Skip to main content

2024 Commencement Honorees


Erin Jackson, Olympian

Olympic speedskater and Salt Lake Community College alumna Erin Jackson is the first Black woman to win an individual gold medal at a Winter Olympics. She represented the United States at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea and the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

Erin, who grew up in Ocala, Florida, loves to push herself, and her penchant for challenges has taken her not only to the Olympics but also to the wilds of New Zealand, where last year she was a contestant on Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test. Special Forces is a quasi-military training reality television series that pits contestants against harsh environments. “I found I was tougher than I thought, and I was surprised that I was willing to attempt all the things that scared me,” says Erin.

While competing around the world as an elite athlete, Erin attends SLCC. She earned an associate’s degree in computer science in 2020 and is working on several other degrees at the College. She also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida's College of Engineering, where she graduated cum laude in 2015.

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

Patricia Jones-Horton

A well-known figure in local business and politics, Patricia (Pat) Jones-Horton is a role model for female leaders across Utah. As CEO of the Women's Leadership Institute, Pat believes women often underestimate their potential. “Esteem comes from within and can be used in one's spheres of influence to change the world,” she says.

Born and raised in Utah, Pat graduated magna cum laude from the University of Utah in communications and has always been a dedicated learner. She believes curiosity is the key to growth and likes to learn by asking simple questions, a practice she attributes to her training as a qualitative researcher. Pat is convinced that Salt Lake Community College is a wonderful place for curious people to thrive and is a great asset for Utah. "If there was ever a need for an institution like SLCC, it’s now,” she says. “It's a marketplace of ideas representing people from all walks of life."

Pat is also co-founder and former president of Dan Jones & Associates, a prominent public opinion and market research firm. In 2006, Pat plunged into Utah politics by running for the state legislature. As the first female legislator to hold leadership positions in both the Utah House and Senate she worked on several influential committees, including the Public Education, Higher Education, and Economic Development committees.

Katharine B. Garff

Katharine (Kathi) B. Garff has dedicated her life to education and community service but is quick to share credit for her accomplishments with others. “We are fortunate in Utah to have dedicated people, organizations, and institutions that believe in the power of education,” she says. “Their energy and passion have led to many successes.”

Kathi has served on many boards dedicated to education, including the Utah State Board of Regents, the Utah State Board of Education, the Utah College of Applied Technology, and the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

A graduate of the University of Utah, Kathi and her husband, Bob, founded the Robert H. and Katharine B. Garff Success in Education Foundation in 2004, which she continues to direct. The foundation’s offerings include its Keys to Success initiative, which connects high school students with college or careers, and its popular Road to Success program, designed to promote literacy among K-5 students by incentivizing daily reading. In 2023, the foundation’s programs were adopted for use by every school district in Utah. “We change the world – one student at a time,” Kathi says.

Distinguished Alumni

Lianna Kinard
Associate's Degree, General Studies, 2004
Chief Marketing Officer, The Buckner Company

When Lianna Kinard began her journey at Salt Lake Community College, she had recently moved from Mililani, Hawaii, to Utah, where she worked full time to support her education. SLCC provided an excellent starting point, and she remembers a feeling of belonging on campus.

In one of her classes, Lianna met a student from Japan who had recently moved to Utah. “Where in the world does a girl from Hawaii end up sitting next to a girl from Japan in a classroom,” says Lianna, who valued SLCC’s small class sizes. “When I think of inclusivity, I think of SLCC.”

Lianna’s start at the college ultimately led to a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing from the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business and a Master of Liberal Arts in General Management from Harvard University. Today, Lianna serves as the Chief Marketing Office for The Buckner Company, a premier insurance brokerage firm headquartered in Salt Lake City.

Jim Russell
Electrician Apprenticeship Program, 1984
Associate Vice President, Facilities, University of Utah

For Jim Russell, completing SLCC's Electrician Apprenticeship program was his first step in building a highly successful career in the construction industry. Eventually, he became the director of the Utah Division of Facilities and Construction Management, and in March, he accepted a position with the University of Utah, overseeing its facilities division.

SLCC’s electrician program was a good place to start for Jim. “I love to learn and understand things, and I’m a hands-on learner. Working in the field while I was going to school worked well for me.”

