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Honors Alumni Give Back

Homecoming Networking Event

During BYU Homecoming week we were thrilled to welcome Honors alumni back to campus! The value of a BYU Honors education extends well beyond the boundaries of campus as our graduates “go forth to serve” and model lifelong service and learning. The Honors Program connected current students with Honors alumni at our Alumni Networking Event where alumni recounted their experiences, offered advice, and shared how their Honors education has benefitted them and others beyond graduation. Get to know the alumni who so willingly gave of their time to current Honors students:

Byron Adams, 1993

BS in Zoology

Byron Adams is a biologist who loves searching for patterns in the natural world and then figuring out the processes by which they came to be. He is a big fan of science education and curiosity-driven, exploratory research. With the support of the US National Science Foundation, Byron has spent the past 20 years studying the terrestrial ecosystems of Antarctica. His work sheds light on the organisms that live there, how they survive such harsh conditions, and how they are responding to climate-driven environmental changes. As a professor at Brigham Young University, Byron oversees the graduate programs in Biology and teaches classes like, “Introductory Biology”, “Evolutionary Biology”, “Evolutionary Medicine”, and “How to Survive Thrive in Graduate School”. He received an undergraduate degree in Zoology, with a minor in English, from BYU, and a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Nebraska. Prior to taking his current position at BYU, Byron was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California-Davis and faculty at the University of Florida. Byron is married to Marci Shaver-Adams, an adjunct Professor of Biology at BYU and member of the Utah County Search and Rescue team. They are the proud parents of three feral children who are now mostly well-adjusted young adults.

Brian Allen, 2020

BS in Public Health: Epidemiology
Honors Thesis: Informal Alcohol Production and Consumption in Rural Malawi

Brian Allen is a MSc graduate from the London School of Economics in Health and International Development with an undergraduate background in epidemiology. Brian joined RTI International this year as a Data Analytics Associate with USAID’s Act to End NTDs. He is currently working on a neglected tropical diseases project. Prior to this position he worked on an evaluation of the World Bank's COVID-19 portfolio at the World Bank. He is passionate about data-driven decision and policy making, infectious disease control, and building more responsive and equitable health systems. Brian is based in Salt Lake City and loves all things biking and movies. Most Tuesdays (and many other nights) you'll find him and friends seeing the latest films.

Brigitte Madrian, 1989

BA in Economics
Honors Thesis: The Effect of Working Wives on the Labor Force Participation of their Husbands and the Distribution of Family Income

Brigitte Madrian is Dean and Marriott Distinguished Professor in the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Business where she has a joint appointment in the Department of Finance and the George W. Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics. Before coming to BYU, she was on the faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School (2006-2018), the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School (2003-2006), the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business (1995-2003) and the Harvard University Economics Department (1993-1995). She is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and served as co-director of the NBER Household Finance working group from 2010-2018. On being a leader, Dean Madrian offered eight lessons she’s learned: express gratitude, listen, share information, ask thoughtfully, delegate, step back, seek help when you need it, and say I’m sorry when you make a mistake.

Andrew Orme, 2018

BS in Mechanical Engineering
Honors Thesis: Evolution of MG AZ31 Twin Activation with Strain: A Machine Learning Study

Andrew Orme received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with University Honors in 2018. He stayed at BYU to complete his M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, where he studied turbomachinery using computational fluid dynamics. After completing his Master’s degree in 2020, he took a position in mechanical engineering with the U.S. Air Force. Andrew works as a Corrosion Control Process Engineer for Hill Air Force Base near Ogden UT, where he supports programmed depot maintenance processes for fighter aircraft. He plans to remain with the Air Force and explore the variety of jobs available to Mechanical Engineers. Andrew enjoys collecting and listening to vinyl records and roots for the McLaren Formula 1 racing team in his free time.

Samuel M. Otterstrom, 1990

BS in Geography
Honors Thesis: The LDS Church: Membership Growth Brings Per Capita GNP Decline

Samuel M. Otterstrom is a professor of geography, and associate dean in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences at BYU. He received a BS degree in geography: resource management with Honors and a MS in geography from BYU. He then earned a PhD in geography from Louisiana State University. He has also been a professional planner for Okanogan, County, Washington, and a geographer for Strategic Forecasting (now He studies and/or teaches in population, cultural, regional, and historical geography, and urban planning. His recent studies include the historical geography of northern California, historical markers in the West, and the use of genealogical records in modelling migration patterns. He and his wife Lori share a great deal enthusiasm for waterskiing, tennis, hiking, and their nine children (one of whom is also an Honors graduate and two are current BYU Honors students) and eight grandchildren.

