Alumni Awards

CU Denver Alumni Awards 

Each year CU Denver honors several individuals who have a record of distinction with the University of Colorado Denver and/or in their profession, community, and society at large. Learn more about your 2024 Alumni Award Recipients in their bios below.

For questions regarding the Alumni Awards and the awarding process, please contact CU Denver Alumni at 303-315-3601 or email  

2024 Alumni Award Recipients


Headshot of Nga Vương-Sandoval in a blue blouse and gray suit jacket with long brown hair smiling with her teeth.

Nga Vương-Sandoval ’98, MCJ ’02

Mack Easton Distinguished Alumni Award

Nga Vương-Sandoval is a Vietnamese refugee whose journey and advocacy propelled her into the forefront of local, national, and international human rights on issues and policies impacting forcibly displaced persons and underrepresented groups. She's a TEDx presenter, a refugee representative at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland, a Noble Ambassador for Christina Noble Children's Foundation, vice chair of the Lutheran Family Services board of directors, and a founding member and public speaker for Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau.

In recognition of her work, Nga has received the Colorado Attorney General’s Outstanding Community Service Award, ADL Civil Rights Award, and Refugee Congress Excellence Award. She has also advocated to First Lady Jill Biden to increase refugee admissions. Nga successfully led the effort to recognize Lunar New Year as an observed Colorado state holiday. She has been named among Denver Westword's "Ten People to Watch," was the subject of a public mural by Thomas “Detour” Evans ’08, MBA ’12, and was honored by the Denver Nuggets with the "First Shot" of the game.

Nga is a transformative advocate who inspires change and champions the rights of forcibly displaced and marginalized communities. Nga received a bachelor of arts in political science and master of criminal justice from CU Denver.

Headshot of Donalyn White with short blonde hair and an orange jacket smiling with their teeth.

Donalyn White ’16, MA ’19, MA ’22

Graduate of the Last Decade Award

Donalyn earned their bachelor of arts in English in 2016, a master of arts in political science with a focus on public policy and community organizing in 2019, and an additional master of arts in English pursuing queer theory in 2022. All three degrees are from the University of Colorado Denver.

Donalyn taught English for three years at the University of Colorado Denver and the Community College of Denver. They spent ten years in the nonprofit sector, working internationally with the Global Livingston Institute on community development and locally with Inspire Colorado on youth voter activism. At the consulting firm Strategy with Rox, Donalyn conducted research for clients and created policy, facilitated retreats, and led debate preparation for elected officials.

Donalyn is a PhD student in the Cultural Studies Department at Claremont Graduate University and teaches at the University of La Verne. Their research is centered on preserving the history of radical queer love and liberation.

Robin Thurston wearing a black t-shirt with

Robin Thurston MS ’99

Business School Distinguished Alumni Award

Robin Thurston received a master of science in finance. He is the CEO and founder of Outside Interactive, Inc., the world’s leading creator of outdoor content and home to iconic brands such as Outside Magazine, Warren Miller, Pinkbike, GaiaGPS, and others. With a mission to get everyone outdoors, Outside reaches 80 million of the most active consumers in the world across its network of 25 media, digital, and technology platforms, creating an experience for both longtime adventurers and those just getting started.

Before joining Outside, Robin ran a consumer genetics company called Helix in Silicon Valley and co-founded and built MapMyFitness into one of the world’s largest open fitness tracking platforms.

Born in Colorado, Robin resides in Boulder with his wife and three children.

Julie snow wearing a black turtleneck sweater, dark, square rimmed glasses with shoulder-length blonde hair, and smiling with her teeth.

Julie Vanden Berg Snow ’70

College of Architecture and Planning Distinguished Alumni Award

Julie earned a bachelor of architecture and now leads an architectural studio-based practice in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The studio's interest in pragmatic and critical programmatic reflection results in innovative designs that expand the understanding of architectural performance. Design strategies consider how architecture performs within each project's social, cultural, and economic context. The practice has been recognized with numerous awards, including the American Institute of Architects’ 2018 Architecture Firm Award, an honor that recognizes a practice that consistently has produced distinguished architecture for at least 10 years.

Julie has held several visiting professor positions and has taught at the University of Minnesota College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, where she received the Ralph Rapson Award for Distinguished Teaching. In 2011, she was awarded the Architecture Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Antonio Cicarelli wearing a black polo shirt, a short beard with shorter curly hair, and smiling with his teeth.

Antonio Cicarelli ’03

College of Arts & Media Distinguished Alumni Award

Antonio Cicarelli, a designer, creative director, and co-founder of Radley Studios, has enjoyed a robust and distinguished career. After earning a bachelor of fine arts in multimedia design from the University of Colorado Denver, he relocated to Los Angeles, quickly making his mark as a motion graphics designer and contributing to numerous television, film, and commercial projects that have reached millions globally.

