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Eighteen Islander Employees, Alumni Honored as Corpus Christi ‘40-Under-40’ Award Recipients

January 27, 2016

CCU40 Winners

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Eighteen Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi employees and alumni were recognized by Corpus Christi Under 40 for their outstanding contributions to their career field and the community during the Mayor’s Breakfast held on January 26 in the University Center, Anchor Ballroom, on the University campus.

The following Texas A&M-Corpus Christi employees and alumni were recognized:

Dr. Amy Aldridge Sanford, Department Chair of Communication and Media and Associate Professor of Communication and Media at A&M-Corpus Christi: In the past five years, Sanford has been a presenter on more than 30 academic panels and has given nearly 50 invited lectures. She is the immediate past chair of the Texas Association for Communication Administrators and has served on multiple executive committees.

Aislynn Campbell, Executive Director of GROW Local South Texas: Campbell received her Bachelor of Arts from A&M-Corpus Christi. She founded the Corpus Christi Downtown Farmers’ Market in 2011. One year later, she founded GROW Local STX, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. She also oversaw the creation of The Learning Garden, GROW Local STX’s teaching community garden.

Justin Colmenero, Owner and Managing Broker of Prime Real Estate: Colmenero received his Bachelor of Science from A&M-Corpus Christi. After two years as a realtor, he excelled and became one of the youngest Real Estate Brokers in Corpus Christi and joined the Edwards Capital Corporation as their Managing Broker. In 2013, he established Prime Real Estate where he is the owner and Managing Broker.

Brenda Davis, New Media Specialist at A&M-Corpus Christi: Davis graduated with high honors from A&M-Corpus Christi with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2005. As New Media Specialist, she oversees the University’s social media presence, coordinates external e-communications, and assists with the maintenance and deployment of the University’s top tier Web presence. Under her direction, the University earned a ranking among the Top 10 Texas Higher Education Institutions on Twitter in 2014.

Natasa Davis, History Teacher at Marvin P. Baker Middle School: Davis received her Master of Secondary Education from A&M-Corpus Christi. In 2015, she was voted Baker’s Teacher of the Year for her dedication to her students and the entire Baker community. In addition to teaching, Davis works with her husband, assisting with social media marketing for his company, Spurfire.

Carlos Garanzuay, Coordinator for the College Relations Office and Adjunct Professor at Del Mar College: Garanzuay received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communication from A&M-Corpus Christi after serving two years in the U.S. Air Force. In his year at Del Mar College, Garanzuay made significant developments to improve his department’s assessment and budget processes, and developed a student-veteran mentorship program. He also played substantial, coordinating roles in the annual “Stop the Silence” Domestic Abuse Awareness Summit.

Katherine Hewett, Technology Applications Teacher at Richard King High School: Hewett received a Master of Science in Education from A&M-Corpus Christi and is currently a doctoral candidate with the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. This year marks her 12th year of service with the Corpus Christi Independent School District. Her research explores the possibilities for game-based learning in education. In 2010, Hewett was the Texas Computer Education Association’s winner for state “Classroom Teacher of the Year.”

Katie Hoover, Fundraising & Special Event Manager for the American Diabetes Association: Hoover graduated from A&M-Corpus Christi with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing. An ADA volunteer since 2012, she has always been passionate about the Association. In her current position, she manages ADA signature events including Father of the Year and Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes as well as Camp Sandcastle, a camp for Type 1 diabetic children.

Samantha Mendoza, Case Coordinator with Ironclad Technology Services: Mendoza earned a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science and a Master of Science in Counseling from A&M-Corpus Christi and is currently working on her dissertation to complete a Ph.D. in Counselor Education. At her job, she provides third party recommendations to the Office of Refugee Resettlement about the release of unaccompanied children to qualified sponsors and family members. Mendoza has dedicated her career to working with individuals with intellectual disabilities or mental health needs.

Denny Meyer, Staff Accountant at Fields, Nemec & Co., P.C. (FNC): Meyer received his Bachelor of Business Administration from A&M-Corpus Christi with dual majors in Finance and Accounting. After college, he joined Fields, Nemec & Co., P.C. (FNC) as a staff accountant performing mostly audits of privately held companies. In 2008, Meyer purchased an ownership interest in FNC.

Victor Nav, Director of Development in the College of Education and Human Development at A&M-Corpus Christi: Nav recently became the Director of Development in the College of Education and Human Development at A&M-Corpus Christi. He also proudly serves in the United States Navy as a Master-At-Arms (Military Police) at NAS Corpus Christi. Nav is also a member of The Chive, an online community that supports their local community. He plays an active role in planning and launching events throughout the Coastal Bend.

Dr. Michael Ramirez, Associate Professor of Sociology and Coordinator for the Women and Gender Studies at A&M-Corpus Christi: Ramirez has published his research in academic journals and presented his work at conferences across the country. He is currently finishing his first book, “Destined for Greatness: Passions, Dreams, and Aspirations in a College Music Town,” which examines the lives of rock musicians as they pursue informal careers in music. He received the Teaching Excellence Award by the Texas A&M System in 2010 and the first-ever recipient of the Miriam Wagenschein Fellowship in Sociology in 2013.

Loren Rock, Accounting Department Manager at Rock Engineering: Rock received a Bachelor of Science at A&M-Corpus Christi. She has worked for Rock Engineering for 12 years, and monitors the accounting department. Loren has been actively serving the community through Junior League of Corpus Christi, since 2009. She has held many leadership positions through Junior League and many other organizations.

Genelle Timperlake Sanders, Adjunct Professor of Communications at A&M -Corpus Christi and of American Sign Language at Del Mar College: Sanders received her Master of Arts from A&M-Corpus Christi. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at A&M-Corpus Christi. In 2013, Sanders was a nominee for Teacher of the Year at Del Mar College. She is involved with numerous local and state-wide organizations advocating for communication and accessibility and rights of deaf people.

Jennifer Vela, Director of Sales at the Texas State Aquarium: Vela received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a minor in Media from A&M-Corpus Christi. She collaborates with local organizations, such as the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Port of Corpus Christi, H-E-B, Driscoll Children’s Hospital and hoteliers to promote the Aquarium as the city’s leading attraction and venue. Vela is currently working alongside the American Diabetes Association toward Tour de Cure.

Uma Venkat, Executive Director of the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation: Venkat received her Master of Business Administration from A&M-Corpus Christi. Venkat has a deep passion for nature and a love for the coastal resources in the Coastal Bend area of Texas. She is also a strong advocate of conservation of natural resources through education and outreach.

Michelle Villarreal Leschper, Public Information Officer for the City of Corpus Christi: Leschper received her Master of Arts in English from A&M-Corpus Christi. She worked for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times for three years as a multimedia journalist focusing on the courtroom and earned multiple honors including the 2014 Texas Gavel Award from the State Bar of Texas. She assumed her current position with the City in 2013 and serves as the point of contact for all community and media inquiries regarding public works, which include engineering, streets and solid waste.

Dr. Chase Young, Assistant Professor and the Silverman Endowed Chair in Literacy in the College of Education and Human Development at A&M-Corpus Christi: Young teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy and curriculum. Previously, Young taught in the public schools for eight years and served as a second and third grade teacher and as a reading specialist. He focuses the majority of his research on helping students in the community become successful readers. In 2014, the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers selected him to receive the Jerry Johns Promising Researcher Award.

To see the full list of honorees, go to http://www.ccu40.org/.

To view additional photos of the winners, click here.