a heavy course load and completes extra work for no compensation other than to help others succeed. Amy wants others to succeed in their classes and takes the time to help them,” her nominator said. “In a community and in a profession you want a person like Amy that is giving back more than she has received.”
During her time at MSUB, Bieber served as a Jacket Student Ambassador and provided campus tours during Preview Days, as well as tours of the College of Business. In 2016, she was voted Jacket Student Ambassador of the Year.
She has participated with Night on the Van, a coordinated partnership with the Salvation Army to serve meals to people in need throughout the Billings community, MSUB Day at the Zoo and served on the Vice Chancellor’s Student Advisory Board.
She also volunteers her time preparing tax returns with HRDC.
For Bieber, working hard and serving others is a way of life.
“Growing up in the small town of Sidney, Montana, you learn right way that helping others and working hard to put forth your best effort are top priorities. I cannot even count the number of times I have helped people with tutoring, or shingling their roofs, or whatever work needed to be done,” she said.
Bieber sensed the importance of community when her algebra teacher was murdered and her town pulled together to search for him.
“I realized I need to bring that sense of community involvement here to campus and Billings through my own academics and volunteerism,” she said.
As a student, she joined the Honors Program.
One of her Honors projects included writing a 120-page report in Accounting Information Systems about how a screen-printing business could benefit using accounting software that she taught herself how to use. She also created a video future students can watch demonstrating how to use the module.
Additionally, Bieber holds a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is an assistant instructor.
There are nearly 420 miles from Billings to Kalispell, Montana – where Katie Dalton lives, but that hasn’t stopped this Outstanding Undergraduate from excelling in her classes and making an impression with her instructors.
Dalton, who is graduating with a Business Administration degree from the College of Business, stood out from her peers for many reasons.
First, her GPA of a 3.94 shows her commitment to education. Her dedication to excellence in her studies landed her at the top of her classes.
Her nominator said, “I saw a significant potential in Katie when she submitted her assignments with all the required documentation and (she) was able to go above and beyond what is asked.”
Additionally, her nominator considered Dalton’s potential to substantially contribute to the community and institution she works for.
Currently, Dalton works as teaching assistant for the online entrepreneurship course, as well as maintaining a senior position within a financial advisor company in Kalispell.
“Her citizenship behaviors are demonstrated in her service to the University by volunteering to represent MSUB in the John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge (that took place April 13 with a project from an Entrepreneurship course),” her nominator said. “She also actively participates in her local community through community outreach/volunteer programs sponsored through her current employer.”
For this, Dalton will likely reap the benefits of her education for her current and future employers but also contribute to the development of Kalispell and wherever else her future takes her.
Dalton’s success with her current career is tied to her experience at MSUB, as she has worked to represent the University’s reputation and values and she hopes this will influence others to pursue higher education as well.
As Dalton reflects on her time at MSUB, she notes the many positive influences it has had on her life.
“Although MSUB is a Billings-based college, the school’s offering of robust online programs allows their reach to extend far beyond the Billings area, and therefore allow students to contribute to their hometown through activities and service,” she said.
In Kalispell, Dalton participates in community service such as independently tutoring friends and acquaintances attending the local community college.
“Throughout my life, I have found myself devoted and passionate about learning and educational scholarship. From my high school years to my first day at MSUB, I have remained committed to truly understanding and applying the learned educational experiences, while challenging myself to produce work of my highest abilities.”
It isn’t easy being a student-athlete, with a full roster of games taking the team out of town and days punctuated with practice – on top of the time dedicated to studying and class.
However, Kari Alexandra Kastelic, who is graduating with a degree in finance, was able to become a leader on the Yellowjacket women’s soccer team while maintaining a 3.93 GPA.
For this, and her dedication to service and leadership, the Phoenix, Arizona native is among this year’s Outstanding Undergraduates.
Her nominator said, “You will not encounter a more serious, well organized, and dedicated student.”
While playing on the MSUB women’s soccer team, Kastelic played every minute of every game during her three-year career and served as team captain for two years.
Her work ethic and relentless dedication to practice and physical skill building lead her to be a started on the soccer team from day one.
“This year saw an inordinately huge class of freshmen on the team- all new to college level play,” Kastelic’s nominator said. “Kari was the epitome of the servant leader who set the work ethic tone for not just the defensive line but for the whole team, and worked tirelessly to help any and all of the new players to reach performance levels that few underclassmen ever have the opportunity to do.”
As a student, Kastelic shines. For the past two years, she was awarded Academic All-Conference, Academic All-Region, and received the Scholar Athlete Award for having the highest GPA on the team. Last spring, she was inducted into Chi Alpha Sigma, the national student athlete honor society.
Last fall, as a research assistant Kastelic coauthored an article that has been submitted to the “Journal of Law & Economics,” at the University of Chicago.