In 2010, Antonio co-founded Radley, where he spearheaded projects that blended motion graphics, photography, and digital experiences for both renowned and emerging brands. His expertise in film titles, visual effects, and trailers is notable, with contributions to projects like "Bruno," "Fantastic 4," and the Radley-produced Netflix original series, "Unnatural Selection." Antonio has played a pivotal role in branding efforts for networks such as Disney+, Investigation Discovery, FXX Animation Block, and Discovery Channel, among many others.

Currently, he enjoys family life in Tampa, Florida, embracing the challenges and joys of parenting.

Al Ruckman wearing a suite and tie with silver-rimmed glasses, and short white hair, smiling.

Albert Ruckman ’70

College of Engineering, Design and Computing Distinguished Alumni Award

Albert Ruckman's diverse career journey epitomizes resilience, innovation, and leadership. Graduating from the University of Colorado Denver with a bachelor of science in civil engineering, while supporting a family, showcased his determination. His pivotal role in engineering challenges during the construction of Interstate 70 highlighted his problem-solving prowess as he collaborated with experts to pioneer new techniques in slope stability and construction. Later, his tenure with Sergent, Hauskins, and Beckwith broadened his expertise in geotechnical consulting and client relations.

In 2002, Albert co-founded Soil Nail Launcher Inc., developing it into GeoStabilization International, a pioneering force in geotechnical hazard mitigation. His commitment to employee well-being and client satisfaction fueled the company’s success. Even in retirement, Albert remains an invaluable advisor, ensuring the company's continued growth and excellence.

Beyond his professional endeavors, Albert’s dedication extends to community service and family legacy, evident in his involvement in fruit production and leadership roles in irrigation and conservation districts. With four generations engaged in the family farm, Albert’s impact resonates far beyond his professional achievements.

Headshot of Daniel Gilbert in a black collared shirt and dark, round-rimmed glasses, and a white beard and smiling without teeth.

Daniel Gilbert ’81

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award

Daniel Gilbert received a bachelor of arts in psychology. He is currently the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and is renowned for his groundbreaking contributions to psychology. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the Association for Psychological Science’s prestigious William James Award. Daniel’s book, “Stumbling on Happiness,” achieved immense success, spending six months on The New York Times bestseller list and selling over a million copies worldwide.

Daniel’s impact extends beyond academia. He is the host and co-writer of the award-winning NOVA television series, “This Emotional Life,” which reached over 10 million viewers in its initial airing. His collaboration with Prudential on retirement-saving commercials was highly successful, marking a milestone in financial services advertising. Daniel’s influence spans media platforms, with contributions to Time, The New York Times, and NPR’s “All Things Considered”, as well as appearances on major television shows, including The Today Show, and TED Talks with over 30 million views.

Jordan Arellanes wearing a black polo shirt, short brown hair, and smiling with his teeth.

Jordan Arellanes MA ’15

School of Education & Human Development Distinguished Alumni Award

Jordan Arellanes is an Assistant Professor of Developmental Psychology at Illinois State University. Jordan was born in Colorado and graduated from Golden High School and Colorado State University before getting his master of arts in educational psychology at the University of Colorado Denver. While at CU Denver, Jordan worked under Dr. Ruben Viramontez Anguiano, who was developing the Department of Human Development and Family Relations.

Upon graduating in 2015, Jordan was selected for the inaugural Outstanding Student of the Year award, which recognizes excellence in academics, service, and leadership. His experiences at CU Denver prepared him for his PhD at Iowa State University. In his current position at Illinois State University, he developed an academic intervention to increase students’ perceptions of inclusion within the university. His research interests include student success of Latino youth and fatherhood. His research is community-driven and focused on positively impacting the lives of families.

Headshot of Brandy Reitter in a gray blazer and bright pink button down shirt, dark curly, long hair, and smiling with her teeth.

Brandy Reitter MPA ’08

School of Public Affairs Distinguished Alumni Award

Brandy Reitter joined the Colorado Broadband Office in 2022, leading programs and statewide broadband strategy. She educates leaders, fosters collaborations, and enhances high-speed internet accessibility. With 18 years in local government management, she developed and implemented major infrastructure and economic development projects, including broadband programs, focusing on rural communities in Weld, Chaffee, Saguache, and Eagle Counties. In 2020, she earned City Manager of the Year from the Colorado City County Managers Association.

Brandy serves on civic organization boards, including but not limited to, the Colorado Trust Foundation, Western States Arts Federation, and University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs Advisory Board. Brandy holds a master of public administration from CU Denver.

Born and raised in Colorado, she has resided in rural mountain communities for over 10 years and currently lives in Eagle County, enjoying outdoor recreation, traveling, and spending time with family.

CU Denver Alumni

CU Denver

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