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Alumni Award Nominations are Open!

We are seeking nominations for the 10 Under 10 Alumni Awards and 2019 Distinguished Alumnus/a of the Year Award to be recognized at the Alumni Awards Brunch during Homecoming 2019.

The 10 Under 10 Award recognizes the top 10 alumni who have graduated in the past 10 years (2009-2018). Winners will be chosen based on the following criteria: achieved major professional success, acted as difference makers in their local communities, and served MSU Denver in various roles.  Please submit a nomination HERE

The distinguished Alumnus/a of the Year Award is presented to an outstanding alumni for their service to the institution and outstanding professional success.  Please submit a nomination HERE.


Past Alumni Award Recipients - 2019 Spring

10 Under 10 Alumni Awards

Nic Garcia ‘11, Journalism | Reporter | The Denver Post

Nic Garcia still has nightmares he didn’t graduate. Thankfully, it was only a nightmare. He has since worked as a journalist covering a variety of issues that matter to Coloradans. Following graduation, Garcia went to work for Out Front, Colorado's oldest and largest LGBT news organization. There, he served in a variety of roles including editor and associate publisher, and revitalized the news organization by focusing on local issues and promoting the voices of transgender folks and people of color.

In late 2013, Garcia moved to Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization that covers one of America's most important topics - public education equity. He reported on nearly every topic in Colorado, including Denver's inner-suburban school districts that, in recent years, have received less attention. After almost five years at Chalkbeat, he joined The Denver Post to cover state politics and returned to MSU Denver an affiliate instructor teaching journalism. In 2018, he covered the state's gubernatorial contest, which included co-moderating the last gubernatorial debate. This year, he will be splitting his time between committee rooms at the Capitol and the cornfields of Iowa covering the 2020 presidential election. 

Leon Duran ‘15, Criminal Justice and Criminology | CEO | HoneyCutz

Born and raised in Denver, Leon Duran attended JFK High School and, upon graduation, enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He has served for nearly 12 years total between his four years of active duty and as a current member of the U.S. Navy Reserves. Duran began his college education at MSU Denver while in the reserves and graduated in 2015 with a B.S. in criminal justice and criminology, with a minor in entrepreneurship.

Since graduating, Duran has founded two companies: U.S. Veterans Landscape & Design and supplement company HoneyCutz. Additionally, he volunteers by representing the military as a member of the U.S. Navy’s Honor Guard where he honors our nation at events such as Denver Bronco games, parades and funerals at Fort Logan.

As a newly appointed MSU Denver Alumni Board member, Duran will be using his business and entrepreneurial expertise to support MSU Denver students and alumni.

Kate West ‘15, Program Coordination for Integrative Health | Director of Community Development | Eaton Senior Communities 

Kate West earned an undergraduate degree in “Program Coordination for Integrative Health” through the Individualized Degree Program at MSU Denver. While working on her degree, she interned at Eaton Senior Communities as a Wellness Program intern, earning her an “Intern of the Year” award from MSU Denver, in recognition of her work. 

Following graduation, West joined Eaton Senior Communities as the resident services coordinator and served as president of the Colorado Chapter of the American Association of Service Coordinators. In 2017, she was the co-recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Equity for her team’s work on wellness coaching in low-income housing, supervised multiple wellness-coaching interns and was twice nominated by MSU Denver for “Internship Supervisor of the Year.” In 2018, she graduated from LeadingAge Nationals’s Larry Minnix Leadership Academy and was promoted to her new role as director of community development. West is currently is a member of the inaugural class of “Emerging Leaders” through LeadingAge Colorado. 

Albert Gutierrez ‘09, Criminal Justice and Criminology | CEO | MedPharm Holdings

Albert Gutierrez, MS, is the CEO of MedPharm Holdings, an intellectual property and holdings company that creates unique dosage forms in the cannabis industry. MedPharm holds Colorado’s first cannabis research license, which will be used to understand how cannabis and cannabis dosage forms can help with a wide array of ailments. During his tenure as CEO, Gutierrez has grown the company into a target acquisition for Medicine Man Technologies (MDCL) in the public market. MedPharm works with the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance (COCA), the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center (RMMSC), the Denver Public Safety Department, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and others to research the benefits of cannabis and adopt safe practices in the industry.

An operationally focused executive who leverages his strategic vision to increase production, Gutierrez has a background in program and portfolio management, and is an Agile Certified Practitioner through the Project Management Institute, Certified Scrum Master, Agile Coach and Certified Scrum Product Owner. He has also been a part of, and helped build, many successful companies, including ClickFox, The Regis Company, Qualvu,,, Medicine Man and MedPharm Holdings.

