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 Humanities and Social Sciences, Humanities Division, include:
Shapei Baker of Gig Harbor graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree with two majors, Chinese language and culture and international business. She also completed two minors, economics and Japanese, and was delighted that she was able to continue her studies in both Chinese and Japanese at Western. Baker is known as a meticulous, dedicated student who takes on intellectual challenges with persistence and confidence. She was also known for her kindness in helping her peers with their studies. As part of her international business major, Baker participated in a Boeing Business Case Competition and worked on a class project with Darigold. Off campus, she volunteered with The INN/Garden College Ministry. Baker plans to continue her business studies and enroll in Western's MBA program in the fall. A graduate of Gig Harbor High School, Baker is the daughter of Peter Baker and Debra Baker.
Nancy Brill, originally from New York, graduated in June with University Honors and a Bachelor of Arts degree. She double-majored in Spanish and linguistics and worked as a research assistant in the Linguistics Department and facilitator for the Spanish Employee Language Program. Alongside faculty, Brill helped teach pronunciation and perception in undergraduate Spanish classes at Western and was able to present that research at academic conferences. She also loved teaching Spanish to Western faculty and staff as a facilitator for the Employee Language Program and completed a capstone project exploring Cuban national identity. Brill studied abroad in Ecuador with the University Honors Program and helped organize events for Western’s Spanish Program.
Presidential Scholar, College of Social Science and Humanities
Outstanding Graduate, Journalism
Ray Garcia of Los Angeles graduated in March with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in news/editorial journalism and a minor in professional writing, literacies and rhetoric. Garcia is known in the department as a deep thinker whose intelligence is matched by his empathy and social sensitivity, said Brian Bowe, associate professor of journalism and Garcia's adviser. "In our department, we are in the business of training future journalists, and Ray is the kind of professional whose work will make a difference in people’s lives," Bowe said. Garcia co-founded the Society for Student Journalists of Color to advocate for and support student journalists from marginalized groups. He was also selected as one of six WWU journalism students to travel with faculty to Tunisia on a U.S. State Department-funded Journalism and Democracy Fellowship. The group partnered with students and faculty at the Institute of Press and Information Sciences to study public affairs reporting and collaborate on stories about Tunisia's upcoming presidential election. On campus, Garcia also held several editorial leadership roles, including editor-in-chief of Klipsun magazine and managing editor and news editor of the Western Front, mentoring fellow journalists throughout with a supportive, inclusive management style. He also worked for Western Libraries for four years and served as a building manager and content writer. Off-campus, he was a writing intern for Bellingham Alive magazine and for Construction for Change, a nonprofit devoted to strengthening the infrastructure of other nonprofits around the world. Now, Garcia is hoping to launch his career in journalism and work at a publication where he can tell stories that matter to people.
Sofia Marechal Jensen
Sofia Jensen of Albuquerque, New Mexico, graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts in French with a minor in international studies. While at Western, Jensen studied abroad in Montréal, Canada with the Western Global Learning Program in summer 2018, and in Ifrane, Morocco at Al Akhawayn University where she studied Arabic and French along with other courses. She has also worked at the Hacherl Research & Writing Studio in Western Libraries for two years. This last year, she was a studio coordinator and helped students with research and writing projects. After graduation, Jensen hopes to work as an English teacher in the Teaching Assistant Program in France or continue with graduate studies in social work or education. Language is something very important to Jensen and her identity because she grew up bilingual, speaking Portuguese and English. She has been learning French for almost nine years, Spanish for four years, and Arabic for over a year and a half.
Holly Lund graduated summa cum laude and with University Honors in March with a double major in German and linguistics and a minor in Russian and Eurasian studies. Throughout her time at Western, she flourished as an honors student with a 4.0 GPA and a vibrant passion for language. Her essay “The Linguistic Capital of Amazon's 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 1” was published in Western's undergraduate academic journal, Occam’s Razor. She also participated in WWU’s Scholar’s Week, presenting on the historical interaction between the German and Estonian languages. She was also a teaching assistant in linguistics and German classes. In spring 2019, Lund directed a full-length play entirely in German about the refugee crisis in Europe. Most recently, from August 2019 to February 2020, Lund studied abroad in Tartu, Estonia, taking intensive classes on Estonian language and expanding her knowledge of linguistics. Faculty in the German department describe her as one of their brightest, most diligent, thoughtful and enthusiastic students. In September, Lund is moving to Austria to teach English as part of the Fulbright U.S. Teaching Assistant program. She is a graduate of Lynnwood High School.
Global Humanities and Religion
Elizabeth Moorhead graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree in three majors: global humanities & religions, German, and linguistics -- plus a minor in creative writing. Moorhead, of Sacramento, originally chose Western for its German program, but decided to greatly expanded her studies. She feels blessed for having been able to study abroad in Marburg, Germany, at the beginning of her junior year. During her last two quarters, Moorhead researched and wrote her senior thesis on the 1918-1919 Spanish Influenza pandemic and its effects on German-speaking central Europe, using German-language newspapers, medical literature, and other primary sources to complete this charge. Moorhead's professors say she writes beautifully and thinks deeply. Outside of class, Moorhead served two years as the armorer for Western's Fencing Club, and her creative work is published in Jeopardy Magazine. Once the current pandemic is over, Moorhead hopes to hike the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. Moorhead is a graduate of Christian Brothers High School, and is the daughter of Charlene and John Moorhead.
