14 LAS alumni, students receive Iowa State Alumni Association awards

CATEGORIES: Alumni, News
Three people, a while woman with blonde hair, a black woman with short blonde hair and a black man stand smiling at the camera. The woman in the middle holds an award.
Dr. DeRionne Pollard receives her 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award on April 26, 2019.

Thirteen alumni and one student from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences have been selected to receive awards by the Iowa State University Alumni Association.

2019 Iowa STATEment Makers

The Iowa ‘STATEment Makers’ award recognizes the early personal and professional accomplishments and contributions of Iowa State University’s young alumni (graduates 34 years of age and younger). Recipients have made impacts in their own lives, the lives of others, their communities, and/or their professions through ambitious efforts that reflect the scholarly, entrepreneurial, or service-oriented spirit of an Iowa State University education.

Majd Abdulghani

Majd Abdulghani (MS ’18 genetics, development & cell biology) is the first citizen from Saudi Arabia to win the Rhodes Scholarship. Abdulghani is a research assistant at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Michigan. She considers herself a scholar and an activist. Along with earning the Rhodes Scholarship, Abdulghani’s radio diary, “Majd’s Diary: Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl” won the 2017 Best Documentary: Silver Award, at the Third Coast International Audio Festival.



Guor Maker

Guor Maker (’11 chemistry), two-time Olympic marathoner, carried the South Sudan flag into the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Maker, a former slave and refugee, was born in war-torn Sudan. He has lost eight of his nine siblings and has overcome many challenges throughout his journey. Maker hopes to compete in the 2020 Olympics, and is currently an Airman 1st Class and dental assistant in technical training with the U.S. Air Force.




Eric Hare

Eric Hare (MS ’14 statistics, Ph.D. ’17) created the software program BulletMatcher. The program infuses science into the process of determining if two bullets were fired from the same gun. Hare began developing the program at Iowa State through research at the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence with support from the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship’s CYstarters program.




Woman with brown hair in a red sweater smiling at the camera.

Elaine Godfrey

Elaine Godfrey (’15 journalism and mass communications and environmental studies) is the namesake of one of the Lake LaVerne swans, and  is one of the nation’s top political journalists, at the age of 25. She is currently a reporter at The Atlantic, where she writes daily on politics and the 2020 democratic presidential primaries. Since 2016, she has authored the “Politics & Policy Daily,” an evening newsletter with more than 100,000 subscribers.




Kelsey Kelley

Kelsey Kelley (’10 political science & international studies) was recognized by “Minnesota Lawyer” as an up-and-coming attorney.   She is a felony prosecutor who represents the State of Minnesota as an assistant attorney of Anoka County. She has represented the state in more than 40 cases at the Minnesota Court of Appeals and is one of the youngest lawyers ever to give oral argument at the Minnesota Supreme Court.




Man with glasses holding smiling baby

Kevin Marquardt

Kevin Marquardt (’11 psychology & environmental studies) is the manager of federal policy at CenterPoint Energy, Inc., but his passion for policy dates back to his time as a student atowa State where he developed campus recycling and waste management policies. Prior to his current position, he earned his master’s degree from the University of Minnesota andinterned for U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. He also founded and serves as president of the Twin Cities chapter of Young Professionals in Energy and is a board member of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Minnesota.



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Leng Vong Reiff

Leng Vong Reiff (’07 art &design; advertising) has realized her dream of running her own business. An award-winning marketer and designer, Vong Reiff has multiple businesses in Greater Des Moines: Akili Design & Marketing Services and Agora Events Center. Her client list includes the City of Des Moines, and her marketing firm has been recognized three years in a row by “Cityview” as one of the best in Des Moines. She also teaches digital marketing seminars at many business conferences, such as the Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit.



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Michelle Schott

Michelle Schott (’12 Spanish) leads the program “Juntos: Together for a Better Education” at Iowa State University Extension, Polk County. The program empowers Latino youth, bringing them together with parents, school staff and community partners to promote academic success and to explore paths to higher education. Schott coordinates events to help families understand and navigate the U.S. education system – as a result,  134 parents and 128 youth have graduated from Juntos during her time leading the program.



See more about the 2019 STATEment Maker recipients. 

Distinguished Alumni Award

Established in 1961, the Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor given to alumni by Iowa State University through the ISU Alumni Association. The award honors ISU alumni who are nationally and/or internationally recognized for preeminent contributions to their professions or life’s work.

Portrait-style headshot of DeRionne P. PollardDeRionne Pollard

DeRionne Pollard is a visionary national leader in higher education who is committed to academic opportunity for all. President of the three-campus Montgomery College in Maryland since 2010, Pollard was one of seven college presidents nationally to be honored in 2017 with the Carnegie Corporation’s Academic Leadership Award for educators.

The award is presented to leaders who demonstrate outstanding creativity, commitment to excellence and equal opportunity, international engagement and strong ties to the local community. Under Pollard’s leadership, Montgomery College has increased its graduation and transfer rates; a 1,700-member coaching program has been created to provide disadvantaged high school students with a pathway to a college degree; and grant-funded research at the community college system has tripled.