Over the years, Jim has reconnected with SLCC professionally. He oversaw the renovation of the South City Campus, which he attended as a student when the facility was known as South High. He was also instrumental in building several structures on the College's Taylorsville Redwood Campus.

“I like watching projects evolve, going from bare dirt to something spectacular and to see all the craftsmanship involved,” says Jim. “It’s fun to see what you’ve created so clearly and concretely.”

Legislative Champion

Jordan D. Teuscher
Utah House of Representatives District 44, Salt Lake County

Representative Jordan D. Teuscher, steadfast champion of Salt Lake Community College, was elected to the Utah House of Representatives in 2020.

From the earliest days of his legislative service, Representative Teuscher has prioritized regularly visiting SLCC and understanding the needs and perspectives of the institution and its students. In 2023, he sponsored a bill to grant residency status to students who have applied for or been granted certain immigration status but are not U.S. citizens. Representative Teuscher incorporated the College’s feedback on this bill, which ultimately passed without a single vote in opposition. Since then, this legislation has helped launch the dreams of hundreds of SLCC’s immigrant students by making college affordable and over time, will benefit thousands of students across Utah.

Representative Teuscher currently serves in House leadership as Vice-Chair of the House Rules Committee and Chair of the House Ethics Committee. He is also co-chair of the Business, Economic Development, and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee and a member of both the Political Subdivisions and Business and Labor committees.

Teaching Excellence Award

Stacey Van Dahm, PhD
Associate Professor, English, Linguistics & Writing Studies

Stacey Van Dahm's teaching approach is rooted in her belief that literature is a powerful tool to develop compassion for others. “Teaching empathy is what literature does,” she says. “It makes the human experience more accessible and relatable.”

An associate professor of English at Salt Lake Community College since 2017, Stacey prioritizes in-class discussions where she reframes, draws out more reticent students, reiterates key points, and handles interruptions as they happen. She also uses peer feedback to provide students with opportunities to examine how their fellow classmates approach reading, thinking, and writing. This practice exposes students to differing personal and political views and requires them to reflect and respond constructively.

“I believe my classroom must be a place where students are challenged but feel safe to explore,” Stacey says. “My students are most engaged when learning is both relevant to their experiences and when they are exposed to new ideas.”

Besides teaching at SLCC, Stacey has taught at the University of California-Santa Barbara and Philadelphia University. She also taught in Russia with the Peace Corps. She holds a bachelor’s in English Literature from Pepperdine University, and master’s and doctorate degrees in Comparative Literature from the University of California-Santa Barbara.

Ryan Holcomb, PhD
Associate Professor, Chemistry

Empowering students to become effective learners is the principal goal of Salt Lake Community College associate professor of Chemistry Ryan Holcomb. “Learning chemistry requires self-discipline and determination,” he says. “Students who develop this will find success in all of their academic work.”

From his first day teaching at SLCC, Ryan has been mindful that many students are underprepared for college. “I feel a deep responsibility to keep all of my students in class and help them meet their goals,” he says. One way he does this is by teaching a special “Unit 0” in all his classes. “Before studying chemistry, we dive into the science of learning, which includes adopting a growth mindset, taking good notes, and mastering memorization and recall techniques,” he says. “Unit 0 helps most students but especially disadvantaged students who may have not learned these strategies in high school.”

Ryan earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Texas-Austin and a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to starting his teaching career in 2008, he worked as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry.

Matt Affolter
Adjunct Professor, Geology

At an early age, Matt Affolter noticed he had a passion for teaching. Having always enjoyed helping his classmates learn the subjects they were struggling with, he became an Earth Science teacher at Fort Herriman Middle School in 2022. Four years later, he became an adjunct professor at Salt Lake Community College, and today he shares his knowledge of geology with hundreds of high school and college students annually.

"Geology is extremely underrated in our society," says Matt, who is trying to change the narrative on the field with every class he teaches. "We all use this planet's resources, and geology can teach people to become better stewards." He also trains his students to stay current on environmental issues. “I want my students to be well informed so they can make decisions that can help better our planet; it’s that simple,” Matt says.

Matt earned a bachelor’s degree in Geology from the University of California Los Angeles and a master’s degree in Geology from the University of Montana. He also holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Utah.

