Dozens of Western Washington University students have received Outstanding Graduate honors for the 2017-18 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 graduates were recognized at spring Commencement June 16.
This year’s Outstanding Graduates include:
Taylor Arbuckle of Lynnwood graduated in March with a Bachelor of Arts degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Special Education. She majored in Special Education P-12 and Elementary Education. She completed two internships at Cordata Elementary School in Bellingham, one in a life skills special education class and another in a fifth-grade general education class. She developed an inclusive math activity that enabled the two groups of Cordata students to collaborate and learn together. Arbuckle also started one of the state’s first college clubs devoted to Special Olympics, which fielded a unified soccer team that included students with and without disabilities. We made it to state two years in a row,” Arbuckle says. She was also part of the soccer leadership team for Special Olympics national games in Seattle. Meanwhile, she worked as a program manager for the Max Higbee Center for people living with disabilities. Next, Arbuckle will be an elementary school teacher for students with moderate to severe disabilities in the Edmonds School District. She is a graduate of Mountlake Terrace High School and the daughter of Chris and Rob Arbuckle.
Naomi Blankenship of Sedro-Woolley graduated magna cum laude in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Chinese language and culture and a minor in music. She is also the Outstanding Graduate in Chinese. Blankenship says studying Chinese at Western has been life-changing for her, and she now plans to live and work in China. As part of her Chinese major, Blankenship studied abroad in Chengdu, China, for one semester and had the adventure of a lifetime. At Western, Blankenship was actively involved with Campus Christian Fellowship and enjoyed the opportunities for friendships with international students. She returned to Western to complete her TESOL certification for teaching English, and she hopes to be an English teacher in China. Blankenship, who was homeschooled through high school and graduated from Skagit Valley College, is the daughter of Kirk and Christine Blankenship.
Katelyn Brower of Lake Stevens graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Science degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Geology. She is also a first-generation university graduate. At Western, she served as a curator and research assistant to digitize, electronically document and catalog Western’s extensive geologic natural history collection and presented her work at the 2017 Geological Society of America annual meeting. As the Northwest Geological Society’s first at-large student board member, Brower helped plan the February 2018 Geohazards Symposium in Seattle. She is also a student liaison with the Pacific Northwest section of the American Institute of Professional Geologists and the webmaster of the Pacific Northwest Association for Women Geoscientists. She received several scholarships, including the Foundation Field Camp Scholarship, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers Undergraduate Field Study Scholarship, the American Institute of Professional Geologists’ National Undergraduate Scholarship, the Janet Cullen Tanaka Undergraduate Scholarship from the Association for Women Geoscientists, the WWU Alumni Association Leader Scholarship Award, as well as several departmental scholarships and awards from regional rock and gem clubs. Brower found success as a homeschool student and is a graduate of Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe and Everett Community College. “Geology is the science that inspires me,” Brower says. “It is my passion and incorporates everything I enjoy in life. Geology is a subject I get excited about every day. Ultimately, I look forward to serving my beautiful home and community in the Pacific Northwest as an environmental geologist protecting our natural resources.” Brower is the daughter of George Brower and Julie Sherlock. This summer, she plans to volunteer with the U.S. Geological Survey on a research project on the Olympic Peninsula. Then, she plans to work in the field of geology before going to graduate school.
Ellen Carroll of Bellingham graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Science degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Psychology. She also graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. Faculty describe Carroll as a thoughtful, insightful student who makes connections across a wide array of materials and theories. She served as a teaching assistant for the Race and Ethnic Relations course and was an active researcher on the topics of prejudice and cognition behaviors in the labs of Associate Professor Alex Czopp and Professor Ira Hyman, where she completed several studies that went on to regional and national science conferences. Outside the classroom, Carroll served as a resident adviser in Mathes and Edens North halls and completed a paper for submission to a sociology journal with Professor Glenn Tsunokai. She graduated from Mount Baker High School in Deming and is daughter of Julie and Wayne Carroll.
