The College recognizes academic excellence with spring 2024 Dean’s Medalists

Five students holding Dean's Medalist medallions in front of Old Main.

From left: Rylee James, Maria Garcia Muñoz, Megan Nelson, Flannery Lindeman and Donavon Guhin are among The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Dean's Medalists for spring 2024. Photo by Meghan Finnerty/ASU


On May 9 and 10, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will recognize its highest-achieving students from the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences at its spring 2024 convocation ceremonies.

Each semester, departments and schools within The College select outstanding students who have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to academic excellence during their time at ASU. These students will be awarded a prestigious Dean’s Medal in honor of their scholastic achievements.

Meet the outstanding Dean’s Medalists from The College for spring 2024:

Portrait of Christina Reimche.

Christina Reimche 

Dean’s Medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

Major: Communication

Minor: Family and human development

Reimche, also a student in Barrett, The Honors College, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in communication and a minor in family and human development.

With a passion for research, Reimche works with Assistant Professor Joris Van Ouytsel on an independent study project in partnership with the Edison College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Her efforts on this project led to an invitation to present at the Western States Communication Association's Undergraduate Scholars Research Conference. Additionally, she served as a research assistant and teaching assistant for the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

Reimche was the recipient of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication Scholars Program Scholarship and received the Barnes Scholarship Endowment in Communication.

Portrait of Heather Robbins.

Heather Robbins 

Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning

Major: Geographic information systems

Robbins, who completed her degree in geographic information systems online, is currently an instruction design specialist at Barstow Community College in Barstow, California, where she supports faculty in designing, editing, researching and developing instructional materials.

Alongside Dean’s List recognition, Robbins was awarded the statewide Communication Award from the California Schools Employees Association. 

Portrait of Diana Nguyen.

Diana Nguyen

Dean’s Medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

Major: Family and human development

Minor: Early childhood education

Nguyen will be graduating this spring with her degree in family and human development and a minor in early childhood education. 

She completed a fellowship through the Sanford School during her first summer in the degree program, assisted with the APPLE Partnership studying children’s peer relationships in the classroom and worked with Sonya Xiao on her study of prosocial behavior in adolescents.

Nguyen interned at the Escalante Multi-Generational Center in Tempe, Arizona, and Joseph Zito Elementary School in Phoenix. In addition, she served as the creative director for the Asian/Asian Pacific American Students' Coalition at ASU.

After graduating, Nguyen plans to travel to expand her knowledge and understanding of other cultures. During that time, she will also work on applying to graduate programs with the ultimate goal of helping children and families to function at their best.

Portrait of Megan Nelson.

Megan Nelson

Dean’s Medal: Department of Psychology

Majors: Psychology, biological sciences (neurobiology, physiology and behavior) 

Minor: Mathematics

Certificate: Computational life sciences

Nelson, an honors student, will be graduating with a double major in psychology and biological sciences with a neurobiology, physiology and behavior concentration, a minor in mathematics and a certificate in computational life sciences.

Her ASU journey includes involvement in various research labs, two of which were the Study of Circuits in Adolescent Life (SOCIAL) Neurobiology lab and the Behavioral Neuroscience of Memory and Aging Lab, where she has worked for more than two years and been involved in research that explores the effect of cerebellar perturbation on social behavior in adolescent mice and how women’s health impacts cognitive abilities in the rat brain.

Nelson has been an active member of various campus organizations, including serving as both the vice president and president of Psychology Honor Society (Psi Chi), president of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences College Council and contributing to Ask a Biologist, an extensive collection of resources for K–12 biology education. Her many accolades include: School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research (SOLUR) Scholar award; Student of the Year in neurobiology, physiology and behavior; School of Life Sciences Outstanding Service Award; and Psychology Scholar award.

Portrait of Rachel Cox

Rachel Cox

Dean’s Medal: School of International Letters and Cultures

Majors: Spanish, psychology

Cox is graduating with two bachelor's degrees in Spanish and psychology.

Cox's academic journey includes roles such as a summer intern and then research coordinator at Stanford Medical School's Pain Relief Innovations Lab, where she investigated pain management strategies and contributed to co-authored papers. As a research assistant at ASU's Genes, Environment, and Youth Development Lab, she combined psychopathology, statistical genetics and cultural influences to study alcohol use disorder in adolescents. Cox also held an internship at the Pen Project at ASU, where she edited the creative works of inmates at the New Mexico Corrections Department.

