Celebrating the Outstanding Seniors In Human Development and Family Science From The Class of 2023

May 19, 2023

The Norton School of Human Ecology celebrates 10 graduating seniors from the Human Development and Family Science program for their outstanding achievements over the course of their undergraduate career.

Rashel Olalde, Norton School of Human Ecology, FSHD Award Winner

As the academic year draws to a close, the Norton School of Human Ecology recognizes the outstanding achievements of their graduating students. These awards serve as a testament to the dedication, hard work, and exceptional talent displayed by these individuals throughout their academic journey. From accolades in various fields of study to leadership honors and community service recognitions, these awards celebrate the diverse accomplishments and contributions of the graduating class. Join us as we highlight the remarkable achievements of these deserving students who have left an indelible mark on the school and are ready to make a positive impact in their respective fields.

Human Development and Family Science 

Bita Mosallai | Outstanding Senior Award 

Sydney Peare | Polly Elson Community Service Award & Special Recognition For Research 

Rashel Olalde | Perseverance Award 

Morgan Beggs | Special Recognition For Research 

Leah Osborn | Special Recognition For Preceptorship & Special Recognition For Leadership 

Mara Pearson | Special Recognition For Academics 

Johnna Smith | Special Recognition For Academics 

Brigid Hanley | Special Recognition For Academics 

Alaina Wegner | Special Recognition For Leadership 

Iris Sandoval | Special Recognition For Leadership 


Bita Mosallai
Bita Mosallai, Norton School of Human Ecology, FSHD Award Winner

Bita Mosallai is a student majoring in Human Development and Family Science with two minors in Government & Public Policy and a Thematic Minor. She was born in the United States, but her family is originally from Iran. During her junior year, she founded a club on campus as part of her internship with the Student PIRGs, where she served as president and advocated for social change. The club aimed to raise awareness on food insecurity and environmental issues by organizing food drives and meeting with administrators to implement change at the systematic level. Due to the high need for the food pantry on campus, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which lacked funding from the administration at the time, she faced many challenges in making real change. However, she was able to accomplish a lot during her internship, including successful voter registration drives. She was also offered the opportunity to publish an article as part of CIRCLE's 2021 Youth Expertise Series. 

Although Bita wants to work with children, she is still interested in the social justice aspect of things. She became an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for her favorite course: HDFS 447A: Sociocultural Contexts of Development. The course's professor, Dr. Linda Pallock, shares Bita's passion for social justice movements, multiculturalism, and the intersection of these topics with child development. With Dr. Pallock's help, Bita rediscovered her love for social justice-related issues after ending her position with the Student PIRGs. Bita believes that a social justice approach is a crucial criterion for graduate schools. 

The Norton school faculty as a whole have been very supportive of Bita's career goals, which she especially appreciates as a Middle Eastern student who does not see much representation in the university. Her long-term goal is to become a play therapist, a career she would have never known about if it were not for her time in this program. Bita feels that her time at the University of Arizona has prepared her well for a future working directly with children and their families in a counseling setting. 


Sydney Peare, Norton School of Human Ecology, FSHD Award Winner
Sydney Peare

Sydney Peare is a Human Development and Family Science major with a thematic minor to satisfy pre-health requirements from Yuma, AZ. 

One of her biggest passions is advocating against health disparities particularly present in the LGBTQ+ community and for individuals with disabilities. This passion has driven her to work as a caregiver, volunteer at local homeless shelters, and complete her honors thesis focused on healthcare for transgender youth. On campus, she has been involved with Delta Gamma, Freshman Class Council, SOPHOS Sophomore Honorary, Links Junior Honorary, Pre-Physician Assistant Honorary, and the Pre-Health Ambassador team. 

The HDFS major has significantly impacted her education and career by consistently requiring her to apply developmental and relationship theories with a sociocultural perspective. Although most of her course material is applicable to all humans and families, she is now much more considerate of the many cultural factors that influence someone's behavior which has improved her ability to connect with others from diverse backgrounds. Sydney’s favorite class was Human Sexuality taught by Professor Joel Morocco because it not only helped de-stigmatize conversations around sex, but sparked the inspiration to learn more about the AIDS epidemic, sex worker safety, and advocacy for comprehensive sex education. Sydney even created a children's book about consent for her final project, which has been her favorite to complete. 