Distinguished Faculty Lecturer

Melissa Hardy, PhD
Associate Professor, Biology

Curiosity, Melissa Hardy asserts, is our birthright as human beings. “We arrive in this world eager to learn and experience the world around us, but subpar educational experiences can dampen or kill that natural state of inquisitiveness and replace it with boredom and apathy,” she says.

As Salt Lake Community College’s Distinguished Faculty Lecturer for 2025, Melissa’s lecture, Biocurious: The Power of Curiosity in an Age of Assessment, will be an antidote to the recent trend in higher education to standardize curriculum, which often prioritizes the needs of institutions over the needs of students. Her lecture will focus on reigniting the natural curiosity of students.

The topics covered in her lecture will span from discussions on parasitic worms to insights regarding the student experience at SLCC. Melissa will also discuss the need to integrate meaningful and transformative experiences, such as hands-on research projects, into curricula, so students can see their learning come to life outside the classroom.

Melissa holds a Master of Arts in Biology from San Francisco State University and a doctorate in Neurobiology and Anatomy from the University of Utah. She joined SLCC’s faculty in 2011 and has created and taught courses in general biology, ecology, animal biology, and marine biology.

Provost's Graduates of Excellence

Charito Kent
Aviation Maintenance Technology
School of Technical & Professional Specialties

Salt Lake Community College has allowed me to grow professionally and personally. My husband, who was diagnosed with multiple cancers, has been fighting for his health, and I had to step down as a flight attendant to support my family. There have been many times that I have wanted to give up due to all the things that I have going on, but after taking a few minutes to reflect on my emotions, I realize that whatever I have going on is temporary.

Lexus Lindeman
Computer Science
Gail Miller School of Business

My unique family dynamic has made my academic career non-traditional. I have two disabled siblings, and one of them is hospitalized often, which requires me to travel out of state to provide daily care for her. My professors' understanding and flexibility have empowered me to believe in myself. I started at SLCC with the notion it would be okay as long as I passed my classes, that would be the most important thing. Now, I have the confidence that one day I will obtain a master's degree.

Marissa Glover
Elementary Education
General Studies

Breaking barriers has been one of my most significant accomplishments, and SLCC is making it possible. I started my higher education career after a 12-year break from school, and though it was not easy, it was worth it. My time at SLCC shows my unwavering commitment to my personal growth and self-improvement, and I hope that I can serve as an example for my children that one must persevere in the face of adversity. I am proof that anyone can come back from an education break and excel while changing their life for the better in the process.

Ellianys Pupo Restrepo
Graphic Communications
School of Arts, Communication and Media

The Bruin Dream Scholarship has allowed me to pursue my education and empowered me to continue working toward a bachelor's degree. Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to focus on my academics, achieve a high GPA, and get accepted at a four-year institution. The Dream Center has played a key role in my academic career, providing me with community support and influencing my success here at SLCC. My gratitude toward the Center is so immense that I became a peer mentor to give back and pay it forward to others.

Shawntell Ricord
Occupational Therapy Assistant Program
School of Health Sciences

Due to my hard work and dedication, my time at SLCC has been nothing short of rewarding. I’ve been on the Dean’s List and President’s List three times, a member of the Student Occupational Therapy Association, a civically engaged scholar, and a representative of the American Occupational Therapy Association, to name a few. I used to be so caught up with having perfect grades and being the perfect student, but everything changed when I was involved in a car accident. I realized that it is the small things that matter, and it was such an experience that shaped me to become a more grateful and joyful SLCC community member.

Alyssa Korologos
School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Getting to this point has been challenging. I almost did not graduate from high school; however, after years of an educational break, I took a leap of faith to pursue my passion for psychology at SLCC. I have made the honor roll, joined the National Society of Leadership and Success, and even volunteered for the Philoptochos Society, which is dedicated to helping women and children in the Greek Orthodox Church. My goal is to become a therapist and help others understand that one’s past does not define one's future. I firmly believe I can create my own success and have all the tools needed to obtain it.

Jacquelin Hutch
Medical Laboratory Science
School of Science, Mathematics and Engineering

I have a knack for identifying opportunities and turning ideas into reality. I was born into a close-knit community in the Peruvian mountains, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, resilience, and determination. Realizing the limited opportunities I had within the picturesque mountains that surrounded me, I decided to seek a brighter future in America and left my family and mountains behind. I am the first member of my family to attend college, and I carry with me a profound sense of responsibility and commitment to positively impact the diverse campus community of which I am part.