Gutierrez is responsible for successfully managing several multi-million-dollar projects from Visa, MasterCard, Google, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, Accenture, AT&T, Verizon, John Deere, Bose and more. He holds a B.S. from MSU Denver and a graduate degree from Colorado State University Business School.

Brian Bailey ‘16, Hospitality, Tourism and Events | Commercial Real Estate Broker | Marcus & Millichap

A graduate of the Hospitality, Tourism and Events Program at MSU Denver, Brian Bailey has found success in his career as a commercial real estate broker. During his final year at MSU Denver, Bailey was simultaneously taking classes to obtain his real estate license and in October 2015, began his career in real estate with Marcus & Millichap where he specializes in selling “triple-net” investment properties nationwide. In 2017, he was recognized in the Denver Business Journal as DMCAR’s 2017 Young Broker of Denver. Over the course of his career, Bailey has been involved in over $105 million in real estate sales spanning more than 60 transactions.


Magens Orman ‘15, Aerospace Systems Design | Mechanical Engineer | Sierra Nevada Corporation 

Magens Orman works in Colorado’s booming aerospace industry where she has been fortunate enough to work on everything from components to large-scale spacecraft during her time as a mechanical and systems engineer with Sierra Nevada Corporation. She did not always have a passion for building things that brave the final frontier, though. When she began her education at MSU Denver in 2008, she was a fine arts major. Orman found her path to space through an elective science class that changed her life. After finding her passion for space, she went on to be involved with multiple student organizations including the Orbital Mechanics Club, Student Commercial Spaceflight Federation and SEDS which helped to nurture her love of aerospace.

Since graduating in 2014, Orman has helped build several satellites, rovers and deep space probes. In her free time, she pursues her other passion, STEM education. Orman leads a variety of STEM outreach efforts at middle and high schools statewide. She also works with several university boards in the Metro Denver area including MSU Denver. Orman is currently acting secretary for the Colorado Space Grant Advisory board to the University of Colorado, Boulder, and treasurer of the MSU Denver Alumni Board.

Jesse Freitas ‘10, Marketing | Marketing Director | StickerGiantz 

Jesse Freitas is a digital marketer who is passionate about storytelling and fascinated with the stories in music, movies, games and any form of media not yet created. Freitas has taken interest in what motivates people and applied it to a business application in the world. He is a 2010 graduate of MSU Denver with a B.S. in marketing.

During his time at MSU Denver, Freitas was the president of the Student Marketing Association, which started in 2010, and was awarded "Outstanding Student in Student Services" for the 2010/11 academic year. He also wrote a winning essay about diversity that won him a trip to attend the ADCOLOR Awards 2010 in Miami, Florida, where he also served as a student speaker for MSU Denver during a Millennial Town Hall.

As the Marketing Director for StickerGiant, Freitas has fueled the growth of the promotional sticker and product label business by finding innovative ways to gain brand awareness. He created National Sticker Day and kick-started a Guinness World Record for the Largest Sticker Ball set by StickerGiant in 2016. He has built a world-class digital marketing team and helped grow the company from $6 million in annual revenue to a current trajectory of $23 million. Freitas has used his platform to support charitable events in the Longmont community and personally raised $900 for the Left Hand Foundation’s Bike MS in 2019.

Zachary Berger ‘16, History | Breakfast Supervisor | Marriott Springhill Suites

Zachary Berger is the breakfast supervisor for the on-campus Marriott Springhill Suites Denver Downtown and was selected – out of 37,000 employees, nationwide – as the 2017 Marriott Select Brands Springhill Team Member of the Year. He oversees a team of four, ensuring that when guests arrive for breakfast, they have an amazing experience.

During his time as a student at MSU Denver, Berger was recognized at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Breakfast in 2015 as a leader who continues Dr. King’s legacy through his dedication to social justice and community activism. He continues to serve MSU Denver by mentoring individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by helping them prepare for college classes through the Inclusive Higher Educational Certificate Program, a college preparation program that partners with the School of Education. In his spare time, Berger also helps at the Rise School of Denver as an after-care assistant teacher and builds ADA accessible playgrounds in Jefferson County. 