Michael C. Peterson, 1987

Michael Peterson.jpg
BA in Biochemistry and BS in Zoology
Honors Thesis: The Isolation, Toxicity, and Palatability of Saponins from the Sea Cucumbers Cucumaria Miniata, Cucumaria Piperata, Eupentacta Quinquesemita, and Psolus Chitinoides

Dr. Michael Peterson is a Cardiac Hospitalist Physician with Revere Health Cardiology at Utah Valley Regional Hospital. He received his MD at the University of Utah School of Medicine and an Epidemiology MSc from the University of London and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine External Program. He completed his internship at West Virginia University School of Medicine in Internal Medicine and his residency with LDS Hospital's University of Utah Affiliated Residency in Internal Medicine. He is a prior longtime volunteer clinical faculty member at University of Utah SOM, is married with 4 children. Dr. Peterson enjoys writing for and reviewing for medical journals, reading and printmaking.

Sarah Sandberg Pletsch, 2002

Pletsch family.jpeg
BS in Elementary Education
Honors Thesis: The Life and Legacy of Karl G. Maeser: His Educational Philosophies

The mother of six children, ages nearly 19 to 7 years old, Sarah Sandberg Pletsch is a Curriculum Development Specialist at Franklin Discovery Academy and a music teacher at Valley View Elementary School. Her elementary education degree was a valuable asset while raising her children as a full-time mother, and she has maintained a current teaching license for 20 years. She helped edit her great-grandfather, Graham H. Doxey's, mission journals for publication, and has volunteered as an online divorce coach with Dealing with Divorce, a program started by BYU students. Sarah loves children's books and attending the Books for Young Readers Conference hosted at the Provo City Library at Academy Square. While at BYU, she participated in a study abroad in Jerusalem, and visited Germany with the Maeser family for the Karl G. Maeser statue dedication in Dresden with BYU President Merrill J. Bateman, Earl Maeser and others. The statue was dedicated by President Thomas S. Monson. Sarah enjoys hiking in the mountains with her family, especially in the autumn to see the changing leaves, visiting Utah's national parks, camping in Arches National Park in the spring, visiting her 93 year old neighbor, reading, swimming, and traveling. This summer they enjoyed a trip to Chicago and Nauvoo, Illinois with a wonderful stop in Springfield, IL to visit Abraham Lincoln's home, burial location and fabulous Lincoln Museum.

Thalia Pope, 2017

BA in English

Thalia Pope is a Training & Education Coordinator at the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition as well as a freelance Graphic Designer and Editor. Prior to joining UDVC, Thalia was the Outreach Coordinator for AmeriCorps Vista with United Way and spent time teaching English in South Korea. Her interests and specialties include writing and editing, research and analysis, visual design, web and print publishing, curriculum development, copywriting, social media, ESL instruction, event organization, team management, teamwork and collaboration, and public speaking.

Michelle Gessel Proctor, 2014

BA in Interdisciplinary Humanities: Environmental Studies
Honors Thesis: Assessment in Transition: Evaluating Student and Advisor Learning Outcomes in the Honors Commitment Interview

Michelle Proctor is a Graphic Designer for the International Division for Church Magazines for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and also works as a Freelance Graphic Designer. After completing her undergraduate degree, Michell completed a certificate in Digital Media and Graphic Design and worked for a variety of organizations, including BYU-Pathways Worldwide, Castle & Cooke Mortgage, and the Utah Women and Leadership Project. She met her husband while doing ballroom dance at BYU and they live in Pleasant Grove, UT with their 11-month-old daughter. Michelle enjoys reading historical fiction, gardening, playing board games and researching family history. Her favorite podcasts include What's her Name, 99% Invisible, and This is the Gospel.

Daren Ray, 2006

BA in History
Honors Thesis: The Christian Watoro of Fuladoyo: Competing Ideologies on the Swahili Coast

Daren Ray joined the BYU faculty as an Assistant Professor of History in Fall 2020, specializing in the history of Africa. He earned his Ph.D. and MA in African History at the University of Virginia (2014/2008). He previously taught at the American University in Cairo, Connecticut College, and Auburn University. He emphasizes active learning in his courses, such as group research projects, designing websites, and even rebuilding medieval Swahili towns in Virtual Reality. His multidisciplinary research focuses on the creation of ethnic and religious identities in East Africa. Prof. Ray grew up in Mesa, AZ but spent most of his summers visiting family in Logan, UT. He now lives in Provo with his wife Patience and their three children.

Andy West, 2003

Andy West Headshot.jpg
BA in Philosophy
Honors Thesis: When the Understanding Steps Aside: Kierkegaard and the Leap of Faith

Andy West is Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of EnerVest, Ltd. He oversees EnerVest’s legal department and the corporate governance of its various affiliates and subsidiaries. He is also the Founding Partner of Octagon Energy Partners. Before joining EnerVest in 2014, Andy was Senior Counsel at HighMount Exploration & Production LLC. He also practiced at two major international law firms, where he represented domestic and international energy companies in a wide array of complex transactional and regulatory matters. Andy has an M.A. from Yale University, and a J.D. from Duke University School of Law. He is an active member of various professional legal associations and has published and presented on topics concerning the oil and gas industry. He is married to Rebecca Donaldson West (BYU ’03). They are the parents of four daughters, two of whom are current BYU students. A connoisseur of all BYU Creamery dairy products, Andy lives with his family in Houston, TX.