Date: Mon, Apr 25th, 2022

Great Falls College honors students of the year

Cody Tucker, third from left, and his family celebrate him being named math student of the year at Great Falls College on Monday.

Great Falls College MSU celebrated its students of the year in a ceremony on Monday at Heritage Hall.

General Studies

Fine Arts/Education Department

Reba Watson has been a delight to teach. After taking an extended break from playing the flute, she courageously put in the time and hard work to rebuild her musical foundation and then start to improve upon it. Because she joyfully tackles new challenges, and openly embraces new concepts, she has been able to advance her musical skills quickly. While she has the dedication and confidence needed to be a lifelong musician, her expression of ideas in both written and spoken form are equally impressive.

English Department

Sydney Hess is unapologetic in her passion for the humanities. Hess’s desire to apply what she learned about the craft of writing has manifested itself in thoughtful feedback to classmates about essay drafts as much as engaging narrative and research-based writing.

Computer Technology Department

Daniel Betcher has worked hard to get where he is today.  He completed the challenging Cybersecurity Program while working full-time and raising a family. He completed most of his classes online, while still developing relationships with his instructors and classmates. Last year, he completed an internship with the state of Montana where he impressed his colleagues, demonstrated his skills and learned new ones. He even secured and started a job in his field before his final classes were done.  Although he is graduating this spring in cybersecurity, he is already starting on a second degree in computer programming. 

Business and Accounting Program

Nicholas Buffaloe has produced consistently excellent work in all of his classes. His strong work ethic, attention to detail, and thoughtful contributions to classroom discussions have been noticed by several faculty members since his first semester on campus. He accepts challenges head-on, works diligently to understand difficult concepts, and is fully invested in his academic journey.

Natural Sciences Department

Emily Stene has been busy with several responsibilities and has  balanced a full schedule. Her unique knack for learning is shown through her approach to exploring the world around them. They energetically engage with fellow students and faculty to understand concepts in more detail. She has been involved in the community as a substitute teacher, as an intern at a veterinary hospital, as a volunteer at the Night Out for Science fundraiser, and as a math and science tutor.

Social Sciences and Communications Department

Jensa Baumgartner is dedicated, conscientious, motivated and determined. As a non-traditional student, Baumgartner is committed to overcoming her past and changing her life. She started her journey on this campus in Connections 101 and has applied what she learned in that program to her college classes. Despite numerous outside responsibilities, including four children and volunteering for several of her church ministries, she shows up for class, meets assignment deadlines, actively engages in class discussions and takes on a leadership role when needed. Baumgartner also was honored for the Newman Civic Fellowship.

Mathematics Department

Cody Tucker’s classroom demeanor and curiosity to learn more about the subject material make him a pleasure to have in class.  His commitment to his studies is admirable, as he always strives to achieve the best possible quality in his course work.  Everyone at Great Falls College who worked with him during his time on campus had nothing but great things to say about him, and he even received national recognition for an essay he wrote earlier this year as part of a college entrance exam. 

Division of Trades

 Welding Program CAS

 Kier Brown has excelled in his studies, welding, and most importantly in his help to the program and his fellow students. 

He is always willing to help the instructor out with whatever is needed.  Things such as handling and prepping materials, cleaning the shop, and offering to help fellow students in need of a helping hand.  He contributes to classroom discussions, gets his academic work done on time and in excellent form.  Additionally, his attendance is excellent as well as his work ethic. 

 Welding Program AAS

Chase Tay is a returning student who took a few years off from his first year. He came back because he wanted to educate himself in the pipe welding and aluminum welding fields. He passed all of his weld tests with flying colors and knows that he wants to be a welder. His attendance is stellar and his work ethic is fabulous. He will do anything asked of him and has a can-do attitude when doing it. He is a pure joy to have in class and is respected by all the welding faculty.

Industrial Technician Program

Jon Williams is a natural industrial technician. Williams is prepared, has a wonderful work value and always willing to help others. Williams reminds me daily of what Alexander Graham Bell said “Preparation is the key to success”. It is stunning how the motivation of one student can truly make a difference. He gives his very best at everything, a natural leader who leads by example, asks meaningful questions in class that stimulates the discussions, and he serves as a role model for other students to emulate.

Renewable Energy Technician Program

Keaton Habel has distinguished himself by frequently being found assisting freshmen students with their lab assignments. Although he is a student, he has taken on responsibilities that would normally be given to a teaching assistant. He has helped set up and do demonstrations for visitors to Great Falls College.

