Young Alumni Achievement Award
What is the YAAA?
The Young Alumni Achievement Award, sponsored by the Office of Alumni Affairs, has been created to recognize extraordinary accomplishments by members of the Auburn family. Sixteen recipients will be recognized for significant achievement in their professional lives and/or for distinguished community service.
Rebecca Balkcom ’94 is an excellent example of a scientist-teacher who has made a significant impact in her community and profession. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy and soils from the College of Agriculture and in just her fourth year of teaching for the Auburn City Schools system, she was named the system’s 2011 Teacher of the Year.
Jeffrey Alan Brewer ’95 graduated first in his class in the school of Architecture, Design and Construction, received the President’s Award as Outstanding Graduate and was awarded the AIA School Medal for Outstanding Achievement. He now serves as vice president and principal of Goodwin Mills Cawood of Birmingham where he is in charge of the Birmingham architecture, civil engineering, municipal engineering, and geotechnical divisions.
Jessica Brookshire ’99 has made a huge impact in a short time. The youngest of our Young Alumni Achievement Award recipients, Brookshire earned a degree in international trade and a master’s in Spanish from the College of Liberal Arts. While still a student, she established the anti-bullying organization, K.A.R.M.A. (Kids Against Ridicule, Meanness, and Aggression). She has traveled all across the state of Alabama educating children and adults on the effects of bullying on individuals as well as communities.
Steven K. Brotherton’ 96 combined his degree in international business from the College of Business and his law degree from the University of Alabama into a career in international trade. After beginning his career with The Boeing Company, in 2001, he joined Frogomen, Del Rey, Bersen, and Loewy, listed as one of the top 100 U.S. law firms, to build the firm’s new Fragomen Export Controls Practice Group. Beginning from scratch, Steve has grown the program into one of the country’s leading export control practices with clients like Walmart, Goldman and Sachs, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Microsoft, Mastercard and Facebook. In 2008, he became the youngest lawyer to be promoted to partner in the firm’s sixty-year history.
Courtney Ann Furlong Dow ’04 left Auburn with a degree in rehabilitation counseling from the College of Education to join NightLight Bangkok, part of NightLight International, an organization committed to freeing women and children from a life of prostitution and exploitation. Two years later, she returned to the Plains to get a Master of Education, and was recruited by NightLight to return to her hometown of Atlanta to begin a program to address sex trafficking there. Just a year later, NightLight International brought NightLight Atlanta under their umbrella, naming Courtney as director. The program addresses commercial sexual exploitation through prevention, intervention, restoration, and education.
Denisha L. Hendricks ’01 came to Auburn as a graduate student earning two degrees from the College of Education; a master’s degree in higher education and sports management (2001) and a doctorate in higher education administration (2004). Currently the director of athletics and assistant professor at Kentucky State University, Denisha also serves as a mentor for Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders, a NCAA Division II athletic directors program which matches 10 outstanding athletics administrators with 10 aspiring athletic directors to provide counseling and training to help reach long-term goals.
Mark Spencer ’00 began exercising his engineering and entrepreneurial expertise at a young age when he wrote a grading program that he sold to his eighth grade teacher for five dollars. While at Auburn in 1999, he began his first start-up company, Linux Support Services. Faced with the high cost of buying a PBX for Linux, Spencer used his knowledge to develop his own, which was the beginning of the worldwide open source phenomenon known as Asterick®. As Asterick® gained in popularity, Spencer shifted his business focus and renamed the company , Digium® which is now the leading open source telecommunication provider in the world today. As the chairman and CTO of Digium, Mark continues to drive the strategic vision and technology division of the company as well as focus on the development and growth of the Asterick community at large.
Katy Law ’01 earned her degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRMT) in the College of Human Sciences where she was named the college’s very first Outstanding Alumnus during the 2010 hospitality gala. She currently serves as the director of sales for the Americas for Design Hotels in New York. Since 2009, she has served on the HRMT Programs Industry Advisory Board where she works tirelessly to promote the program. She has personally sponsored a number of professional development opportunities for faculty and students and continues to assist with international development linkages and promotion of the Auburn undergraduate and graduate programs in the national and international arena.
