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Alumni Awards

In mid-April, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences honored alumni at its Alumni Awards Banquet — these alumni are making important contributions in their community and within their professions. The honorees represent the change agents who have graduated with degrees in the liberal arts and sciences and gone on to find success professionally, through civic engagement and through their intellectual and cultural pursuits. The awards recognize the Distinguished Alumni, those who graduated more than 10 years ago; the Outstanding Alumni who are handpicked by their home departments; and the Rising Stars who graduated within the last 10 years and show great promise in their careers. 

Distinguished Alumni Award

Michael Locke

Mike Locke
BA History, '97
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Geo-Med, LLC

Mike Locke is a proud United States Marine Corps veteran who enlisted at 17. With more than 20 years of medical device and pharmaceutical sales experience coupled with strong strategic and execution skills, he is adept at leading teams to meet and exceed corporate objectives. He is an entrepreneurial sales and marketing leader with demonstrated success in increasing revenue, market share and earnings.

Locke is the founder and chief executive officer of Geo-Med, LLC, a global medical and surgical supplier based in Lake Mary, Florida. Geo-Med was founded in 2004 and has developed partnerships with leading manufacturers that share its commitment to client satisfaction and providing innovative medical and surgical products to the Veterans Administration Medical Center and U.S. Department of Defense military treatment facilities. Geo-Med’s products and services positively affect the care of veterans, active duty military personnel and their families.

Locke has applied the values he learned as a Marine to his corporate career – dedication to mission and team are more important than the individual. By ingraining this approach into his corporate culture, he has seen his company grow and sustain business with limited resources where no one job or task is more important than the other within the organization.

He knew he wanted a career where he could help people and make a difference. Bringing products to the marketplace that could help the clinical end users better care for their patients is where he believed he could. The most valuable skill he learned while attending WVU was critical thinking, which gave him the ability to understand underlying issues or questions that arise and the skills to research and identify the correct answer. Those skills enabled him to relay clinical data in a more concise manner while being able to research and answer questions from clinicians, giving them the appropriate information and helping them to have confidence in the products they use with their patients.

Locke knew he had found the right career path in medical sales when he realized the products and services he provides to clinicians and end users enhance and, in some cases, save patients’ lives. He has always found that to be the most rewarding part of his career, especially being a resource for clinicians and helping them access the right tools to provide the best care possible for their patients.

Jose Martinez-Diaz

Jose Martinez-Diaz
PhD Clinical Psychology, ’83; MA Clinical Psychology, ’77
Florida Institute of Technology

Jose Martinez-Diaz is University Professor at Florida Institute of Technology. He founded and chaired Florida Tech’s first applied behavior analysis graduate degree program in 1998. After developing four other graduate degree programs and three online certificate programs, he led Florida Tech’s School of Behavior Analysis from its inception until December 2018. Martinez-Diaz has also served as associate dean of Florida Tech’s College of Psychology and Liberal Arts.

For Martinez-Diaz, his greatest professional achievement is creating programs to train behavior analysis practitioners around the world. These programs have impacted more than 100,000 students to date while simultaneously developing behavior analysis as a credentialed profession.

In his role as University Professor, he continues to develop and improve behavior analysis programs, teach and mentor faculty and students. He serves in an advisory capacity to the senior vice president for academic administration. Florida Tech has honored him with the Provost’s Academic Leadership Award and the International Students’ Best Faculty Award.

Martinez-Diaz has adjunct professor appointments at Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Special Education and at the University of Salerno’s School of Medicine. He is also a member of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies’ Board of Trustees.

Martinez-Diaz first worked as a practitioner in the late 1970s. He went on to hold several administrative positions in the public and private sectors from 1988 to 1996. In 1997, he founded ABA Technologies, Inc., a company specializing in instructional design and technology and in organizational consultation. Today, he serves as its president. ABA Tech partners with Florida Tech to offer courses, programs and other offerings.

