Environmental Science (ESCI) Departmental Awards

2023 Award Recipients

Haley Sefi-Cyr

Outstanding M.S. Graduate

The Outstanding M.S. Graduate award is for excellence in graduate research, service, and mentorship of undergraduate students.

2022-23: Haley Sefi-Cyr

Haley Sefi-Cyr received her M.S. in Environmental Science and also has a B.S. in Environmental Science with an Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry emphasis from Western. “I have worked with Haley in multiple capacities throughout her academic career, starting as a student in my classes and then moving into the lab as an undergraduate researcher and a graduate student,” says Dr. Manuel Montaño. “At every turn Haley has impressed with her scientific acumen, work ethic, and continued desire to improve her community through science.”

Maddie Gard

Outstanding Senior

Faculty members from each academic department and program choose one 2022-23 graduate to honor as the year’s Outstanding Graduate. Criteria include grades, research and writing, campus and community service, and future promise.

2022-23: Maddie Gard

Madison (Maddie) Gard received a B.S. in Environmental Sciences (marine emphasis), a B.A. in Spanish, and a minor in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. “Maddie entered Western as a Marine Science Distinguished Scholar and buoyed her academic experiences with prestigious internships and research opportunities, including the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings undergraduate internship and honors thesis research on salmon and seals,” said Kathryn Sobocinski. “She has excelled academically and demonstrated her interest in marine science and the broader community through extracurricular activities.”

Elena King poses for a photo outside near a tree with yellow blossoms.

Community Service Award

The ESCI Community Service Award is a College of the Environment honor for one student in each department who has proven scholastic achievement and service to the College of the Environment, Western, and the community.

2022-23: Elena King

Elena King received a B.A. in Environmental Sciences with minors in Leadership Studies and Sustainability Studies and a certificate in Climate Leadership. “We nominate Elena for the community service award for her contributions to making ESCI a more inclusive place where more of us feel like we belong,” said Dr. Froylán E. Sifuentes, on behalf of the ESCI DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Committee. “Elena’s efforts in setting up a sustained model of community building through faculty-student interaction will pave the way for continued work in making ESCI the most welcoming place we all strive for it to be.” Through an independent project, Elena designed “Creating Community for Underrepresented Students in the ESCI,” a program to build community among people of color (POC) in ESCI by connecting students with each other and with faculty and helping to open doors to mentorship opportunities. She received a $20,000 Sustainability, Equity & Justice Fund (SEJF) grant through WWU's Sustainability Engagement Institute to fund quarterly community-building events for three years, beginning in Spring 2023.

Guadalupe Castillo stands in the snow on Mt. Baker at Snow School

Outstanding Environmental Applications Award

The Outstanding Environmental Applications Award goes to one student in each department for excellence in planning, implementing, and reporting their thesis, senior project, or internship.

2022-23: Guadalupe Castillo 

Guadalupe Castillo earned a B.S. in Environmental Sciences and received a REPS (Research Experience for Post-Bac Students) fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to spend 15 weeks the summer following graduation working with Dr. Robin Kodner and NSF Postdoctoral Fellow Brooke Weigel on research looking at how snow habitats impact snow micro-biodiversity.

Ashlyn Lee sits next to Ming-Ho Yu's wife and family, with ESCI/Environmental Toxicology faculty in the back row.

Ming-Ho Yu Award for the Best Outstanding Student in Environmental Toxicology

The Ming-Ho Yu Award for the Best Outstanding Student in Environmental Toxicology was created in 2005 and named after Dr. Ming-Ho Yu, whose love of teaching and inspiring students continued even after he retired in 1997. Dr. Yu played a crucial role in developing the environmental toxicology program in the early 1980s and again when creating the Institute of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry in 1989. Dr. Yu passed away in 2020. This award is granted each spring quarter to an undergraduate who excels academically and shows leadership and research skills that promise an outstanding advanced education and career. 

2022-23: Ashlyn Lee

Ashlyn Lee grew up in Lake Stevens, Wash., and always planned to study chemistry. She was inspired to learn about toxicology after watching the movie “Erin Brockovich” and shifted to a toxicology emphasis after taking Prof. Ruth Sofield’s Intro to Toxicology course. Her studies included a study abroad trip to Eleuthera, Bahamas, to work on several research projects ranging from fisheries sciences to artificial reefs. “Ashlyn has consistently proven herself to be an exceptionally motivated student who is always seeking out opportunities to dive deeper into science,” said Dr. Manuel Montaño, Ashlyn’s research mentor. “Her current research project in my lab is developing protocols to study the environmental and biological degradation of plastic material using Raman spectroscopy.” 

Past Departmental Awardees

Outstanding M.S. Graduate:


Outstanding Graduate:


Community Service Award:


Outstanding Environmental Applications Award:


Ming-Ho Yu Award for Best Outstanding Student in Environmental Toxicology:

2021-22 Cristina La

2020-21 Katie Knaub

2019-20 Katie Benoit and Ava Gempler

2018-19 Ethan Brown and Janae Gallant

2017-18 Ian L. Moran

2016-17 Kimberly Diep

2015-16 Miranda L. Aiken

2014-15 Ryan J. DeWitt

2012-13 Courtney Fung

2011-12 David C. Wood

2010-11 Mariana N. Cains and Susannah T. Edwards

2009-10 Brian Church and Siobhan Sloan-Evans

2008-09 Evan Gray

2007-08 Melody Feden and Andrew Ryan

2006-07 Chad Weldy

2005-06 Jessica Ellis