Octavia Spencer’94 holds a degree in English with minors in journalism and theatre from the College of Liberal Arts. After graduation, she started her career assisting with casting movies that were being filmed in her home state of Alabama, but just a year later, landed her first on-screen role with Sandra Bullock in the film adaptation of John Grisham’s A Time To Kill. She continued to land small roles on the big screen building her reputation as a strong supporting actress, adept at both comedy and drama. In 2009, Entertainment Weekly named her one of the 25 Funniest Actresses in Hollywood, calling her “sassy, smart, and wise beyond her years.” In 2011, she landed her biggest role to date as Minny Jackson in the film adaptation of The Help, a role that catapulted into national prominence winning the Best Support Actress title from the Golden Globe Awards, the People’s Choice Awards and the Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Kyes Stevens ’94 earned an undergraduate degree in English from the College of Liberal Arts. Following graduation, she went to work on a Wagon Train for troubled youth before earning a master’s in Women’s History and a M.F.A. in poetry from the Sarah Lawrence College in New York. With a love for writing, she began teaching poetry at the Talladega Federal Prison through the National Endowment for the Arts. Through the impact this program had on Kyes, she founded the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project at Auburn University. Heralded by the Christian Science Monitor as one of the most innovative and effective programs in Alabama prisons, APAEPAU is dedicated to bringing educational opportunities to prisoners in Alabama. The program believes it's important for the adult prison population to gain a quality education, and also to build a relationship with learning that will continue to grow for the rest of their lives. Founder Kyes still serves as the director of the program.
Emily Pauli ’96 graduated Magna Cum Laude in biomedical science in molecular biology from the College of Sciences and Math (COSAM) and after working in the biotech industry in research and development, marketing, sales and business development, she returned to the Plains to earn a doctorate in pharmacy in 2006. Her focus on pharmacogenomics and pharmacokinetic research partnered her with Jim Hudson, the founder of Research Genetics where Emily was by Hudson’s side as he established the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. In 2009, the Clearwater (Fla.) Cancer Institute lured Emily to lead their clinical trials. Today, Emily is the director of research and oncology specialists, working with physicians and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the institute’s research efforts.
Richard C. Bell ’11 was nominated by the Graduate School. He earned his Master of Science in Statistics and in the same year, earned a doctorate in industrial and systems engineering, both from Auburn. These two degrees followed an undergraduate degree in mathematical sciences from the United States Military Academy and a Master of Science in Operations Research from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Now a Lieutenant Colonel, Bell has been assigned to the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan serving as deputy director of the Afghanistan Assessment Group (AAG), which is composed of approximately 20 U.S. and international military officers and civilians. In this role, he oversees day-to-day operation of the AAG’s three branches: data and analytics, reports and studies, and the campaign assessment branch.
Brent Fox ’98 earned his undergraduate degree in pharmacy in 1998, then went on to complete his doctorate in 2000. He currently serves as an assistant professor in the Harrison School of Pharmacy where he has maintained a balance portfolio in teaching, research, service and outreach. He was recently selected by his peers as course coordinator for the HSOP Foundations of Pharmacy course, the first exposure for incoming PharmD students. He has gained a national reputation for his use of technology to enhance pharmacy practice and education.
Richard W. Hall ’95 graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. He sought out an international internship and received funding to intern at the U.S. Forest Service in Puerto Rico. He began his career in timberland investments and today serves as senior vice president of timberland services for Bank of America in Atlanta. He also continues to teach as an affiliate assistant professor at Auburn.
Candace Mangum ’99 earned her degree in nursing science from the College of Nursing and exemplifies all that being a nurse entails. Her sincere compassion for her patients is evident both while at work and away from “the office” and she is held in the upmost respect by Auburn nursing faculty, coworkers, friends and fellow nurses. She currently works as a nurse practitioner at Notasulga Healthcare Family Practice Clinic in Notasulga, Ala.
Dee Jones ’01 received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the College of Veterinary Medicine and joined an animal clinic in Cullman, Ala. From 2004-2006, he served the United States Army Veterinary Corp in Ft. Polk, La. as the veterinary medical officer before joining the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) in 2007. In 2010, he was named Alabama State Public Health Veterinarian. In this position, Jones provides professional guidance for the ADPH and Epidemiology Division concerning zoonotic exposures and risks, works closely with the oral rabies vaccination program, works a s liaison between the ADPH and the Alabama Department of Agriculture. He is currently involved in a study to determine the prevalence of various tick-borne disease agents in Alabama.
Jonathan Charles Bell ’00, ‘02
College/School: College of Liberal Arts, School of Nursing
Degree: Health Administration (2000), Nursing (2002)
Profession: Owner Vital Care of Meridian/Vital Care RX with pharmacy locations in Meridian, MS and Shreveport, LA
Company Spotlight: Vital Care is an integrated home infusion, specialty and compounding pharmacy offering cost effective treatment options and personalized care for acute and chronic medical conditions. It is an organization that offers a variety of services, such as, being licensed in 48 states to provide complex injectable and infused biologic medications, providing IV medications in the comfort of your home, ambulatory infusion suites for the administration of medications on site, a first-dosing program for administering medications and monitoring, a nurse PICC line insertion team on site, nutritional support, medical equipment for respiratory patients and much more.
