Alfred University News

Alfred University announces Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award recipients

Dillon Smith (left) and Nurila Kambar
Dillon Smith (left) and Nurila Kambar

Alfred University students Nurila Kambar and Dillon Smith have been named recipients of the 2019 Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award. They will be honored at Alfred University’s commencement ceremony on May 18, where they will address the graduating class, faculty, administration, trustees, and guests.


ALFRED, NY -- Alfred University students Nurila Kambar and Dillon Smith have been named recipients of the 2019 Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award. They will be honored at Alfred University’s commencement ceremony on May 18, where they will address the graduating class, faculty, administration, trustees, and guests.

“The selection committee did a great job selecting Nurila and Dillon. These two students represent the best of Alfred University on both a logical and an emotional level. They have been so generous in the time they devote to improving this valley that is so important to all of us,” said Kathy Woughter, vice president of Student Affairs at Alfred University. “Dillon’s determination as he completes college despite stop-outs for his military service is a case study in resilience, and Nurila’s similar determination to succeed academically, athletically and as a leader is truly inspiring.”

Nurila, from Almaty, Kazakhstan, is a materials science and engineering major (physics minor) who has a cumulative GPA of 3.80 and has been named to the Dean’s List during her time at Alfred University. She is the daughter of Zhanat Tileumuratova and Orazkhan Abiltaev.

She is a member of several academic honor societies – including Tau Beta Pi (the engineering honor society, for which she serves as treasurer), Phi Kappa Phi and Chi Alpha Sigma – and for the last three years has served as vice president of the Society of Women in Engineering at Alfred University. She received an Applied and Experiential (APEX) grant from Alfred University.

Woughter nominated Nurila for the Marlin Miller Award. She said she has known Nurila since the fall of 2017, when Woughter was her instructor for the Women’s Leadership Academy capstone/practicum class. Nurila graduated from the Academy in May 2017.

“I came to know Nurila as a strong leader within the class, while quiet and unassuming. When she spoke, she brought in her international perspective and challenged us to broaden our horizons in terms of how we view women’s issues, and general leadership issues,” Woughter said. “Nurila also did a great job advocating for women leaders in the sciences to come and speak on campus, knowing that STEM role models are important to the development of our students.”

Nurila has been a resident assistant for three years and has been active in a variety of groups and activities during her time at Alfred. She served as a STEM Panel moderator for the Robert R. McComsey Career Development Center; is a member of the Peer Review Board; and served two summers as a tour guide for International Students Orientation, and as a research assistant in the Biomaterials Engineering Department, Inamori School of Engineering. Nurila, who is fluent in three languages – Kazakh, Russian and English – and proficient in Spanish, is president of the International Students Club at Alfred University.

She has been supportive to the University through her generosity and service, volunteering at the Center for Academic Success as a Mathematics Lab tutor, supplemental instructor for Physics II, and tutor for Physics I and II.

“Nurila has a well-rounded portfolio of involvement, checking almost every category of co-curricular achievement, not to mention academic achievement with a 3.8 GPA as a materials science engineering student with a physics minor,” Woughter commented. “Nurila is also just a super-nice person. My day is brightened each time I see her on campus.”

Nurila was a four-year member of the women’s tennis team, last fall helping to lead the Saxons to a berth in the Empire 8 Conference championship tournament. She is an Empire 8 Athletic Conference President’s List (recognizing academic excellence) honoree and an Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Scholar Athlete.

“Nurila has been a fantastic leader within our women’s tennis program and athletic department. She was a major reason why our women’s tennis team advanced to the Empire 8 championships for the first time in five years and has been a central force on a team that is constantly amongst our leaders in terms of service both on our campus and in our local communities,” commented Paul Vecchio, director of athletics. “Nurila’s growth as a both a person and student-athlete during her four years has been truly inspiring to watch and her selection as Miller Outstanding Senior is a fitting testament to the tremendous impact she has made on our campus.”

Dillon, from Pine Bush, NY, double majors in criminal justice and experimental psychology (sociology and public law minor). He carries a cumulative grade point average of 3.80 and has been named to the Dean’s List throughout his time at Alfred University. He is the son of Christopher and Adrienne Smith.

He is a member of numerous academic honor societies at Alfred University: Pi Gamma Mu, Phi Kappa Phi, and Omicron Delta Kappa; and Psi Chi (psychology honor society). He is a recipient of Alfred University’s John Allen Scholarship and Byong Min ‘’59 and Yoon Min Scholarship, and received an APEX grant from Alfred University.

“Dillon is one of the strongest students I have had to privilege to work with, and I don’t say that lightly, having worked with several previous years’ Outstanding Seniors,” Beth Johnson, associate professor of psychology, said in nominating Smith for the award. “In each of the courses that Dillon has taken with me, he stands apart as the hardest worker there.”

Dillon is deeply involved with the Alfred University campus community, participating in a variety of activities. He is founder and president of the Criminal Justice Club; has served as a club collaboration liaison through the Center for Student Involvement and Institute of Cultural Unity; and has been part of the Psychology Club, Bowling Club and Hillel House.

He served as a resident assistant in spring 2016; has worked at the Office of Public Safety since 2018; and has been a lead tour guide with the Office of Admissions since 2016, conducting more than 500 tours while working two summer terms and three academic terms.

Dillon has been active duty in the U.S. Army National Guard since 2011, serving as an electrical engineer. Since completing basic training and advanced individual training for electrical engineering, he has held the ranks of Specialist, Corporal and, currently, Sergeant. Dillon, who enrolled at Alfred University in spring 2014, had completed five semesters of study when, in summer 2016 he was deployed with the New York Army National Guard 1156th Engineer Company to provide engineering support at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq.

In Iraq, Dillon and members of his National Guard Company worked on engineering projects, building new bases and bringing power to and upgrading existing bases. In August 2017, Dillon returned home and re-enrolled at Alfred, resuming his studies in January 2018. He is recipient of several awards for his service, including the Army Achievement Medal, the Operation Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal and the Overseas Training Medal.

“Dillon has always worked hard to ensure that he is contributing to both the campus community and the community as a whole,” said Michele Lowry, assistant professor of criminal justice. “He serves in the armed forces while remaining a strong student and campus contributor.”

Added Amanda Baker, director of the Robert R. McComsey Career Development Center: “Dillon is everywhere, taking part in many clubs and organizations on campus. He has taken on leadership roles and found new ways to contribute to the Alfred community. He works very hard to get other students engaged and interested in participating in campus-wide events.”

Winners of the Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award are chosen on the basis of scholarship, extracurricular achievement, personal character and conduct and nominated by faculty, students and staff. The award was established to honor Alfred University alumnus Marlin Miller ’54, one of Alfred University’s most generous supporters. Miller has been a member of Alfred University’s Board of Trustees since 1972.