POWELL, Wyo. - Nearly 200 students who participate in Northwest College's Commencement Exercises Saturday, May 15, will hear from a pediatric brain development researcher who receives the college's 2010 Distinguished Alumna Award, a graduating sophomore and an honored faculty member.
Featured speakers are 1997 alumna Carol Cheatham, sophomore Chantal Bohlaender and Dennis Davis, recipient of the 2009 Distinguished Faculty Award. The ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. in Cabre Gym in Powell.
NWC's 2010 Distinguished Alumna has made her mark in the field of child psychology, nutrition and pediatric brain development.
A Greybull High School graduate, Cheatham attended Northwest from 1995-97 as a nontraditional-aged student. She blazed through academic course work-an associate of arts at NWC, bachelor of science in psychology at the University of Wyoming and master's and doctoral degrees in child psychology at the University of Minnesota-with a sterling 4.0 grade point average.
Currently an assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Cheatham is a lead researcher in the university's Nutrition Research Institute. An internationally-known expert in the field of nutrition and pediatric brain development, Cheatham's work focuses on how nutrition can improve children's brain performance. She's published research on memory recall in pre-term infants, the role of fatty acids on neonatal brains and how stress impacts brain development.
Before her move to North Carolina, she was an assistant research professor in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at the Kansas University Medical Center, an adjunct research associate at the University of Kansas' Schiefelbusch Life Span Institute and a research associate at the Kansas University Medical Center.
"I'm honored beyond belief," Cheatham said of her selection for NWC's Distinguished Alumna Award. "I have always believed that the only way that I got to where I am was because of NWC. If I had not had such an intimate, friendly campus on which to break back into the world, I would definitely have struggled more."
A nontraditional-aged student while at Northwest, she said the college made it easy for her to restart her education and "never judged me for the 20 years that I had taken off. Even the traditional students made me feel welcome-some of whom are friends to this day."
While at NWC, Cheatham took a variety of general education courses, including "every psych class, sociology, anthropology, interpersonal communication, English, PE (bowling comes to mind-I sprained my thumb!), calculus, trig, biology, etc."
She may be among few in her 1997 class who can say they truly loved calculus.
"I loved, loved, loved calculus," she said. "I have always wished that I would have gone off of the recommended course list and taken a few semesters more of high-end mathematics-at least differential equations would have been fun."
All Cheatham's Northwest instructors were memorable, she added.
"I still recall things that each and every one of them said to me," she said. "They all made a difference in my life."
She's earned a host of honors in her field, including two awards from the International Society for Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. She's authored dozens of publications and been invited to address nearly 20 groups.
She is the daughter of Caroline M. Cheatham of Greybull.
Bohlaender, a graduating sophomore from Jordan, Mont., was chosen to speak on behalf of the student body.
An elementary education student with a passion for reading, she intends to enroll at Valley City State University in North Dakota next year to complete a bachelor's degree, much of which she hopes to accomplish online from her home in Jordan.
Honored faculty member
Selected by his peers for the 2009 Distinguished Faculty Award, Davis single-handedly engineered expansion of NWC's Journalism and Mass Communication program.
Thanks to Davis, the college's traditional print-journalism program was augmented to incorporate Webcasting and NWC-TV, a television station featuring student-produced programming seen throughout the Big Horn Basin. In addition, Davis recently secured approval to launch a non-commercial FM radio station at the college, which will supplement students' learning and career opportunities.
An assistant professor of journalism/mass communication, Davis holds two bachelor's degrees from the University of Wyoming and a master's degree from Capella University.