A member of the board of directors for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and president of the Association for Women in Community Colleges, Pollard has served on the prestigious AACC 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, as well as the AACC Commission on Academic, Student and Community Development.

In addition to two degrees from Iowa State, Pollard earned a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from Loyola University in her hometown of Chicago. She is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., in which she remains active in the Gamma Alpha Eta Zeta Chapter in Montgomery County, MD, and is also an active member of the Silver Spring, Maryland chapter of The Links, Inc.

Among Pollard’s previous honors are the ISU Alumni Association’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award, the AACC’s Emerging Leadership Award, the White House Champion of Change award, Loyola University’s Damien Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s Visionary Award and recognition as one of Washingtonian Magazine’s “100 most influential women in Washington, D.C.”

Pollard and her spouse, Robyn A. Jones (’93 housing and the near environment, MS ’95) are the parents of Myles Julian Pollard-Jones. They are ISU Alumni Association life members.

Headshot of Johnathan D. Rich
Johnathan D. Rich

Jonathan D. Rich

Dr. Rich’s unique fusion of executive leadership skills and scientific ingenuity have earned him four decades of success as a corporate leader, creative innovator and industry-changing inventor.

A chemist by training, Dr. Rich has 26 United States Patents and spent his formative years as a scientist and manager at General Electric. He subsequently joined Goodyear Tire and Rubber company, first as President of the chemical division and later as President of Goodyear’s North American tire division.

Dr. Rich retired in February 2018 as chairman and CEO of Berry Global Inc., a Fortune 500 global manufacturer of plastic packaging for food, pharmaceutical, healthcare and industrial applications. Under his leadership, the company earned net sales of $6.5 billion in 2016 and became a public company in 2012 with shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

His expertise led him to the halls of Congress where he testified before the United States House Committee on Research and Technology and advocated for a national strategic manufacturing plan and increases in public research funding.

He currently serves on the board of directors for PLZ Aeroscience, a portfolio company of Pritzker Private Capital and is an advisor to Apollo Global Management in New York City.  Since 2017 Dr. Rich has been a visiting lecturer at the Johnson/Dyson School of Business at Cornell University.

“The foundation of my business career was the outstanding education that I received at Iowa State University,” said Rich. “I am very grateful to the Alumni Association and the administration at Iowa State for this tremendous honor.”

This story originally appeared on LAS News

Wallace E. Barron All-University Senior Award

The Wallace E. Barron All University Senior Award was established in 1968 to recognize outstanding seniors who display high character, outstanding achievement in academics and university/community activities and promise for continuing these exemplary qualities as alumni.

Benjamin Dralle


Ben Dralle (’19 nutritional science & genetics) has spent his time at Iowa State learning about human nutrition and genetics while working with the ISU Department of Residence as a community adviser. Dralle also has a passion for helping and educating others, and was a fellow for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, working on childhood obesity prevention. Among his many accomplishments, Dralle was one of only 16 U.S. students chosen to participate in an elite cancer research internship program at the University of Minnesota in 2016.


Joi Latson

Joi Latson (’18 global resource systems & Spanish) has the passion and desire to advocate for global change. Latson was highly recognized as a student at Iowa State as a George Washington Carver Academy Scholar.  She received many awards from the Program for Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Department of Global Resource Systems. She has been heavily involved with many organizations on campus, including (but not limited to): WiSE peer mentoring, Student Government, Department of World Languages & Cultures Ambassador, First-Year Honors, University Honors, Womxn of Colour Network. In 2015-2016, Latson was a National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) scholar.



See more about the Wallace E. Barron All-University Senior Award winners.

Faculty-Staff and Inspiration

The Faculty-Staff Inspiration Award was established in 2011 as a way for former ISU students to recognize current or former Iowa State faculty or staff members who had a significant influence on their lives while they were students at Iowa State.

Barb Licklider

Barb Licklider (’74 zoology, MS ’81 educational administration, PhD ’86 educational administration) has served on the faculty in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies since 1990. University Professor Emerita, Licklider has served as an assistant professor, associate professor, professor, University Professor, director of education student services, Ph.D. program coordinator, and faculty athletics representative. According to one of her nominators, “Her people-first philosophy is constantly demonstrated through looking inward to define what is important to us and to find purpose in all that we do.”



Nancy Osborn Johnsen

Nancy Osborn Johnsen (’68 anthropology, MS ’76 anthropology) retired in 2015 after her 42-year career as an academic adviser, lecturer and researcher in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Prior to her retirement, she worked with students who were struggling academically. She also assisted students who were academically dismissed and helped them to find a pathway to reinstatement. . In addition, Johnsen advised undergraduates under open or special student options. A nominator said, “Over the years Nancy had ample opportunities to impact the lives of Iowa State community members, and she full took advantage of those opportunities.”



See more about the Faculty-Staff Inspiration Award recipients.