July 20, 2024

Speakers for 2024 graduation announced

PRICE, Utah — Greg Dart, president of Western Nebraska Community College and former chief campus administrator at Utah State University Eastern, will be the commencement speaker at USU Eastern’s 2024 commencement ceremony. The ceremony will be conducted at Bunnell-Dmitrich Athletic Center on April 27, honoring the 2024 graduating class.

Commencement will be conducted by Chief Campus Administrator Doug Miller. Class valedictorian Madisen Justesen and USUSA Eastern regional vice president Dyson Lighthall will each be student speakers. Miller will then introduce Dart, who will deliver the commencement address.

Following the remarks of Dart, Miller will introduce the Val J. Halamandaris Caring Award recipient, Prisma Mendez Herrera. This will be followed by the conferring of degrees by USU President Elizabeth R. Cantwell. Matthew White, vice president for advancement, will conclude the ceremony with a greeting to graduates, followed by the recessional.

The commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. For more information, visit eastern.usu.edu/graduation.

Greg Dart — President of Western Nebraska Community College

Greg Dart has served as president of Western Nebraska Community College since July 2023. He holds a deep love for rural higher education. Dart believes strongly in the transformational power of higher education and that rural community colleges play a vital part in transforming the communities they serve.

Before coming to WNCC, Dart spent nearly 10 years at USU Eastern, serving as chief campus administrator and senior associate vice president, vice chancellor and as a director. Dart said his time at USU Eastern was transformational and that the people — students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community — make it one of the most special places anywhere.

Before his time there, Dart was vice president for student services at Zane State College and in various director roles at other institutions, working in strategic enrollment management, admissions, recruitment, marketing, public relations and athletics. Dart was also an associate professor of communications at Snow College.

Before coming to higher education, Dart served in various political, advertising, news media, and public relations positions. He completed his associate degree at Snow College, his bachelor’s at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, his master’s at Utah State University, and his doctoral work at Northeastern University in Boston.

Dart and his wife, Dawn, have seven children, spanning 14 years from college to kindergarten. Outside work he can often be found at the soccer fields, enjoying time with his family and cheering on college athletes at all levels and in many states.

Madisen Justesen — Valedictorian

Originally born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Justesen moved to Price when she was 3 years old and has been a Price resident for 17 years. She graduated from Carbon High School with a 4.0 GPA and has continued her academic excellence while obtaining her associate of science degree from USU Eastern with a 4.0 GPA.

Since childhood, Justesen has been involved in many community service activities. She has served as the president of the SUN Center for the last two years, where she has accomplished many things, including helping the center get incorporated into the USUSA team, starting Castle Valley Center visits, and helping raise money for programs in the community. It was in this setting that she found her passion for serving others and wanting to be a leader.

Justesen plans to continue her education and earn her bachelor of science at the University of Utah, with the ultimate goal of becoming an orthodontist. While Justesen has enjoyed focusing on her academics at USU Eastern, she has also found great joy in helping others, as well as helping to make the campus a better place. She is grateful to have had professors who have pushed her to be the best version of herself.

Kylee Atkinson — Salutatorian

Kylee Atkinson, a native of Wellsville, is a first-year student at USU Eastern majoring in accounting. Atkinson is also a member of the Eagle volleyball team, as well as a resident adviser on campus. She is the oldest child of Steven and Syndee Atkinson and has a younger sister.

Besides loving her sport, Atkinson enjoys outdoor activities, reading a good book, and spending time with family and friends. She has enjoyed making connections with professors and university staff and making friends on campus. She is excited for the 2025-26 year and is looking forward to working toward her academic and athletic goals for the next school year.

Dyson Lighthall — USUSA Eastern Regional Vice President

Lighthall is a biology major currently in his second year at USU Eastern and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree. In both years at USU Eastern, Lighthall has been actively involved in both academics and extracurricular activities. He played two years of basketball and served as the athletics and campus rec representative during his first year. Now, he is USU Eastern’s regional vice president.

During his time at USU Eastern, Lighthall also found his sweetheart, Kianna. The two were married in the summer of 2023. Upon graduating with his bachelor’s, Lighthall plans to attend medical school.

Prisma Mendez Herrera — Val J. Halamandaris Award

Mendez Herrera is a first-generation college student who is graduating with an associate of applied science degree in nursing. Mendez Herrera is one of five children of parents who came to the United States to construct a strong foundation for their children. She is deeply honored to receive the 2024 Val J. Halamandaris Caring Award.

Being a first-generation student required Mendez Herrera to carve her path meticulously, advocating for higher education while inspiring others from similar backgrounds.

Through her degree, Mendez Herrera has learned to apply soft skills of leadership, collaboration and adaptability in various community projects, and her school learning has inspired her longing for advancement in both the classroom and community. She has worked with several groups including the Boys & Girls Club, Bureau of Land Management, Serving Utah Network, and United Way of Eastern Utah. She will be accompanied at her graduation ceremony by her family and friends, and she hopes to always mirror their integrity and tenacity that have been foundational in her life.