2010 Young Alumni Award Recipients

The Albion College Alumni Association Board of Directors presented the first annual Young Alumni Awards: Top 10 in '10 during ceremonies on Friday, April 23, 2010. These awards recognize Albion College graduates from the last ten years with notable endeavors in the areas of career achievement, continued education, community service, and/or commitment to their alma mater. The event honoring graduates from 2000-09 was held in conjunction with the Elkin R. Isaac Student Research Symposium.

Top 10 in 2010 Young Alumni Award Recipients:

Nate Sowa '03Nate Sowa '03 Chapel Hill, NC
M.D. candidate, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Albion major: Biology

Sowa did both undergraduate and graduate research with the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda before beginning a combined Ph.D./M.D. program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sowa finished in the top two of his medical school class during the pre-clinical years, earning the David R. Clemmons and Francis S. Collins Loyalty Fund Merit Scholarship. Simultaneously completing a doctoral thesis in neurobiology, Sowa studied nervous system proteins that might transform chronic pain therapy. His discoveries led to the publication of four papers, including a cover feature in the prestigious journal Neuron. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provided Sowa with a fellowship to fund his dissertation research and two full years of his medical school education. In addition, he won a University of North Carolina Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Award, and has been nominated for the Linda Dykstra Distinguished Dissertation Award. More importantly, Sowa's work has led to further collaborations with researchers and pharmaceutical companies to develop his findings into safe drugs for the treatment of pain. Sowa is spending the spring of 2010 doing AIDS research in Africa.

Allison Beers '01 Allison Beers '01 Traverse City, MI
Owner, Events North, Traverse City, Mich.
Albion majors: English and Speech Communication

Beers worked in events management in Philadelphia and taught events management certification classes at Temple University before founding Traverse City-based Events North, an events management company specializing in corporate, nonprofit, and social events and meetings. She was named one of the "40 Most Influential People Under 40" in the Grand Traverse region by the Traverse City Business News in 2008 and 2009. Events North was nominated for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, and Beers is a finalist for Michigan Meeting & Events Magazine's Best Meeting/Event Planner award. Beers teaches events management courses at Northwestern Michigan College, covering legal and insurance issues along with industry resources and trends involving diet, nutrition and event planning. She sits on the board of directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Michigan, and volunteers with Traverse City organizations including the Women's Resource Center, Chamber of Commerce, Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival. She is a contributing writer for Meetings & Events.

 

Yukiko Tanaka '02 Yukiko Tanaka '02 New York, NY
Musician/Concert Pianist, New York, N.Y.
Albion major: Music

Tanaka's current career as an orchestral soloist, chamber ensemble member and accompanist was jump-started with her 2005 win in the 33rd Artist International Audition and subsequent sold-out, critically-acclaimed Carnegie Hall debut. She has performed in Canada, Spain, Japan, and in many venues across the U.S. She released her first CD, Yukiko Plays Mozart, Ravel, Albeniz and Granados, in 2007. Tanaka is also on the piano faculty of Long Island University and is music director at St, John’s Episcopal Church in Union City, N.J. She frequently volunteers her talents at libraries, retirement homes, hospitals, churches, and public schools, for educational and philanthropic functions. With a great interest in the classical piano music of Spain and South America, she travels a few times each year to the Academia Marshall-Granados in Barcelona to study and has met and worked with composers from South America. Tanaka holds a master's degree in music and piano performance from City University of New York Brooklyn College where she studied with German Diez.

 

Sam Hogg '05Sam Hogg '05 East Lansing, MI
Founder and CEO, GiftZip.com, Lansing, Mich.; Market Specialist, NextEnergy, Detroit, Mich.
Albion major: Political Science

A graduate of the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University, Hogg coordinated LEED certification for Albion's Science Complex as an employee with Christman Company. He has also worked for Vail Resorts as an associate environmental manager and the MSU Foundation commercializing university research. A graduate class challenge to create a business around efficiency and sustainability led Hogg to launch GiftZip.com, a virtual gift card kiosk in November 2008. He and GiftZip.com were Michigan Business Review’s “Most Innovative Business” in 2009 and were runner-up “Best New Business Idea” in the 2009 Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest competition. Hogg was featured in the November 2009 and April 2010 issues of Entrepreneur Magazine. Hogg helped establish a $20,000 endowed scholarship for Albion's Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

Levi Straight '04Levi Straight '04 Baltimore, MD
Math Department Chair and Math Instructional Support Teacher, Northwestern High School, Baltimore, Md.
Albion major: Mathematics

A high school educator in Baltimore City Public Schools since graduating from Albion, Straight has worked tirelessly with teachers and students to raise test scores, graduation rates and math skills of his students. Beyond the classroom, Straight coaches varsity baseball and junior varsity and varsity football. Further, he has served as class chairman, organized proms and school events, accepted vacant coaching positions for girls’ soccer and swimming and worked nights and weekends tutoring students. Straight is a regional trainer for Texas Instruments. He was chosen by his peers to receive the Reginald F. Lewis Outstanding Mathematics Teacher Award in addition to being named W.E.B. Dubois High School Teacher of the Year for 2005–2006.

