School of Dentistry honors Dental Hygiene Class of 2023 with awards banquet

Aricka Tusha shakes hands with Cyndee Stull as she receives her award

The School of Dentistry celebrated the end of coursework for the Dental Hygiene Class of 2023 with an awards ceremony on Thursday, July 27. 

Graduates gathered to celebrate the completion of their degrees, as well as the announcement of the winners of 18 awards. 

“On behalf of all the deans of the School of Dentistry, I want to say a big congratulations and a big welcome to the oral health professional team,” reflected Mercedes Porter, DDS,  Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “I am so excited for your future careers and all you have to offer.” 

Cyndee Stull, DHSc, MDH, RDH, director of the Division of Dental Hygiene, shared her excitement for the graduating class. “You are entering into the profession at an excellent time: the profession of dental hygiene is in demand and rapidly evolving as a collaborative partnership within the oral health team,” she said. “The School of Dentistry has provided you with the foundation and transferable skills for your new roles and any new roles of the future, and I am confident that you will succeed.” Stull reflected on the concept of vocation and the service the profession requires.

After the awards ceremony, class officers reflected on their experience together. “After 2 years of part-time school and part-time clinic, a month and a half of outreach experiences, 22 fillings, 15 FMXs (and even more attempts), providing care to over 200 patients, taking three painful boards exams and so much more, it’s incredible to say that we are finally done,” said Alyssa Hampton, BSDH ’23. “I’m so grateful for each and every member of this class. We have supported each other endlessly, and I know that love and support will continue after graduation.” 

Attendees smile and applaud

The class presented a Faculty of the Year award to Michelle Arnett, RDH, MS, BS, assistant professor of dental hygiene. “We wanted to celebrate an exceptional educator whose dedication to teaching and commitment to ur growth as individuals left an indelible mark on us,” said Pedro Lopez Vega, BSDH ’23. MDT ’24. “This award is more than just a symbol of recognition; it is a heartfelt expression of gratitude from all of us who have been fortunate enough to experience the profound impact of this remarkable teacher.” 

Congratulations to the awardees and to the Dental Hygiene Class of 2023!

Dental Hygiene Awards 
American Association of Public Health Dentistry Award for Achievement in Community Dentistry and Dental Public Health

This award recognizes and honors a student’s special interest and achievement in community dentistry and dental public health.
Kaitlyn Niemann

Dental Hygiene Writing Award
This award recognizes and honors a student’s achievement in writing and is accompanied by a $400 summer semester scholarship.
Hazel Goecke

RDH Student Poster Award
Presented by RDH Magazine, this award recognizes excellence in an informational poster created by a senior dental hygiene student. 
Hazel Goecke 
Goecke received third place nationally in the RDH Student Poster competition.

Hu-Friedy Golden Scaler Award
This award is given to a dental professional that demonstrates exceptional talents and skills. The award celebrates the recipient’s accomplishments, with the hope that they will proudly display it as a testament to their professional dedication.
Brianna Wraspir 

Dental Hygiene Program Director Scholarship 
This award provides scholarship assistance to a selected senior dental hygiene student based on scholarly excellence, dedication to the dental hygiene profession, financial need and interest in teaching dental hygiene. 
Sara Dahlager

Future Healthcare Hygienists Award 

Newly established in 2023, the Future Healthcare Hygienist Award, offered by the National Nation of Healthcare Hygienists, honors one student in each of 100 Dental Hygiene schools’ graduating classes. The winner receives a certificate and a $250 grant for NNHH program or membership. 
Pedro Lopez Vega


Kathleen J. Newell Dental Hygiene Student Achievement Award
This annual award which includes a $750 monetary prize is presented on behalf of the school of dentistry alumni society. This award is presented to the most outstanding dental hygiene student overall on the basis of personal character, leadership, and scholarship. These characteristics are embodied by Dr. Kathy Newell, a distinguished alumnus who has dedicated over 30 years to the dental hygiene program at the school of dentistry.
Andrew Arthur

Louise C. Ball Scholarship
Dr. Louise Ball had a particular interest in preventive dentistry and established the Louise C. Ball scholarship to financially assist students in the dental hygiene program. The student selected has achieved a higher than average scholastic record, and shows great promise in the field of dental hygiene.
Madison Johnson
Madalyn Lemke

Metro Dentalcare Fellow Student Mentor Award
The Metro Dentalcare Fellow Student Mentor Award is given by Metro Dentalcare, a group practice of more than 40 clinics located in the twin cities area. The award recipient is chosen by their underclass as someone who exhibits a high level of interpersonal communication skills, is involved in other activities, and is supportive of dental hygiene students in the underclass.
Hazel Goecke

Paradise Dental Technologies Above and Beyond Award
This award is given in recognition of a student that continually goes above and beyond expectations by showing initiative, leadership and exceptional teamwork.
Aricka Tusha

Park Dental Service Excellence Award

This scholarship award is given in recognition of exceptional performance in patient care. 
Emma Kopet
See Xiong
Suad Adan


Park Dental Service Excellence Award
The Park Dental Service Excellence Award is presented to a senior student in recognition for their commitment to quality patient care and service to the community. The award is given to a true professional who provides excellent patient service, education, and relationship building.
Suad Adan

Rothenberger Scholarship

This scholarship is presented to a student who exhibits academic merit, with preference given to a student who is not from Minnesota. 

Tymbar Williamson

Shirley Burgan Lichtwardt Scholarship
This scholarship is given to students with good academic standing and outstanding potential as a dental professional.
Eugene Vang
Aricka Tusha

Sigma Phi Alpha Award

This award is presented to outstanding members of each dental hygiene class for maintaining the highest academic standing.

See Xiong




Sigma Phi Alpha Elected Student Award
This award recognizes and honors scholarship, leadership, character, contribution to the profession and potential of professional growth among graduating dental hygiene students. Each year, faculty select 10% of the graduating class to membership.

Aricka Tusha
Kaitlyn Niemann

Special Care Dentistry Association Student Award

This award is presented to the student who demonstrates a sincere interest and concern for the care of patients with special needs.

Michael Abebe

Colgate Student Total Achievement Recognition (STAR) Award
This award is given in recognition of a student’s dedication to the dental hygiene profession, compassion in patient care, and enthusiasm for the role of dental hygienist and community service.
Caitlin Gray

Click on this image to view and download additional images from the event.