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Elite eight: CAS students named Outstanding Seniors by OSU Alumni Association

Monday, March 11, 2024

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

Of the 21 students named 2023-24 Outstanding Seniors by the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association, eight are from the College of Arts and Sciences. 

The Outstanding Seniors award was given to students who have shown excellence through academic achievement; campus and community involvement; academic, athletic or extracurricular honors or awards; scholarships; and work ethic during their time at OSU. 

The College of Arts and Sciences honorees are: 

Lily Chavez (Weatherford, Texas) — global studies  

Carldon Christ Deniega (Tulsa) biology  

Holden Husbands (Edmond, Oklahoma) biology  

Meg Jackson (Edmond, Oklahoma) political science  

Kait Pinkerton (Pryor, Oklahoma) political science  

Jessica Marie Rojas (Altus, Oklahoma) university studies  

Nadia Valles (Hennessey, Oklahoma) political science  

Charlie Vermeire (Miles City, Montana) biochemistry 

Lily Chavez 

 In just three years at OSU, Chavez became a member of the President’s Leadership Council, found her home within the Hargis Leadership Institute, and ultimately had the opportunity to establish the nonprofit organization Wishes for Water with her peers. Chavez has been a PLC facilitator, the student director of leadership programs and a mentor in the community. She was named OSU’s institutional finalist for the Truman Scholarship in 2023. 

After graduation, Chavez will attend graduate school, focusing on international development practice with the goal of creating development strategies and sustainable policies in developing countries.   

“My time at OSU has completely changed who I am for the better,” Chavez said. “I have met my best friends and been surrounded by mentors who have helped me develop professionally and personally. Without all my experiences here combined, I would not have realized my passion for international development.” 

Carldon Christ Deniega 

While studying at OSU, Deniega was involved both on campus and off. Deneiga served as a CAS Ambassador, CAS Research Leader, was the vice president of the Asian American Student Association and was involved with Greek life. As a researcher, he worked to understand liver cancer through work at the University of Oklahoma and OSU medical centers. That research earned him an externship with the American Cancer Society.   

After graduating in December 2023, Deneiga began studying for medical school entrance exams to pursue his goal of becoming a dermatologist.  

“OSU impacted my professional development tremendously from all the resources it offered,” Deniega said. “From the tutoring services, student organizations and internship opportunities, OSU provided me a home away from home — especially as a new immigrant. OSU provided me with long-lasting friendships and camaraderie rooted in academic excellence and professionalism.” 

Holden Husbands 

As an undergraduate student at OSU, Husbands has been involved in the Stillwater community and in research on campus. Husbands served as a volunteer at Stillwater Medical Center, getting hands-on experience in the medical field and has conducted research with faculty on environmental toxicology.  

After graduation, Husbands will attend the OU College of Medicine.  

“My time at OSU has been the most formative years of my life and has prepared me to continue to give back to the Oklahoma community,” Husbands said. “I would like to acknowledge my mother, my uncle, the Wilkins family, Tim Stewart, Peyton Wilson, Dr. Minghetti, Dr. Scott and Stacey Herriage for all their support, mentorship and friendship.” 

Meg Jackson 

In her time at OSU, Jackson has been a cellist in the OSU Symphony Orchestra, a member of the Honors College, studied abroad and was named a 2023 national finalist for the Truman Scholarship. She is also involved in Greek life.  

After graduation, Jackson will attend law school.  

“I came to OSU because of its land-grant mission,” Jackson said. “Serving others is not only an obligation, but it is also our motivation. OSU has prepared me for a lifetime of service, and I will forever be proud to call myself a Cowboy.” 

Kait Pinkerton 

As an OSU student, Pinkerton has been involved in the Native American Student Association, CAS Student Council and the Omega Phi Alpha service sorority. Pinkerton was also selected as a Udall Scholar  

Following graduation, Pinkerton will pursue a master’s degree at OSU before going on to a Ph.D. and J.D. 

“My time at OSU has totally changed who I am,” Pinkerton said. “I have grown so much through coursework and extracurriculars, and all for the better. Being at OSU also gave me the chance to explore myself, and the faculty and staff have constantly supported my exploration of options post-graduation, which is a big reason why I’m staying here for my master’s.” 

Jessica Marie Rojas  

As a fully online student, Rojas has experienced OSU from a distance — on military bases. Upon admission to OSU, she was stationed at Fort Sill and has since moved to Fort Carson, Colorado.  

Rojas is currently in the Army, but once she retires, she plans to get involved in the human resources industry to advocate for marginalized groups.  

My time at OSU has made me feel closer to my home as I move or deploy around; it is like I have a part of Oklahoma always with me,” Rojas said. “The classes and instructors that I have had helped me broaden my spectrum in the variety of people in the world and how I can better understand, appreciate and empathize with people’s backgrounds and upbringings.” 

Nadia Valles 

During her time at OSU, Valles has been involved with Greek life, President’s Leadership Council, F1rst2Go, the Student Government Association, CAS Ambassadors, OSU College Democrats, Trio-SSS and was a McNair Scholar. She was a 2022 Truman Scholarship nominee, the 2023 Henry Clay College Student Congress Oklahoma Representative, and a student researcher at OSU and Michigan State University. 

Valles graduated in December 2023 and has been working as a Hispanic liaison in Oklahoma schools. She will be attending American University to pursue a master’s in public policy this fall.  

“As a first-generation student of color, the idea of college seemed distant and not a huge possibility,” Valles said. “Yet, the faculty and staff I’ve connected with have become a huge support system that helped me succeed. I am confident that I as pursue my own career, the support I have here will always be there.” 

Charlie Vermeire 

As an undergraduate student at OSU, Vermiere has been involved in research as a Freshman Research Scholar, Niblack Research Scholar, Purdie Research Scholar and  Goldwater Scholar. She has also been involved in the McKnight Leadership Scholars Program and the Cambridge Scholars program.  

After graduation, Vermiere will begin a combined M.D. and Ph.D. program with the goal of studying oncology and cancer immunology.  

The abundant support for undergraduate research at OSU inspired me to pursue a career as a physician-scientist by helping to foster my passion for science,” Vermiere said. “It has also demonstrated the tremendous impact that a person can have upon the lives of others through service to their community.” 

The Outstanding Seniors were awarded following interviews with the OSU Alumni Association’s 59 Seniors of Significance selected in the fall of 2023. A private, limited-capacity reception honoring the Outstanding Seniors will be held April 15 at the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center.  

Story By: Erin Weaver, CAS Communications Coordinator |

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