Cox has been involved in several organizations at ASU, including being vice president of the ASU Psychology Engagement Team and participating in the Spanish Honor Society, Undergraduate Law Association and Psi Chi.

Portrait of James Starks.

James Starks

Dean’s Medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Major: Philosophy (morality, politics and law)

Starks came to ASU as a transfer student. They are now completing their bachelor's degree in philosophy with a concentration on morality, politics and law.

During their time at ASU, Starks demonstrated a knack for assisting others in expressing complex ideas comprehensively and showed a strong eagerness to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving. 

Starks was a ​​School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies writing tutor who worked with students from throughout the school. They plan to continue their education by pursuing a law degree or a graduate degree in philosophy.

Portrait of Ahmed Wali.

Ahmed Wali

Dean’s Medal: School of Social Transformation

Major: Justice studies

Minor: Civic and economic thought and leadership

Certificates: African and African American studies, socio-legal studies

Wali is graduating from the School of Social Transformation with a degree in justice studies, a minor in civic and economic thought and leadership, and certificates in African and African American studies and socio-legal studies.

While at ASU, Wali interned with CAIR Arizona, an organization with the mission to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice and empower American Muslims.

After graduating, Wali is considering law school and wants to continue doing work that aligns with his passions.

Portrait of Rylee James

Rylee James

Dean’s Medal: School of Molecular Sciences

Major: Chemistry

James represents the School of Molecular Sciences, graduating this spring with a degree in chemistry.

At ASU, she worked in Assistant Professor Christina Birkel's lab, where she supported advancements in solid-state batteries and catalysis for water splitting and nitrogen reduction reactions. Her contributions included researching high-temperature solid-state synthesis and structural analysis of layered oxides and carbides. 

James participated in the prestigious DAAD RISE program, where she conducted research at the University of Hamburg and Philipps-Universität Marburg in Germany. Her research there involved synthesizing nanoparticles for photocatalytic materials and characterizing organometallic perovskite materials.

She was also a chemistry lab teaching assistant, where she taught lab topics and safety to students.

Following graduation, she plans to embark on a mission for her church before venturing into industry or potentially pursuing a PhD.

Portrait of Tatijana Jovanović.

Tatijana Jovanović

Dean’s Medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Major: Anthropology

Minor: Art history

Jovanović is graduating with a degree in anthropology and a minor in art history.

At the Center for Archaeology and Society, she supervised student research apprentices, reviewed and cataloged artifacts and standardized archaeological collection data. At the Bioarchaeology of Nubia Expedition Laboratory, she cataloged specimens and designed inventory processes under the guidance of her advisor. She has also contributed to the Teotihuacan Research Laboratory.

Jovanović is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honors society and was selected as a student leader for the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

After graduation, she plans to pursue a graduate program in archaeology (Egyptology) in the fall of 2025.

Portrait of Gabriella Cerna.

Gabriella Cerna

Dean’s Medal: School of Life Sciences

Majors: Biochemistry, microbiology

Cerna, a first-generation college student, is an honors student receiving two degrees in biochemistry and microbiology.

Throughout her undergraduate career, Cerna has been deeply involved in research. She has contributed to research in several ASU programs, including through the SOLUR program, the Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics at the Biodesign Institute and the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering. 

In 2022, Cerna was co-captain of the ASU International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team. Under her guidance, the team successfully addressed arsenic contamination in Arizona's groundwater. This led the team to Paris for the 2022 iGEM Jamboree.

Her external research experiences included the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) program, the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology and the Transportation Research Board Minority Student Fellows Program. 

Cerna was the recipient of the 2023 Medical Microbiology Student of the Year award and the 2023 Barrett Global Explorers Grant.

Portrait of Flannery Lindeman.

Flannery Lindeman

Dean’s Medal: School of Politics and Global Studies

Majors: Global studies, history

An honors student, Lindeman is graduating with degrees in global studies and history.

During her junior year at ASU, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Italy. Lindeman also interned at MIRA NGO, a humanitarian aid organization, where she oversaw the organization and incubation of female refugee-led businesses in the EU.

She was a Phi Beta Kappa member and involved in RefServe, a nonprofit, student-run organization that focuses on helping refugees improve their English language skills.