David H. Clark ‘96
College/School: College of Education
Degree: Health Administration (2000), Nursing (2002)
Current Profession: Vice President of North American operations for Amazon.com, where he is responsible for the design and operation of Amazon.com’s fulfillment centers and supervision of thousands of company employees.
Accomplishments: Led the startup of Amazon.com’s first Japanese fulfillment center, from ground to full operation, in just six months.
Auburn Activities: Member of the Auburn University Marching Band
Deeatra Seaborn Craddock ‘01
College/School: Harrison School of Pharmacy
Residency: Joint residency with the University of Texas in Austin and Walgreens
Current Profession: A faculty member at the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy, where she promotes wellness through immunizations, Medication Therapy Management and cardiovascular risk assessment programs. She is a consultant to Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; she is also a student advisor for the National Community Pharmacists Association.
Awards: Preceptor of the Year for the Dallas Ft. Worth Regional Campus, Nominee for the prestigious American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Crystal Apple.
Hobbies: Spending time with her family, reading her favorite magazines, and watching the Food Network.
Nicole Faulk ‘99
College/School: Samuel Ginn College of Engineering
Degree: Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (1996), Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (1999)
Profession: Has achieved a successful career in the field of nuclear engineering with Southern Nuclear, and now serves as the director of nuclear development with Georgia Power Company
Organizations: Served on the Mechanical Engineering External Advisory Board, and currently serves on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council as executive chair of the student recruitment/activities committee.
James Lee Fenn, III ‘96
College/School: College of Agriculture
Degree: Agronomy and Soils (1996) and Master’s degree (1998)
Profession: Worked with Universal Blanchers, LLC as a plant manager, vice president of Georgia operations in 2000. When Universal Blanchers became Olam International Ltd., he advised on agronomic and manufacturing issues in Argentina and South Africa. He was promoted in 2009 to chief operating officer of Olam’s U.S. peanut operations.
Current Projects: Working with researchers in the Agronomy and Soils Department to develop a use for currently wasted peanut skins.
Auburn Connection: Continues to support the College of Agriculture by attending dean’s events and homecoming activities.
Bradley Fields ‘05
College/School: College of Veterinary Medicine
Armed Forces Involvement: Captain in the United States Army Veterinary Reserve Corps, 358th MED DET
Special Talents: Experienced in overall management of agriculture emergencies, which includes managing an agriculture emergency operations center, state agriculture response team, disaster animal sheltering program, and individual response and recovery efforts. He advanced training in food safety and public heath training.
Leadership: Managed the Agriculture Homeland Security/Emergency Preparedness Section, and provides leadership for the Agricultural Geographical Information System.
Other Professions: Affiliate professor in the pathobiology department at Auburn’s vet school. Serves as a faculty member at the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Public Health.
Allison “Allie” M. Floyd ‘06
College/School: College of Architecture, Design and Construction
Degree: Bachelor of Building Science (2005), Master’s degree in Building Construction (2006)
Current Profession: Sustainability Coordinator at B.L. Harbert International, LLC
Accomplishments: Coordinated sustainable projects for new U.S. Embassy projects in places such as Pakistan, Liberia, Dubai, Ethiopia, Congo, and many others. Her work in the Republic of Congo was the first U.S. Embassy project to receive a LEED Gold Certification.
Service Work: Raised funds to assist local orphanages and for victims of the earthquakes in Haiti. Served as the Birmingham coordinator for several projects including, UAB Engineers Without Borders, Servants In Faith and Technology. She has volunteered for relief efforts on the U.S. Gulf Coast and in Jamaica. Has also worked with To the Nations in Honduras that helped set up rainwater collections and power generation for remote villages.
Betsy Lynne Hall ‘04
College/School: Graduate School program
Degree: Master’s degree in Public Administration
Honors: Appointed deputy country director for Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, playing a vital role in Haiti’s ongoing recovery from the 2009 Earthquake. She also served in the same role with Mozambique, where her performance was so outstanding that Samaritan’s Purse officials singled her out to take on the post-earthquake challenges in Haiti.
Profession: Portfolio manager for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This included working with the budgetary aspects of Section 8 program, Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance program, Housing for Special Populations, and assisted with Capital Fund, Operating Fund, HOPE VI, and the Office of Native American programs.
Fun Facts: Has visited with political dignitaries, Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin.
Brian Higginbotham ‘04
College/School: College of Human Sciences
Degree: Master of Science degree and Ph.D. degree in Human Development and Family Studies
Current Profession: Professor, Utah State University
Accomplishments: Secured over $5.5 million in grant funding for his research and extension projects. He has given over 40 Extension presentations around the state and another 25 national presentations.
