The Maverick Magazine: Spring 2024

Page 8







The evolution of CMU Tech communicates the importance of valuing trades — marking what CMU calls the journey of Becoming CMU Tech. BY DAVID LUDLAM

Alumni through the years featuring:

Trevor Gunnels, ‘19, ‘23

Julene Hardy Wilcock, ‘91

Aden Cesmat, ‘18

Phoenix Mourning-Star, ‘05

Leah Davidson, ‘15

Barrios, ‘12

Want to conserve paper and receive your copy of The Maverick digitally? Email . In The Maverick Summer 2022 edition, the article “Love and Leadership” was mislabeled as written by Suzanne Bronson. CMU marketing and communications staff members contributed
of the article.
07 INNOVATIONS IN 3D CMU alumnus Chuck Hull recognized by President Biden as leader of technology innovation 08 BEYOND THE FINISH LINE CMU’s Alpine Ski Coach wins national honor 10 OPPORTUNITY FOR A BETTER LIFE CMU’s mission of providing affordable and accessible education revs up with CMU Promise 12 ULTRA POSITIVITY TOUR CMU outdoor recreation student Carter Burnham gives back while pushing past his perceived limits 16 LEADERS ON THE FIELD Women’s Rugby builds upon CMU Club Sports success 18 OBSERVING THE COSMOS Ongoing partnership with the U.S. Air Force Academy brings new astronomy research and educational opportunities to the Grand Valley 20 FALL PHOTOS 22 TOP OF THEIR CRAFT CMU Tech Culinary Arts alums earn Michelin Award and Colorado Chef of the Year 30 DECEMBER COMMENCEMENT 32 IT TAKES GRIT Student-athlete Liban Shongolo finds peace, passion and purpose at CMU 34 CINEMATIC HORIZONS CMU Tech Instructor of Digital Filmmaking Josh Meuwly named Grand Junction Film Commission Regional Liaison 35 UNLEASHING THE POWER OF SCENT How man’s best friend and science work to solve mysteries 36 PLEDGING ALLEGIANCE CMU senior and newly minted American citizen Setareh Bastani is poised to empower future students 37 CMU STRIVES Colorado Mesa University and STRiVE partnership expands to bring life to shared values 38 MET AT MESA Life’s Grand Stages 39 KULEANA: YOUR RESPONSIBILITY CMU’S Hawaii Alumni Chapter fundraises for wildfire relief 40 CELEBRATING MAVERICK SPIRIT Winners of the 2023 Spirit of Rowdy Sticker Collection competition crowned PAGE 10 PAGE 22 PAGE 12 Table of contents photo: 2024 CMU Maverick Classic, Downtown Grand Junction, Colorado Cover photo: CMU student Harrison Dico-Jekot Both photos by CMU student Curren Eastes

State of the University


This edition of The Maverick is composed of a variety of innovative and collaborative partnerships and success stories that exemplify the vibrant community that is Colorado Mesa University and CMU Tech.

The cover story tells of the evolving landscape of the trades and how those skillsets and careers are vital to our communities more than ever before. Over the last two semesters there has been an intentional transformation as we’ve undergone a change in how we talk about the community college, signaling a new era in the elevation of trades. The renaming serves as just the beginning of a journey, showcasing the university’s commitment to fostering growth in career and technical education.

We are proud to highlight our hardworking students and businesses that support CMU Tech, and also the accomplishments of CMU Tech faculty. Instructor Josh Meuwly is now the Grand Junction Film Commission Regional Liaison. His dedication to digital filmmaking and his commitment to his students as well as serving his community speaks to the intersection of education and industry.

This academic year, we expanded our already wonderful partnership with STRiVE, breathing life into our shared values. Together, we’re building meaningful relationships and extending dignity to each other and to our neighbors.

As you read through the magazine, you’ll learn about exploring the cosmos, and our ongoing partnership with the U.S. Air Force Academy, bringing cutting-edge astronomy research and educational opportunities to the Grand Valley.

Delve into the story of CMU outdoor recreation student Carter Burnham, who not only pushes past his perceived limits but does so by giving back to his community. His inspiring journey reflects the core values of CMU and the transformative power of pushing ourselves.

And finally, CMU’s mission of radical affordability and disruptive accessibility to higher education gains momentum with the introduction of the CMU Promise. I was fortunate to tour remote areas of our region, and meet with students and teachers whose names and conversations will stick with me.

I hope you enjoy this edition of The Maverick.


SPRING 2024 • VOLUME 13.1 The Maverick magazine is printed on 20% recycled (10% post-consumer waste) paper using soy-based inks. Our printer meets or exceeds all Federal Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) standards and is a member of the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. President John Marshall Board of Trustees Lori Buck, Vice Chair • Ron Davis Charles Dukes • David Foster Tim Fry, Chair • Alison Griffin Kasia Iwaniczko MacLeod, Secretary Daniel Ramos • Gary Reiff, Treasurer
Moreno • Joyce Sekharan
Parry, FacultyTrustee Kylie Graham, Student Trustee Managing Editor Laura Bradley Art Director Jeremy Smith Graphic Designer Lisa Smith Copy Editor Katlin Birdsall Videographers and Photographers Bronson Henriques • Michael Gallegos Online Maverick Kendra Dardis Copyright © 2024 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without express written permission is strictly prohibited. Colorado Mesa University 1100 North Avenue Grand Junction, CO 81501-3122 To be removed from The Maverick mailing list contact

Former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno Appointed to Colorado Mesa University Board of Trustees

Governor Jared Polis appointed former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno to the Colorado Mesa University Board of Trustees, effective December 18, 2023. Polis emphasized Moreno’s legislative achievements and his potential contributions to CMU’s goals in higher education and workforce development. Moreno, recognized for his commitment to education, expressed gratitude for the opportunity.

CMU President John Marshall welcomed Moreno’s appointment, highlighting his legislative expertise and dedication to education. The appointment aligns with CMU’s objectives of providing accessible education, building partnerships and offering academic programs relevant to western Colorado’s needs.

Raised in Adams County, Moreno, a Georgetown University graduate, made history as Commerce City’s youngest city council member. His legislative career includes chairing the Joint Budget Committee and serving as Majority Leader in the Colorado Senate. Moreno’s leadership, grounded in listening and fostering connections, encourages kindness and respect to others.

Men’s Hockey Team Raises $32,128 for Cancer Patients

CMU held its seventh annual Pink the Rink hockey game last November, marking a historic moment with a 6-0 victory against Northern Arizona University. Beyond the thrill of the game, this event has evolved into a philanthropic symbol for CMU’s Hockey Team, raising a record-breaking $32,128 for the St. Mary’s Hospital Cancer Assistance Fund, which directly supports local cancer patients.

With a total fundraising record surpassing $132,000 since 2016, the team’s commitment to the St. Mary’s Hospital Cancer Assistance Fund has earned them prestigious recognition. Twice awarded the National

Community Service Award by the American Collegiate Hockey Association, and once the Congressional Community Service Award in 2018, the team stands as a model of student-athletes who care about their community.

Pink the Rink not only celebrates athletic success but also serves as a powerful beacon of hope and assistance for those battling cancer in the Grand Junction community.

Dominick Moreno

Topping Out Ceremony celebrates milestone in Construction of New Theatre

Colorado Mesa University and Shaw Construction held a topping out ceremony for CMU’s new theatre building this past November. A topping out ceremony is a tradition in construction for raising the final structural beam into place.

Donors, performing artists and the Grand Junction community gathered to make their mark on the building. Supporters signed their names and placed their handprints on the highest beam before it was ceremoniously placed.

Center for Teaching and Learning Unveils a Hub for Faculty Excellence

Faculty members now have a dedicated space for professional development and collaboration — the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). The center, located on the first floor of Tomlinson Library, fosters an environment where faculty can engage in workshops, book discussions, training sessions and seminars — all formal avenues that contribute to their ongoing growth as educators.

The Western Colorado Community Foundation announced a $50,000 match to the Setting the Stage campaign to complete construction on the state-of-the-art theatre.

When completed, CMU’s new theatre will be the tallest building on campus and the fourth largest in Grand Junction. CMU’s new arts and cultural hub is set to open Fall 2024.

Beyond structured activities, the CTL serves as a dynamic arena for informal learning through peer-topeer conversations, providing a platform for faculty to gain insights from one another. Faculty members currently use the space for grading, planning, meetings and honing their teaching skills.

“Creating a space where the focus is squarely on improving, expanding and enhancing teaching makes sense as it allows us another avenue by which we can support students,” said Kate Belknap, EdD, director of the CTL and instructor of English.

Since its inception, the CTL has hosted 18 faculty development events, engaging 542 faculty members. Future plans involve implementing a specialized program of workshops and events tailored for firstyear faculty, ensuring a strong foundation for exemplary teaching with each new cohort. This strategic investment in faculty development promises enduring benefits for CMU students for years to come.

Kate Belknap, EdD, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and instructor of English, welcoming faculty to the new space. Left: Performing arts students make their mark on CMU’s new theatre. Right: Shaw Construction project manager Chris Betts and assistant project manager Nick Pogue celebrate a construction milestone.

Cultural Inclusion Council Adds Affinity Group for Asian Students

CMU’s Cultural Inclusion Council (CIC) has formally recognized a seventh affinity group – the Asian Student Association (ASA). The former six groups, which include the Black Student Alliance, Genders and Sexualities Alliance, Ho’olokahai Polynesian Alliance, International Student Alliance, Latino Student Alliance and Native American Student Alliance, have existed for decades, some dating back to the 1960s.

The mission of ASA is to promote education and awareness around the diversity within Asian culture. According to Pragya Luitel, ASA co-coordinator with Theresa Facun, the club is of immense importance to Asian students because it brings them together as a community to celebrate Asian cultures and assists with unique challenges these students might face.

ASA has already organized events from potlucks to movie nights with more events in the works.

“Our main goal is to grow our club and create a welcoming community for students with an Asian background, ensuring they feel a strong sense of belonging,” said Luitel.

Emerging Partnership Formed During Tri-Ute Foregathering

The first Tri-Ute meeting to ever convene at Colorado Mesa University occurred last October, when the tribes united in a formal process to explore opportunities, address challenges and create priorities among all three Ute Tribes.

For many years, one of the gathering places on the West Slope for Ute convenings was in

Delta at the Ute Council Tree. This large cottonwood tree, which lived more than 200 years, had to be cut down in 2017.