She has also been involved with the Student Athletic Advisory Board and MSUB Investment Club and American Cancer Society.
This semester, she continues to give back to the community as an intern with Dress for Success Billings.
“We often work with women who are coming from difficult backgrounds who just need a little help. I get a chance to work with clients one-on-one and give them the confidence they need to get back out into the workforce. It truly has been a very rewarding experience,” Kastelic said.
They say first impressions are important and Nichole Lund made one.
Lund, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, History Teaching, from the College of Arts and Sciences, is one of this year’s Outstanding Undergraduates due to her unparalleled commitment to the academic community.
Her nominator said, “I met Ms. Lund … my very first day teaching at MSUB in the fall of 2014. By the end of that first class period, I knew that she was an extraordinary student. Day in and day out over the intervening years, she has proven my first impression to be true.”
Whether critically reading course materials, participating in class discussion, or engaging in original research, Lund consistently went above and beyond class requirements because of her own curiosity.
“My education, aside from my children, has been the love of my life,” Lund said.
Lund was inspired by her grandfather to complete her college education. She recalls how he quit school at just 15-years-old to work as a ranch hand to support his family and how he lost his leg in an accident at the job.
“These stories, that bonded me to him, always ended the same, with his great regret of not having furthered his education and his conviction that your education is a gift, an asset, and an achievement that will only open doors,” she said.
Even though Lund took a non-traditional path to completing her degree, she is crossing the finishing line having made her mark on campus.
She spearheaded the creation of MSUB’s award-winning Gender Studies Club and was named Outstanding President in 2015.
In addition to being a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honor Society, she has been a regular presenter at its Northwest Regional Conference since 2012 and is also a member of the History Club.
“Her commitment to social justice and community empowerment transcends her on-campus activities and includes an impressive agenda of activism within the larger Billings community,” her nominator said.
She is a youth counselor at YWCA and is a member of the Native American Race Relations and Healing Group.
Her involvement and education at MSUB was instrumental in believing in herself and pushing new boundaries.
“I have competed in a state wide poetry slam and presented other written work, as a poet, with Sacrifice Cliff Theatre. I am no longer frightened to be involved politically and see how important it is on the local level.”
One of the first students to greet new members to the MSUB family was Miranda McNeil. For three years, this exceptional student, as a Summer Orientation Leader (SOL) for three summers welcomed new Yellowjackets along their journey and helped familiarize them to campus.
You couldn’t ask for a better representative of MSUB than McNeil. She is graduating from the College of Education with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics with a teaching option while upholding a 3.97 GPA.
McNeil has been able to complete 21 of her 181.5 credits as honors credits.
Her nominator said, “Among Miranda’s many campus activities, her work as Orientation Leader stands out for me in that I have seen the excellence of her work firsthand. In the groups that she leads, all eyes are upon her; her entering students are energized and engaged. It is work that comes with costs, for example, the all-nighters she has spent with students suffering from homesickness or with students who sensed the skills of her listening ear.”
McNeil, from Park City, Montana, cherished her time as an SOL.
“Throughout the years I have been able to reconnect with students and be a resource for them whenever needed. The connections and relationships I made were unforgettable,” she said.
Invariably, McNeil set a great academic example, as her own performance standards are the best.
“Miranda McNeil is nowhere near reaching her potential and will undoubtedly become a distinguished alumna in the future,” her nominator said.
While McNeil enjoyed her time on campus, she also gleaned a lot from the opportunities presented while working in surrounding schools. Over the course of her education at MSUB, she was able to work in seventh and eighth grade math, kindergarten, and fourth and fifth grade classrooms.
This hands-on experience allowed her to work directly with administrators, teachers, parents and students in settings that directly reflect her future profession.
She has also been involved with Yellowjacket tutoring, Math Club, Jacket Student Ambassadors, Student Activities Board and was a service project coordinator for the Office of Community Involvement.
Outside of the university, McNeil remained an active part of the community. She served as a substitute teacher, is the nursery coordinator at King of Glory Lutheran Church, and is a referee for Montana School Association (basketball and volleyball).
“I am grateful to have been part of a prestigious, welcoming community and am proud to be graduating as a Yellowjacket!”
Whether on the baseball field or inside the classroom, Zachary Robinson reaches for excellence.
The student-athlete is graduating with a marketing degree and is among this year’s Outstanding Undergraduates, as he is being recognized for his commitment to academics, service to the community and MSUB and his willingness to make a positive impact on individuals everywhere he goes.
Robinson, originally from Cedar Hills, Utah has been able to maintain an impressive 3.74 GPA while balancing his studies, sports, and service.
His nominator said, “Academics aside, Zach is such an incredible, helpful and charismatic individual. His classmates like working with him as he comes with a willingness to learn and teach others what he knows relevant to the course content.”
In addition to being an excellent student that raises the bar for the entire class, his nominator was impressed with Robinson’s character.
