VANCOUVER, Wash. — Washington State University Vancouver will present its 2018 awards for research, student achievement, service to WSU Vancouver, and teaching at this year’s commencement ceremony on May 5. Chancellor Mel Netzhammer will present medallions to the following:

  • Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence—Cheryl Schultz, associate professor of biological sciences
  • Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement—Navaraj “Raj” Lamichhane, graduating senior in business administration with a Professional Sales Certificate
  • Chancellor’s Award for Service to WSU Vancouver—Steve Horenstein, founder and managing member, Horenstein Law Group, and chair of the campus Advisory Council
  • Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence—Dale Fortin, research assistant professor, integrative physiology and neuroscience

Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence

Each year, WSU Vancouver gives its highest research honor to recognize a faculty member’s exemplary research quality and quantity as well as positive influence on the broader community.

This year’s awardee is Cheryl Schultz, associate professor of biological sciences, whose environmental research is helping to protect at-risk species through improved conservation practices. Schultz, head of WSU Vancouver’s Conservation Biology research group, focuses on butterflies as a model system for endangered species. She explores the ecology of at-risk populations and how to translate scientific knowledge into on-the-ground practices that protect the environment while enabling those who live in a place to use its resources.

In 2017, Schultz and her frequent collaborator, Elizabeth Crone of Tufts University, published a study that documented the rapid decline of western monarchs and made worldwide headlines. Her main focus, however, is not so much to assess risks but to be part of the solution, and her studies have generated much hopeful news.

Several nature reserves adopting study recommendations have made great strides in restoring land for butterfly habitat, reducing weeds and enhancing nectar resources. Schultz and Crone are currently studying the viability of various species on Department of Defense lands. The research will lead to activities designed expressly to improve land stewardship.

“I want to leave people with a sense of the possible,” Schultz said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but we can do this.”

Schultz joined WSU Vancouver in spring 2003. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental studies at Bowdoin College in Maine, and her Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Washington.

Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement

The student achievement award annually recognizes one student’s love of learning, persistence to overcome barriers in pursuit of academic goals, leadership potential and involvement in campus life.

When Raj Lamichhane started college as a transfer student at WSU Vancouver in January 2016, he lost no time making his mark on campus. To pay for college, he pursued scholarships, grants and campus work opportunities. He was secretary of the student senate in 2016/17 and is currently a Student Ambassador and Student Affairs intern. He served as president of the International Students Association, volunteered with the Student Diversity Center, and helped bring Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights, to the campus.

Orphaned at a young age, Lamichhane grew up at Bright Horizon Children’s Home School and completed high school and two years of college in Nepal. Beverly Questad, an English teacher from Vancouver who was volunteering in Nepal, helped him come to the United States to continue his education.

Lamichhane has distinguished himself not only with service and hard work but with his ability to articulate his goals and enlist people to help in the cause. A natural leader, he is unafraid to be proud of his accomplishments and humble enough to recognize the role of “luck and miracles” in his success.

Lamichhane hopes to use his new degree in business administration to work in the renewable energy field and ultimately to improve the quality of life in his home country, Nepal.

Chancellor’s Award for Service to WSU Vancouver

Given periodically, the award for service recognizes selfless dedication and commitment to the WSU Vancouver community.

Decades ago, Vancouver native and attorney Steve Horenstein recognized the need for access to higher education in Southwest Washington and helped bring it to fruition through WSU Vancouver. Since then, he has remained a powerful advocate for the university, serving as a member of the WSU Vancouver Advisory Council since 1995 and chair since 2004. He has donated and raised money for scholarships and helped strengthen ties between the university and the community.

The list of his contributions goes on: enlisting community support for expansion of educational offerings, including transition to a full-service, four-year university and graduate school; garnering support for new construction; supporting collaboration between local schools, the high-tech industry and WSU Vancouver; and, of course, being an enthusiastic attendee at campus events. Beyond the campus, he helped start several civic and business institutions, including the Columbia River Economic Development Council, and has served on several nonprofit boards.

Horenstein, founder and managing member of Horenstein Law Group in Vancouver, lends his expertise as a speaker to help students and the community understand the intricacies of business, real estate, land use and government relations. He holds a law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland.

Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence

Students honor a faculty member each year with the teaching excellence award. The award recognizes exceptional dedication to students and infectious enthusiasm for the subject matter.

Dale Fortin’s students say he makes learning fun. That’s high praise for such a complex subject—neuroscience—but Fortin hopes his students will become as passionate as he is about it.

In Fortin’s classes, passion goes hand in hand with a spirit of inquiry. He focuses on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. He encourages questions, discussions and interaction. His students say he inspires them to work hard and learn more than they ever expected. He also participates in neuroscience outreach enabling WSU Vancouver students to share science with the community.

Fortin helps budding scientists gain the confidence to pursue challenging research. He speaks frankly of errors he has made in his own experiments, to show that sometimes assumptions are wrong and, while disappointing, can lead to new opportunities. He wants students to understand what went wrong, set aside their frustrations and move forward.

In addition to teaching at WSU Vancouver, Fortin is a senior research associate at the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health & Science University. His students have opportunities to visit the labs of practicing scientists to get a taste of what a research career is like.

Fortin earned a bachelor’s degree at Plymouth (N.H.) State College, a master’s degree at Springfield College in Massachusetts, and a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut.

Commencement details

Commencement will be held at 1 p.m. May 5 at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater located at 17200 NE Delfel Road, Ridgefield, WA 98642. The event is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.