For the Utes today, the importance of the Tri-Ute meeting dates back generations and thousands of years. The Utes convening to discuss Tribal matters include some that are as salient and important today

as they were centuries ago. During the convening meetings, council members discuss matters of cultural heritage and preservation, education, natural resources and federal lands, water use and rights, and issues of economic and socioeconomic concern on their reservations.

Before the Tribes convened their formal meeting, CMU President John Marshall addressed the council members and hosted them for a campus tour.

CMU was chosen by the Utes because of its central location and its proximity to the Council Tree’s historical location.

President John Marshall with members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Indian Tribe.

5 SPRING 2024
ASA members Alicia Perez, Shailja Gautam, Co-Coordinator Theresa Facun, Bernice Rosales, Siya Salunke, Minhtam La and Jingui Lee Fernandez-Bartow. Not pictured: Co-Coordinator Pragya Luitel.

Legacy of Healing: Dr. Joel Bechtel Honored with the Naming of the Physician Assistant Studies Program

CMU celebrated the naming of its Physician Assistant Studies Program (PA) last December in honor of the late Dr. Joel Bechtel, a revered community leader and trailblazing physician whose visionary contributions transformed the medical landscape in western Colorado. Dr. Bechtel left an indelible mark on the region by establishing the first pulmonary practice in western Colorado in 1980.

The ceremony, held at St. Mary’s Medical Education Center, paid tribute to Dr. Bechtel’s legacy and recognized his pivotal role as the visionary and catalyst in establishing the Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program at CMU.

The program was also recently granted AccreditationContinued status by the Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), the agency that is responsible for accrediting PA programs. This significant milestone in the program speaks to the support the university, community, faculty and staff have devoted to educating future PAs.

As the Bechtel Physician Assistant Studies Program continues to flourish, it serves as a living tribute to a remarkable individual whose vision and dedication have left an enduring legacy in the hearts and minds of the Colorado Mesa University community.

Joel Bechtel, MD; Betty Bechtel, JD, wife of Joel Bechtel and former CMU board member; guests at the dedication ceremony of the Bechtel Physician Assistant Program, December 14, 2023 at St. Mary’s Medical Education Center.

Innovations in 3D

CMU alumnus Chuck Hull recognized by President Biden as leader of technology innovation

From a 3D-printed eye wash cup to potentially printing human lungs, Chuck Hull, ‘59, has been at the forefront of innovation for decades.

Hull created stereolithography, also known as 3D printing, in 1983. His continued successes contributed to him receiving the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in October 2023.

The award is an honor granted by the President of the United States to American inventors and innovators who have made significant contributions to the development of new technology.

“It’s obviously really humbling because of the consideration that goes into it before that’s awarded … so it kind of puts you in a league that’s pretty high,” Hull said.

Past awardees include Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak for their development and introduction of the personal computer and Gholam A. Peyman for the invention of the LASIK surgical technique.

After attending CMU, Hull attended the University of Colorado and then worked for DuPont and Ultraviolet Products. While head of technology for Ultraviolet Products, he was introduced to ultraviolet curable plastics — liquid materials that become solid pieces of plastic after exposure to ultraviolet light.

YOu either have to be, or have to Learn to be, innovative.
ALUMNUS Chuck Hull, ‘59

“In our case, we were working on coatings for furniture and that sort of thing,” he said.

Hull wanted to see if he could manipulate the materials to be “actual plastic parts” rather than coatings for furniture pieces.

“The innovation then was figuring out stereolithography, using those kinds of materials, ultraviolet light and basically 3D

of his own company, 3D Systems, in 1986.

“You either have to be, or have to learn to be, innovative,” said Hull. “Because progress is always made through change, so ‘How do I innovate a change that’s going to make sense?’ And then there’s typically an invention part of that because, ‘Hey, now you’re talking about things that don’t exist.’ So what do we need to exist? What’s the process to think to make something exist? So I always try to tie together the enterprise, innovation, invention.”

Now, he’s working on human lungs. Martine Rothblatt, president of United Therapeutics, contacted Hull about printing the organs. The company had been studying how to create lungs at a lab in North Carolina.

Hull immersed himself in the research for that field in order to understand the difficulty of the problem as well as the

Spring 2024
President Biden awards Charles W. Hull the National Medal of Technology and Innovation during an awards ceremony in the East Room of The White House, Oct. 24, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Ryan K. Morris and The National Science & Technology Medals Foundation).

CMU’s alpine ski coach wins national honor

When CMU’s Head Alpine Ski Coach Jesse Scott was named the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA) Coach of the Year for 2023, he thought of his father.

“Getting this award is a tribute to my late dad,” he said, noting that his father was his biggest supporter when he was learning to ski and race. “He wasn’t a ski racer himself, but he thought there was something special about being a skier and wanted this for his children.”

Scott began skiing at age 2 and was racing by age 9. He closed out his junior racing career at age 17 and transitioned to coaching junior racers at Powderhorn Mountain Resort. In 2017, he was named CMU’s head alpine skiing coach.

This lifetime of experience was one of the factors USCSA emphasized when choosing him for this honor. USCSA also recognized Scott doesn’t just coach, but voluntarily takes a leadership role — administering races at the conference and national levels, assisting with the labor of setting courses, erecting safety netting, officiating and tackling the myriad of other tasks necessary to pull off a ski race.

CMU Club Sports Director Reese Kegans highlighted Scott’s profession as a mentor and counselor, and as an advocate for local suicide prevention efforts.

Jesse is a good, genuine person who puts kids into leadership roles and empowers them to use their voices to make change.”

Reese Kegans, cmu club sports director

“Jesse is a good, genuine person to make change,” A mental health specialist at the CMU Student Wellness Center, Scott strives to blend his professional knowledge with his coaching in order to support each student-athlete where they are and at whatever level of competition they desire.

“I let the team members know that I’m here to provide instruction for the highest-level athlete in both techniques and tactics. But I also work with firsttime racers introducing them to the sport,” said Scott. “I want ski racing to be a joyful thing for all of them.”


“Good coaching is not emotional, but objective and supportive, building off each athlete’s strengths,” Scott said. Noting that the starting area at a ski race is chaotic and stressful, Scott approaches each racer individually and asks, “What do you do really well?”

“You can really only think about one thing at a time as an athlete,” he explained, “So I tell them to focus on what they do really well and go do that during their run.”

Scott also encourages his student-athletes to learn

more about “ski industry ins and outs” as they prepare for life beyond CMU. In cooperation with Powderhorn Mountain Resort, studentathletes can explore grooming and slope maintenance, ski instruction, adaptive skiing and snowboarding, and ski area management.

Scott maintains a relationship with Powderhorn Racing Club and provides opportunities for CMU racers to mentor these young athletes both on and off the snow.


“Ski racing is tough,” said Scott. “Racers acquire skills that not every athlete gets. Ski racing demands that athletes perform and execute right now, during the minute and a half it takes to complete a run. It takes a high level of motivation,

9 SPRING 2024

Opportunity for a Better Life

CMU’s mission of providing affordable and accessible education revs up with CMU Promise Tour

The key to a good road trip is motivating music, a great co-pilot and an inspiring destination. The CMU Promise Tour has all of this and more.

Last fall, President John Marshall set out on a few road trips across western Colorado to deliver the good news of the CMU Promise to high school students. The tour included stops at Cedaredge High School, North Fork High School, Delta High School, Olathe High School, Nucla High School and Norwood High School with more planned for spring.

“These trips are really our opportunity to go out and meet students where they are. We want to let students, teachers, counselors and principals all over rural western Colorado know that we’re making a promise to them — that students have a path forward at CMU,” said Marshall.

Starting Fall 2024, the CMU Promise covers 100% of tuition expenses for students in 22 western Colorado counties from households who earn $65,000 or less.

The promise is more than a financial promise, it’s also a promise that CMU teaches students how to think critically for themselves and provides an opportunity for a better life.

“We know the more education you get the better your health outcomes, the better your community outcomes, and of course, the better your earning power,” said Marshall.

The CMU Promise is made possible through federal grants, state funds, local government contributions, philanthropic endeavors and institutional dollars.

North Fork High
SINCE 1925 Tour
Cedaredge High School Olathe High School Delta High School
Junction Nucla High School
School Norwood High School
Glenwood Springs High School Eagle Valley High School

This is just one affordability initiative that CMU uses to break down financial barriers to ensure higher education is affordable. CMU offers the third lowest tuition and fees among four-year Colorado institutions.

In 2022, the CMU Board of Trustees adopted an affordability initiative that lowered the cost of tuition for career and technical education courses at CMU Tech by nearly 40%.

Starting Fall 2024 there are also changes to scholarships students receive at the time of admission based on their grades, known as merit aid, which 60% of first-time students receive. CMU updated the eligibility requirements as well as increased the value of aid at every level which ranges from $3,000 to full tuition.

“We took a deep dive into the way we were supporting students who had strong grades and made some significant modifications to our scholarship criteria and awards,” said Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management Kim Medina. “We are seeing that it is resonating. We are attracting more students locally, across the state and the nation with our approach.”

CMU’s radical accessibility and disruptive affordability includes $79 million in total financial aid awarded last year as well as $4 million awarded by the CMU Foundation.

The CMU Foundation offers numerous scholarships to students and opportunities for donors to help students where they need it most.

Hotel Maverick offers many benefits to students as a teaching hotel and recently announced a new contribution commitment of $1 million to the CMU Becoming Mavericks Fund, which provides scholarships to high school students in Mesa County.

To encourage donor participation throughout the community, beginning November 1, 2023, supporters of higher education will be able to double their contributions to local scholarships thanks to the new Hotel Maverick Match fundraising campaign that will match contributions dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million. The matching funds will be provided by the Hotel Maverick with a goal of raising $2 million for local scholarships.

“Making CMU affordable for students wouldn’t be possible without our generous donors,” said Foundation CEO Robin Brown. “And partnerships like the one with Hotel Maverick make our gifts go even further and help even more families afford a higher education.”

A foundational part of CMU’s mission is to provide affordable and accessible education. Through generous donors, strategic partnerships and a willingness to hit the pavement (literally), CMU is ensuring the students of western Colorado have an opportunity for a better life. •

Opposite page: CMU President John Marshall taking a selfie with a student at North Fork High School in Hotchkiss, Colorado. Above, top: Rowdy with his CMU Promise cutout. Above, bottom: Marshall with students at Eagle Valley High School. Below: Glenwood Springs High School students.

