More than 50 Western Washington University students and graduates received Outstanding Graduate honors for the 2019-20 academic year.
Faculty members from dozens of academic departments and programs select one graduate to honor as the Outstanding Graduate of the year. Selection is a high honor based on grades, research and writing, service to the campus and community, and promise for the future.
The Outstanding Graduates from the College of Fine and Performing Arts include:
Valerie Goliff of Kent graduated in June with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance and a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. She is known for her cheerful attitude and spirit of collaboration. Goliff performed and choreographed in many dance concerts at Western, working with fellow students, talented dance faculty, and guest choreographers. They also participated in Western's Hip Hop Dance Team all four years, performing, choreographing, and eventually serving as team captain alongside Jade Jordan, Cieon White, and Erin Johnson. In March 2020, she received a grant to attend the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference in New Orleans to present her research on stereotyping and bias. For her BFA solo, Goliff worked with Anya Cloud to create a contemporary improvisational dance score. Amidst the chaos of the global coronavirus pandemic, she collaborated with her faculty mentor Pam Kuntz and fellow BFA dancers Hannah Goebel and Cierra Johnson to create filmed versions of their dance solos. They used this opportunity to mix up location, costume, lighting, sound, and film editing in the context of their dance pieces. In the future, Goliff plans to work on creating independent dance and dance-film projects. Eventually she hopes to get her MFA in dance to continue to study choreography while bringing in aspects of social psychology. Goliff, whose parents are Emma Goliff and Steve Goliff, is a graduate of Kentridge High School.
Art and Art History
Jessamyn Irvine, of Maple Valley, is a student of art history recognized for her sophisticated research and writing talent. She graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Irvine values the connections and relationships she built throughout her undergraduate career, including her friendship with Lummi Island artist Ann Morris. Irvine met Ann while working as an intern, and is now an assistant and docent at Sculpture Woods. As a unique blend of both writing and art, Art History combines Jess' greatest passions. Her research has encompassed explorations of eighteenth-century French painting and theory, as well as lace-making in the Venetian Renaissance, and she has presented her work at both the Undergraduate Symposium at the University of Washington and Western's Scholar's Week. Irvine would like to thank Professor Javier Berzal de Dios for his dedicated guidance during her studies, as well as the faculty and staff of the Art and Art History Department for their support. After graduation, Irvine will pursue a doctorate with the goal of becoming a professor herself. A graduate of Bellevue College, she is the daughter of Joanne and Bruce Irvine, and the fiancee of Kevin Piette.
Presidential Scholar, College of Fine & Performing Arts
Outstanding Graduate, Theatre
Neco Pacheaco of Minneapolis graduated in March with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre and a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree in exceptionality & disability while also completing a minor in education and social justice. Pacheaco is known for her seamless devotion to scholarship, inclusion and service. Her lasting legacy includes reinvigorating Western's Dead Parrots Society improv group by focusing on inclusion. Alongside other student leaders, Pacheaco worked to make Dead Parrots Society a more welcoming and inclusive space, holding workshops for folks with identities not traditionally supported in improv and comedy. Pacheaco and other leaders of these workshops would share back with the full club and its leaders prompting conversations about stereotypes and pigeon-holing and how to play more respectfully and inclusively in scene work. She also worked as a stitcher in the WWU costume shop for several years and hand-built two custom garments for Mainstage Theatre productions. She became so good at the costuming work that she trained other students. Pacheaco performed with the Dead Parrots Society at improv festivals in New York City, Vancouver and Victoria B.C., and Edmonton, Alberta, and in the Theatre Department's production of "Henry V" on the Mainstage Theatre. Neco was active in the arts off campus too, co-teaching at the Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth for two years. At Woodring College of Education, they worked as the interim program coordinator for the Future Woodring Scholars and Woodring Peer Mentors programs in the summer of 2019. She combined her work in the arts and in education and interned in spring 2019 at the Max Higbee Center, a community center that provides programming for adults and teens with developmental disabilities. She developed a handbook for the center to produce theatrical productions in a supportive way for members and staff; alongside the rest of the MHC staff Neco helped organize a performing arts showcase, even coordinating the use of the WWU Concert Hall as a venue. Pacheaco continues to work at the Max Higbee Center as a recreation leader in their after school program. Pacheaco wants to recognize Nat Reilly, Woodring's former diversity recruitment and retention specialist, for being a champion of all students and for providing immeasurable support personally and academically, and Professor Angela Harwood for changing her life and ultimately giving her the skills needed to survive college and pursue her passions. They also want to recognize Associate Professor Kristen French for teaching them how inclusive and thoughtful an educator can truly be if they just put in the work to do so, and Professor Jim Lortz for teaching Neco to show compassion and care for others whenever they can. Now, Pacheaco has moved back to Minneapolis and intends to work for an organization that provides theatre and art opportunities in inclusive settings for people with and without disabilities to collaborate, create, and perform together. Pacheaco, whose parents are Rachelle Pacheaco and Randy Rash, is a graduate of Main Street School of Performing Arts (now named PiM).
Anna Schwecke graduated in June with a bachelor’s degree in design. Schwecke transferred to Western in 2017 from University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. Basketball was a large part of Schwecke's college experience, having played on the women’s basketball team both in Colorado and after transferring to Western. Design faculty were impressed with Schwecke's diligence in completing projects early before traveling for away games or burning the midnight oil in hotel rooms and airport terminals to complete projects on time. Her understanding of what it means to work hard and be a part of a team, on and off the court, helped make her a good designer. Schwecke fondly remembers studying in the design labs with her classmates and feeling a part of the community in her department. Now, she’s figuring out her niche in design and taking each day as it comes with hopes to travel after COVID-19 has died down.
Sarah Yates of Whatcom County graduates in June with a Bachelor of Music degree. Drawn to Western’s Music Library, Yates majored in music history and literature and minored in jazz studies. Her thesis explored how Claude Debussy and Django Reinhardt became symbols of liberty and French identity during and after World War II. A double bass player, Yates is also a musician with skills in jazz and classical styles. She performed with the WWU Jazz Combo at the National Association for Music Education national conference in Dallas in 2018, and was part of several ensembles at Western, including Jazz Combos, Big Band, Symphony, String Sinfonia, Collegium Musicum, and at the "Women in Composition" and "Composers of Western" concerts. Outside of Western, Yates performs regularly as a bassist in Seattle, Vancouver and Bellingham, taking part in projects with styles ranging from jazz Manouche and Roma music to straight-ahead jazz and free improvisation. In addition, she directs the junior high jazz program at Lynden Christian School. She received several scholarships, including the CFPA Dean’s Office Scholarship and the Jazz Project Scholarship. A graduate of Whatcom Community College and Lynden Christian High School, Yates is the daughter of Dave and Laurie Yates.