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Friday, December 19, 2014 | Last updated: 11:33pm

UA six listed in ‘40 Under 40’



Each year, the Arizona Daily Star and the law office of Snell & Wilmer sponsor the “40 Under 40” awards. The awards recognize 40 Tucsonans for their professional achievements, leadership in their respective fields and engagement with the Tucson community. This year, six UA affiliates — Greg Bryne, Fabian Cordova, Christina Laukaitis, Matthew W. Randle, Lisa Rulney and Erin Strange — received the award. The recipients were formally recognized last Thursday.

Greg Byrne, UA athletic director

Outside of his duties as the UA athletic director, Byrne engages with the Tucson community in several ways. He is a spokesperson for the Tucson Police Department, as well as for United Way, a fundraising organization that supports charities worldwide. Additionally, Byrne has two teenage sons and volunteers his time at their respective schools. He and his family are also active members of their community church.

Byrne’s success is due to years of hard work, calculated risks and good timing, he said. But more importantly, he added, he has never been short of support from his colleagues, friends and family, especially his wife.

“You’re only as good as the people around you,” he said.

After joining the UA community a year and half ago, Byrne said he is excited to continue his career at the athletic department.

Fabian Cordova, chief financial officer, UA Alumni Association

For Cordova, Tucson has gone from an intimidating, overwhelming environment to a place he plans to call home for the rest of his life. Originally from Nogales, Ariz., Cordova experienced an intense culture shock as an undergraduate at the UA, but with support and encouragement from a “small army of ladies at the university,” he quickly grew to love the UA community.

Now, he dedicates most of his time to the UA Alumni Association as its chief financial officer. He also works closely with the New Start Summer Program, which helps UA freshmen transition into college, and the UA Hispanic Alumni Club. Cordova said receiving the 40 Under 40 award affirmed that his efforts are effecting change. Cordova said he loves Tucson and the UA and hopes to continue reaching out to the community.

“It’s all about figuring out where you can make the most impact,” he said.

Christina Laukaitis, assistant professor of medicine

In her four years at the UA, Laukaitis has dedicated much of her time to fighting the battle against cancer. Outside of her work as an assistant professor of medicine and a researcher on cancer genetics, she does outreach with the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention and raises cancer awareness in the community.

Laukaitis said she attributes her success to her persistence throughout her education, which has earned her two doctoral degrees. She said she felt honored to be nominated for the 40 Under 40 award and sees it as a call to action.

“It comes with some responsibility to continue giving back,” she said.

Although Laukaitis has lived all over the Midwest, she said she enjoys Tucson’s environment, energy and diversity. She hopes to stay at the UA and has recently applied for additional research funding.

“Keep pushing for what you want,” she advised students. “Be persistent.”

Matthew W. Randle, first-year law student

Since he returned from service in the Iraq War, Randle has been committed to improving the lives of military veterans.

Randle is a first-year law student, a military veteran and a Tillman Military Scholar. He serves as a board member for Student Veterans of America and collaborates with the veterans’ organization at the James E. Rogers College of Law. As a veteran himself, Randle said he understands the struggle veterans face as they attempt to reintegrate themselves into society. He said he hopes his success will serve as an inspiration to student veterans who are grappling with the stress of returning to school.

“Ultimately, my goal is to find a way to continue serving my community and my country,” he said.

Randle’s advice to students: “Get involved in something — find something, because I think you will be far more successful as a student if you are feeling successful as a person.”

Lisa N. Rulney, assistant dean of Finance and Administration, College of Education

Managing work, family and life is a constant balancing act for Rulney, the assistant dean of finance and administration at the College of Education.

She got her start at the UA in 2001 as an accountant for the Arizona Research Laboratories and quickly rose to the top, joining the College of Education a little more than two years ago. Outside of the UA, Rulney volunteers with the Junior League of Tucson, a women’s community-building organization. Additionally, Rulney is a member of the National Council of University Research Administrators.

In her personal life, Rulney is a wife, a stepmother of two and a long-distance runner.

Rulney said she loves Tucson and living here “really is a choice” for her.

“The community has become my family,” she said.

Looking ahead, Rulney said she plans to remain at the UA and continue to strive for professional growth and improvement. Recently, she was selected to be a part of the UA Academic Leadership Institute.

Erin Strange, violence prevention specialist, Oasis Program

Strange said she finally found her calling at the UA. As a violence prevention specialist at the Oasis Program, Strange works to reach as many students as possible and educate them about sexual assault and relationship violence. She joined the UA in 2009 in an effort to spread awareness about violence prevention to a larger community.

“I feel like I’m exactly where I should be,” she said. “It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.”

Consequently, Strange plans to remain at the UA, where she has recently been named a member of the UA’s Commission on the Status of Women.

When she isn’t out connecting with the UA community, Strange is busy working on her master’s degree in education and planning her wedding.

Strange advised students to find something they are passionate about and pursue it with diligence.

“Leave the university a little bit better than what you found it,” she added.


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