CMU outdoor recreation student Carter Burnham gives back while pushing past his perceived limits

Mount Garfield, an icon of the Grand Valley, rises 2,000 feet from the valley floor and the standard route of ascent covers that elevation gain in only two miles. For years, athletes have tested themselves on the trail and the fastest recorded ascents were held by Joseph DeMoor, 23 minutes and 50 seconds, and Kim Dobson, 27 minutes and 23 seconds. A new record was set in 2023 by CMU Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies student Carter Burnham when he completed 15 roundtrip ascents in under 24 hours.

24-hour challenges have long been popular in the ultrarunning community, but this marks the first recorded 24-hour effort on Mount

Garfield. This feat required Burnham to cover more than 50 miles and climb over 28,000 feet of elevation gain during his fastest known time (FKT).

Burnham is quick to point out that he is not a runner. He will tell you that he isn’t really that fit. He just loves spending time in the mountains and trying to do things that at first glance appear impossible.

“I always get super nervous before starting something big. Like is this even possible? And then at the end of the journey you look back and it’s always like, ‘I did that!’ And it’s such an incredible feeling to understand that as small of a person as you are, you were able to do something big for yourself,” said Burnham.

Fly fishing has always been a favorite pastime for Burnham, and in eighth grade he met a friend while attending a Trout Unlimited summer camp during which he scaled his first 14,000 foot peak, his first ‘Fourteener’, in Colorado.

“It all started on Uncompahgre Peak when I saw the sunrise. It was a life-changing experience. It completely changed my entire outlook and after that hike I was like, I need to do this. My friend was starting to climb all 58 of the Fourteeners in Colorado and after that experience, every weekend that I could, I’d go out and I’d climb one peak,” said Burnham.


I always get super nervous before starting something big. Like is this even possible? And then at the end of the journey you look back and it’s always like, ‘I did that!’”

Carter Burnham, CMU Outdoor Recreation INDUSTRY Studies Student

He went on to complete his quest to climb all 58 Fourteeners in two years. After that, he heard about the Highest 100 challenge of climbing the 100 highest peaks in Colorado and immediately started to scale classic peaks like Vestal in the San Juans along with much more obscure peaks.

Inspired by the freedom he found in the hills, Burnham decided to join some friends in

running the 50-mile Dead Horse Ultra in Utah, despite his distaste for running at the time.

A few days after finishing the race, as the memories of the pain and suffering began to fade, he heard about the Triple Crown that involves running three 50 milers in the span of only a couple of months on different courses in Utah. Hungry to continue transcending his own perceived limitations, Burnham signed up. When one of the races in the series was canceled, he decided to complete a solo 50-mile run from Palisade to the Utah state line and when the third race arrived, despite his intense fatigue, he lined up and worked his way through the beautiful

(continued on next page)

desert landscape one mile at a time to complete another ‘impossible’ objective.

While recovering last spring, Burnham started thinking about what might be next. Having grown up in Palisade and training frequently on Mount Garfield, he started to narrow his focus on a 24-hour effort on the main Mount Garfield trail.

Early on May 6, 2023, Burnham set out a plastic bin filled with gummy worms, some cookies

Just go out and push your own limits in your own world. Find your own joy in it and enjoy living.”

and water by the fence that marks the beginning of the trail and started his first ascent. He aimed to reach the summit within 40-50 minutes and would then jog down. He had never climbed Mount Garfield more than twice in a row before

but had a goal of ‘Everesting’, climbing the equivalent elevation above sea level of Mount Everest (29,032 feet), and seeing how many times he could summit within 24 hours along the way.

When he reached his ninth climb some friends came out to support him and as the temperatures started to cool off at sunset, Burnham was joined by CMU Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies Instructor Adam Bavier.

“The ninth and tenth climbs were the hardest, and then right before morning, I started hallucinating. This was the first time I pulled an all-nighter during college. After I finished my 15th rep I wanted to keep going to meet my goal of Everesting, but it’s kind of like the mountain had chosen to only give me 24 hours because as soon as I started up again it started pouring, and you can’t do Garfield when it’s muddy,” said Burnham.

To give back to the organization that played such a pivotal role in shaping the course of his life, Burnham set up an online fundraiser for Trout Unlimited, the group that first exposed him to the joys of mountaineering, and encouraged people to donate a few dollars for each lap he completed. In the end, he raised over $700 for the organization from friends, family and the community he is enmeshed in at CMU.

Reflecting on his FKT a couple of months later, Burnham realizes that maybe doing 15 repeats on Mount Garfield is a questionable activity for a lot of people, but he isn’t doing this for the fame or the clout. For him, it’s about finding something that brings him joy and finding a community of support while doing it.

“Everybody can find something for themselves that’s going to be an incredible experience outdoors, and it doesn’t have to be expensive! That’s the message I want to spread in the outdoor world. Just go out and push your own limits in your own world. Find your own joy in it and enjoy living,” said Burnham. •

15 SPRING 2024


Women’s Rugby builds upon CMU Club Sports success


In early December 2023, the CMU Women’s Rugby team was down 17-0 just 15 minutes into their semifinal matchup against the University of Connecticut (UConn). When the UConn Husky fans started barking at the Mavericks, the team took it to heart and went on a 45-5 scoring rampage earning a place in the national championship. And while the finals match against Northeastern University didn’t go CMU’s way, the team returned home vindicated from their Division I debut.

“We’re not a stereotypical D1 team,” said Coach MacKenzie Lewis, who is also a scholarship coordinator for CMU. “We play with a bit of a chip on our shoulders. We’re a group of misfit athletes that comes together and play as a team.”

Women’s Rugby is one of the 20 CMU Club Sports teams that compete towards a collegiate national championship. CMU has three departments for sports: NCAA athletics; club sports, which includes varsity teams outside the NCAA; and intramural sports. All teams under the Club Sports department must play within a league that competes toward

a collegiate championship. Currently, CMU has 17 team national championships and 81 individual national championships in cycling and one team national championship in Women’s Rugby.

Reese Kegans is the CMU director of club sports, which is an ever-growing role as additional competitive programs emerge.

Shooting sports is a recent addition to club sports. Shooting sports has two teams: archery and shotgun. The teams are coached by Grand Junction native Ashley Teal who is the women’s Colorado State Champion in both disciplines. Currently, shotgun and archery have nine athletes on each team.

We’re not A STEREOTYPICAL D1 TEAM. WE PLAY WITH A BIT OF A CHIP ON OUR SHOULDERS. WE’RE A GROUP of misfit athletes that comes together and play as a team.

MacKenzie Lewis, Head Rugby Coach

Teal helped start the sports at CMU and is a part-time coach.

“I pride myself on the strong leaders within my coaches and their ability to make strong leaders of all the students on their teams,” said Kegans.

While building a championship legacy is both exciting and gratifying in any sport, for Kegans and his coaches, supporting student-athletes of all types is the most important goal.

“Club Sports range from eSports to rodeo, with everything in between,” Kegans explained. “Sports are fun and each of these athletes matters. We want to help everyone have a good experience.” •

17 SPRING 2024

Ongoing partnership with the U.S. Air Force Academy brings new astronomy research and educational opportunities to the Grand Valley

When Colorado Mesa University Assistant Professor of Physics Catherine Whiting, PhD, recovered from the initial shock of a 200-plus-pound telescope hanging from a crane at the Grand Mesa Observatory, she got to work cleaning the mirror.

“If you already have to take the mirror off the telescope, you might as well make sure it’s free of dust,” Whiting said with a laugh. “You want to take care of as many of those parts as you can while it’s up in the air.”

In 2018, the Purdy Mesa Telescope joined the Falcon Telescope Network — a worldwide grouping of telescopes overseen by the Air Force Academy’s Department of Physics. The Academy works with educational partners like CMU to help maintain and operate seven domestic sites and another four across the globe, helping to track satellites and study everything from exoplanets to eclipses. At the end of the 2023 fall semester, the telescope at the Grand Mesa Observatory received upgrades, which involved hoisting the expensive

equipment into the air while a new mount, camera and other parts were added.

Beyond the prestige of aiding the U.S. military, the modernizations will continue to provide practical opportunities for CMU students to study the cosmos. The Falcon Telescope Network unlocks the night sky not only in western Colorado but allows researchers to leverage the Air Force’s system to stargaze in the southern hemisphere with telescopes on the western and eastern coasts of Australia and another in Chile.


“You can get the entire sky in a way that’s impossible without viewing it from the southern hemisphere,” Whiting said. “Plus, when it’s daytime here, you can look in Germany. If there’s a star that has a planet transiting at a certain time, you can catch that on one of the telescopes. If the weather is bad here, but great somewhere else, there are a lot of factors like that. It’s just great to have that flexibility in terms of how you view and the type of opportunities it can create.”

Whiting added that once all the telescopes are fully upgraded

and the network is entirely built out, there will be potential for researchers to simultaneously view the same astronomical occurrence from identical telescopes in different locations, opening a whole new way to confirm and observe science in action. The different locations also help researchers — whether academics interested in planetary movements or cadets monitoring satellites — to track motion more accurately across the sky.

The upgrades come at a time when stargazing is growing in popularity at CMU. Whiting

You can get the entire sky in a way that’s impossible without viewing it from the southern hemisphere.”

is the faculty advisor of the Astronomy Club, which began in Fall 2022. The club has organized a handful of on-campus observing events, as well as backcountry trips to view the stars with less light pollution. They’ve also partnered with the Western Colorado Astronomy Club and the National Park Service for larger events, helping grow passion for astronomy in the community.

“It’s been great,” Whiting said. “We’ve had an increasing number of members and we’ve been getting a lot of community interest during things like the partial eclipse (last October). We’ve been able to bring in more people or grab students who are just walking by and hopefully get them interested in what we’re doing.” •

19 SPRING 2024
Fall Events Recap 2023 THE MAVERICK 02 14 13 08 07 01 Homecoming 02 Artober 03 Glow in the Dark Zumba 04 First Generation Cookout 05 Homecoming 06 Downtown CMU Store Opening 07 Mavericks Meet the Steaming Eagles 08 Mesa Experience 09 CMU Dance Majors 10 Homecoming 11 Gobble Wobble 5K 12 Homecoming 13 CMU Tech Signing Day 14 Theatre Department presents Dracula 15 Homecoming 16 Pride Fashion Show 09 01
03 04
16 15
06 05 05 11 10 12

o p oftheir craft

CMU Tech Culinary Arts alumni earn Michelin Award and Colorado Chef of the Year Above: Kawachi photo courtesy of Joni Schrantz Photography.