Plastics and Composites Engineering
Chris Croshaw of Yakima graduated in June with a Bachelor of Science degree as the Outstanding Graduate in Plastics and Composites Engineering. A highly capable, intellectually curious student, Croshaw served as a teaching assistant and spent summer 2017 at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he studied polymers through the prestigious National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates program. He also wrote and presented a poster at a technical conference and completed an industry-supported senior capstone project on a novel material for aerospace applications that has improved toughness, recyclability, and processability over traditional materials. He was an officer for Western’s student chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Materials and Process Engineering and was often found in the plastics and composites labs mentoring other students in the program. After graduation he’ll return to the University of Southern Mississippi to pursue a Ph.D. in polymer science and engineering, working with WWU alumnus Jeffrey Wiggins, a faculty member in the School of Polymers, on a project developing next-generation composite materials for aerospace applications. Croshaw is a graduate of West Valley High School and is the son of Dean and Tracy Croshaw, and Toni and Gary Patrick.
Yuka Danno of Kyoto, Japan, will graduate in August with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies and a minor in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). She’s also the Outstanding Graduate in TESOL. At Western, Danno served as an international peer advisor for students in the Asia University America Program, working with a group of 11 students and helping them make friends on campus and adjust to living in the U.S. She was also an officer in the Japanese Student Association and the Asian Entrepreneurship Club at Western. She’s particularly thankful to her mentor, Communication Studies Professor Ee Lin Lee: “She taught me how she spent time in the U.S. as an international student and to have confidence,” Danno said. “Dr. Lee also taught me the importance of thinking critically.” Danno is also grateful for Resident Director Tomoko Matsui. “She helped international students to be recognized on campus and listened to international students’ voices,” Danno said. Next, Danno will return to Japan and apply for graduate school. She also plans to teach English in Japan and support international students who are studying at Japanese universities. The daughter of Ikuo Danno and Yuri Kim and the sister of Yutaro Danno, Yuka Danno is a graduate of Korea International School in Osaka, Japan, and Edmonds Community College.
Art and Art History
Anastasia DeVol of Maple Valley graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio art and a minor in art history. She is also the Outstanding Graduate of the Art and Art History Department. DeVol volunteered as preparator and co-curator of the student-run B Gallery and served as a teaching assistant in several art classes and in the printmaking studio. During her time at Western she also grew as an artist in her own right. Art faculty describe her work as conceptually powerful, technically compelling and very comprehensive. Her work that was shown in the Western Gallery this spring was centered on the object of the 35-millimeter slide and was a white-on-white installation of embossed paper and cast ceramic slide replicas. “It explored the idea of heightening the importance of and extending the life of these objects that were once invaluable but are now obsolete,” DeVol says. “The abstract and minimal use of color allows for the viewer to project their own associations and ideas onto these objects that may be immediately recognizable to older viewers or foreign to younger viewers.” DeVol was also the vice president of the Kheiron Print Club and had the opportunity to travel to Italy with fellow students to study art in Rome, Florence, Venice and Tuscany. After graduation, she hopes to work in an art gallery or studio and is considering graduate school. DeVol is a graduate of Green River College and the daughter of Pamela DeVol and Dana DeVol.
Kyle DeWitte of Ellensburg graduated in June with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in electrical engineering and minors in math and computer science. He’s also the Outstanding Graduate in Electrical Engineering. At Western, DeWitte worked with Extended Education and Shannon Point Marine Center to teach middle schoolers in Anacortes about marine technology and underwater robots. He also served as a teaching assistant for electronics and engineering classes for non-majors. He was the president of Western’s Marine Technology Club and secretary of Western’s chapter of IEEE-HKN, the international electrical and computer engineering honor society. Now, he hopes to work in electrical engineering, particularly in the fields of firmware or embedded systems. DeWitte is a graduate of Ellensburg High School and the son of David DeWitte and Barb Goll.
