SUU Blog | T-Bird Nation

Who is the 2016 SUU Valedictorian? 

By Southern Utah University on April 20, 2016 in

Students, Graduation

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Dancer, counselor, tutor, leader, researcher, student, valedictorian. These are only a few of the roles Alex Nielson has embraced during her time at Southern Utah University, valedictorian being her most recent academic triumph. Nielson will represent SUU as an example of hard work and dedication during her recognition at the University Commencement April 30, 2016 in the Centrum Arena.

The 22-year-old from Holladay, Utah has earned a 4.0 GPA, spent countless hours working toward superior achievement as a biology major and chemistry minor, and through her efforts has learned the priceless principle of self-motivation.

“You have to be self-motivated in college,” says Nielson. “It was hard when friends would go out and I’d have homework due or tests on Monday, but it's so worth it to look back and see how much I've achieved.”

Nielson’s collegiate career didn’t begin at SUU. She actually started college at a much larger institution, and today speaks of her general chemistry course there and how unreachable her professor was for the students.

“The professor was teaching 900 kids so there was no opportunity to go speak with him,” she says. “When I heard about SUU, smaller class sizes and the opportunity of working closely with my professors, I made my decision to switch. People actually know my name here and care about my future studies.”

After transferring to SUU, Nielson found her chemistry professor to be much more accessible and responsive. Professor Ty Redd, Nielson’s organic chemistry teacher and mentor, has high expectations for his students and does his best to make 8 a.m. classes funny and interactive.

“Alex is an excellent student with great work ethic, stamina, drive and motivation,” says Redd. “She is meticulous with excellent study habits, intellectually independent and creative. Oh yes, and giggly!”

In the Nielson household, medical practice is the family business. Her father is a working OB/GYN, her mother a registered nurse and her sister a recent graduate of nursing school. With good examples surrounding her, Nielson developed a love for medicine and a drive to serve others.

Inspired by two trips she has taken to Nicaragua with SUU’s Rural Health Scholars, Nielson hopes to lead her own medical missions once she is a practicing medical professional. Whitney Johnson, program coordinator for the Utah Center for Rural Health, has worked with Nielson on these two alternative spring breaks and has nothing but good things to say of this future doctor.  

“Alex has taken on a highly rigorous coursework in her preparation for medical school and kept exceptional grades throughout her academic career,” says Johnson. “She has balanced school, community service, and extracurricular work with the utmost precision and deserves to be recognized for that accomplishment.”

“Your hard work will pay off” is a phrase Nielson’s mother would often say to her. Although she has worked hard her entire life, at dance, school and jobs, Nielson says she has only recently seen this concept coming to fruition.

“I never believed my mom growing up. Then I got the call this spring saying I had been accepted to the University of Utah School of Medicine – my life dream – and I realized all my hard work is paying off,” she says.

Students can learn a simple yet powerful principle from Alex: Hard work pays off. Says Johnson, “Alex has not only reached her goals: she has crushed them. She has come one step closer to realizing her dreams.”

During her undergraduate education, Nielson has danced with the Waukeenyans, tutored for multiple subjects, helped at Camp Kesem as a summer counselor, volunteered at Valley View Medical Center and traveled with Rural Health Scholars. She has made the most of the opportunities SUU offers, and SUU is proud to claim her as a Thunderbird.