By definition, Mavericks frequently take the road less traveled, which might explain why they may be pleasantly surprised when their journey leads to the top of the world. Kelly Kawachi and Nick Winden, alumni of the Culinary Arts Program at CMU Tech, were honored late last year as the best in their chosen fields in Colorado.

Kawachi, ’10, one of the few female head butchers in the U.S., was celebrated in September as a 2023 Michelin Guide Professional Award winner. Winden, ’05, was crowned Chef of the Year by the Colorado Restaurant Association in a November 2023 ceremony. Both admit being blindsided by their awards.

“When I got that call, it almost sounded a little bit makebelieve,” said Winden, who is in his eighth year as head chef at Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails, one of the most-popular restaurants in Steamboat Springs. “In fact, I don’t think it really sunk in for any of us until we went to the awards ceremony in Denver, where we brought our whole crew, and a lot of my family.”

Kawachi said she was scanning the room in reverence of other nominees – people she admires as giants of her industry – when she heard her name announced.

“I was totally in shock. I didn’t really know how to react. I was like, ‘Wait … what? What’s going on?’” said the Hawaii native, who has been head butcher at Blackbelly Market in Boulder for almost three years. “I glanced

When I got that call, it almost sounded a little bit make-believe. In fact, I don’t think it really sunk in for any of us until we went to the awards ceremony in Denver.”

over at my boss’ wife, and she said, ‘Uh, Kelly, you need to go up there!’”

Becoming a chef might have been destiny for Winden, who was so enamored with cooking as a child that his mother bought him a crème brûlée kit – complete with a tiny torch –when he in the first grade.

“I thought it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said of the memorable gift. “She was always giving me random cooking stuff because I was really into it.”

Kawachi, a former high school runner, and an avid hiker and snowboarder, thrives on the physical nature of being a butcher. Her future was inspired in Hawaii, where she enjoyed a job cutting fish alongside her father, but began to develop a fascination with butchery after a local rancher brought in lamb rib section to be sawed down.

“That was pretty fun!” she recalls.

She also considered becoming a baker, then had an educational stint as a sous chef, before pursuing butchery.

“I learned so much about cooking as a sous chef, but it was labor-intensive – a long week, a lot of hours – and I got burned out,” she said. With encouragement from her mom, she eventually headed to Colorado and to CMU Tech.

“The culinary program was amazing and I also fell in love with Colorado. If I could go back to that time, I wouldn’t change any part of my experience there.”

Winden, who explored multiple Colorado culinary schools before enrolling at CMU Tech, has the same high praise.

“A lot of people in my industry say they didn’t get a lot out of culinary school, but I feel the complete opposite,” he said.

“The things I learned at Mesa, and what it did for my cooking career, are just irreplaceable.” •

The culinary program was amazing and I also fell in love with Colorado. If I could go back to that time, I wouldn’t change any part of my experience there.”


The Young Alumni Who's Who Award honors graduates who have distinguished themselves through a high level of accomplishment early in their career and who demonstrate a commitment to CMU through volunteering, leadership, and/or contributions.


Eligibility Criteria

• Colorado Mesa University graduates who have completed an associate, bachelor’s or higher degree and are under the age of 40

• Demonstrates career advancement

• Impacts the lives of others through their profession or other accomplishments

• Actively contributes to society and Colorado Mesa University

• Current members of the Alumni Association Board of Directors are ineligible

Nomination Process

If you have any questions about the nomination process please email us at or call 970.248.1525

All submitted nominations will be considered for three years.


SCAN TO SUBMIT NOMINATIONS AND LEARN MORE Dr. Whittney Smythe-Smith, ‘10 Bryn Loftness, ‘20 Jack Bryan, ‘15 Derek Irick, ‘19 Left: Logan Pike is a student in the Electric Lineworker Program at CMU Tech. Cover: Harrison Dico-Jekot is pursuing a mechanical engineering degree and two technical certificates in manufacturing technology and mechanics.

and doctoral degrees. While many institutions segment these offerings, CMU is elevating the trades and responding to the practical needs of businesses and the community.

Frank Cardoza is a CMU Tech Land and Safety technician that has been on the front lines of the relationship between the trades and the communities they serve, and applauded efforts by CMU to reconnect people with the services they rely on for modern life.

While there are workforce reasons to expand trade offerings at CMU, the need to reintroduce our communities to the importance of the trades is a part of why we launched Becoming CMU Tech.”

CMU President, John Marshall

“There has been a cultural disconnect between higher education and the needs of trade-related businesses and industry,” said Cardoza. “CMU Tech is the glue that will help fuse these disconnected pieces back together.”

The establishment of CMU Tech also reflects CMU’s understanding that traditional academic and emerging technical disciplines are different but that both have an equally important role to play in society.

“While there are workforce reasons to expand trade offerings at CMU, the need to reintroduce our communities to the importance of the trades is a part of why we launched Becoming CMU Tech,” said CMU President John Marshall. “There is nobility and meaning and art found in the practice of the trades. We believe when a welding certificate and a four-year degree in political science are seen as being equally valuable, then we know we are advancing our mission.”

Changing Perceptions and Elevating Trades

In a post-pandemic world, the essential nature of trades has become more apparent.

Frank Cardoza, lab and safety technician for the Manufacturing Technology program.


CMU’s effort to elevate trades like welding helps the public understand that our craft is more than just a skill set.

Amos Biocic, All Metals Welding & Fabrication Co. General Manager

Celia Myers, a student in the Welding Program, attends a stick welding class.

The specialization and efficiency of trades result in reliable infrastructure. However, natural disasters and rapid changes have shown that skills necessary to sustain life are only as strong as the people trained to maintain them. The evolution of CMU Tech communicates the importance of valuing trades — marking what CMU calls the journey of Becoming CMU Tech.

“Renaming the university’s career and technical program offerings is one thing,” said CMU Vice President for Technical Education and Workforce Development Brigitte Sündermann. “Communicating our offerings to future students and businesses, and how these sustain a strong community, is part of our mission too.”

CMU Tech challenges the narrative around trades, historically viewed as less prestigious than four-year degree professions. The institution’s focus on modern technology, industry standards and critical thinking skills are key.

Lighting Up Lives: Electric Lineworker Program

“Line working and the jobs we do leave a fingerprint in the lives of others. People see what we do, and so I want to make sure what I do each day is seen by the community as a job well done.”

Holy Cross Electric Association, Inc., organized in 1939, provides customers with affordable and reliable power throughout the Roaring Fork and Eagle River Valley in Colorado. The cooperative serves customers in some of the most remote and challenging locations in the nation, including areas at elevations exceeding 10,000 feet — making electricity delivery and reliability challenging.

Holy Cross customers know that even during the most extreme mountain winter weather they can rely on the array of electric lineworkers who are on standby to keep the lights on. The power provider dispatches riders to even the most remote locations where lineworkers, sometimes riding snowmobiles in the moonlight, restore power when it is needed most.

“For our team, late nights and difficult assignments aren’t unusual,” said Holy Cross Glenwood Line Manager James Ray. “Our lineworkers see winter maintenance and emergency calls as part of their daily duty to keep our customers safe, warm and happy.”

Beyond local reliability, CMU Tech’s electric lineworker certificate and associate of applied science degree contribute to the nation’s electric grid. When seen in its totality, the grid is an elegant and artistic feat of human ingenuity.

CMU Tech electric lineworker student Rogan Pike focuses on what he does from the perspective of how the profession allows him to create a legacy.

Pike receives financial support from Holy Cross to earn his lineworker certificate with the hope that he can go on to launch his career with the cooperative.

The Art and Science of Joining Metals: Welding Technology Program

Several All-Metals Welding employees have received training through CMU Tech’s programming, and the company has made it a point to hire the programs’ graduates. Beyond technical proficiency, welders understand their craft as an art form too. Many have signature welds and styles, contributing to public art in the community.

Harlan Mosher, an All-Metals Welding employee and instructor at what was then Mesa State College, made his mark in the 1980s and 90s. Mosher worked in the world of sculpture, fusing and molding art works that

27 SPRING 2024
In Construction, There are no limits … on what you can do, where you live, what kind of job you can get.

Keara LeBonde, Technical Instructor of Construction Technology

Technical Instructor of Construction

Electrical Jesse Harmon works with concurrent high school students.

are now dotted throughout Grand Junction. One of his most impactful pieces, “The Gatekeeper,” has a permanent place on the 24 Road roundabout outside of Canyon View Park.

Shortly after the building of the CMU University Center (UC), All Metals created the existing modern shade structures for the outdoor seating area south of the UC. The structures are strong and resilient in their design and enhance the campus’s aesthetic demonstrating that welding is both practical and artistic.

“CMU’s effort to elevate trades like welding helps the public understand that our craft is more than just a skill set,”said All Metals General Manager, Amos Biocic. “The nation was built on the shoulders of welders and tradespeople, and our contributions are immeasurable and growing.”

Building Community: Construction Technology Program

Graduates of Keara LaBonde’s construction technology classes are not only helping to build new healthcare facilities and

community centers across the Grand Valley, they’re harnessing a valuable skill they learned along the way: building connections. As an instructor of construction technology, networking and fieldbased training are both important priorities. She’s intentional about creating professional development opportunities for students through collaborations and trips to field sites to meet superintendents.

“In construction, there are no limits,” said Labonde. “There are no limits on what you can do, where you live, what kind of job you can get.”

Keeping Comfort in Every Climate: HVAC Program

For many, parking in a warm garage and walking into a comfortable home is an expectation of modern life. Those ensuring America’s homes are cool in summer and warm in winter graduate from CMU Tech’s Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Program.

Avalanche Heating, Cooling and Plumbing has operated in the Grand Valley for more than 18 years, installing thousands of heating and cooling systems.

Technical Instructor of Construction Technology

Keara LeBonde.


“Each system is unique and tailored for the building,” said Owner of Avalanche and supporter of CMU Tech’s certificate training program, Jim Ostrander. “People appreciate a home’s exterior beauty, but its internal mechanics are just as complex and elegant. Our technicians ensure one of the most taken-for-granted aspects of modern living: climate control.”

From professional services to industrial sectors, the world increasingly relies on the art of HVAC technicians and their craft of keeping people comfortable and productive.


Crafting Precision: Manufacturing/Machining Technology

CMU Tech’s Manufacturing/ Machining Technology Program highlights the precision of modern manufacturing. The program focuses on advanced machining techniques, material understanding and design — preparing students for a rapidly evolving sector. CMU Tech’s Sturm-ANB Bank Mobile Learning Lab is a facility for teaching mechatronics — a skill with far-reaching impact, including the maintenance of the modern vending machines found across campus.