Awards: 2010 Utah State University’s Faculty Researcher of the Year, Program of Distinction Award from the National 4-H Headquarters, named a tenured and associate professor of Family, Consumer, and Human Development and State Family Life Extension Specialist at Utah State University.
Wade McCollum ’98, ‘00
College/School: College of Agriculture
Degree: Master of Science in Agriculture Economics (2000)
Missions: While at Auburn, he traveled with a group from Opelika to Orphanage Emmanuel in Guaimaca, Honduras. He continued to volunteer at the orphanage and established a farm on the property that now provides all the fruits, vegetables and meat for approximately 500 orphans and staff at Emmanuel.
Current Profession: Serves as director of Orphanage Emmanuel.
Fun Fact: McCollum often holds Auburn Day at the orphanage where all the children wear Auburn t-shirts donated by Auburn alumni and local (Auburn) bookstores.
Antarrious “A.T.” Williams Neal ‘05
College/School: College of Liberal Arts, currently pursuing a master’s degree in Collegiate Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
College Activities: Four-year letterman for the Auburn football team
Current Profession: Pharmaceutical sales
Community Service: Served on the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chattahoochee Valley Board, instrumental in Tigers for Heroes, now called Gameday for Heroes, and is a youth football coach at Bunny Friend park in New Orleans in the Upper Ninth ward.
Awards/Honors: 2010 Janice Davis All-By-City Alumni Award, presented by the Columbus Sports Council.
Marie O’Brian ‘93
College/School: College of Business
Degree: Finance (1993), MBA from UCLA (2004)
Current Profession: Serves as co-president and CEO for Yak Academy.
Accomplishments: Co-founder of EarlyBirds Learning, which teaches a variety of different languages to children ages 1-10 through play-based activities. She founded Schools-in-Flight, which brought classes to local schools in Southern California.
Michael S. Parmer ’07, ‘01
College/School: College of Agriculture, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Services
Degree: Animal Dairy Sciences (1997), Wildlife Sciences (2001)
Profession: Works with Grey Rocks, and was very instrumental in the restoration of Bob White Quail population on the property by habitat manipulation. Parmer and his father also own a commercial cattle business.
Organizations: Chairman of the Autauga County Young Farmers, chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation, serves on the State Wildlife Committee for the Alabama Farmers Federation, and is currently serving as the vice president and president elect for the Autauga County Cattlemen’s Association.
Awards: Producer of the Year by the Beef Cattle Improvement Association (2007), Wildlife Division Young Family Farm of the Year by the Alabama Farmers Federation (2008)
Nicole Seline Schiegg ‘99
College/School: College of Liberal Arts
Profession: Directed public diplomacy in the first phases of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief at the U.S. Department of the State, based in Geneva, Switzerland and worked for the World Health Organization. Currently serves as senior advisor for strategic communications at the U.S. Agency for International Development, where she oversees communications and is the agency’s media spokesperson on two of President Barack Obama’s development priorities.
Accomplishments: Made over 30 trips to Africa and Asia offering hope, respect, and dignity to those battling different diseases. She has also made a difference in efforts for child survival, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.
Hobbies: Spends most of her personal time to health advocacy and fundraising for Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer, and other conditions.
Steven Speakman ‘95
College/School: College of Business
Degree: Degree in legal studies from Exeter College at Oxford University in England, Law degree from Washington and Lee University
Profession: After receiving his degree from Exeter College at Oxford University in England, he took a summer internship with the Central Intelligence Agency. In 2010, he was elected Lee County (Ala.) District Judge
Awards: President’s Award from the College of Business, Rotary Ambassadorial scholarship to attend Exeter College at Oxford University in England.
Contribution to Auburn: Speakman continues to assist Auburn students with applications for post-graduate scholarships to study abroad.
Mark Holton Thomas ‘98
College/School: College of Science and Mathematics
Degree: Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in science
Profession: Joined a start-up business which would become Radiance Technologies, and served as their vice president of Gulf Coast operations. He led another Defense industry startup for Integration Innovation, Inc., as senior vice president of Security and Environmental Solutions, and in 2011 was named director of Innovation and Advanced Technology for CareCore National, the nation’s largest provider of evidenced-based benefits management in health care.
Accomplishments: In his first job, Thomas developed software that builds, receives, and processes external National Missile Defense messages.
Contribution to Auburn: He and his wife, Kelly, have established a scholarship for future students to study mathematics at Auburn.
Fun Fact: Mark is a third generation Auburn graduate.