Jerry Poling, Marketing Communications, 715-232-2384
Marketing Communications 715-232-2381
News Center

Awards include U.S. Department of Defense Smart Scholarship, student of the year, Best in Show

MENOMONIE, Wis. (May 17, 2024) – Sixteen students at University of Wisconsin-Stout in four career fields have been recognized this spring nationally, statewide and regionally.

Heidi Benningfield, mechanical engineering, received a major scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense; Jordyn Springer, dietetics, was named state student of the year; a team of seven construction management students took first in a regional competition; and seven graphic design and interactive media students received awards at the annual Minnesota AdFed regional advertising competition.

The students’ success reflects in part UW-Stout’s emphasis on applied learning, with Benningfield, Springer and the construction students benefiting from industry internships and the graphic design students’ campaigns judged by professionals.

Department of Defense Smart Scholarship

Benningfield, a sophomore from Mokane, Mo., applied for and received the Department of Defense Smart Scholarship.

The award will cover her tuition until she graduates, provide a stipend for room and board expenses and paid internships with the agency. This summer, she will work at National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Denver.

She will be hired and committed to working for the department for two years upon graduation in 2026. Her job will be at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal space and missile defense technology center in Huntsville, Ala.

“I still can’t believe it,” she said of the award. “It’s exciting to get all these big opportunities.”

Benningfield recently worked on a project with Sierra Space in Madison, an aerospace and space technology company, machining a combustion chamber component. She hopes to get her master’s degree and become an aerospace engineer, working on design or research, with a possible interest in space systems.

Benningfield, a member of the Blue Devil gymnastics team that took fifth place in the nation this past season, loves UW-Stout’s applied learning focus and individual attention from faculty and staff.

“I like the hands-on work in the machine shop. Most engineers don’t know how to operate machines. The professors and lab assistants are always willing to help and take their own time to help. The professors want you to succeed,” she said.

Dietetics student of the year

Springer, a senior from Florence, was named Dietetics Student of the Year by the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and was honored recently at the WAND annual conference in Oshkosh.

The award recognizes achievement and leadership. Springer, who graduated May 4 with academic honors, served as co-president and public relations officer for the Stout Student Dietetic Association, was active as a community volunteer, was part of a faculty-led research project and was a social media manager for WAND.

She also completed 320 hours of field experience, required for the program, with the Florence County Health Department through the Area Health and Education Centers Community Health Internship Program – CHIP.

“The award recognizes that I am already a contributing representative of the profession, and that means everything to me. I’ve stepped into leadership roles, spent countless hours volunteering and gained valuable work experience in the field. It’s a wonderful feeling to be recognized by the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,” Springer said.

She is excited about her career opportunities. Along with clinical nutrition, community nutrition and food service she hopes to explore private practice that could combine her passion for digital marketing and design. “There are truly so many opportunities in this field, and I can’t wait to keep exploring them,” she said.

In June, Springer will begin the Master of Science program in dietetics at UW-Stout and apply to an internship program while preparing to become a registered dietitian.

“Jordyn has proactively prepared for her courses and planned for her future,” said Assistant Professor Karen Ostenso, program director. “She seeks opportunities to enhance her skills outside the classroom through volunteer work, leadership and work experiences.”

Construction management champions

The construction management students won an invitational competition against eight other universities. Ryan Companies of Minneapolis sponsors the annual event, called the Pursuit.

Students worked all semester on a detailed RFP – request for proposal – for an actual project that the company recently developed. It was two, 150,000-square-foot precast warehouses in Brooklyn Center, Minn., with a six-month completion schedule. Then, students gave a 15-minute presentation of their RFPs at Ryan Companies headquarters, followed by Q&As.

“Not only did these students do a great job with the information in the RFP, but they also put a significant amount of effort into their presentation skills, which is what truly separated them from the competition,” said Lecturer Jim Bunkelman, their adviser.

The UW-Stout team first had to compete internally against four other student teams to represent the university in the event.

Team members were Logan Baribeau, of Cameron; Jayden Boero, of Burlington; Andrew Ernstmeyer, of Hixton; Mason Fischer, of Jordan, Minn.; Matt Grady, of Menomonee Falls; Ryan Hazzard, of Oconomowoc; and Leif Triller, of Oconomowoc.

Ryan Companies is represented on the advisory committee for UW-Stout’s construction management program.

For the actual Brooklyn Center project, a UW-Stout alum, Jack Houlihan, was the project manager.

Graphic design Minnesota AdFed awards

UW-Stout students won four gold, two silver and three bronze awards from the Advertising Federation of Minnesota.

The event, called the Show, is juried by accomplished creative directors, writers and designers from across the country. Along with the student competition, professionals from the region received awards.

Kylie Ganther, a senior from Chili, Wis., won gold and Best in Show from the local Minnesota chapter and a gold medal from the regional chapter, which includes the Upper Midwest. She created a consumer campaign promoting a Play-Doh festival at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Her entry included ads for print, commercials, virtual reality and social media.

It’s the third time in the past four years that a UW-Stout student has won Best in Show.

Evan Pope, a junior from Brillion, won two golds, from the Minnesota and regional chapters, for a consumer campaign and magazine campaign for Hello Goodbye, a sustainably based whitening, anti-plaque toothpaste.

Other UW-Stout winners were:

  • Mercy Berglund, a senior from Alexandria, Minn., silver, a consumer campaign for Surely, a wine-tasting truck
  • Alex Martin, a senior from River Falls, bronze, consumer campaign for Forget About It, a golf ball that when lost in the water is biodegradable
  • Niamh Sass, a junior from Hugo, Minn., silver, a website campaign compatible with a desktop or mobile device for Mid-Century Modern Illustration
  • Addy Spaeth, a junior from Rochester, Minn., a consumer campaign for Anything Goes, a social media influencer
  • Grace Walz, a junior from Maple Grove, Minn., bronze, consumer campaign for Design on Tap, which would bring together designers and brewers.

Professor Nagesh Shinde congratulated the students on their “well-deserved” awards.

“Congratulations on winning regional and national advertising awards. This remarkable accomplishment is a testament to your hard work, creativity and dedication. Your innovative ideas and exceptional skills have set you apart, showcasing your potential to significantly impact the advertising industry,” he said.

“We are incredibly proud of your success and eagerly anticipate the groundbreaking contributions you will continue to bring to the profession. Keep pushing the boundaries of creativity and excellence.”


UW-Stout is Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, with a focus on applied learning, collaboration with business and industry, and career outcomes. Learn more via the FOCUS2030 strategic plan.

To download full image, right-click and choose “save image as”

Heidi Benningfield, a UW-Stout mechanical engineering major, has received a U.S. Department of Defense Smart Scholarship.
Jordyn Springer, UW-Stout dietetics senior, receives the Wisconsin Dietetics Student of the Year award from the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Construction management students who won the Ryan Companies Pursuit competition are, from left, Mason Fischer, Ryan Hazzard, Jayden Boero, Andrew Ernstmeyer, Logan Baribeau, Leif Triller and Matt Grady.
UW-Stout graphic design student Kylie Ganther won Best in Show for her multifaceted advertising campaign promoting a Play Doh festival.