Harrison Dico-Jekot is a current student and appreciates the work professionals like architects and engineers who plan and prepare projects do. He also appreciates that the certificate side of his education is a valuable addition to his skill set and credentials as he pursues a mechanical engineering degree and two technical certificates in manufacturing technology and mechanics.

“I can appreciate planning and preparing, but I am most excited about ‘doing.’ I am sketching

Zae Kothe, a mechanical engineering technology major and machining minor, attends classes at both the CMU and the CMU Tech campuses.

the big picture, building in layers and putting my work on display while also developing the practical skills needed to bring the project to life,” he said.

The Economic and Social Impact

By revaluing trades, CMU Tech contributes to a diverse workforce, which is critical for economic growth and innovation. Graduates are not just job-ready — they are equipped to be industry leaders. This shift empowers individuals and strengthens communities.

As technical skills become increasingly in demand, the importance of institutions like CMU Tech grows —shaping skilled professionals and reshape societal views on education and success. A certificate from CMU Tech is the result of a comprehensive, respected and invaluable education. •

29 SPRING 2024

December Commence

Featured Graduate

Holly Stanley

Environmental Sciences

Holly Stanley’s journey as a firstgeneration student displays courage and determination. Despite the challenges of losing both parents and navigating the foster care system, she courageously defied the odds to reach for her dreams and succeed. Her graduation is the culmination of a remarkable journey that also includes a life-altering accident. After being struck by a vehicle, she endured a traumatic brain injury, a collapsed lung, six broken ribs and a spinal cord hematoma. Her strength propelled her through a three-week stay in the hospital and six more weeks of intensive therapy to relearn the simple act of walking. Holly’s story is an embodiment of resilience and she stands as a living testament to the Human Scale University we are building, where individuals like her transform adversity into success.


JESUS Macias Moreno

Jesus Macias Moreno embodies the ideals of humility, dedication and curiosity that the CMU community values. As a first-generation student, Jesus played a crucial role as a senior resident assistant, helping fellow students adjust to college life and offering steadfast support. Simultaneously, he completed the health sciences honors program, where he studied advanced coursework and conducted meaningful research in his field. Jesus’s achievement as a health sciences honors student was groundbreaking, making him the first in years to earn this distinction. Despite the unique challenges that come with being a first-generation student, Jesus thrived at CMU, reflecting the power of courage and the pursuit of one’s dreams.

31 SPRING 2024
LPN-BSN Featured Graduate


Liban Shongolo finds

peace, passion and purpose at CMU

At only 17-years-old, Liban Shongolo arrived at CMU wide-eyed and full of determination. His journey has included many typical experiences of college life, including navigating it as a a first-generation student.

out in Somalia, many Somali Bantus fled their homes and farms, pursued by armed people of the Somali clan. According to Shongolo, the legacy and stigma of slavery made the Bantu population particularly vulnerable, and many Somali Bantus were killed, tortured and violated.

[CMU] has shaped the man I want to be for the rest of my life. I found peace, passion and purpose throughout my time here.” Liban Shongolo, CMU Student

For Shongolo, his experience as a first-generation student is the foundation for his academic journey.

“CMU does more than a great job supporting first-generation students,” Shongolo said. He also said that the university’s dedication to representing underserved students in its community left an impression on him.

Born in Somalia to Aweys Shongolo and Halima Ibrahim, Shongolo’s family immigrated to the U.S. in 2004 when he was two years old. His family is a part of the Somali Bantu people, and when civil war broke

“The ones who were able to escape walked anywhere from two to four weeks to reach the Kenyan border,” Shongolo said. “So, not only am I a minority in this nation, but I am marginalized in my birth country. In spite of this history of pain, my people are still proud, outgoing and festive people.”

After fleeing war-torn Somalia, Shongolo’s parents were looking to start afresh and take a chance at a better life. The family settled in Commerce City, Colorado, where Shongolo discovered his passion for football. The love for the game, instilled by his older brothers

Noor and Abdi, became a driving force in his life. His position as a defensive back for the CMU Mavericks is a big part of his college journey, and hasn’t stopped him from performing at an optimum academic level, remaining on the university’s Honor Roll. Above all, he continues to have gratitude for his journey.

“My time at CMU has been life changing. It has challenged me as a young man, student and athlete. It has put me in positions to grow and reach my goals faster than I would have anywhere else,” Shongolo said. “It has shaped the man I want to be for the rest of my life. I found peace, passion and purpose throughout my time here at CMU.” •

President John Marshall has a candid conversation with Liban Shongolo on the CMUnow podcast. To listen visit

Cinematic Horizons

CMU Tech Instructor of Digital Filmmaking Josh Meuwly named Grand Junction Film Commission Regional Liaison

Western Colorado’s media landscape is getting a boost with the recent appointment of CMU Tech Instructor of Digital Filmmaking Josh Meuwly as the Grand Junction Film Commission regional liaison. This collaboration between Colorado Mesa University and the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media, a subdivision of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), will help elevate the film scene of western Colorado.

With a wealth of experience in the film and media industry, Meuwly assumed this pivotal role in November 2023. The appointment underscores the region’s emerging potential as a hub for supporting film, media and television sector needs as well as ensuring collaboration across universities, the state and various stakeholders.

“Regional liaisons serve as invaluable bridges connecting the Colorado film office with local communities, resources and diverse landscapes,” said Film Commissioner Donald Zuckerman.

In his capacity as the regional liaison for western Colorado for the OEDIT, Meuwly aims to share his expertise with regional content creators, filmmakers and media professionals.

This is an exciting opportunity to foster the growth of the film and media industry in this region. together, we’ll make western Colorado a vibrant destination for film and media production.
Josh Meuwly, instructor of digital filmmaking

“This is an exciting opportunity to foster the growth of the film and media industry in this region,” Meuwly said. “I look forward to collaborating with local crews, talent and production professionals to connect our community to the wider world of cinema. Together, we’ll make western Colorado a vibrant destination for film and media production.”

The Grand Junction Film Commission will play a pivotal role in assisting filmmakers with navigating permitting, identifying locations and connecting crews and support services.

As r egional liaison, Meuwly is partnering with Downtown Grand Junction to bring various film location scouts to the Grand Valley, offering them an immersive tour of the area’s unique landscapes. He’s also spearheading discussion for the much-anticipated return of the GJ Film Festival.

As part of their commitment to the local filmmaking community, the Grand Junction Film

Commission is actively seeking to expand their roster of local crew and talent, which aligns with their mission to support and connect professionals within the region. Additionally, a special documentary production is on the horizon, presenting opportunities for CMU Tech students to get involved and gain valuable experience.

As the curtain rises on western Colorado’s burgeoning film scene and with Meuwly at the helm of the Grand Junction Film Commission, western Colorado is becoming a canvas for cinematic dreams to unfold. •


Unleashing the Power of Scent

How man’s best friend and science work to solve mysteries

In the aftermath of events like the devastating Maui fires, the use of human remains detection (HRD) dogs has garnered increased attention. These canines are trained to detect the scent of human cadavers. Their capabilities are impressive and much better than existing scent detection technology but there can be errors. Professor of Forensic Anthropology and Director of the Forensic Investigation Research Station (FIRS) Melissa Connor, PhD, is conducting research to better understand their limits, reliability and the potential to use emerging technology alongside or in place of HRD dogs.

Much of her current research at FIRS is centered on the error rates of dog-handler teams when encountering residual odors. By conducting blind tests using both scented and unscented suitcases, her study aims to shed light on the potential factors contributing to detection errors.

“We asked handlers if they would like to run through an exercise that included a suitcase because if you’ve been here for a while and follow the news, finding a body in a suitcase is something that’s happened more than once out in the desert. For this study, we took the positive suitcase that had a body last year, did not put anything new in it this year and ran the dogs through that exercise as a residual set with control suitcases to see if we could calculate some false positive and false negative numbers,” explained Connor.

In addition to her work with HRD dogs and their trainers, Connor is also collaborating with the Salk Institute’s Assistant Professor Sreekanth Chalasani to explore the intricate chemistry behind the scent of death. By placing small fiber strip “twisters” on decomposing human and animal remains Connor and her team are collecting data on the volatile organic compounds responsible for this unique odor to see if species scents can be distinguished.

This research has expanded to include various scent subjects such as human samples, soil

specimens and the suitcases employed in the HRD error rate study. Connor hopes to gain a comprehensive understanding of the composition of cadaveric odors and the potential of mechanized scent detection.

The significance of this research extends beyond the realm of academia. It has real-world implications, including potential effects on the legal system and the efficiency of search and rescue operations. In court cases where HRD dogs play a pivotal role in linking a defendant to a crime scene involving human remains, the stakes are remarkably high.

Beyond the courtroom, the research at FIRS holds the potential to contribute to the development of technology capable of replicating the scentdetection abilities of HRD dogs. This innovation could significantly enhance the efficiency of search and rescue operations. Unlike dogs, machines are not susceptible to fatigue, weather conditions or handler variations. This could make a critical difference, particularly in disaster scenarios. •

35 SPRING 2024

CMU senior and newly minted American citizen Setareh Bastani is poised to empower future students

In 2023, CMU student Setareh Bastani formally pledged her Oath of Allegiance and became a United States citizen at a ceremony held on the Colorado National Monument. This event marked not just her naturalization but the continuation of a remarkable journey.

Bastani plans to become a 4th-grade teacher after graduating this spring with a degree in elementary education. Her fluency in English and Persian will enable her to bridge cultures with her future students. Eventually, she wants to earn a master’s degree in English language learning that will allow her to empower the students she teaches for whom English is a second language.

Bastani moved to the United States as a refugee from Iran with her family when she was 10 years old. Her family lived in Colorado and Texas while she was growing up and she made the decision to move back to Colorado to attend CMU.

Bastani has worked for residence life for three years. Now in her senior year, she is working as a resident assistant (RA) where she helps to create an inclusive environment and utilizes her certification in Mental Health

First Aid for Higher Education to provide crucial support to fellow students.

CMU Director of Residence Life

Emily Bollinger has worked with Bastani for the past four years and has seen her overcome countless obstacles.

Setareh is the definition of resilience.”
Emily bollinger, Director of Residence Life

“Setareh is the definition of resilience. She has experienced hardship and challenges beyond measure. Yet, she continually bounces back and grows despite these difficulties,” said Bollinger. “I often refer to her as ‘Mama Setareh’ because she protects, cares for, leads and mentors our staff and her team of RAs.”