Gamaliel “Gami” Diaz Lizama,
Elementary Education/Highline Future Bilingual Teacher Program
Gami Diaz Lizama of Des Moines graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree. He majored in language, literacy and cultural studies and is the Outstanding Graduate of the Elementary Education/Highline Future Bilingual Teacher Program, which trains bilingual paraeducators to become K-8 certified teachers. Diaz was a member of the program’s first cohort and quickly became known to Woodring faculty for his strong work ethic, growth mindset and willingness to get to know and build relationships with all the Latino families in his school. As a student teacher, he took over math instruction for a split-level classroom and wrote a social studies unit on human rights – which he translated and taught in Spanish to enable his bilingual students to fully participate. Next, Diaz plans to work as a third grade teacher in Highline Public Schools and begin his Master’s in Education degree at the University of Washington. Diaz is a graduate of Federal Way High School and Highline College and is a first-generation college student.
Emily Diel of Vashon Island graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Elementary Education. Diel majored in language, literacy and cultural studies and minored in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages). “I’m incredibly grateful to all the Woodring faculty for teaching me how to teach,” Diel says. “It’s been my lifelong goal to be a teacher and I feel more than prepared.” Diel student-taught in a diverse third-grade classroom at Roosevelt Elementary School in Bellingham. “I’m passionate about culturally relevant children’s literature,” Diel says. “I worked hard to make sure my students were exposed to texts that reflected the cultures in our school and cultures that are not represented in our school.” She also helped pay her college expenses with her work in childcare with the Bellingham YMCA, serving as a summer camp director, training staff, and working at 18 YMCA after-school programs. Now, Diel is moving to Northern California, where her husband Adrian Diel has been stationed to teach at the Coast Guard Training Center in Petaluma and she will teach second-grade in Santa Rosa. Emily Diel is a graduate of Vashon Island High School and Skagit Valley College and the daughter of Heidi Stair and Mark Gripp, the step-daughter of Devon Stair and Karilyn Hoffmann and the granddaughter of Jolie Hogue and Don Souza.
Dallas Dyson of San Diego graduated in June with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in design and a minor in user experience design. She’s also the Outstanding Graduate in Design. She completed an internship with Hornall Anderson Design Works in Seattle, where she worked on projects for Alaska Airlines, GT Living Foods and the National Basketball Association. She also completed a BFA workshop with Eric Heiman from California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and with her BFA classmates she worked on a public mural for the Bellingham waterfront in a workshop directed by designer Marisol Ortega of Kansas City. Dyson also had the opportunity to study abroad during her junior year with the Design Program to Germany and Switzerland. She worked as a designer for Western’s Office of Sustainability and provided design and creative direction for Wisdom Properties, a real estate brokerage firm. Dyson is a graduate of Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego and the daughter of Loraine Dyson and Bob Dyson. She has returned to San Diego and works as a designer at BASIC Agency.
Erica Eggeman of Lakewood, Colorado, graduated in June with a Bachelor of Science degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Manufacturing Engineering. She majored in manufacturing engineering and minored in mathematics. At Western, she was a research assistant exploring honeycomb tool wear in the aerospace industry. She was also a mechanical engineering intern at Alcoa Intalco Works in Ferndale. In addition, she spent time looking into ergonomics in student computer labs and worked on getting funding for sit-stand desks. Outside of class, she founded Western’s Tap Dancing Club and taught tap dancing to kids and adults at ABCDance in Bellingham. Eggeman is a graduate of Bear Creek High School in Lakewood.
Alyssa Evans of Bonney Lake graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double-major in journalism and sociology. She’s also the Outstanding Graduate in Journalism. “Before Western, I had no prior experience in journalism,” Evans says. “I also am a first-generation student. Despite a lack of background in journalism and in higher education, I was able to work as editor-in-chief of two publications, as well as in numerous editor and writer roles. Western was a place I was able to get hands-on experience in my field and truly make the most of my time as a student.” Evans served as editor-in-chief of two student publications, The Western Front newspaper and Klipsun magazine. She was also editor of Occam’s Razor, Western’s student-run academic journal, and a student writer for Western’s Extended Education Department. Her coverage of the Cascade Mall shooting was nominated for the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award. In addition, Evans published her research on the #MeToo movement in Occam’s Razor and completed research on Match.com for a capstone course in sociology. She was president of Western’s student SPJ chapter and a Western Leads scholar. Off campus, she was an editorial intern at the Northern Light Newspaper in Blaine. Next she’ll work as a government reporter for the Chinook Observer in Long Beach. Evans is a graduate of Bonney Lake High School and is the daughter of Kathy and Byron Evans.