Nate Nicklas ‘13, Math; ‘16, Brewing Operations | Director of Brewing Operations | Tivoli Brewing Company 

After graduating from MSU Denver in 2013 with a B.S. in math and a minor in physics, Nate Nicklas pursued a Master’s Degree in math education from the University of Southern California. After two semesters, he met his now wife who asked him deep questions about his educational ideology (most, he admits, he was unable to answer). Prompted to look within for his career path, she asked him to answer the question, what are you passionate about?

Nicklas’ answer was math and brewing, beginning his brewing career. From there, he re-enrolled at MSU Denver, opting for the brewing operations certificate program. During that time, he was offered an internship with the Tivoli Brewing Company which led to a full-time position and, ultimately, his current position as the director of brewing operations. Nicklas also teaches Beer Styles and Service, Beers of the World, and Brewery Mechanics as part of the Brewing Operations Program at MSU Denver.   


Gary Striewski ‘10, Journalism | Host | ESPN

Gary Striewski launched his broadcast career making public-address announcements at Thornton Middle School. Today, the 2010 journalism graduate finds himself living out his childhood dream in the public spotlight as co-host of ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” During his time at MSU Denver, he worked with Met Media and interned at Fox affiliate KDVR with sports anchor Chris Tanaka. Following graduation, Striewski cut his TV teeth at a CBS affiliate in Cheyenne, Wyoming; earned an Emmy for his work as a Red Sox sideline reporter at New England Sports Network; and woke up at 2:30 a.m. to co-host "Morning Dose" on Dallas-Ft. Worth CW affiliate KDAF. In 2018, he was co-hosting a morning show in the Dallas-Fort Worth market when ESPN came calling, looking for help with their newly launched Snapchat channel. Striewski credits being open to opinions and coaching, honing a unique voice, never saying no to an opportunity and earning his degree at MSU Denver as factors in his success. 

Alumni Volunteer of the Year

E. Lucille Hinesley ‘15, Human Performance and Sport | Exercise Physiologist | Centura Health

E. Lucille Hinesley graduated with a B.S. in human performance and sport, with a concentration in exercise science, in 2015. During her last semester, she completed a clinical internship, leading to her career as an exercise physiologist in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation with Centura Heath. In 2018, she began volunteering with the Alumni Association by selling 50/50 Raffle tickets at Colorado Rockies home games. Hinesley saw it as an opportunity to make a greater impact than she could with a monetary donation, plus she got to spend the summer at baseball games! During the 2018 baseball season, she worked 12 baseball games (72 hours of volunteer time) and raised $1,800 for the Exercise Science Program at MSU Denver.    

Distinguished Alumna of the Year

Mary Landerholm ‘12, Social Work; ‘14 MSW | Action Plan Manager | Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking 

Mary Landerholm supports state-wide research, training and education, along with leadership development, at the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking in Denver, Colorado. She engages the State of Colorado's anti‐trafficking efforts using the Colorado Project to Comprehensively Combat Human Trafficking to create a data-driven response to the issue of exploitation. Previously, Landerholm worked as the Interim Executive Director of Prax(us), an agency serving youth and young adults who have experienced exploitation through an anti‐oppression and public health lens.

Landerholm is currently an affiliate faculty member at MSU Denver where she teaches the human trafficking course and social work policy. She was also selected for the Colorado Human Trafficking Council to inform training standards and curriculum development for law enforcement and service providers. Additionally, Landerholm consults as a survivor leader for the Office of Victims of Crime (OVC), the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center, and in Washington, D.C. She received her BSW and MSW from the Department of Social Work at MSU Denver.

Past Alumni Award Recipients - 2018

10 Under 10 Alumni Awards

Michael Bahl '08, History | Head Coach Men’s Basketball Team | MSU Denver
Blake Bienemann '08, Finance | Vice President of Institutional Wealth Management | Colorado Bank and Trust
Evan Claus '12, Hospitality, Tourism and Events | Off-Premise Sales Director | Anheuser-Busch
Kate Imy '08, History | Assistant Professor | University of North Texas
Paula Leek '14, Land Use Geology | Owner and Operator | Paula Leek Petrographics
Steph Rayman '09, Psychology | General Manager/Director of Marketing and Strategy | Tivoli Brewing Company
Ricardo Rocha '17, Biology | CEO | Abarrotes Bondadosa
Angela Rodriguez '08, Speech Communications | Student Success Specialist TRIO | Community College of Denver
Meranda Vieyra '10, Chicana/o Studies | Owner | Denver Legal Marketing LLC
Troy Walker '08, Political Science | Stand-up Comedian


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