CMU Vice President of Student Services Jody Diers was present at the naturalization and was moved by the ceremony.

“Watching Setareh take the oath and say the pledge to the United States brought tears to my eyes. I am lucky enough to have been born an American and before me stood 39 people choosing to be Americans, Setareh among them. She is someone with whom I am honored to know and

stand beside as an American,” said Diers.

Reflecting on the journey, Bastani said, “Becoming a U.S. citizen has been a long process, but it was worth the wait. Being Persian is something I am proud of. It has influenced who I am as a person today, but the U.S. has given me the freedom to be myself without punishment.”

Bastani’s actions, from her dedicated pursuits as a student to her recent naturalization, are a testament to her love of education, her desire to empower students from all backgrounds in America, and the dignity and respect that she offers everyone she meets. •

Certificate of Citizenship.
DESIGN CMU Setareh Bastani holding her


Colorado Mesa University and STRiVE partnership expands to bring life to shared values

Colorado Mesa University has taken a significant step towards animating its newly adopted values-first strategic plan by partnering with STRiVE on a collaboration focused on people.

STRiVE, an organization dedicated to empowering those with developmental disabilities, has individuals in their program now working on campus alongside CMU’s facilities and grounds crew. This effort has added to the university’s beauty and cleaner campus while extending dignity and a sense of purpose to those in the STRiVE community.

The CMU grounds crew works closely throughout the week with four to six STRiVE members and a staff supervisor. They do various tasks involving landscape maintenance, waste management and gardening.

“The CMU STRiVE partnership has been transformational for the individuals served by STRiVE,” said STRiVE President and CEO Grant Jackson. “This opportunity is not only offering meaningful employment, but it is helping create an opportunity to build self-esteem, a strong sense of pride and belonging. The CMU community has welcomed our team with open arms and for that we are grateful.”

CMU STRiVE crew members and staff Kyle Jones, Kevin Foxx, Kevin O’Donnell and Lance Kenner.

This opportunit y is not only offering meaningful employment, but it is helping create an opportunity to build self-esteem, a strong sense of pride and belonging.

Grant Jackson, strive president and ceo

To celebrate the joint effort, CMU President John Marshall and the CMU leadership team came together with Jackson, the CMU STRiVE staff and the people they serve to acknowledge the positive impact this collaboration has had on the university and the individuals involved.

“CMU is a place where everyone is welcome, a place where each individual has value. As a Human Scale University, we’re building a model of the world we want to create,” said Marshall. “Our partnership with STRiVE allows us to further that mission by providing meaningful opportunities for people with developmental disabilities who contribute to the betterment of our community.”

By creating an environment with a strong sense of belonging and where people are valued, CMU and STRiVE are setting an example of what can be achieved

when different groups come together with a shared goal.

According to Kevin O’Donnell, CMU STRiVE’s grounds crew leader, the crew is learning teamwork, professionalism and timeliness. Recently, CMU STRiVE has begun to assist CMU’s custodial teams to conduct beautification tasks in the University Center, the heart of CMU’s main campus. The team also works in Dominguez Hall and Escalante Hall to create a clean learning environment for students and faculty.

As a thank you to CMU STRiVE, CMU’s Student Services Office and Sodexo have partnered to sponsor lunches for the crew in the Caf a few times a month.

As the partnership between CMU and STRiVE thrives, it stands as a testament to the positive impact of unity and collaboration. •

Spring 2024

Life’s GrandStages

Alumni couple

Jeremy L. Nelson and Adam Kopfman have a typical busy, non-stop life with their two very active kids. The couple met at auditions in August of 2002 when they were both music theatre majors at CMU.

“During Jeanine Howe’s first production of The Wizard of Oz ,” said Nelson. It certainly made some magic happen between the two of them and they started dating in September. “It was quite the dramatic start.”

After the two were engaged in December of 2002, they decided to exchange vows in September of 2005.

“We were tired of waiting for it (marriage) to become legal,” said Nelson.

After moving to Iowa in 2007, they were legally married in

September of 2009 by their Grand Junction minister.

While at CMU, Nelson changed his major to biology with a concentration in pre-med, which has served him well. In addition to being an emergency physician assistant (PA) for four different hospitals in Iowa, the 2006 graduate is one of six faculty in the University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine’s PA program.

Kopfman stayed in the theatre program, and before graduating in 2005, started working at a local Grand Junction bakery where he found his new passion in the confectionary arts. He now has a thriving business called Tip Top Cakes, which specializes in wedding cakes as well as pies, cakes for all occasions, cinnamon buns and, Kopfman’s personal favorite, cookies.

Nelson and Kopfman made their family complete with the adoption of newborns Gracen in 2013 and Presley in 2014. When asked about the adoption process, Nelson said it was “Amazing. Scary. All of the above,” as any new parent would tell you.

The couple strive to make family time together with yearly vacations, often to foreign countries.

They both agree that marriage is about shared life goals and interest in each other’s success.

As for the everyday, the couple say hello as they cross paths in the morning and then have an hour or so after the kids have gone to bed.

“That is, if we’re still awake,” said Nelson. •


Kuleana: Your


CMU’S Hawaii Alumni Chapter fundraises for wildfire relief

Shortly after wildfires swept through the region of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui in August 2023, claiming lives and destroying homes, members of the Hawaii Chapter of CMU’s Alumni Association gathered to determine how they could best support their community.

Past President of the Hawaii Alumni Chapter, Bronson Henriques, who is from Oahu, said that most of the approximately 100-chapter members could name at least one person who was affected and were compelled to help, continuing CMU’s long-standing relationship with Hawaii.

“In Hawaii, we have this word kuleana . It means your responsibility,” said Henriques, ’15, who is also CMU’s manager of video production, streaming distribution and photography services. “The people of Grand Junction who are from Hawaii

In Hawaii, we have this word Kuleana. It means your responsibility.

and relocated to the West Slope, they still felt the need, the responsibility, the kuleana , to do something, to take part in the efforts to rebuild, to help the families displaced.”

The result was the Mavs Malama Maui — an ongoing fundraising campaign launched in September 2023 with the goal of raising $20,000 to help those who had their lives upended by the fires. Malama is a Hawaiian word that means to care for and protect.

To date, the chapter has raised around $7,000 through a series of local events, including a cooking class held at the kitchen lab at CMU Tech and a “Move for Maui” Zumba class. Most recently, the chapter organized a Hawaiian culture night that included raffles and traditional hula dancing.

“There was great reception and folks were asking us ‘When’s the next one?’” said Henriques.

The Hawaii Alumni chapter is currently working with local musical artists in the hope of organizing a benefit concert to raise additional funds and

move closer to their $20,000 goal. The funds are destined for the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, a non-profit organization working on the ground in Maui to help the residents of Lahaina get back on their feet. The chapter has also discussed raising additional funds down the road to support an endowment for students from Hawaii created by the Ho’olokahi Polynesian Alliance, a CMU student club.

Henriques said he has been touched by the response to the Mavs Malama Maui campaign, not just by the Hawaiian population of Grand Junction, but by the broader community.

“It’s been really beautiful to see people coming together for this cause,” he said.

Bronson Henriques, Past President of CMU Alumni AssoCiation Hawaii Chapter

Celebrating the Maverick Spirit

Winners of the 2023 Spirit of Rowdy Sticker Collection competition crowned

Junior graphic design major Brenna Langfield receives the Jury Selection Award for her Spirit of Rowdy sticker design.

Colorado Mesa University’s spirit soared high as the university community participated in this year’s Spirit of Rowdy Sticker Collection competition — an initiative that calls students to portray the essence of being a Maverick through original sticker artwork. Proceeds from the stickers go into the Rowdy Performers’ Scholarship Fund.

Established by the CMU Mascot Program in 2021, the sticker collection aims to provide students with a creative platform to showcase their interpretation of the Maverick identity using stickers as a canvas. CMU

Senior Graphic Artist, Brand Manager and Mascot Program Coordinator Jeremy Smith explained the goal of the sticker collection contest is to reinforce the ethos of a Human Scale University.

“It spotlights the power of individual narratives, underscoring the value placed on every community member at CMU,” said Smith. “The initiative promotes diversity and fosters a collective identity through art.”

The Jury Selection Award was presented to the artist whose design best encapsulated the Maverick spirit. Brenna Langfield, a graphic design junior, won the award, earning a $1,000 scholarship for her sticker design Skiing Rowdy.

“The concept of being a Maverick holds great significance for me — embodying a spirit of adventure and an eagerness to embrace experiences,” said Langfield.

Before coming to CMU, she was a seasoned skier as a part of a skiing family. However, she saw the activity as an obligation rather than as a passion. When she arrived at CMU, something began to shift and she started prioritizing activities based on her own preferences and uncovering a love for skiing.

“I learned a lot about myself after coming to CMU, unveiling facets

of my identity,” she said. “Now, I am going to school for something I am passionate about, doing activities because I want to do them and spending nearly every weekend in the mountains. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my college years.”

In addition to the contest, the Mascot Program also organized the Spirit of Rowdy Public Art Show, where attendees cast votes for their favorite sticker designs. The People’s Choice Award was determined based on the popular vote. Caleb Williamson, a mechanical engineering technology student, won the People’s Choice Award for his sticker series, which was crafted with the assistance of artificial intelligence. He received an $800 scholarship.

The Rowdy Sticker Collection initiative is an ongoing project with plans for annual additions to the sticker archive, creating a compelling collection that tells the evolving story of the Maverick community

Brenna Langfield’s winning sticker, Skiing Rowdy.


Dear CMU Alumni and Friends,

As we embark on the 99th year of our beloved alma mater, it is with immense pride and excitement that I share with you the latest updates from the heart of Maverick Nation.

Our winter commencement marked a momentous occasion, as 698 students walked across the stage, proudly earning a total of 791 degrees. These new graduates join the ranks of our ever-growing alumni family, which currently stands at more than 48,000 members worldwide.

With the upcoming spring commencement, we inch closer to the remarkable milestone of 50,000 alumni –a testament to

the enduring spirit and success of Colorado Mesa University.

In a historic move, we proudly announce the renaming of Western Colorado Community College to CMU Tech, reflecting our commitment to elevating career and technical education. President John Marshall also unveiled The CMU Promise, a groundbreaking initiative set to commence in Fall 2024. This promise guarantees tuition will be covered for qualified undergraduate students hailing from 22 counties in western Colorado and three regional Ute Tribes — reaffirming our dedication to accessible and affordable higher education.

