Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA's Office of Research and Graduate Studies names two graduate award recipients

May 21, 2018 - University Marketing Communications
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University's Office of Research and Graduate Studies awarded two honors to outstanding graduate students. Alyssa Abreu of Spring received the Marilyn Odom Graduate Student Award, and Chad Huckaby of Nacogdoches received the William R. Johnson Outstanding Thesis Award.

The awards are presented annually to recognize students dedicated to the pursuit of their graduate degrees and to honor the hard work put in to compiling thesis projects.

Marilyn Odom Graduate Student Award
Abreu is pursuing a Master of Science in kinesiology. She works in the SFA Department of Kinesiology and Health Science's Human Performance Lab.

"My area of study is in behavioral medicine, where I look at the effects of exercise and diet on disease," Abreu said. "I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish thus far, which is highly attributable to the incredible kinesiology staff. I also understand there are many other graduate students … doing great things, making this award very meaningful. I am honored to have received it."

Dr. Eric Jones, SFA professor of kinesiology and health science, nominated Abreu for the Odom award. Both Jones and Dr. Mark Faries, former SFA assistant professor of kinesiology and health science, were significant mentors for Abreu.

"Alyssa has been a great asset to our department, students and myself," Jones said. "Our lab would not be as developed if not for her willingness to lend her time and efforts, as well as her attention to detail and constant desire for improvement. A student with Alyssa's drive and potential is rare. We have very been fortunate to have her."

In 2016, Abreu received the Donald A. Pegg Student Leadership Award from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. The honor included grant funding that Abreu used to create SFA's Lumberjack Lifestyle Medicine Association in January 2017. The organization has prepared healthy meals for Nacogdoches' homeless population, engaged in health education programs, and organized a 5K and 10K run in April.

Abreu said it was just as special being nominated by someone of Dr. Jones' caliber as it was receiving the award.

"Having somebody believe in you and your efforts makes a world of difference and has gotten me where I am today," she added.

The Texas American College of Sports Medicine named Abreu the 2015 Undergraduate of the Year and presented her with the 2016 Outstanding Graduate Research award. She has two publications and two manuscripts in preparation and is working on her thesis, which is titled "Self Regulation in Low Income Mothers in the Community-Based, Extended Food and Nutrition Education Program."

Abreu was recently appointed research coordinator for a national study on medical students' perceptions and understandings of lifestyle medicine. She is directing and organizing data collection for the study at 10 medical schools in addition to manuscript preparation. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in public health.

The Marilyn Odom Graduate Student Award is granted to full-time students who have a 3.8 GPA or better for all graduate work at SFA with at least 24 graduate hours taken in residence at SFA.

William R. Johnson Outstanding Thesis Award
Huckaby received a Master of Science in mathematical sciences from SFA in 2017.

"I found out I had received this award while on my way to take a prospective student to the SFA campus for a tour, so finding out that day helped bring my SFA experiences back to mind," Huckaby said. "I am incredibly honored and humbled to receive this prestigious award."

Huckaby's thesis is titled "Observations in Convexity." His thesis advisors, Drs. Sarah Stovall and Roy Harris, both professors of mathematics and statistics, nominated him for the Johnson award. Stovall called Huckaby an "excellent mathematician and an excellent writer."

Harris added, "Due to the results he achieved and his well-written manuscript, the decision to nominate Mr. Huckaby was obvious."

Huckaby received the 2015 Mr. SFA award and was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to serve as student regent on the SFA Board of Regents for the 2016-17 academic year.

"Being nominated by Drs. Harris and Stovall is truly an honor for me as they were among the first to teach me during my undergraduate studies, coupled with the fact that both of them are SFA graduates and incredible mentors," Huckaby said. "Receiving this award adds another dimension to my incredible experience at SFA. I am forever indebted to SFA for affording me incredible opportunities to learn and grow. I say SFA makes Lumberjacks great!"

Huckaby is pursuing a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction at Texas A&M University.

The criteria for the William R. Johnson Thesis Award are significance and originality, appropriateness of style, quality of writing and quality of graphics when appropriate. The Graduate Council's Student Affairs Committee recommends a winner who is then voted on by the council.