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UMFK Alumni Association honors Craft, Nowakowski, and Villarreal at banquet

September 21, 2015

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The University of Maine at Fort Kent Alumni Association honored three individuals who have made an impact on the campus and in their community at the annual Alumni and Friends Banquet in Nadeau Hall on September 19.

Allen Craft - 2015 Outstanding Alumnus Award Recipient

Allen Craft received the 2015 Outstanding Alumnus honor based upon his outstanding academic and extracurricular contributions while an undergraduate student at UMFK and for his years of commitment and contributions to our country. The association also recognized his many personal and professional achievements.

This year's recipient graduated from UMFK, summa cum laude, with a bachelor of university studies degree in 1980. After working a year in the 'real world'; to earn his way, he continued his studies at the University of Georgia, graduating in 1983 with his master of arts in the area of urban and economic geography.

After Georgia, Craft joined the Central Intelligence Agency as an analyst, covering a range of accounts in the Middle East, Africa, and beyond from 1983 to 1994. During this time, his only customers were the President and the cabinet secretaries. His expertise and experience led him to become a manager in 1994, which he did until his first of many field assignments in 1998.

Thereafter, he served on every continent, except Antarctica, filling positions in CIA headquarters as well as foreign and domestic posts. For example, from 1998 to 2001, he worked in East Asia, reporting directly as adviser to the U.S. ambassador in the region's most critical financial capital. He returned to Washington early in September 2001 expecting to reenter analytic ranks, but 9/11 interrupted that path. As the Global War on Terrorism expanded, his duties morphed across all conflict zones from the eastern Mediterranean to South Asia.

From 2005 to 2007, for the first time in his career, he became the chief civilian adviser to U.S. military commanders, initially the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command and his staff directors.

From 2007 to 2009, he was the deputy chief of station for analysis and concurrently the senior U.S. intelligence adviser to the chief of mission, director of USAID, and commander of the International Security Assistance Forces, all of whom focused on the diplomatic and combat fights against global jihad centered in South Asia.

He retired from active service in 2010. In 2011, he answered the call to renew his service; that continues today.

During his career, he received several medals and awards, including (14) Exceptional Performance Awards, (3) Meritorious Unit Citations, (2) Certificates of Merit, (2) War-Zone Service Awards, the Intelligence Commendation Medal, the Intelligence Career Medal, and Manager of the Year.

In all his travels, Craft circled the globe more than fifteen times in service to the nation.

Nicole Nowakowski - 2015 Outstanding Young Alumna Award Recipient

Nicole Nowakowski received the Outstanding Young Alumna award based upon her contributions to UMFK as a student and an athlete. The association acknowledged Nicole's contributions after graduation as an educator, coach, and involvement within her community.

In June, Nicole accepted a new teaching job as a fourth grade school teacher in Meriden, Connecticut. She attended UMFK from 2006 to 2010, where she earned a bachelor of science in elementary education. She was a Bengal athlete on the women's soccer team for four seasons.

Nicole began her career as a first grade teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in 2011. In her first four years as an educator, Nicole traveled abroad to volunteer at an orphanage, earned a master of arts in reading and language from the University of Saint Joseph, in West Hartford, Connecticut. She presented to colleagues in her school community about using technology in the classroom. Nicole developed the first soccer program at OLMC School, where she coached the co-ed middle school team for three seasons in the Greater New Haven Parochial Athletic League. The members of the Connecticut Educator Computer Association (CECA) elected Nicole as president of the association and she gave a presentation at the CECA's annual conference in October 2015. In addition, she has presented twice at the annual UCONN Conference, Teaching and Learning with iPads.

She enjoys her weekly indoor soccer games at CFC Arena, her favorite pastime. Nicole resides in her hometown of Meriden.

Vessa Villarreal - 2015 Outstanding Future Alumna Award Recipient

Vessa Villarreal was the 2015 Outstanding Future Alumna based upon her contributions to UMFK's campus life, her academic leadership, and her involvement on-and-off campus.

Vessa is pursuing a bachelor of science in behavioral science degree and will be a candidate for graduation in May of 2016. In 2015, she earned an associate degree in university studies. While at UMFK, Vessa currently serves as Kappa Delta Phi NAS Kappa Rho chapter president; UMFK Student Senate president; Behavioral and Social Science Club vice president; and head resident in Crocker Hall.

Vessa served as First Year Experience leader, where she worked with freshmen entering their first year of college and was responsible for working alongside the professor to collaborate on lesson plans and attending events to involve the students. She had the opportunity to be a Summer Bridge leader for the TRIO program for two summers. Vessa has successfully trained and certified as American Red Cross Adult CPR and First Aid; suicide prevention; sexual assault; and eating disorders. Vessa continues to be a strong voice of the students and UMFK.