Portrait of Adam Malaki

Adam Malaki 

Dean’s Medal: Department of Economics

Majors: Economics (politics and the economy), mathematics, innovation in society

This spring, Malaki will graduate with a degree in economics with a concentration in politics and the economy, as well as degrees in mathematics and innovation in society.

During his time at ASU, he worked as an undergraduate researcher in the department. Guided by Professor Michael Hanemann, he delved into research on the valuation of water rights in the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. He also worked with Professor Stephie Fried to explore the equality effects of heating and cooling.

Malaki held a summer internship at One Global Property Services in Singapore, where he researched and compiled data on London boroughs and local property materials.

He also served as marketing chair for the Rotaract Club and managing editor at ASU’s Economic Review, founding the university’s first peer-reviewed student economics journal.

Portrait of Coral Tachine.

Coral Tachine

Dean’s Medal: American Indian Studies

Major: American Indian studies

Minor: Film and media production

Tachine will be graduating this spring with a degree in American Indian studies and a minor in film and media production. 

Her decision to enroll at ASU was driven by the strength of its American Indian studies program. Tachine has shared that the program equipped her with ways to bring past perspectives into today’s world, enabling a deeper understanding of Earth, land and human and nonhuman relatives. 

In the future, she hopes to start a production company that supports and empowers Indigenous filmmakers.

Portrait of Chris Hoshnic

Chris Hoshnic

Dean’s Medal: Department of English

Major: English

Originally from Sweetwater, Arizona, in the Navajo Nation, Hoshnic is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English.

While completing his degree, he has taken full advantage of the opportunities offered and contributed a great deal to the department in return. He was a 2022 Writing Fellow with the Emerging Diné Writers’ Institute (EDWI), a 2023 Screenwriting Fellow with the Native American Media Alliance Writers Seminar and a 2023 UC-Berkeley Arts Research Center Poetry and the Senses Fellow. Additionally, Chris served as a translator at the Diné Bizaad for the Thousand Languages Project, under the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.

In 2023, he received the Indigenous Poets Prize award from Hayden’s Ferry Review. His writing has been featured in Yellow Medicine Review and El Portal Literary Journal. In the spring of 2024, he obtained a fellowship titled “Diné Artisans and Authors for Capacity Building Institute (DAACBI),” which supports the development of allied emerging and established creative entrepreneurs in New Mexico.

After graduation, he will be pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Portrait of Eden Smith

Eden Smith

Dean’s Medal: School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

Major: Civic and economic thought and leadership, English (creative writing)

Smith’s time at ASU reflects a passion for literature, philosophy and civic engagement, demonstrated through her double majors in English with an emphasis on creative writing and in civic and economic thought and leadership.

As part of her honors thesis, Eden crafted "More Perfect," a thought-provoking science fiction novella that explores modes of obtaining unity in a fractured United States. 

During her time as an undergraduate, Smith was a fiction editor intern for the Superstition Review literary magazine, a teaching assistant for Barrett, The Honors College and a grader for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL). She also was a member of the SCETL student assembly and outreach committee and volunteered her time to serve her local community.

Portrait of Rafael Ortiz III.

Rafael Ortiz III

Dean’s Medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration

Major: Earth and space exploration (astrophysics)

An honors student, Ortiz is graduating with a degree in earth and space exploration, with a concentration in astrophysics.  

At ASU, he worked as a research aid and builder for the James Webb Space Telescope PEARLS project, where he was one of the first people to successfully run the complex JWST NIRCam pipeline and process data for the project. His contributions to the PEARLS program have earned him co-authorship on several papers. As a 2023–24 ASU/NASA Space Grant intern, Ortiz is currently first-authoring a paper focused on a novel selection and characterization procedure of local active galactic nuclei. 

Beyond academics, he held such roles as student body senator for Barrett, The Honors College; director of student affairs for student government; ASU Space Student Ambassador; community assistant; president of the Order of Omega Leadership Honor Society; and chief of staff for the Leadership Forum. His engagement extends nationally through his participation in the NASA L’SPACE Academy, where he served as a student success advisor, mentoring students worldwide.

After some time in the workforce, Ortiz hopes to pursue a PhD in astrophysics. 

Portrait of Grace Connolly.

Grace Connolly

Dean’s Medal: Department of Physics

Major: Physics

Minor: Gender, women and sexuality studies

An honors student, Connolly pursued a degree in physics and a minor in gender, women and sexuality studies.

