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K-State Today

April 9, 2015

Developing Scholars alumni celebrate program's success by giving back

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Alumni from the Developing Scholars Program, Kansas State University's long-standing undergraduate research program for underrepresented students, say they are grateful for the years they spent in research with university faculty while they were at the university — and that these experiences are helping them in their careers today.

Jose Valles and his wife, Areli Monarrez-Valles, both formerly from Liberal, were part of the Developing Scholars Program and wanted to give back to it through a book scholarship for a Developing Scholar. Valles earned a bachelor's degree in animal sciences and industry in 2010 and a master's degree in biomedical sciences in 2013 from K-State, while Monarrez-Valles earned a bachelor's in biology from K-State in 2009 and then a master's degree in medical laboratory science from the University of Kansas.

Valles' undergraduate research mentor was Dan Thomson, Jones professor of epidemiolgy and production medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Monarrrez-Valles' research mentor was Thu Annelise Nguyen, associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology.

"We remember the struggle for buying books and would like to help a student in need," Monarrez-Valles said.

"Areli and I have been blessed with people that have helped us make our dreams come true. I am very thankful that you never let me quit," Valles said.

They now live in Kearney, Nebraska, where Monarrez-Valles works at Good Samaritan Hospital as a medical scientist in the hospital's laboratory. Valles runs his own business, Valles Livestock Consulting.

Also wanting to pay it forward, which led to the creation of the Developing Scholars Program's Pay It Forward Awards, were alumni Talia Gutierrez, formerly of Dodge City; and Robert "Bobby" Gomez and his brother, Phillip Gomez, both formerly of Shawnee.

"I know the awards would make a first-generation college student very happy," said Gutierrez, who earned a master's degree in industrial engineering from K-State in 2007. "It feels good to finally give back. I will forever be grateful to the Developing Scholars Program and all that it did for me."

Gutierrez is master constracts advisor for XTO Energy in Fort Worth, a wholly owned subsidiary of ExxonMobil. Her faculty research mentor while at K-State was Todd Easton, associate professor of industrial engineering and manufacturing systems engineering.

"The Developing Scholars Program was my family — the family that provided the support and knowledge to be successful in college and in an ever-changing world. I am where I am today because of the Developing Scholars Program," said Bobby Gomez, who earned a bachelor's degree from K-State in elementary education in 2010 and his master's degree in early education from Hunter College.

Bobby Gomez spent two years with Teach for America in Brooklyn, New York. He currently teaches second grade at St. Luke's School in Brooklyn, New York, and coaches soccer. Adrienne Leslie-Toogood, a former K-State faculty member, was his research mentor in education.

Phillip Gomez, who earned a bachelor's degree in marketing in 2014, was known in the Developing Scholars Program for keeping the candy bowl full and for supplying leaf bags every year for the program's Rake 'N' Run service event. Gomez is working for the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association. His research mentor at K-State was Kevin Gwinner, professor and head of the marketing department.

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