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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

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2021 Quest for the Best Award recipients 2021 Quest for the Best Award recipients

2021 Quest for the Best Winners Named

Ten students were recognized for their achievements in academics, community service and leadership.
By SDSU News Team

Ten high-achieving San Diego State University students are the recipients of the Quest for the Best award for their outstanding performance in academics and community service.

The Quest for the Best Vice Presidential Student Service Award recognizes outstanding student leaders at SDSU in four key areas: academic excellence, student service and activities, community service and leadership development.

In addition, the student winners are asked to nominate a faculty or staff member who has had a significant and positive impact on their personal growth and development during their time at SDSU.

The Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity virtually honored this year’s recipients. The ceremony can be seen here

The following are the 2021 honorees:

Madi Balagtas
Faculty/staff honoree: Ricardo Zayas, associate professor in the Biology Department 

Balagtas is a senior majoring in cellular and molecular biology with a minor in honors interdisciplinary studies. Her involvements include Mortar Board Honor Society and Women in Science Society, and she serves as an undergraduate researcher. Balagtas has volunteered with UCSD Health, Flying Samaritans and Alzheimer’s San Diego. She is an Initiative for Maximizing Student Development scholar and an SDSU Merit Scholar. After graduation, she will work in the biotechnology field while applying to M.D.-Ph.D. programs.

Dylan Corliss
Faculty/staff honoree: Stacey Sinclair, director of the Weber Honors College

Corliss is a senior majoring in philosophy with double minors in computer science and honors interdisciplinary studies. Activities include the SDSU Chamber Choir, the Asian Pacific Student Alliance and the Weber Honors College Student Society. Corliss has volunteered as a tutor for the International Rescue Committee. He has been honored with the Fulbright Canada-MITACS Globalink Research Internship Award and serves as an undergraduate research assistant. After graduation, Corliss will teach English in the Peace Corps and later attend law school with a focus on international law and technology policy. 

Margot Ermer
Faculty/staff honoree: Brandi Tonne, government affairs coordinator for Associated Students

Ermer is a junior majoring in communication with a double minor in women’s studies and honors interdisciplinary studies. Her involvements include Associated Students, College Panhellenic Association and Rotaract of SDSU. Ermer has volunteered for the Crisis Text Line, the Miracle League and letter-writing to human trafficking survivors. She has been honored with the Delta Zeta Order of the Rose award and is a recipient of the Betty Nesvold Women’s Studies Scholarship. After graduation, Ermer plans on working in the health care field, focusing on survivors of sexual violence. 

Ashley Jackson
Faculty/staff honoree: Gerilyn Herold, lecturer in the School of Nursing 

Jackson is a senior majoring in nursing with a double minor in leadership and child development. She has been involved with the Student Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau and  Peer Leadership Consultants. She also has volunteered with UCSD Health and the San Diego County Office of Education. Jackson earned the D.B. Williams Memorial Scholarship and the 100 Service Hours Lapel Pin, and she is on the Dean’s List. After graduation, she plans on starting a nurse residency program. Jackson’s goal is to work as a registered nurse in either an emergency department or an intensive care unit and then earn her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

Maxwell Johnson
Faculty/staff honoree: Brandi Tonne, government affairs coordinator for Associated Students

Johnson is a senior double majoring in political science and communication with a minor in honors interdisciplinary studies. His involvements include Rotaract of SDSU, Associated Students and Camp Kesem. He has volunteered with Aztecs Rock Hunger, and the Community Service Commission. He is part of the Sigma Alpha Lambda Honors Society and served on the 2020 Homecoming Court. After graduation, Johnson will work in the lobbying and advocacy field to provide marginalized communities with the resources and equitable opportunities they need to pursue their passions and achieve their goals.

Sophie Levi
Faculty/staff honoree: Sonja Pruitt-Lord, professor of speech language and associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Health and Human Services

Levi is a senior majoring in speech, language and hearing sciences with a minor in Spanish. She has been part of New Student and Parent Programs, the Associated Students Food Pantry and supplemental instruction. She volunteered with Miracle League and also as a literacy volunteer. Levi has been honored with the Aztec Pride Award and an Aztec Achievement Award. After graduation, she will continue her studies in the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Language and Communicative Disorders. 

Cassandra Libang
Faculty/staff honoree: Hsing-Chen Tung, lecturer in the Department of Child and Family Development

Libang is a senior majoring in child and family development. Her involvements include Dance Marathon, Tijuana Home Build and Rotaract of SDSU. She has volunteered with 805 Holiday Bracelets and UURISE and serves as a tutor and teaching assistant. Libang has been honored with the Presidential Volunteer Service Award and has earned the Diversity Awareness Certificate and the SDSU LEAD Summer Program certificate of completion. After graduation, Libang will work at a nonprofit that helps families meet their basic needs,  then go back to school to study nonprofit management.

Katrina Mogannam
Faculty/staff honoree: Manal Swairjo, associate professor in biochemistry

Mogannam is a senior majoring in biochemistry, with double minors in honors interdisciplinary studies and leadership. She has participated in undergraduate research, Associated Students and Pi Beta Phi sorority. She volunteered with Aztec Unity Project, the International Rescue Committee and Mary’s Kitchen. Mogannam has been honored with the Dora Newell Endowed Scholarship for Chemistry and the Shiley Scholarship in Life Sciences and Bioengineering (Chemistry) Scholarship, and she is a Vice President for Student Affairs scholar. After graduation, she will continue her education at University of California, Irvine as a Ph.D. student in pharmaceutical sciences with a medicinal chemistry track.

Rebecca Rodriguez Casillas
Faculty/staff honoree: Jamie Harguess, formerly of Well-being and Health Promotion

Casillas is a junior majoring in food and nutrition with a minor in social work. Her involvements include the Adaptive Fitness Clinic Nutrition Committee, the Breast Cancer Awareness Club and the Student Nutrition Organization. She has volunteered with the American Red Cross, Young Women’s Study Club and Feeding San Diego. She has been honored with the Joseph and Patricia Ferrero Endowed Scholarship, and she received the 100 Community Service Hours Lapel Pin. After graduation, Casillas plans to become a registered dietitian and work in underserved communities.

Chrystian Smith
Faculty/staff honoree: Wesley Palau, assistant director of Equity and Inclusion, The Pride Center

Smith is a senior double majoring in political science and history with a minor in sociology. Their involvements include the College of Arts and Letters Student Council, Mortar Board Honor Society and SDSU Model United Nations. Smith has volunteered with the San Diego Food Bank, the SDSU Center for Intercultural Relations and the SDSU Women’s Resource Center. They have been honored with the Cotton Metzger Scholarship in Honor of LGBT Students and the Undergraduate Lavender Graduation Award, and they have earned the SDSU Leadership Certificate. After graduation, Smith will continue their education at SDSU as a master’s student in the Postsecondary Educational Leadership with a specialization in Student Affairs.