Cyclone Champions

The journey to graduation is never one that happens alone. Each year during the Lavender Graduation Ceremony, graduates are given the opportunity to highlight a Cyclone Champion, or someone who has helped them reach the stage at graduation.

2020 Champions

  • Audrey Kennis
  • Brad Dell
  • Cynthia Adams
  • Autumn Marks
  • Brenda Thorbs-Weber
  • Rita Mookerjee
  • Eric Henderson
  • Carmen Libertad Rivera
  • Carlos Vidales
  • Carolyn Duven
  • Brooke Hay
  • Tara Fisher


Tara Fisher

" I have known Tara since I was a freshman when I enrolled in the GCP, now GLA. She was a boss back then and she's a boss now. Since then, I've had the pleasure to know her through Ivy Student Council, as a Student Leadership Fellow for GLA, and through ACCESS. She is incredibly compassionate and motivational but isn't afraid to play hardball sometimes and make you take a step back and think about your words or actions. She is my role model and one of the women who has motivated me to better myself professionally and personally, but also take time for myself and practice self-care. I am grateful every day that I've known her for as long as I have and that she is someone I can confide in. Everyone needs a Tara in their life and I am blessed that mine was here to get me through college. "

Emily Hammer , Debbie & Jerry Ivy College of Business

Brooke Hay

" I have been fortunate to have a large support network of family, close friends, and colleagues that have helped me a long my academic journey. They were all integral in my success, but one stands out. My sister Brooke was a champion of my success from the time I started working on my application to the finishing of my capstone. Willing to talk through frustrations with group projects or struggles with motivation and imposter syndrome. Motivating words, texts, care packages. And always willing to help me revise papers and presentations, even on short notice as I procrastinated. I look forward to supporting her the same way in her grad school pursuits. "

Brady Hubbard , College of Human Sciences

Carolyn Duven

" Carolyn was my cyclone success coach. She met with me every week and made sure not only that I was doing ok academically but mentally as well. She celebrated my milestones and helped me through the bumps along the way. For that I want to say thank you. "

Erissa McGill , College of Agriculture & Life Sciences

Carlos Vidales

"As a first generation college student, I didn't have any idea about what I needed to do to get into graduate school, or even how to do the simple things like fill out applications and narrow down school choices. Carlos was an invaluable resource for me, both in knowledge of the process, and as someone to come to with anything I needed support in. When I came to him in search of research opportunities, he opened the door for me to a world of science that I never knew existed. Carlos helped me to discover my true passions and provided a safe space for me to discuss anything I needed help in. He is someone that I have always felt has been proud of my success and helps me grow comfortable with my areas of growth. I will be forever grateful that he was able to see the passion in me that I couldn't see myself."

Ashley Macbeth, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Carmen Libertad Rivera

"I am more than thankful to my community in Puerto Rico. Who lifted me when I was a highschool dropout. Guided me to apply to the University of Puerto Rico. The same commuity who went to srike for an accesible and free education for all. The same community who helped themselves to rebuilt after the hurricanes. The ones who watched me flight away to complete my education at Iowa State. A mi corilla, Gracias."

Arena Borincana, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Eric Henderson

" Dr. Henderson: What seemed like a small interaction to you, was life changing for me. In Spring 2018 I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I loved biology. I was scared to go pre-med. I had family expectations for who and what I was supposed to be. I think in that moment when I came crying about getting a D on exam, you knew I just needed someone to support me. And you did just that. Spring 2018 was by far the worst semester of college for me. But waking up and coming to your class was one of the few things I looked forward to. You supported me and gave me resources to follow my passions regardless of how hard the journey was going to be. You believed in me, when I thought nobody else did, and you reminded me not to conform to my parents expectations of what my future had to look like. I have never forgotten you, and although I never took another class with you after that semester you made an everlasting impression. Thank you. "

Sam Bonaime, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Rita Mookerjee

" One of the most rewarding choices in my time at Iowa State was picking up a minor in Women's and Gender studies. During the fall semester I was taking Rita Mookerjee's International Perspectives on Women and Gender class and I loved the inclusive environment Rita created in the classroom, and the thoughtful curriculum focused on contemporary issues. She even supported me as a changed my name and pronouns in her class, but things were not as supportive in my other courses. I was at a place where I thought I may have to drop the minor because of the non-inclusive environments I was experiencing in my other classes. I knocked on her door during office hours and we talked through it all. I was able to share struggles both personal and academic and Rita helped me to feel seen and validated at a time I felt invisible in almost everywhere. More than that Rita became my advocate. She got me in touch with department resources and went to bat to help me stay in the minor. Her support ultimately was the encouragement I needed to continue in the program, and if I had not knocked on her door that day I might not be graduating with my minor today."

Maya Kirch, College of Engineering

Autumn Marks

"Autumn helped me step out of my comfort zone and has helped me through some very hard times during my college experience. She was supportive of me discovering myself as a person and growing to the person I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am without her support as my boss and friend."

Amber Rose Davis, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences

Brenda Thorbs-Weber

" Brenda, you've made a significant impact throughout my journey here at Iowa State. Even though we saw each other every Thursday for Multicultural Business Network, I always knew that you would be there whenever I needed. You are a true champion to the students at the Ivy College of Business. Keep smiling on - It's very contagious! I'm going to miss you here in Pittsburgh! "

Thanh Phan , Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business

Cynthia Adams

"Thank you for pushing boundaries in the dance world, fighting for the dance department and believing in my potential as an artist. I will always be grateful for all the opportunities you have brought into my life! "

Jose Manuel Perez Gonzalez , College of Engineering

Brad Dell

" Brad Dell made it all possible for me to pursue my dreams of being in theatre with no fear. He always soothes my insecurities, makes me a braver theatremaker, and encourages me to seek out great opportunities not only as a student, but also as a Citizen Artist. He has made theatre accessible for many trans students, including myself, and the efforts of the Department of Theatre to celebrate diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation, and more will certainly not go unseen. He will be sorely missed, but graduation won’t get rid of me that easy."

Olly Manning, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Audrey Kennis

"Audrey, You are the reason I went to this school. I remember you showing me around before I started, before I had decided. You stayed with me through it all, even when you moved to another department. You made time for me, you made space for me in your heart, and I truly treasure you. It was conversations with you that lead me to my philosophy minor, it was you that I came to when things in my department seemed hard and unfair. You give to your students so much, I only hope that we can give enough back to you. I love you Audrey, thank you for being my friend and mentor during this chapter of my life."