University News

College Valedictorians

April 21, 2016
Category: Commencement

College Valedictorians Top of the ClassRepresenting each individual college, this year’s college valedictorians are among the best and brightest at Southern Utah University. Along with the University Valedictorian, Alex Nielson, are five outstanding students who are the epitome of excellence. They are the highest academically ranked students in their college and were recommended by professors for their dedication and commitment to academic integrity and success.

Kelli Christensen is graduating from the College of Education & Human Development with a bachelor of science in family life & human development. Clay Crozier from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences is graduating with a bachelor of science in political science. From the College of Performing & Visual Arts is Danikka Johnson, graduating with a bachelor of science in dance. James Wilcken is graduating with a bachelor of science in mathematics from the College of Science and Engineering. From the School of Business and graduating with a bachelor of science in accounting and finance is Joshua Kariya.

College of Education & Human Development College Valedictorians Top of the Class

Kelli Christensen

Representing “the helping college”, as she coins it, is Kelli Christensen. St. George native and a Family Life and Human Development major, Christensen’s education has been focused on teaching and serving others. She wants to work in early intervention with children and families.

“I believe the greatest changes and growth can take place in the home,” says Christensen. “Anyone can be a successful parent if they are taught the proper skills and tools.”

In the future, Christensen wants to volunteer with HELP International on a humanitarian trip to Nepal where she can help fight poverty and empower people by creating socially responsible change.    

College Valedictorians Top of the ClassCollege of Humanities & Social Science

Clay Crozier

Growing up on his family’s farm in Neola, Utah, Clay Crozier was taught the value of hard work, responsibility and perseverance. A transfer student from Colorado, Crozier began his collegiate career studying animal sciences but switched to political science after participating in an intramural mock trial at SUU.

“Work hard and learn, but make time to have fun,” says Crozier to other undergraduates. “Surround yourself with really good people. Making those relationships is one of the things I have found to be the most beneficial to my success.”

After graduation Crozier will head to Washington D.C. and intern with U.S. Senator Mike Lee. In the fall, he will begin law school at the University of South Dakota.

College of Performing & Visual Arts College Valedictorians Top of the Class

Danikka Johnson

Danikka Johnson's fierce love of dance has carried her through lessons of discipline and teamwork. Graduating with a bachelor of science in dance with her course curriculum focused on pre-nursing studies, this Tooele native has successfully balanced a full academic load and various extracurricular activities. 

Johnson plans on continuing her studies and attaining a second bachelor of science in nursing. A bright light of positivity to those in her sphere, Johnson has many more goals and aspirations to achieve. 

"As I leave SUU, I will continue to teach dance and am also happy to announce I am starting a family of my own," she says. "There is so much in store for my future and I feel so blessed to have had my experiences at SUU mold and shape the person I am and who I will become."

College Valedictorians Top of the ClassCollege of Science & Engineering

James Wilcken

As a math major with an emphasis in actuarial science, James Wilcken has a love of numbers and solving problems.

"I have a sincere interest in how things work," says Wilcken. "That's probably why I like math as much as I do. I love understanding how things fit together and how different subjects connect. Being able to make those connections in my brain is one of my favorite things about learning." 

This Enoch-raised math major hopes to work for an insurance company, helping to set rates by using probabilities and statistics in the effort to maximize profit.

School of BusinessCollege Valedictorians Top of the Class

Josh Kariya

While balancing books and sports, Josh Kariya not only earned a double bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance but also maintained a 4.0 GPA.

From Kaysville, Utah, Kariya was recruited to SUU to play football, but after two years on the team a wrist injury cut his football career short. While leaving the team was disappointing, Kariya believes it gave him an opportunity to focus on his academics and credits most of his success to his professors.

“I really appreciated how [my professors] placed the responsibility to learn on us. It helped me grasp the material better and prepared me to work in the field of finance.”

He completed his degrees in December 2015 and has been working at Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators in Salt Lake City as an investment analyst.

SUU is proud of these accomplished representatives of the Class of 2016 student body. Bright futures and outstanding achievements await these five individuals and the entire SUU graduating class. 



Contact Information:
Nikki Koontz
435-586-5487
nikkikoontz@suu.edu