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ADA – In an exciting end to what can only be described as an unusual year, Brittany West won the George Nigh Award as East Central University’s top graduate for 2021.

“I am humbled and honored to receive the prestigious George Nigh Award,” said West, an Ada native and graduate of Byng High School. “I have always looked up to the recipients each year and it is truly an honor to now be counted among them.”

The George Nigh Award goes to the top graduating senior from ECU annually and is named in honor of the former governor of Oklahoma and ECU alumnus. In addition to governor, Nigh served multiple terms in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and as lieutenant governor. He also served as president of the University of Central Oklahoma.

The late Julian Rothbaum, a Tulsa oilman, banker, and state regent for higher education, established an endowment through the ECU Foundation, Inc., to fund the Nigh Award. Each year top ECU seniors are invited to apply and undergo a rigorous application and interview process.

“As I reflect on my time at ECU, I feel blessed to have received an outstanding education that was enhanced all the more by numerous opportunities,” West said. “From studying abroad in Mexico to conducting research and being involved in a wide variety of clubs on campus, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a student at ECU.”

West was one of five ECU seniors named as finalists for the 2021 Nigh Award, all worthy candidates. The remaining four finalists were Tylor Arnold, of Pryor; Sydney Dungen, of Alvin, Texas; Madison Rehl, of Edmond; and Ruth Herman, of Waxahachie, Texas. The five finalists’ accomplishments are all that more impressive considering the coronavirus pandemic.

West earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology, with a minor in Spanish, and she did so while maintaining a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average. She plans to attend the Physician Assistant program at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine in Tulsa, starting this summer. Her two primary fields of study at ECU helped shape her career and life goals.

“In the summer of 2016, I went on a medical mission trip to an orphanage in Honduras,” she wrote in her Nigh Award application. “Working with my team to administer lice treatments, and seeing how something so simple could make such a difference in their lives, changed my own life. It was then I realized caring for others and helping them attain a better quality of life is where my life’s purpose and fulfillment would be found.”

Like all Nigh Award finalists, West built a jaw-dropping resume of extracurricular activities while attending ECU, successfully balancing her social and academic leadership roles on campus with compassionate volunteerism in the community. Her impressive accomplishments have been underpinned with humility.

“I’m grateful for my amazing professors, ECU administrators and support staff, colleagues and friends, my family, and the Lord’s faithfulness over these years,” West said.

Following are brief academic sketches of the other four Nigh Award finalists.

Tylor Arnold earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting at ECU while maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout. He plans to continue his studies at ECU, pursuing a Master of Science degree in Accounting with a targeted graduation date of May 2022.

Arnold also excelled outside the classroom. He was active in numerous clubs and programs within the Stonecipher School of Business, including Business Scholar Leaders, Dean’s Council, Business Leaders Association and the ECU Student Center for the Public Trust.

The success doesn’t end there. Arnold was a three-year starter on the ECU Men’s Basketball team, twice named a Great American Conference Elite Scholar Athlete. His career ECU statistics have landed him in the top 10 all-time in minutes played, free throw percentage and steals.

Arnold’s career plans include becoming a CPA and eventually working as an audit manager in the accounting field.

Sydney Dungen earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration-Marketing while maintaining a 4.0 GPA all four years. She will remain on the ECU campus to pursue her Master in Management degree, which was part of her plans from the beginning.

As a student-athlete, returning to ECU will also allow her to take advantage of one more year of eligibility. Dungen was a four-year starter for Volleyball, selected to numerous all-conference and all-academic teams. She is already ranked on six ECU career statistical lists, has served as a team captain, and was named the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year.

Dungen made a name for herself in the classroom as well, being named both the Outstanding Freshman and Outstanding Sophomore for the Stonecipher School of Business. She was also involved with Business Scholar Leaders and the Business Leaders Association. Her ultimate goal is to work for a professional sports organization, such as her hometown Houston Astros.

Ruth Herman graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA while earning dual degrees in Political Science and Counseling, with an emphasis in Services for the Deaf. She has served in numerous leadership roles in campus organizations, including the Student Government Association and Christians United for Israel. She has been active in the ECU Honors Program since enrollment.

Herman was also active in the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Legislature, a mock government of the state’s executive, legislative and judicial branches. She received the Margaret A. Fitzgerald Prize in Political Science and has served as president of the ECU chapter of the Alpha Chi Honor Society. Herman has spoken to the Oklahoma Legislature on the benefits of higher education.

Her plans involve working within the political system to unite her passions for law, political science and the deaf community.

Madison Rehl is yet another ECU student-athlete who successfully juggles a busy schedule while excelling in every area in which she participates. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration-Marketing with a 4.0 GPA all four years of her undergraduate career. She also obtained a Promotions Management Certificate.

Like Arnold and Dungen, she will remain on campus to pursue a master’s degree. She started work on her Master in Management degree in January and has maintained her 4.0 GPA. She has been active in Business Scholar Leaders, the Business Leaders Association and the Teaching Excellence Committee.

Out of the classroom, Rehl is captain of the ECU Women’s Basketball team and has started more than 100 games at point guard. She is ranked in the top 10 in seven all-time ECU statistical categories in her sport and has been recognized by the conference for her outstanding play.

Through her involvement with the Enactus Village Poultry Enterprise, she has discovered a career path that will lead her into a senior marketing position with a non-profit organization.


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