Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Marisa Dawn Egbert – 2016 Distinguished Alumni

Marisa Dawn Egbert discovered her love for civil engineering during a pre-engineering class at Salt Lake Community College, where she attended with an athletics scholarship and played on the women’s basketball team. Her focus at SLCC was on STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and math) courses. She transferred to Utah State University and earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering.

In 2000, Egbert became state coordinator for the MATHCOUNTS in Utah and continues to lead the program, which annually benefits about 500 middle school students and more than 60 participating schools statewide. Over 5,000 Utah students have participated in MATHCOUNTS, a national nonprofit foundation that strives to engage students of all ability and interest levels in fun, challenging math programs to expand their academic and professional opportunities.

Marisa Dawn Egbert

Over the past decade, her relationship with SLCC has come full circle through her work with MATHCOUNTS as dozens of SLCC students, faculty and staff have volunteered to help her run MATHCOUNTS competitions every February and March on the SLCC Taylorsville Redwood Campus.

“I am grateful for my STEM education at SLCC,” Egbert says. “I had no trouble transitioning seamlessly to Utah State with my SLCC education. I found a quality STEM education at SLCC, where I love bringing MATHCOUNTS every year. I’m proud that I got my start at SLCC, and I want young students participating in MATHCOUNTS and who are interested in STEM subjects to be excited about what SLCC has to offer in those areas.”

Egbert is a registered professional engineer in Utah and has worked for the Utah State Division of Water Resources for the past 11 years. Prior to working for the state, Egbert worked in the Geotechnical Engineering field in Florida for several years.

She is a Project Manager in the Division's Development Branch. The Branch provides financial assistance for water-related projects throughout Utah. She also leads the Bear River Development Feasibility Study, planning for the future water needs in Utah. Egbert has served on the Executive Committee of the Utah Section of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) for the past 10 years, including the past eight as secretary/treasurer.

Gerard Ford Craft – 2016 Distinguished Alumni

To say that Gerard Craft has found success as a chef and businessman would be an understatement. He received Food & Wine’s Best New Chef and Innovator of the Year awards. He was one of Inc. magazine’s Star Entrepreneurs under 30. And he won the James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Midwest award.

In 2005, at the age of 25, he opened the restaurant Niche in Missouri and has since extended his offerings as part of Niche Food Group in St. Louis to include Taste by Niche, Brasserie by Niche, Pastaria and Porano Pasta, and a second Pastaria is expected to open in Nashville this summer. His success has grown from an addiction to the restaurant life he developed while he was a snowboard photographer in Salt Lake City. Before opening his first restaurant in a rehabilitated building in Benton Park, St. Louis, he cooked at Bistro Toujours in Park City; Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles; and Ryland Inn in New Jersey.

Gerard Ford Craft

Craft continues to build his culinary niche on a foundation that took shape at Salt Lake Community College’s Culinary Institute at the Miller Campus. “In that kitchen is where I learned the building blocks of cooking, and without them I wouldn't be where I am today," Craft says. He will never forget his time under the tutelage of SLCC instructor Leslie Seiferle. "Even though I am pretty sure I was low on the list of talent in that kitchen, Leslie kept pushing me. I remember one amazing time during a practical exam when I was stirring some caramel and Leslie was staring over my shoulder. I had no clue what she was doing, but when I took the time to look down I noticed that my non-heatproof spatula had melted into the sugar. Leslie just smiled and told me to start over. It’s really shocking I have come as far as I have."

Craft has carved out a reputation for innovative interpretations of humble Missouri ingredients that he sources from local farmers. The newer Porano Pasta is billed as a fast-casual restaurant, with plans for two locations in the St. Louis area. Using his social media savvy, Craft has racked up about 10,000 followers on Twitter and more than 4,670 followers on Instagram. He’s also well liked on Facebook and Pinterest.

In 2010, Craft told St. Louis magazine, “Growing up, all I wanted to do was to own a business and be a businessman.” In that article, he talks about beginning his cooking career at ski resorts. As an impulsive 25-year-old, he made the leap to Missouri after seeing “something good was happening” as a lot of young owner-chefs were starting businesses there. He now lives in St. Louis with his wife, Susan, and their two daughters.

Students find ‘Eden’ in middle of desert

"I loved being in that environment with students and colleagues to have my senses awakened — sense of adventure, sense of stamina and endurance, sense of awe toward the natural beauty, sense of curiosity about history, geography, the Havasupai culture and a sense of personal and group accomplishment." — President Dr. Deneece G. Huftalin
A group of SLCC faculty, staff and students is ready for a long hike

Lifelong Wellness General Education course, Fall 2016

The students bundled against the early-morning chill in March, cinched straps on packs and looked down more than 2,000 feet at the desert descent they were about to make into Havasu Canyon on the Havasupai Indian Reservation in northern Arizona. They smiled for a group portrait at the canyon rim and took off, heel-toe, heel-toe to the crunch of rock and dirt under foot. Anticipation of the spectacular unknown muted conversation about whatever hardships might loom on the strenuous 10-mile hike ahead of them.

Waterfalls like this define the landscape along the hike

Salt Lake Community College students Eliza Filippi, Chandra Carlson, Victor Jaimez and Gabe Moreno volunteered to pilot the trip, one that SLCC academic Advisor Lee Martinez has logged many times. As you plan for a trip like this, it helps immensely to have someone like Martinez leading you. He is confident, knowledgeable, prepared, funny, ridiculously fit, adventurous, curious and humble — great qualities in a backcountry leader. He will lead a group on the same trip this fall.

“Havasupai Falls was on my bucket list of places to experience because of pictures I had seen, but experiencing it for myself far surpassed my expectations,” said Soni Adams, Associate Dean for Health and Lifetime Activities at SLCC. “All parts of the hike and what we saw was epic for me.” Havasupai translated means people of the blue-green water, which looks that way because of lime deposits in the canyon. “The trip was physically hard, but awe inspiring,” Adams adds.

Getting to the trailhead for this Shangri-La in the desert from Salt Lake City is a haul for one day, requiring about 550 miles on the road before reaching Peach Springs and a lodge for the night. Martinez and crew, which included SLCC President Dr. Deneece G. Huftalin and other SLCC staff and faculty, took off for the hour-long ride to the trailhead after an early breakfast at the lodge.

SLCC students take in the scenery

"This adventure was everything I expected and more,” said Gabe Moreno. “After hiking those 10 sweaty, dusty miles, while carrying a 29-pound pack down from the west rim of the Grand Canyon into Havasupai, we found Eden in the middle of the desert," says Gabe Moreno. "Trips like these are extremely valuable and credit worthy. You not only get to experience the raw beauty of the wilderness, but you also learn things such as leadership, teamwork, survival skills and more."

The days are filled with awe and wonder at the towering cliffs that cradle a canyon filled with travertine pools of welcoming cool water making its way to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon below. The nights are for jokes, bonding, learning, camp talk, replenishing calories spent by day and quietly marveling by night at the ribbon of cloudless black sky dotted by shimmering evidence of the infinite ether above.

"On this adventure you'll get to walk across logs, climb down ladders, hang on to chains for dear life, and see the bluest water ever," says Filippi.

Signs guide the way to the campground