From 2011 to 2017, Martinez-Diaz served as the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s (BACB) liaison to the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA) and as a member of APBA’s Board of Directors. He was an officer and board member of the BACB from 2004 to 2011. In 2018, he received APBA’s Jerry Shook Award for his notable accomplishments in advancing and significantly supporting sound professional credentials in the practice of behavior analysis. Martinez-Diaz is also past president of the Florida Association of Behavior Analysis and received its Charles H. Cox Award for Outstanding Service and Advancement of Behavior Analysis in Florida in 2005.

Ann Bartuska Horizontal

Ann Bartuska
PhD Biology, '81
Vice President for Land, Water and Nature
Resources for the Future

Ann Bartuska is vice president for land, water and nature at Resources for the Future.

The daughter of a physician (mother) and engineer (father), the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native developed an early interest in science. Her interest in nature was piqued through neighborhood walks where her mom identified trees, plants and urban wildlife. These experiences led her to researching ecosystem processes in landscapes disturbed by coal mining.

Bartuska says her interest in ecology began because it seemed to integrate so many different aspects of science, and it dealt with real-world problems, not just theory. Her career took her to natural resource management positions, but she still fundamentally thinks of herself as an ecosystem ecologist.

Bartuska joined Resources for the Future in 2017 after serving as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s deputy undersecretary for research, education and economics as well as chief scientist. Bartuska says this gave her a chance not only to influence natural resource, food and agriculture policy at a very high level but also to mentor several upcoming young people who have begun making successful careers.

Prior to joining the USDA, she held a host of leadership positions, including deputy chief for research and development at the U.S. Forest Service and executive director of The Nature Conservancy’s Invasive Species Initiative.

She has served many appointments, including to the advisory board of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research Network and president of the Ecological Society of America. Bartuska was a member of the inaugural Multidisciplinary Expert Panel of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, chartered by the United Nations Environment program. She co-chaired the Science and Technology Roundtable for Sustainability of the National Academy of Sciences. Prior to leaving federal service, she was named chair of the Subcommittee on Global Change Research for the National Science and Technology Council and vice chair of the Civil Applications Committee, a classified position in which she works with the intelligence community in geospatial and remote sensing issues. She is currently co-chair of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) standing committee on science communications and is a member of the NAS Board on Environmental Science and Toxicology.

Caitlin Ahrens seated outside



Rising Star Award

Caitlin Ahrens graduated from the West Virginia University Eberly College of Arts and Sciences with bachelor’s degrees in geology and physics, with an emphasis in astrophysics, in 2015. She went on to pursue a PhD at the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Arkansas, where she is still studying today.

A Fairmont, West Virginia, native, Ahrens is known as “The Pluto Manager” at the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences. Her graduate research is focused on the geology of Pluto, and she manages the campus’s Pluto Simulation Laboratory, making ice mixtures from various elements and subjecting them to very low temperatures to help predict the various landforms observed on Pluto. This lab was responsible for analyzing the first close-up images of Pluto captured by the NASA New Horizons interplanetary space probe.

Ahrens is deeply passionate about sharing science with others, and this shows through her weekly space-centered radio show, “Scratching the Surface,” which is broadcast on the local NPR station in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The two-minute segments deal with the latest information and activity regarding the solar system. Her radio show listeners include elementary students from across the world, including a small school in Kampala, Uganda.

Ahrens also leads space lectures at the Fayetteville Public Library and gives presentations about space to local organizations. She also serves as a NASA Solar System Ambassador and regularly travels to schools in northwest Arkansas to speak with students of all ages about NASA’s exploration and discoveries. Ahrens is a strong advocate for women in STEM, regularly attending Girl Scout meetings, science events and workshops. She has spoken at numerous conferences, including the Lunar and Planetary Sciences, which hosts over 2,000 international planetary scientists.

In 2018, Ahrens was chosen as the Jaycees Outstanding Young American and was named a 2018 Outstanding West Virginian by the West Virginia Junior Chamber. She also received the 2018 Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award, one of the oldest and most prestigious recognition programs in the United States, for her science outreach.

During her undergraduate career at WVU, Ahrens conducted research on a methodology for statistically forecasting earthquakes on a global scale. She established a patent for the methodology, and it is now being used for publishing purposes and conference presentations to raise awareness among the seismologist community.

Ahrens aspires to continue communicating science to the public, expand her earthquake research and someday work on a NASA space mission.

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