English - Creative Writing
Hokulani Rivera of Pauoa, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, graduated in June with University Honors and a Bachelor of Arts degree with two majors, English-creative writing and cultural anthropology. She is a published poet, campus community builder, and talented academic who values interdisciplinary engagement. "As an indigenous poet, her work is always imbued with social justice stakes, heritage, and radical joy," said English Assistant Professor Jane Wong. Rivera presented "Ua lawa mākou i ka pōhaku: reclaiming my Hawaiian right to exist with anger and aloha in the time of TMT,” about protests surrounding the location of the Thirty Meter Telescope, at the Northwest Indian College - Nez Perce Student Speaker Series. She's a research assistant in the WWU Medical Anthropology Lab, where she is conducting research on fieldwork safety. She was a campus leader, serving as co-facilitator of an Ethnic Student Center annual conference, and as an officer for several clubs, including the Mixed-Identity Student Organization (MISO), the Native American Student Union, the Oceanic Students Association, and Western Amnesty. She was also a student lead at the Teaching-Learning Academy, where she's working on a textbook to be published in the coming months, and worked in the Hacherl Research & Writing Studio. As one of the few students of color in the Honors Program, she also volunteered with the Honors Outreach to Past and Prospective Students (HOPPS) program, making connections with students at NWIC, Bellingham Technical College and Whatcom Community College. She studied abroad in Senegal with a group of WWU students and faculty, a profoundly moving experience, even though it was just three weeks. "I was still able to observe the similarities my culture shared with these coastal peoples in terms of tools and oral traditions," Rivera says. "My time spent in Senegal really fueled my passion to study Indigenous oral traditions in my graduate career." Rivera is deeply interested in researching Indigenous forms of knowledge transference, and hopes to attend a graduate program that focuses on indigenizing narratives of place-based sustainability through storytelling. Eventually, she wants to earn her Ph.D. in Indigenous or comparative Indigenous studies, and, potentially, tribal governance. Rivera is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools - Kapālama.
Samia Saliba of Olympia graduated magna cum laude with University Honors in March with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a concentration in imperialism and colonialism, Middle East and Latin America. She also minored in both Spanish and Arabic & Islamic studies. Saliba studied abroad in Mérida, Mexico in spring 2019 through a program with Evergreen State College. While there, she worked with a feminist rap collective called Las Hijas del Rap who teach rap and other creative arts to young girls. She was also a founding member of WWU Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER) to bring attention to the human rights needs of Palestinians. Saliba also interned with the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice and worked in Western's Hacherl Research & Writing Studio. She is a poet who received a fellowship from the Radius of Arab American Writers; her poetry has been published in Mizna, Unootha Magazine, Protean Magazine, and others. In her last year at Western, Saliba completed two theses; one for the History Department titled “Contested Markets: Criminality and Resistance in Argentina’s Informal Sector During the Economic Crisis: 1998-2002," and the other for the Honors Program titled “’We Know We Are Forgotten': Re-Centering Women in the Study of Economic Sanctions on Iraq, 1990-2003.” An early version of “’We Know We Are Forgotten’” received the 2019 Undergraduate Research Award. A graduate of Capitol High School, Saliba is the daughter of Therese Saliba and Tom Wright. She plans to continue her education to earn a doctorate in history with a focus on Latin America and the Middle East.
Moira (Marielle) J. Stockton
Moira (Marielle) Stockton graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a minor in ancient Greek. Stockton is a first-generation college student of Pacific Island heritage who has left her mark at a largely white university with "a trademark mix of intelligence, academic curiosity, and joy in learning,” wrote professor Laura Laffrado of the English department. Stockton made history as the first undergraduate to be published by the Journal of the Whatcom County Historical Society when her essay, “’To Lie There Forever, on the Silver Crest of the World’: The Memorial Poetry of Ella Higginson,” was accepted for publication in their December 2019 issue. Stockton also worked closely with Laffrado on the Ella Higginson Recovery Project, for which she raised funds and helped successfully establish a bronze bust of Higginson in WWU’s Wilson Library. Stockton created a blog that catalogs and contextualizes more than 400 of Higginson's poems. She's also an award-winning book collector who received an honorable mention in the 2018 Honey and Wax Book Collecting Prize, sponsored by the Paris Review. Next, Stockton will attend the University of Pittsburgh as a resident fellow in their School of Computing & Information for a Masters in Library and Information Science. Stockton is a graduate of Everett High School.
Megan Zahn of Bellevue graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies, with minors in leadership studies and French. Communication studies faculty took note of Zahn's dedication and effort in the classroom. She was a teaching assistant and discussion section leader in two leadership studies courses, ultimately enhancing the leadership development of her fellow discussion section leaders. She was co-president of the Communication Club, where she led and collaborated on programs such as wellness events and major application preparation. Off campus, Zahn is also serving as a non-voting student board member for the Opportunity Council. She is considering her next steps in launching her career amid a pandemic. She's a graduate of the International School in Bellevue and attended the University of Portland for two years before transferring to Western.