Presidential Scholars are selected by six colleges in recognition for their exceptional scholarship and service to the university and their communities.
The 2019-20 Presidential Scholars include:
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.
Woodring College of Education
Cindy Marquina-Negrete of Tukwila graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She majored in Human Services and had three minors, Spanish, sociology and education & social justice. Marquina-Negrete is a successful, honored scholar at Woodring who has presented at several conferences and invited talks and has published poetry, essays and art. "Through her speaking engagements and written publications, Cindy viscerally demonstrates her concern about the ramifications of oppression and injustice in our society, particularly as they impact undocumented youth," wrote Assistant Professor Desiree Cueto. "Cindy's vast and innovative contributions to the broader Western Washington University campus and local community are rivaled only by the incredible impact she has made on the lives of so many students, staff and faculty within Woodring College of Education." Marquina-Negrete says she is most proud of her work at Western to build community, work she acknowledges is a continuation of efforts by Black, Indigenous and other students of color who came before her. She helped establish the Blue Group as an official Associated Students club and advocated for a resource center for undocumented students on campus, and was eventually successful when the AS moved to establish the Blue Resource Center. Marquina-Negrete was also very active with Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan and the Native American Student Union, helping to organize community events like MEChA's Ridin' Low in the 360 and NASU's Pow Wow. She also served on the AS Ethnic Student Center Executive Committee, which worked with architects and other stakeholders to plan for the Multicultural Center, which opened in 2019. Marquina-Negrete also worked with Cueto on a multigenerational literacy program called Salas, based on a popular program in Mexico. Marquina-Negrete and Cueto brought Spanish-language books to share with residents at the Villa Santa Fe migrant housing community. After graduation, she plans to spend time healing while working toward the abolition of prisons and borders. Eventually, she would like to attend graduate school and earn a doctorate in a field related to social justice. While Marquina-Negrete's contributions at Western and the broader community will be felt for a long time, she's quick to point out that more needs to be done, particularly in support of undocumented, Black, Indigenous and other students of color whose work contributes to the Western community. "Western, as long as they continue to use federal law as their reason for not being able to do more, will inherently not respect our humanity," she says. Marquina-Negrete, a graduate of Foster High School, is the daughter of Gerardo Marquina Baños and Maria de los Angeles Negrete Figueroa. Her grandparents are Maria del Perpetuo Socorro Amalia Alberta Baños Ramos, Maria Cristina Figueroa Ramirez, and Tomas Negrete Sánchez.
Huxley College of the Environment
Celida Moran of San Francisco graduated in June with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in environmental science and a minor in geographic information science. Assistant Professor Marco Hatch, who has worked with Moran in his Coastal Communities and Ecology Lab for four years, describes her as a "boundary spanner," someone whose scientific expertise, combined with cultural knowledge and language skills, has the power to help communities connect with the science that can help them recover from environmental degradation. "They figuratively and often literally speak two languages and can translate between them," Hatch said. "I see Celida’s future as being a boundary spanner for many communities, connecting them to science, and helping shape science that helps communities." Moran says her work with other undergraduates in Hatch's lab connected her to community members and scientists and introduced her to Traditional Ecological Knowledge -- and the concept that heritage and science go hand-in-hand. Moran received Western's Research and Sponsored Programs Undergraduate Award for a project in Hatch's lab looking at Indigenous food production on intertidal beaches. In 2018 she began a two-year fellowship with the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars, where she deepened her knowledge of intersectionalty in the conservation and environmental fields and worked with a research partner to map the soundscape of Moran State Park on Orcas Island. She completed several scientific presentations, and has done extensive field work researching river birds and sandpipers along the Elwha River in remote areas of Olympic National Park through the Environmental Science Field Camp course with Associate Professor John McLaughlin. Moran was also very active in efforts to build inclusion in STEM fields at Western. As an officer with the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, Moran was part of a student-led effort to improve the climate for marginalized groups in the College of Science and Engineering, which eventually resulted in the CSE Student Ambassador program, paid positions for students to work toward a more inclusive and equitable environment at CSE. Moran gives credit to the many students who worked without compensation or official recognition to ensure these positions were created, and she's deeply grateful that Selome Zerai and Kris Aguayo have continued the work this year. After graduation, Moran will return to the San Francisco Bay Area to begin a two-year Ray Conservation Diversity Fellowship and work as a restoration and education technician with the Point Blue Conservation Science organization in Petaluma. "I hope to eventually do long-term environmental work, integrating land education with GIS, mapping, and community-driven citizen science to support local Black and Brown communities in projects of their choice to gain more equitable access to outdoor spaces, housing, and public health resources in the Bay Area, while also working to forefront Indigenous resurgence in all that we do." The daughter of Douglas Moran and Maria Camposeco, Celida Moran is a graduate of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School.
