RIO GRANDE — The University of Rio Grande School of Arts and Letters announced its spring 2016 Spotlight on Success winners.
The three award recipients for this semester are Dempsey Rupe, a graduating senior, Dr. Heather Duda, professor of English and director of the honors program, and Trent Staten, Class of 2005.
Chair for the School of Arts and Letters, Benjy Davies, said each semester Spotlight on Success recognizes a student, faculty member and alumni who have gone above and beyond in their studies, teaching and career.
“We started the Spotlight on Success about two years ago because we wanted to highlight the accomplishments and personalities that make up the School of Arts and Letters,” Davies said. “This initiative also helps us share the success of our colleagues, students and alumni with future students and the community.”
Rupe, a native of Middleport who received her bachelor’s degree in history earlier this month, said she first came to Rio as a post-secondary option student. Rupe said she has enjoyed her time at Rio and is excited to see where life takes her.
“I was surprised and I’m really thankful to be chosen,” Rupe said. “Because I was a post-secondary student in high school, I was only 14 when I first came to Rio. Being so young meant I had to work hard, and that discipline has stayed with me to prepare me for the future. I’ve made a lot of friends and have really enjoyed my time here.”
Duda was selected by her colleagues for the faculty spotlight. Duda has been a part of the Rio community for nine years and said she is thankful for the opportunities she has had so far through Rio.
“It was very exciting and nice to know my colleagues think highly enough to choose me for this. It’s an honor,” Duda said. “I really enjoy working with my fellow faculty and my students. It’s so rewarding to watch the students go through their degree programs and move into their professional lives. I love working at an institution that is so focused on learning, helping the students prepare for their futures, and promoting scholarship and service among the faculty.”
While at Rio, Duda has also received honors such as the Madog Faculty Fellow, Ernie A. Wyant Outstanding Teaching Award and recognition as a “Best Book of 2008” nominee for the seventh annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards by the Classic Horror Film Board in 2009.
Staten, originally from Wellston, was a visual arts comprehensive major at Rio and graduated in 2005. After leaving Rio, he started working in an internship with Walt Disney World. Staten said the internship turned into a full-time job in show and entertainment production.
“It has been almost 10 years since I graduated and to receive this recognition is amazing. I still keep in touch with some of my former professors. I’ve always looked at them as mentors and that connection really helps keep me grounded and focused,” Staten said. “Rio really helped me learn the discipline I need for this field. It can be pretty busy with long projects, so I need to have a strong work ethic to be successful.”
Staten now lives in the central Florida area with his wife, Lori, and also runs his own production company while still working for Disney.
Davies said he is proud of this semester’s winners and hopes to see them continue their success.