2019 Young Alumni Awards

Katrina (Hurt) Hull '10 and Dr. Sam Smidt '12 receive 2019 Young Alumni Awards during Homecoming & Family Weekend 2019

During Homecoming chapel at Olivet Nazarene University on Friday, October 25, Katrina (Hurt) Hull '10 and Dr. Sam Smidt '12, were awarded the 2019 Young Alumni Awards for extraordinary accomplishments in their relatively short careers. During the chapel service, both recipients shared testimonies of how Olivet shaped their respective careers and how they are continuing to innovate and grow in their industries.

Following are excerpts from the bios of Katrina and Sam that were printed in the Homecoming & Family Weekend program.

Katrina (Hurt) Hull '10
Teaching in a Title I school district definitely has its challenges, but Katrina knows that when students discover a passion for learning, they can positively change the trajectory of their futures. She is a career and technical education engineering teacher at Salem-Keizer public schools. Outside of the classroom, one of her current projects is partnering with MIT to build a sustainable invention education engineering program in Salem, Oregon that will give students a path to commercialization and give the city of Salem a space for entrepreneurial activity.

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At Olivet, Katrina studied mathematics education. After graduation, she completed a master’s degree in educational and instructional technology at Western Michigan University. In 2016, Katrina was approached by Portland State University to implement a MESA club (Math Education Science Achievement) as an afterschool program to get students interested in the field of invention. During the first year, a group of McKay High School MESA club students won over $30,000 for the prototypes they entered in various invention competitions throughout Oregon.

All four of Katrina’s grandparents attended Olivet, paving the way for her parents Keith ’79 and Karla (St John) ’78 Hurt to attend the University. During her time at Olivet, Katrina met her husband, Tyler Hull ’10, whose parents are also ONU alumni.

“I loved the opportunities Olivet afforded me. Traveling for four years with the Olivetians seemed normal at the time, but looking back, the opportunity to manage budgets, drive large vehicles and interact with people from so many backgrounds have all been useful since that time.” Katrina adds, “I loved being around good people that were impacting the world around them. The chance to be in a space rich with opportunities and support should be cherished and optimized.” 

In 2018, Katrina received the Lemelson-MIT Excite Award for being one of 36 educators in the nation to successfully guide students through invention competitions. She spent a week at MIT to learn from inventors who shape technology with their innovations and creativity. After receiving the award, Katrina’s students applied for the grant and were awarded $10,000 for the 2018-2019 school year to work on a long-term invention project. In June 2019, she and her students traveled to MIT to present their invention to MIT faculty and students. The team is now pursuing two patents on their invention. Katrina’s additional awards include the Crystal Apple Honoree from Salem-Keizer Education Foundation (2018); CleanTech Challenge from Portland State University (2017); InventOR Collegiate Challenge; Lemelson MIT InvenTeam (2018-2019); and the Dorothy Patch Community and Educational Achievement Award (2019). 

Although awards and prize money are exciting, Katrina’s driving motivation is to show continuous love and kindness to the next generation of leaders. “One student recently shared that soon after meeting me, they realized that going to school for engineering was going to be possible for them. Their confidence in a future career was simply due to the belief I had in their academic success.”  

Katrina says, “When I received notification about the Young Alumni Award, I thought that a student was pranking me because the work I am doing every day doesn’t seem glamorous. After confirming that it was indeed accurate, I was so grateful that the institution I received my degree from chose to value and recognize educators and their work preparing the next generation.” 

Dr. Sam Smidt '12
Sam Smidt is an exceptional research scientist and an assistant professor of watershed sciences at the University of Florida. Every day, he seeks to inspire his students to shift out of a disposable mindset and into one of environmental stewardship. Sam’s concern for future generations is how to cultivate the disparity between rising global populations and the limited capacity for new resources.

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Following the academic pursuits of older brothers, Ben Smidt ’07 and Pete Smidt ’09, Sam enrolled at Olivet. He studied geological sciences and environmental science, played varsity football and worked as a teacher’s assistant and lab monitor for the Department of Chemistry and Geosciences. “The Department of Chemistry and Geosciences at Olivet is truly amazing and a huge asset to the University,” Sam says. “I have yet to come across a better undergraduate program in educational merit at any university. The professors taught me to think systematically and to see the earth in ways that have profoundly changed my understanding of the world and its people.”

Sam’s interest in science began at a young age. During a family trip to the Amazon rainforest, he observed the ironies of a water shortage in a tropical biome, and realized the impact that clean water could have on building the Kingdom. Years later, during football practice in the heat of the summer at Olivet, Sam reflected on the unquenchable thirst that comes from dehydration and his career ambitions came into focus. “I knew that millions of people were desperate for clean water, and I sensed an overwhelming, nonnegotiable urgency to contribute to making a change on their behalf,” Sam says.

His master’s-level investigations of stream restoration and nutrient transport at the University of Iowa laid the groundwork for his pursuit of a Ph.D. in environmental geoscience from Michigan State University. After completing his doctoral studies, Sam taught at Wheaton University before moving to Gainesville, Florida with his wife, Sarah (Toporek) ’14, and their son Charlie.

“Receiving the Young Alumni Award is a testament to how the Lord has blessed me with opportunities to be successful in my career. At any point in time, something could have happened to change my circumstances; so, being at this point is a direct reflection of His provision over my life.”

For more information about life at Olivet, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@olivet.edu or 800-648-1463.

Photography: Elizabeth Kijowski
Published: 11/13/2019
LB