After graduation, she plans on completing a Pre-Physician Assistant summer internship in Mombasa, Kenya and will then return to Tucson to work full-time as an Emergency Department Technician in pursuit of a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies.


Morgan Beggs
Morgan Beggs, Human Development and Family Science

Morgan Beggs, originally from Tucson, Arizona, is a driven Human Development and Family Science major with a minor in psychology. 

Morgan's passion lies in promoting mental health and well-being, as well as advocating for equity in education. On campus, she actively engaged in various roles, including research assistant, preceptor, and member of the Disney Club. Additionally, she dedicated her time off-campus during her junior and senior years to volunteer at Tu Nidito. 

The Human Development and Family Science program provided Morgan with a platform to explore her passion by deepening her understanding of mental health and social inequalities. “The Norton School, and its staff, nurtured my educational experience as they were open and made me feel like I belong,” Morgan said. My favorite class was Mental Health & the Family: Adulthood (FSHD 427A), as I enjoyed learning about mental health disorders.” 

Looking ahead, Morgan has plans to pursue a Master's in Counseling program at the University of Arizona starting in the fall. Her ultimate goal is to become a school counselor, serving within the public school system in Arizona, where she aims to make a positive impact on students' lives. 


Leah Osborn, Norton School of Human Ecology, FSHD Award Winner
Leah Osborn

Leah Osborn is a Human Development and Family Science major with a minor in Spanish from Fountain Hills, Arizona. Her passions are helping people and also dogs. While on campus, Leah has been a Resident Assistant and a Desk Assistant for 2 years, served as secretary for Human Development and Family Science Ambassadors, and served as the service chair for Mortar Board Senior Honorary.  

Her major taught her that she wants to be a marriage and family therapist and after graduation, she will be attending Arizona State University to study Marriage and Family Therapy. 

“My classes and professors have taught me so much about myself and have really helped me grow as a person,” Osborn said. “I can't thank them enough for being the best role models I could've asked for and for making my college experience life-changing and unforgettable. I have so much love and respect for all of the FSHD faculty.”  

Her favorite classes were FSHD 237 and FSHD 427A. 


Johnna Smith
Johnna Smith, Norton School of Human Ecology, FSHD Award Winner

Johnna Smith, hailing from Florence, Arizona, is an accomplished individual graduating with a B.A. in Psychology, a B.S. in Family Studies and Human Development, and a minor in music.

Throughout her college journey, Johnna actively participated in various music ensembles, showcasing her profound love for music and its ability to bring joy and serve the community. Additionally, she was a valued member of Tau Beta Sigma, an honor service-based sorority dedicated to supporting bands.

Her studies in family studies awakened a deep passion for serving others and working with students. Among the courses she took, FSHD 496Z, a special topics course led by Dr. Ottusch, left a lasting impression. Focusing on young adulthood, the course not only resonated with Johnna's personal life but also ignited her passion for working with individuals in that age group.

Post-graduation, Johnna's educational journey continues at the University of Arizona, as she embarks on pursuing an M.A. in Higher Education. With this next step, she aspires to make a meaningful impact by supporting and empowering students in their pursuit of higher education.


Alaina Wegner, Norton School of Human Ecology, FSHD Award Winner
Alaina Wegner

Alaina Wegner, originally from Kansas City, Missouri, is a dedicated individual pursuing a major in Family Studies and Human Development with a minor in music. 

Her deep passion for music and its profound impact on social and emotional development in early childhood has been a driving force in her college journey. Alaina actively engaged on campus through her involvement in clubs such as FSHD Ambassadors, where she held the position of Vice President, and Amplified A Cappella, where she served as the Music Director. 

Within the realm of Family Studies and Human Development, Alaina discovered invaluable lessons in leadership and empathy. This field of study broadened her horizons, revealing the myriad career paths she can explore in the future. Her favorite projects revolved around the fascinating intersection of music and emotional development across different stages of life. 

Post-graduation, Alaina will be working as an assistant teacher at Castlehill Country Day School. Simultaneously, she intends to continue her involvement in music and explore diverse career opportunities that align with her passions and aspirations.