While in school, she engaged in research with the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), focusing on modeling focal-line expansion phenomena. As a member of the Physics Instructional Resource Team, she ensured the smooth operation of student lab courses. In an internship with the Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology, she assisted with the CompuGirls camp, which focused on teaching young girls, between eighth and 12th grades, about technology and cybersecurity.

Her contributions extend beyond the lab; in her thesis, she delves into the intricacies of physics, exploring the physics of musical instruments.

She also held leadership positions in the Sun Devil Marching Band and was vice president of membership for Kappa Kappa Psi.

Portrait of Maria Garcia Muñoz.

Maria Garcia Muñoz

Dean’s Medal: School of Transborder Studies

Majors: Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o studies (U.S. and Mexico regional immigration policy and economy), political science

Certificates: Latino politics and policy, civic education

Completing concurrent degrees in political science and transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o studies, along with certificates in Latino politics and policy and civic education, Garcia has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to her studies and community.

During her time at ASU, she was an educational organizer intern for the Aliento Education Fund, where for over a year she shared resources and leadership development presentations for students all over Arizona and assisted with the years-long Proposition 308 campaign. She was also a research analyst for the Center of Latina/os and American Politics Research.

Due to her leadership at ASU and within the community, she has received the fall 2022 The College Student Leader Award and the 2020 City of Tempe Changemaker Award.

Garica’s undergrad graduation is not the end of her academic career, as she will be completing her master’s degree in public policy next year.

Portrait of Ethan Leventhal.

Ethan Leventhal

Dean’s Medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

Major: Mathematics

Certificates: Cryptology, informatics

Leventhal excelled in his coursework and research while pursuing his degree in mathematics at ASU.

Since the beginning of 2023, he has been conducting undergraduate research as part of his thesis paper studying commutative algebra and graph theory with the computer program Macaulay2, with the guidance of ASU faculty. Leventhal has also contributed to and led projects that align with his studies and passions.

Apart from work and research, he was president of Cube Devils, the Rubik’s Cube club at ASU; a member of the Association for Women in Mathematics; and a member of the Barrett Symphonic Choir.

After graduation, Leventhal plans to pursue a PhD in algorithms, combinatorics and optimization at Georgia Tech.

Portrait of Leah Faiella

Leah Faiella

Dean’s Medal: Department of Aerospace Studies

Major: Project management

Faiella is receiving her degree in project management and is a member of ASU’s Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AFROTC). During her time at ASU, she has proven to be a valuable mentor, offering guidance to both underclassmen cadets and colleagues alike, leveraging her extensive prior experience as an enlisted service member.

Currently serving as the detachment cadet wing commander, she in charge of all training and operations during leadership laboratory and physical training for nine flights. Under Faiella’s leadership, the AFROTC Detachment 025 has earned multiple awards, including the AFROTC Best Large Detachment award. Before this role, she helped cadets adjust to college life and maintain a positive culture in the wing in her position as cadet inspector general. 

Outside of the program, Faiella served in a leadership position of a student-led volunteer organization, managing an eight-member team to plan fundraising and volunteer events. In this position, she connected students to multiple causes and communities in the local area and simultaneously made these opportunities available to the entire 25th Cadet Wing.

Upon commissioning, she will serve as a logistics readiness officer.

Portrait of Donavon Guhin.

Donavon Guhin

Dean’s Medal: Department of Naval Science

Major: Mathematics

Minor: Military sciences

Guhin is a member of ASU’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) and pursued a degree in mathematics and a minor in military sciences.

According to faculty, Donavon exhibited exceptional organizational skills, inspired his peers and upheld values of duty and service during his time at ASU. Under his leadership, the NROTC program thrived, leaving a lasting impact.

After graduating, he will be earning a commission as a student naval aviator in the United States Navy.

Portrait of Phillip Jansson.

Phillip Jansson 

Dean’s Medal: Department of Military Science

Major: Project management

Jansson joined the ASU’s Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (Army ROTC) in 2022 and now is representing the program as he graduates this spring with a degree in project management. 

In Phillip's senior year, he was selected to serve as the cadet battalion executive officer, holding the responsibility of coordinating and supervising the cadet battalion staff. He also serves as a human resources specialist in the U.S. Army.

Upon receiving his commission, Phillip will become a second lieutenant and will work as a proud member of the Adjutant General Corps on active duty.

Lauren Whitby contributed to this story. Photos by Meghan Finnerty/ASU

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