UNM-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) students Annika Vestrand and Aaron Waller were recognized during the State Legislative Session in Santa Fe as members of the 2019 Phi Theta Kappa New Mexico All-State Community College Academic Team. The competition recognizes up to two students from each community college in the state for their academic achievements. 

The students were introduced to both the House and the Senate sub-committees on education, then were honored with a recognition ceremony. Vestrand and Waller each received a medallionand a certificate of recognition for their academic accomplishments. They had the opportunity to witness the proclamation of Community College Day presented by Kate O’Neill, Secretary of Higher Education.Vestrand and Waller were informed of scholarship programs for PTK All State team members that exist at New Mexico colleges for completion of Bachelor’s degrees.

Recognition Ceremony
UNM-LA students Annika Vestrand and Aaron Waller, members of 2019 Phi Theta Kappa New Mexico All-State Community College Academic Team, meet State Representative Christine Chandler during the Legislative session.

Accompanied by UNM-LA CEO Cindy Rooney, Dean of Instruction Sharon Hurley, and Director of Student Affairs Kathryn Vigil, Vestrand and Waller also had the opportunity to meet Representative Christine Chandler.

Vestrand will complete an AS in Science, then she plans to pursue a BS in Physics and also in Biology at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, with the ultimate goal of earning a Ph.D. that combines Biology with Physics. Outside of classes, Vestrand volunteers as a tutor in the Academic Support Center, supporting other students in science studies. She is active in the Student Government at UNM-LA, and serves as a student ambassador on campus. Vestrand has been as an officer for Beta Zeta Chi,the UNM-LA chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society.

Waller, a 2017 graduate of Los Alamos High School, is taking Liberal Arts coursesat UNM-LA, and plans to transfer to New Mexico State University in Las Cruces to pursue a BS in Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. He plans to complete a Ph.D. and focus his work on immunology. In addition to his academic work, Waller also interns with Cindy Budge at Specifica, Inc. He is currently the facilitator for Beta Zeta Chi.

Maryjane Giesler, an advisor for PTK at UNM-LA, commented, "Being nominated to the all-state Academic Team is an exceptional honor. This puts Aaron and Annika in the running for national scholarships offered by Phi Theta Kappa and acknowledges their hard work and dedication to academic pursuits.” 

Phi Theta Kappa annually conducts a national community college student achievement competition, the All-USA Academic Team for Community Colleges. To qualify for New Mexico’s All-State Team, community college students have to maintain a grade point average of 3.5 or better, demonstrates leadership skills and participate in community service. 

UNM-Los Alamos is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable comprehensive branch community college that provides foundations for transfer, leading-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities. More information about UNM-LA is available at losalamos.unm.edu.