DATE:  April 19, 2004
CONTACT: Kathleen Hall, Director, Career Services, (361) 825-6052; Melissa Goonan, Public Affairs, (361) 825-2337

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Senior Biology Major Ryan Fikes Chosen National Student Employee of Year
Senior Ryan Fikes, a biology major who is employed by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Pollution Prevention Partnership, has been named National Student Employee of the Year by the National Student Employment Association (NSEA).

The announcement was made on Friday, April 16 by Nora Cargo, president of the Southern Association of Student Employers, during the University’s eighth annual Island Awards celebration. Fikes, who will receive $1,000 and a plaque commemorating his achievement, was selected from a group of four regional finalists. Although the NSEA has been holding the competition for many years, this is the first year that A&M-Corpus Christi has participated. The finalists were judged on reliability, quality of work, initiative, professionalism and uniqueness of contribution.

“More than anything, Ryan stood out because of his strengths in all those areas,” said Cargo. “His sponsor Gretchen Arnold made a real strong case for him.”

Fikes was recognized as the University’s first Student Employee of the Year earlier this semester from a group of 19 student workers nominated by their supervisors in each of the University’s departments. He advanced to the national finals after winning the regional competition.

Like many students at A&M-Corpus Christi and other universities, Fikes must work to help finance his pursuit of a college degree. But, while others may be toiling in jobs with little future beyond graduation, Fikes sees the hours he puts in as survey coordinator at the University’s Pollution Prevention Partnership (P3) as much a part of his education as the classes he takes each semester.

“I include my work with the Pollution Prevention Partnership in the educational process because it helps me gain valuable experience,” said Fikes. “I try to help everybody. Everyone in Community Outreach is great to work with and it’s a great environment to work in.”

One example of Fikes’ conscientiousness is the initiative he displayed in developing new strategies for survey data collection which resulted in a savings of more than $400 in mail-out expenses. From the information he gathered, Fikes is researching possible initiatives and developing a new database.

“Ryan is extremely reliable,” said Arnold, program manager for Community Outreach, of which P3 is a vital component. “He was hired for Pollution Prevention Partnership tasks, but it is common knowledge throughout Outreach that you can depend on Ryan.”

Fikes, who plans to continue his work at P3 as a graduate student next year, carries a full course load and works another job in addition to the time he puts in at P3. He serves as a mentor in the Animal Standing Network and takes time to speak with “at-risk” students through the GEAR UP program.