Ligia Paina '05Ligia Paina '05 Washington, DC
Doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.
Albion major: International Studies

In 2007, while working on her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, Paina participated in the Albert Schweitzer Fellows Program working on immigrant and refugee health care needs. As a doctoral student, she has a research assistantship, assessing U.S. National Institutes of Health training programs for researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Paina previously spent two years traveling around the world for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), assisting local health care providers in bringing better care to their communities. USAID granted her their Exemplary Achievement Award for her contributions to the Global Health Bureau and for her involvement in the Health Systems 20/20 Project. Paina also previously served the French Ministry of Education Academy of Orleans-Tours in Lucé, France as an English language assistant.

Catherine Fontana '08Catherine Fontana '08 New Haven, CT
Doctoral student, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New Haven, Conn.
Albion majors: English and Biology

As a 2008 George Mitchell scholar, Fontana received her master’s degree in environmental science from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. In her first semester of graduate school, she developed and coined a new theory in microbial ecology – "climate history" – which suggests that microbes' basic and survival mechanisms were strongly influenced by exposure to different climates and that these influences can still be detected today. The Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies is currently funding this research, and Fontana also holds a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Fontana tutors at New Haven Reads, an afterschool homework help and literacy non-profit organization, and at Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. She is a volunteer and docent-in-training at the Yale Peabody Museum which recently hosted an exhibit of Fontana's current climate history work. A former Mortar Board president at Albion, she is working with Louisiana Mortar Board Chapters, particularly at Tulane University, to organize a book drive for the Andrew H. Wilson School in New Orleans, reopened in January 2010 with the help of the US-Ireland Alliance and the 2001-2009 classes of George J. Mitchell scholars.

 

Anna Gladstone '06Anna Gladstone '06 Grosse Pointe, MI
D.O. candidate, Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, East Lansing, Mich.
Albion majors: Biology and Art

Despite losing part of her leg shortly after graduating from Albion College, Gladstone has demonstrated an ability not simply to achieve, but excel, in the rigorous challenge of medical school. She currently serves as the Class of 2012 president of the American Holistic Medical Association chapter at Michigan State University, and is active in the Undergraduate Academy of American Osteopathy. Also a committed volunteer, Gladstone works with medical mission trips and community medicine clinics, and has participated in domestic and international service trips as both a participant and a leader/counselor. Gladstone is the daughter of the late Joe Stroud, former Detroit Free Press editor and director of the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Public Policy.

Nicholas Whitney '00Nicholas Whitney '00 Bradenton, FL
Postdoctoral Scientist, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, Fla.
Albion major: Biology

Whitney's current research uses accelerometers (the same technology used in iPods and the Nintendo Wii) to study fine-scale behaviors in sharks, and has expanded his work to include sea turtles and Burmese pythons. Now in his second decade of shark research, Whitney has been awarded more than 15 competitive research grants totaling nearly $200,000. His work has appeared in many scientific and popular publications including Hawaii Skin Diver, Endangered Species Research, Environmental Conservation and the Marine Ecology Progress Series. A recipient of master's and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Whitney has authored seven peer-reviewed scientific papers and presents research at national conferences.

James Gignac '01James Gignac '01 Chicago, IL
Midwest Director, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, Chicago, Ill.
Albion majors: History and Political Science

In his work with the Sierra Club, Gignac helps coordinate and manage the Beyond Coal campaign’s legal, organizing, and communications activities across a fourteen-state region. Gignac's interest in environmental law was sparked at Albion, through an environmental history course and participation in multidisciplinary summer research projects on a local watershed. At Harvard Law School, Gignac served as executive director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, was elected president of the Harvard Environmental Law Society, and received a Dean’s Award for Community Leadership. After graduation from Harvard, Gignac spent a year as a judicial law clerk for the Alaska Supreme Court, then worked as an associate in the environmental practice group with the law firm of Mayer Brown, LLP in Chicago. Gignac returned to campus in 2009 as the Elkin Isaac Alumni Lecturer, part of the Elkin R. Isaac Research Symposium.