His positive attitude and competitiveness in other activities carries over into the classroom as shown by his great work ethic, and reminds me of what Mark Twain said “The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.” Habel should demonstrate a passion for Industrial

Division of Health Sciences

Respiratory Therapist Program

Kayley Short is a very dedicated student who is always ahead on her assignments and seeks to understand all the content, not just complete the work. She is the youngest student in our program but displays maturity beyond her years and is a great advocate for herself and her patients in clinicals. She used her moral judgment to speak up when something did not sound right, and we were able to prevent potential student and employee harm. Her patients have reported that she takes her time with them to show them she cares and doesn’t make them feel rushed.

Physical Therapist Assistant Program

CB Smith has been active throughout the year including her role in the program’s student association as the secretary, volunteered at the Night Out for Science, and worked the massage clinic.  Smith also raised approximately $900 to go between Eagle Mount and the Maclean-Cameron Animal Adoption Center locally. 

Health Information Coding Specialist Program

Naomi Lockwood has an enthusiastic attitude and dedication to achieving a high level of success within the Health Information Coding Specialist program at Great Falls College.  She is enthusiastic, professional and driven to learn. She has initiative to ask questions about assignments when she did not understand something or if it was not entirely clear. 

 Dental Assistant Program

Shyanne Gardipee exhibits professional behavior and her focus on learning is evident regardless of whether she is in radiology or chairside lab, in the classroom, working with her classmates on projects, or completing externship hours in local dental offices. Gardipee is always prepared for class, clinic, and labs, and has been known to complete assignments early. This exceptional student, with her quiet demeanor and attention to details, will no doubt be a positive addition to any dental office and a leader in her chosen field.

 Health Information Technology Program

Neysa Garner  is part of the HIT management associates’ program. She used to do molecular biology in the lab but after a lingering shoulder injury has been transitioned to medical billing and coding. She also holds a masters in biomedical science with a focus in genetics. Garner hopes to do something in data science eventually or to contribute to clinical science. She is a student that always asks questions when necessary and has excelled in many of her HIT courses. 

Dental Hygiene Program

Not only does this Molly Grubb meet the criteria of having one of the highest GPAs in our program, she also has gone the extra mile helping the first-year class achieve their potential academically.  From the first day of class last year, she has stood out as a leader.  It is not uncommon to see her classmates coming to her with questions or for help in clinic or just about any class. She is kind and great at explaining information to others. 

Biology Department

Madison Scott  is raising two busy young boys, aged 3 and 5 years old, as a working single mother and is thriving in prerequisite science courses. Scott impressed her instructors with her classroom leadership skills, resilience and dedication.  In the face of adversity and setbacks that would have caused other students to give up, she worked even harder. With her extraordinary work ethic and commitment to excellence, this student will surely be a credit to her future profession in healthcare.

Paramedic Program

Steve Reather is a firefighter for Helena Fire Department.  He has been juggling having a fulltime job, being a fulltime student, as well as balancing the duties of family life.  In fact, his baby was born during this academic year.  Despite all these challenges he has managed to consistently receive high marks in the classroom, lab, and clinical areas.  He has demonstrated the unique qualities of in-depth knowledge of EMS subject matter while being able to apply this knowledge in a real-world setting. He is even tempered, works well with others, and accepts leadership. 

Practical Nurse Program

Marilyn Mulama first joined us in the fall of 2020 as one of our distant PN students.  Her journey to nursing started on her home continent of Africa, and she found herself in Montana as a caregiver, dreaming of becoming a nurse. She is a nonnative English speaker, and the challenges of language and culture were indeed obstacles for her to navigate, and she was unable to progress with the class of 2021.

This setback was not the end of her journey however as she took the opportunity offered to come back and finish with the next class of PN students, and she has overcome the obstacles that delayed her previously.  Her positive attitude, drive and desire to be successful was apparent in all her interactions with classmates and faculty.

She has not only been a wonderful and attentive student, she contributed both new and differing points of view to cultural competency and medical discrepancies from her homeland.  Her classmates have benefitted from being in class and clinical situations with her.

Registered Nurse Program

Brandi Skinner was first a student in our PN program where she excelled scholastically and clinically while also navigating her first pregnancy. Her dedication was admirable as she attended lectures from the maternity ward as well as using her birth experience as clinical learning. She graduated in the spring of 2020 straight into a pandemic for the start of her nursing career. Shen then joined the RN program that next fall and became a member of the graduating RN class of 2022.  As a military wife, new mother and newly licensed nurse, her dedication to furthering her career and advancing her education has been evident.   She has juggled her various roles beautifully.  This was not easy as she faced her husband’s deployment, single parenthood during that time and then the joyous announcement of another baby Skinner due this spring just before graduation.


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Record Number: 782