The nominator tells this story, “The class ran the full time, until 7:30 p.m. and I had at least an hour of cleanup ahead of me. To my surprise, Zach and another classmate took initiative, began cleaning up the trash, and continued to help me get the classroom back in order before we all left together. When the opportunity to help and serve presents itself, Zach jumps in without hesitation.”
Prior to becoming a Yellowjacket, Robinson went on a two-year volunteer mission in Carlsbad, California. He transferred to MSUB from Miles Community College and has been an active student ever since.
During his time at MSU Billings, Robinson was a resident assistant and volunteered with Service Saturdays.
“From attending multiple Service Saturdays to feeding the homeless through Salvation Army I have loved serving. My favorite service activity that I have done alongside MSUB would be going to the High Gate Senior Living Center and interacting with the seniors there and being able to share my talent of piano to entertain them,” Robinson said.
During his time at the College of Business, Robinson has been presented with opportunities to be part of teams, group and class projects that opened his eyes, “to what being a business man is all about.”
“I have grown as a business professional and have been blessed to be representing this school,” Robinson said.
In order to complete the Associate of Applied Science in Diesel Technology within two years, students must complete at least 17 credits each semester.
However, Andrew Wiggin took additional classes like student leadership and leadership building at every opportunity so his course load was even fuller.
Even so, Wiggin from Charlo, Montana, is graduating from the Diesel Technology program from City College on time and with a 3.56 GPA all the while being an extremely involved student.
He is also respected by his peers.
“As one of Andrew’s teachers, I witness the other students look to Andrew for advice and guidance. He is always composed and sets a great example. Even when he struggles with a lab task, he uses his resources, remains calm, and solves the problem and completes the assigned task. When I need assistance from a student, Andrew is my first choice,” his nominator said.
Wiggin is driven and passionate about experiencing college life to the fullest. In addition to carrying a full school load, he is the vice president of both the SkillsUSA Club and City College Honor Society and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
He also participates on the Student Activities Board, Residence Hall Association, works part-time and has completed an internship with Titan Machinery in Billings.
His involvement in academic related activities and community service included volunteering with Service Sting and Service Saturdays, as well as through his church.
“Spending my Saturdays in Service Saturday is a chance for me to give back to the Billings community. A few that I have participated in include: carving pumpkins with the children at Wise Wonders, starting a community garden for the residents in the south side of Billings, making tie blankets and (sorting) donated clothes to the Tumbleweed program,” Wiggin said.
Wiggin is excited to be a part of so many organizations and classes and is enjoyed his time at City College and MSU Billings.
“I really think you get the experience you want; that you get what you put into it,” he said.
Wiggin plans to transfer to Montana State University-Northern in Havre to complete a bachelor’s in diesel technology and will then pursue a career as a service technician.
Demonstrating outstanding academic acumen, providing leadership on campus and being an exceptional role model for fellow students led Karsyn Hornby to being named the 2017 Nels Christiansen Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year.
Hornby received her undergraduate degree in Health and Human Performance from MSU Billings in May 2015 and quickly transitioned to graduate work when she started her Masters’ degree in Athletic Training that same summer.
Throughout her time at MSUB, her peers have continuously looked to her for inspiration, advice and assistance and she is truly a leader both inside and outside the classroom.
Her nominator said, “Inside the classroom, Karsyn consistently demonstrates exceptional work ethic, high ethical standards, outstanding interpersonal skills and respect for all. Karsyn has demonstrated outstanding academic ability which is reflected in her transcript- her GPA is currently a 3.81!”
In addition to her coursework, Hornby has proven to be a gifted researcher.
She completed her undergraduate thesis on “Mononucleosis and Its Repercussions on a Young Female Athlete: A Case Study,” and her graduate research paper is “Academic Accommodations in the High School Setting for Sports-Related Concussion.”
Hornby, from Casper, Wyoming, said there is not enough advocacy for sports-related concussions and she enjoyed her research project.
“I really hope to see students run with the research and do even more,” she said.
Outside the classroom, Hornby has been able to juggle the academic demands obtaining a master’s degree entails along with other personal and work responsibilities. She has been a teaching assistant for the Health and Human Performance department for the last two years and currently teaches ECP 100 (a course she has taught for three semesters).
Additionally, her work responsibilities include being a lab assistant for two courses.
Hornby is also employed off-campus as a personal trainer and is NASM certified and is the first to volunteer for many program functions.
She also places the needs of others in front of her own and has found strength in adversity. As a young teenager, Hornby was hit by a car and lost her right leg.
Today, she is a motivational speaker for elementary and middle school students addressing adversity and the skills necessary to overcome trials and barriers in one’s own life.
As she looks back on her time at MSUB, Hornby said Billings has become her home.
“The close relationships that I’ve developed with my professors and classmates are very special to me,” she said.