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).
Presidential Scholar, College of Business and Economics
Outstanding Graduate, Management
Erin Smith of Olympia is graduating in June with a Bachelor of Arts in international business. She's known for her positive attitude, enthusiasm and thoroughness and a low-key, effective leadership style. During her time at Western, she helped revitalize the International Business club and became co-president. She was also treasurer for Fairhaven Hall Council, where she helped organize a successful canned food drive. And she attended meetings and events with the Native American Student Union. Last summer Smith interned at Callisons, a company in Lacey that is a leading supplier of mint oils and flavors around the world, and worked in their logistics department helping to formulate an export compliance manual. Smith studied abroad in Bulgaria at the American University in Bulgaria and had the opportunity to visit 10 different countries during the four months she was there. She was also a member of the Griffins football team and worked in the team's marketing department and joined the Women in Leadership Club, and the Better Community Club. Smith, whose parents are Nancy Smith and Kieo Smith, graduated from Yelm High School and attended South Puget Sound Community College prior to attending Western.
Presidential Scholar, College of Humanities and Social Science
Outstanding Graduate, Political Science
Piper Tolbert of Anchorage graduated in March with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a minor in law, diversity, and justice at Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies. Tolbert is known as an intellectually curious, highly engaged student with a deep commitment to engaging critically with race, gender, sexuality, and class in relationship to questions about power, identity, knowledge, history, and political change. She fully supports a recent petition by Black students calling for more action from Western and the Associated Students to address anti-Black racism on campus. During her time at Western, Tolbert and fellow students Kayla Johnson and Jace Cotton authored a collective reflection on the 1973 essay volume, "Lessons from the Damned: Class Struggle in the Black Community" and the potential for radically transformed spaces for learning; they presented the work at the National Woman’s Studies Association Annual Conference in San Francisco. Tolbert was also an investigative intern with the Whatcom County Public Defender's Office completing interviews with witnesses, and a policy intern with the ACLU of Alaska, where she worked to promote pay parity and criminal justice reform and conducted policy research. She also interned at Cook Inlet Region, Inc. where she worked with Story Works Alaska, a local youth storytelling and writing non-profit. Tolbert volunteers at Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood, is a member of Planned Parenthood Generation and organized the 2019 Condom Fashion Show. Now, Tolbert is looking into graduate programs focused at the cross-section of law, public policy and gender equality. The daughter of Melissa Harmel and Reinhold Tolbert, Piper Tolbert plans to return home to Alaska to work in local politics or with a non-profit to advocate for gender equality and reproductive justice.
Ana Elena Uribe
Presidential Scholar, College of Science and Engineering
Ana Elena Uribe of Lynden is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics. Uribe served as a Math Fellow for three years and is the 2019-20 Math Department Student Ambassador. She's a student leader in STEM at WWU and her major contributions to so many STEM-related activities on campus have helped to illustrate what is possible and opened doors for other Latina science students. Uribe is devoted to social justice, especially the needs of migrant farm workers and the education of underrepresented students. She spent two summers as coordinator of the non-profit Agape Service Project, which brings hundreds of middle and high school students to Whatcom County each summer in service to migrant farm workers through a weekly food and clothing bank and other projects. At Western, Uribe was involved with a wide range of activities. She founded the WWU Creative Writing Club in Fall 2017, is a research assistant in the WWU Social Cognitive Development Lab and a member of the RAW Stats club (Research at Western: Statistics). She is also an accomplished ballet dancer who taught ballet and served as secretary of the board of Northwest Ballet. After graduation, Uribe will attend Oregon State University to obtain a Master of Science degree in education and teacher certification. She then plans to teach and possibly go into education policy or administration. She is the daughter of Blanca Uribe and Javier Uribe and a graduate of Lynden High School.