We recently honored outstanding alumni with Distinguished Alumni, Who’s Who Young Alumni and Maverick Spirit awards. As we celebrate their achievements, we invite you to nominate your fellow Mavericks for this year’s awards, ensuring that excellence continues to be recognized and celebrated within our community.

Our commitment to education extends to the High Five a Mav scholarship campaign, aiming to raise $30,000. Half of the


2 023-2024

Troy Nesheim, President

Jennifer Pacheco, President Elect

Gussie Boyd, Maverick Relations

Jerry Sheetz, Secretary/Treasurer

Dusti Reimer, Past President

Brett Armour

Deb Bailey

EmmyLou Blanco

Brandon Cummings

Tyler Dahl

Billy Diaz

Kyle Harriman

Jennifer Holdren

Dutch Jonson

Brittani Martin

Kim Raff

Heather Root

Chris Smith

Katie Sweet

Stephanie Williams

amount raised will be awarded immediately in scholarships, while the remaining will be invested into the Alumni Association’s Scholarship Endowment so that future Mavs will benefit for years to come.

As we continue to build upon our rich legacy, I am grateful for the unwavering support of our alumni. Together, let’s make this year a celebration of achievements, milestones and Maverick spirit.

Go Mavs!

Troy Nesheim, ‘12 President, Colorado Mesa University Alumni Association

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To possibly be featured in the next edition, submit photos with captions to

1) CMU Baseball Coach Chris Hanks was honored at the annual Mavs at the Rockies event for leading the most successful college baseball program in Colorado. 2) George “Skip” Gray III received the Robert H. McWilliams, Jr. Alumni Professionalism Award at University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law’s 2023 Law Stars Ceremony. 3) CMU alumni unite at the wedding of Mary Muncher, ’15, and Austin Dale, ’18, who came back to the Grand Valley from Hawaii to be wed. 4) Donna Miller and friends enjoyed the Alumni Zone VIP experience during a fall football game. 5) The CMU Alumni Board went “Back to the Future” for the 2023 Homecoming Parade. 6) Marty McFly and Doc Brown made an appearance at this year’s Homecoming Victory Dinner with staff from the CMU Foundation. 7) Alumni Board members Stephanie Williams, ’06, Heather Root, ’04, and Brandon Cummings, ’18, at the Mavs on Main Downtown Farmer’s Market.

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4 5 7 6


Old Lowell School Building, on Fifth Street and Rood Ave, housed Grand Junction Junior College.


Trevor Gunnels, BBA ‘19, MBA ‘23

As far as academic achievement and professional success, Trevor Gunnels stands as an exemplary figure whose journey is marked by determination, accolades and a commitment to the agricultural industry.

Graduating from CMU with a Bachelor in Business Administration with a concentration in management in an impressive three years, Gunnels’ academic prowess was underscored by a perfect 4.0 GPA. A recipient of

the Distinguished Scholar Scholarship and an active participant in the Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) organization and Alpha Chi National College Honor Society, his dedication extended beyond the classroom to the court as a valuable member of the CMU Men’s Volleyball Team.

Post-graduation, he pursued his MBA while working full-time at U.S. Bank. Gunnels’ career jumpstarted thanks to an internship program offered at CMU which led to a role as a credit review specialist at the bank. Having grown up in Drexel, Missouri, and with roots deeply embedded in a family-run cow/calf operation, his passion for agriculture

CIRCA 1925-1929

became a guiding force for his professional choices.

Almost three years into his tenure at U.S. Bank, he seized an opportunity to join Rabo AgriFinance, an agriculture lending institution, as a financial restructuring analyst. In his current role, he can continue to apply his knowledge and skills to analyze various financial documents and underwrite credit requests that service large agriculture providers.

Gunnels expresses unwavering gratitude for his alma mater.

“Choosing to go to CMU was the best decision I have ever made. The term Mavily is so fitting because the people I was blessed to meet at CMU, whether faculty or students, have truly become a part of my family,” said Gunnels.

He continues to thrive in his role at Rabo AgriFinance due in large part to the foundation set at CMU and his dedicated Maverick spirit. •

43 SPRING 2024


Julene Hardy Wilcock, ‘91

Julene Hardy Wilcock is a multifaceted educator and performing arts enthusiast whose career began with a bachelor’s in musical theatre in 1991 from CMU. During her undergraduate years, she graced the stage in over 20 plays, including iconic productions like Fiddler on the Roof and Gypsy

“I loved making friendships that helped me define who I am


Skip Gray, ‘65

Skip was recently recognized by the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law with the Robert H. McWilliams, Jr. Alumni Professionalism award for his broad contributions to the Colorado legal community. He practiced law for 30 years and served as the assistant city attorney for the City and County of Denver for 23 years, where he retired in 2017. Throughout his career, he devoted time to diversity and inclusiveness in the legal profession, serving as board president for the Center for Legal Inclusiveness. Skip met his wife, Jan, a fourth-generation western Coloradan, on campus in 1964. Together they have two sons, two daughters-in-law, three grandchildren and three grand dogs.

today,” Wilcock said on her theatre experience. “I learned leadership skills that I use daily in my work life.”

Following her passion, she pursued a master’s in theatre directing from the University of Idaho, concurrently obtaining her teaching credential. For 16 years, Wilcock dedicated herself to teaching middle school — shaping young minds and fostering a love for the arts.

After taking a brief hiatus to spend quality time with her newborn, Wilcock now resides in Gilbert, Arizona, where she serves as the K-6 general music teacher at Finley Farms Elementary School.


Jeff Jonasen, ‘04

Jeff is director of business development at Morgan Stanley in Colorado Springs. His team was recently added to the Forbes BestIn-State Wealth Management Teams of 2024. Jeff has been working in the investment sector since graduating from CMU and regularly attends networking and mentoring events with students at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He and his wife, Shelly, have two young boys and they enjoy spending time in the mountains as often as they can.

Paige Cadman, ‘09

After eight years of working in special events and as the marketing manager at Hilltop Community Resources in Grand Junction, Paige is returning to CMU as the director of student support services/TRIO. Prior to

“If I won the lottery, I would continue to work here,” she said. “There is so much variety, from auditioning first graders for singing parts, teaching third and fourth graders to play the ukulele, having fifth and sixth graders code robots to dance to a song, to dancing with ribbons with kindergartners.”

Last year, Wilcock was among the 500 teachers in Arizona awarded $2,500 grants through the Palo Verde Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program, proving her dedication to enriching the educational experience.

Beyond her work, she actively contributes to her church, serving in various capacities, including youth primary president, youth chorister and her current role as a counselor in the church’s women’s organization. Additionally, she plays the piano for the church choir, where her husband serves as the director.

Married to Jeff, a native Arizonan and chiropractor at a Spanish-speaking clinic, Wilcock is also a proud mother. Her 12-year-old son, inspired by her passion, recently embarked on his own theatrical journey, auditioning for his first play. •

Hilltop, Paige worked in the CMU Admissions Office where she oversaw the student ambassador program. She’s been an adjunct professor in the business department for the past eight years and plans to continue teaching her beloved business communication class. Paige is married to a fellow alumnus, Jeremiah, and they have two young children, Owen (7) and Molly (3).


TJ VanRoosendaal, ‘14

TJ has worked for Hilltop Community Resources in Grand Junction for the past five years and was recently promoted to director of community programs, where he helps administer programs ranging from parenting and fatherhood education to domestic violence therapy services. He is currently in the Mesa County Leadership Program


Jordan Stubbings, ‘22, and Mallory Alexander, ‘21, married on June 24, 2023, in Elizabeth, CO.

Dylan Varra, ‘20, and Ashlee Arline, ‘19, married on September 10, 2023, in Lakewood, CO.

Zach Wenger and Grace Wenger, ‘21, married on September 15, 2023, in Longmont, CO.

Anthony Davis and Hannah Belich, ‘19, married on October 7, 2023, in Fort Collins, CO.

Kea Akiyama, ‘17, and Joshua Van Drei married on October 9, 2023, in Kaneohe, HI.

Mary Muncher, ‘15, and Austin Dale, ‘18, married on October 13, 2023, in Palisade, CO.

Tyler Hardman and Emily Hardman, ‘21, married on November 18, 2023, in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.

Sydney Pernell, ‘21, and Trent Pernell, ‘23, married on November 25, 2023, in Sicily, Italy.


Aden Cesmat, ‘18

Aden Cesmat is a master of seizing opportunities and fostering connections. Graduating with a degree in business entrepreneurship from CMU in 2018, Cesmat embodies courage, creativity and community involvement.

During his time at CMU, Cesmat actively contributed to campus life as a CMU ambassador, extending warmth to prospective students and enhancing campus events. His serendipitous encounter with his wife during his first day on campus marked the beginning of a shared commitment to participation within the CMU community.

He is particularly proud of his role in starting the Rowdy Wranglers, along with two classmates, launching the tradition of Rowdy, the live CMU mascot, attending sporting events.

Cesmat’s entrepreneurial spirit flourished with the inception of Airfreshener Marketing, a venture that evolved from humble beginnings in his garage to a thriving enterprise operating from a commercial space. Following a pivot from a previous business

endeavor, Airfreshener Marketing found its niche, collaborating with the NFL and esteemed Fortune 500 companies. He has maintained his special relationship with CMU, evident through the production of MAV air fresheners.

A staunch advocate for his alma mater, Cesmat’s ties to CMU run deep, reflected in his commitment to hiring individuals affiliated with the university. Despite plans to relocate to the Front Range of Colorado, Cesmat remains steadfast in keeping his business anchored in Grand Junction, proving his dedication to the community that fostered his growth.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Cesmat finds solace in diverse interests, from nurturing his saltwater aquarium to embarking on a journey towards obtaining his private pilot’s license.

However, amidst his myriad of endeavors, Cesmat underscores the importance of building connections, imparting invaluable advice to current students: “Don’t forget to make connections while attending CMU. The community has some incredible people from all walks of life that may leapfrog your career if you connect with them and ask for advice.” •

45 SPRING 2024


Phoenix Mourning-Star, ‘05

Few people earn two advanced degrees, let alone six. Phoenix Mourning-Star has had a lifelong passion for education that began at CMU when he “fell in love with math.”

“Many lives were lived,” said Mourning-Star.

He dropped out of school at 15 and from age 17 to his mid-20s was skiing in the western U.S., Canada and New Zealand, trying to make the U.S. Olympic ski team. When his Olympic dreams didn’t materialize, he decided to go back to school.

Mourning-Star credits CMU Associate Professor of Mathematics Ed BonanHamada, PhD, with his transition from skiing and living in a van that doubled as his living space, to his 2005 CMU degree in math. Bonan-Hamada advised him to “Keep working on your degrees until they make you stop.”

He took that advice to heart and Mourning-Star’s educational accomplishments include a Certificate in Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics from Johns Hopkins

Bloomberg School of Public Health; a Master of Science in Statistics from the University of Vermont; a Master of Science in PublicEnvironmental Health Epidemiology from Colorado State University; a Master of Studies in Law/Master of Laws in International Law: Energy/ Environment from The University of Auckland, New Zealand; a Master of Arts in International Relations/Affairs, Science and Technology Policy from George Washington University; a Master of Business Administration in Management from Western Governors University; and a Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology/ChemicalBiological Engineering, Health and Renewable Energy from Colorado State University.

“Academia has been a training place for me,” said Mourning-Star.

Throughout the years, he has put these degrees to work in many areas — for various government agencies, as a talk radio host, an entrepreneur, and a freelance writer and researcher. Mourning-Star is also working on his highly successful Health Through Housing, a program for quality, affordable housing in Maine where he currently resides. •

through the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and is enjoying learning about the many wonderful organizations that make the grand valley great. He values the experience he gained at CMU because it’s helped him realize the power of meeting people where they are in life. TJ and his wife, Kaitlin, are the proud parents of two kids and you can often find them cheering them on at a local ballfield or court.

Kaitlin VanRoosendaal, ‘15

Kaitlin is a Grand Junction native who is proud to be helping friends and neighbors find great living options in her role as a realtor with Bray Real Estate. She started with the company as a marketing manager and then transitioned into her current role as a realtor about a year ago. She recently completed the certified real estate negotiator certification. Kaitlin is proud of completing her college degree while having her first child in her junior year and often marvels at the resiliency of young mothers. After graduation, she used the strong foundation she received in the CMU business department from professors like Dr. Bridge, Dr. Hatten and Professor Mayer to pursue work in marketing. She worked as a marketing specialist for Chick-fil-A for seven years where she received a $25,000 True Inspiration scholarship to help her complete a master’s degree. On the weekends she can be found mountain biking, skiing or at a court or field with her husband, TJ, and their two children.

Justine Roof, ‘16

Justine lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she is practicing commercial litigation law. She earned her Doctor of Law from Stetson University in 2019. She was recently recognized in the Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America 2024 edition. She is engaged to be married in April and is returning to the Grand Valley to have her wedding in Palisade. She and her fiancé run a business hosting weekend volleyball tournaments.

Kaitlin “Kricket” Burris, ‘17

Kricket recently earned a doctorate in education with a concentration in learning, design and technology from the University of Wyoming. She is a teacher and head of the



Leah Davidson, ‘15

Leah Davidson is a dynamic entrepreneur who has had an exciting journey from a student leader to a successful business owner.

Graduating from CMU in 2015 with a degree in mass communication, Davidson specialized in media strategies & applications while minoring in applied professional Spanish. Her undergraduate years were marked by active involvement in the campus community, reflecting her commitment to personal growth and campus vitality.

At CMU, Davidson served as a trip leader for the Outdoor Program, fostering teamwork and outdoor skills among students. Simultaneously, she excelled as a student orientation leader in the Admissions Office.

“Both roles I loved thoroughly because of the mentorship and life skills I received,” she said.

Davidson’s engagement extended to journalistic pursuits, contributing articles and photographs to The Criterion and Horizon Magazine.

In her senior year, Davidson assumed the role of director of external affairs in the Associated Student Government (ASG), organizing campus events like the homecoming carnival and bonfire. These

experiences laid the groundwork for her professional trajectory, which unfolded through positions at Hewlett Packard (HP) and later at the University of Delaware (UD), where she pursued her master’s in international business.

It was during her final semester at UD that Davidson’s entrepreneurial spirit truly flourished. Collaborating with her husband, she conceptualized Win Gardens Greenhouse, a family-owned venture rooted in their shared love for plants and gardening. Leveraging her academic background, Davidson developed a comprehensive business plan that secured crucial financing, propelling Win Gardens Greenhouse into existence.

Based in Fruita, Colorado, Win Gardens Greenhouse is a 43,200-square-foot ultra-modern greenhouse that offers more than 300 plant varieties, catering to both retail buyers and cultivators with adaptively grown plants. For Davidson, Win Gardens Greenhouse represents more than a business; it embodies a shared vision and a commitment to nurturing both plants and community.

“My husband and I combined his family tradition/passion for floriculture with my apt for business and passion for gardening into our greenhouse enterprise” she said. “We love building our brand, our business and our company culture as a team and enjoy doing it on the West Slope.” •

RISE program at Independence Academy Charter School in Grand Junction, Colorado.


Brooke Arrieta, ‘20

Brooke graduated in December 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. After graduating, she substitute taught in the grand valley but felt like she was being called back to CMU. In 2020, she accepted a full-time position at CMU as the executive assistant to the vice president of academic affairs. She is currently planning her wedding and will get married next June.

Tyler Cotton, ‘21

Tyler is stepping in as the head of the CMU Denver Alumni Chapter. As the lead, he hopes to build a stronger network of younger alumni on the Front Range and host more events to bring fellow Mavericks together. He is pursuing a career in aviation with the goal of earning a commercial pilot’s license.

Kennedy Muhs, ‘23

Kennedy graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, a Minor in Business Administration, and a Certificate of Personal Training in May 2023. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy at Northern Arizona University and will graduate in December 2025 where she hopes to pursue in-patient physical therapy as a career.

AnnaMarie O’Loughlin, ‘23

AnnaMarie graduated in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication. While at CMU, she performed with the dance team for four years and is now an assistant coach. She continues to run the team’s social media channels and has helped rebrand the team into a pre-professional prep/ game day program.

In Memoriam

Dale Albertson, ’54; Ruth Annis, ’51; Russell Beecham, ’47; Bruce Binkley, ’61; Florence Chandler, ’51; Aldon Curtis, ’60; Robert Cutter, ’60; Larry Fuller, ’86; Donna Garlitz, ’61; Mary Guccini, ’50; Douglas Hall, ’63; Connie Halldorson, ’67; Kathleen Hanlon, ’59;

47 SPRING 2024


As the newly appointed director of clinical services for the HopeWest Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), Tracy Barrios is committed to solving challenges the program’s participants face.

“Yes. We call them ‘participants.’ Not patients,” said Barrios.

The distinction certainly allows for a better analysis of the needs of individuals who are using end-of-life care. This program serves all of Mesa County through the HopeWest network with Barrios managing participants’ 24-hour oversight care. Weekly meetings with specialized staff teams discuss every aspect of a person’s need from diet, activity and physical therapy to occupational therapy. The PACE program is a fundamental part of keeping a family together with “all-encompassing care

to keep them at home as long as possible,” said Barrios.

Barrios came to this position from the unlikely start of studying criminal justice at CMU. After graduation, Barrios had a successful career, contracting out of Peterson AFB and traveling with Homeland Security. It wasn’t until after her marriage and the birth of her first child that she decided to pursue a career change.

“Being a mom was more important. I didn’t want to travel three weeks out of every month,” said Barrios.

She had always loved nursing and returned to CMU’s nursing program. After graduating in 2012, Barrios moved up quickly from nurse to manager to administration, while also devoting herself to her husband and family in Grand Junction.

End of life care often poses an emotional challenge to healthcare workers. Barrios finds solace and stress relief in body building. •

Paisley Grace Shuttleworth was born June 27, 2023, to proud parents Kaden Shuttleworth, ’17, and Lexi Shuttleworth, ’18.

Luna Anne Renee was born on September 1, 2023, to proud parents Carly Staidl, ‘20, and Adam Klaich.

Avonlea Grace was born September 6, 2023, to proud parents Nicole (Troester), ‘19, and Matt Allen, ‘16.

Haevyn Charlie was born October 3, 2023, to proud parents Erin (Reichle), ‘17, and Trent Earley.

Saige Kemp was born on October 24, 2023, to proud parents Chandler, ‘13, and Erica Burgon.

Sophia Lee was born on November 14, 2023, to proud parents Shane, ‘15, and Megan, ‘14, O’Neill. Cynthia Hartman, ’81; Gary Hazelhurst, ’75; Taylor Hickman, ’23; Christina Hobbs, ’70; Joshua Jay, ’12; Norma Jones, ’58; David Krogh, ’57; Erma Lopez, ’63; Kenneth McGechie, ’58; Richard Nourse, ’60; Walter Pollock ’62; Charles Rosa, ’72; Gilbert Sanchez, ’88; Linda Simpson, ’86; Andy Smith, ‘24; Teresa Smith, ’79; Bonnie Spitzer, ’58; Jack Stephens, ’57; Elvin Tufly, ’62; Colleen Wood, ‘88

Sutton Michele was born on November 22, 2023, to proud parents Alyssa (Gibbon), ‘13, and Justin Green.


Hospitality is our Destination

The force behind every human interaction

Thursday, May 2, 2024 • Noon Meyer Ballroom, University Center Colorado Mesa University, Grand Junction, CO

Phillips Armstrong Jr. Keynote speaker

Keynote speaker, Phillips Armstrong Jr, is founder and CEO of Destination Hospitality Group, which comprises some of Colorado’s most beloved and acclaimed resort market restaurants. With over 25 years of industry experience, he will share the magical moments of genuine human connection and how true hospitality is not confined to restaurants or hotels, but in every human interaction. Phillips’ message will expand on the powerful force of true customer hospitality and how now more than ever the world needs the warmth and authenticity that hospitality brings.

Visit the website for more information on how you can become an Entrepreneurship Day sponsor.



Part of the Knowledge on Tap Event Series. Proceeds benefit CMU scholarships. Details at



A free concert featuring music to be performed at the Edeta Percussion festival in Spain this summer. Details at



Join as at Coors Field in Denver for Colorado Mesa University Night to enjoy the Colorado Rockies taking on the San Francisco Giants. Details at 1100 North Avenue •

View all athletic events at View more events at 500 Main Street • Grand Junction, Colorado 970.314.7582 COME SEE US! OPEN 10AM–6PM, MONDAY–SUNDAY WE ARE EXCITED TO BE DOWNTOWN!
Grand Junction, CO 81501-3122

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