Amy Feeney of Mount Vernon graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Music degree and a major in tuba performance. She is also the Outstanding Graduate in Music. Music faculty members were impressed by her high academic performance and accomplishments as a musician. Her senior recital was on par with strong performances by graduate students. She also placed third in the tuba artist division of the Northwest Regional Tuba Euphonium Conference. She performed in many ensembles at Western, including as principal tuba in the WWU Symphony Orchestra and Wind Symphony. She also worked as an instrument librarian in the Music Department and as the facilities manager for the Collegiate Washington Music Educators Association. In addition, she teaches tuba and volunteers as a coach for low-brass sections when high school orchestras visit campus. Feeney says the tuba tends to be a male-dominated field, and she found a strong female role model in Music Department faculty member and tuba musician Carla Rutschman, who was extremely supportive. Next, she’s moving to Denver to pursue a master’s degree in tuba performance at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music. Feeney, a graduate of Mount Vernon High School, is the daughter of Barbara Feeney and Jim Feeney.
Austin Garcia of Olympia graduated cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing and is the Outstanding Graduate in English – Creative Writing. At Western, Garcia had two poems published in Jeopardy, Western’s student-run literary journal, including a poem that won the Don and Elaine Westhoff Jeopardy Award for Best Poetry. He had two more poems published in other online literary journals. He’s particularly grateful to Assistant Professor Jane Wong for pushing him “beyond poetry, beyond the classroom, beyond the page,” he says. Next, he’ll spend a year in Europe with his partner, fellow creative writing graduate Cassidy Bartlett, who has received a Fulbright award to teach English in the Czech Republic. He also wants to attend law school to focus on reforming the legal system. “Ultimately, I want to teach poetry at university,” he says. “Like my professors, I want to show students the capacity that the English Language has for empathy.” Garcia is the first member of his family to graduate from a university. He’s the son of Michelle Garcia, and a graduate of Pierce College.
Andrew Grant of Bellingham will graduate in August 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and as the Outstanding Graduate in Nursing. Grant is a Registered Nurse on the Cardiac Telemetry Unit at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. He was inspired to become a nurse while serving as a volunteer with Whatcom Hospice. Through the RN-to-BSN program Grant partnered with the Whatcom County Health Department to address fall prevention in the elderly, and Skagit Valley Hospital to reduce readmissions for heart failure patients. Nursing faculty know him as a student who consistently engages in his classes and demonstrates excellent critical thinking and leadership skills. After graduation, Grant plans to continue working, but to spend more time with his wife, Shauna, and two year-old daughter, Dylan. Grant is a graduate of the nursing program at Whatcom Community College, and a former wildlife biologist who graduated from the University of California at Davis.
Sean Haight of Spokane graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Science degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Mathematics. At Western, Haight was a Math Fellow for two years and took 11 graduate courses while maintaining a perfect grade point average. He also worked with Associate Professor Stephanie Treneer to write Mathematica code that can compute Fourier expansions of eta-quotients. He scored in the top 10 percent nationally in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition, with the highest score by a Western student since 2001. In summer 2017, he participated in the National Science Foundation’s Research Opportunities for Undergraduates program and studied at Grand Valley State University with another student to find all globally maximally dense arrangements of four equal circles on a flat Klein bottle; they presented their work at the Mathematical Association of America MathFest and received an Outstanding Presentation award. Now, Haight will enroll in a Ph.D. program in mathematics at the University of Oregon. A graduate of East Valley High School, Haight is the son of Erin Haight and Tracy Reisdorph and the step-son of Shannon Haight.
Meg Hansen of Poulsbo graduated magna cum laude in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a double-major in sociology and political science. She also minored in women, gender and sexuality studies and is the Outstanding Graduate in Sociology. While at Western, Hansen studied abroad with a seven-week home stay in Kenya and service-learning trip to Rwanda. After returning, she worked with another student to raise over a $1,000 for a local grassroots organization in Kenya to fix their roof and build a permanent school building. For her senior capstone project, Hansen co-authored a book on social changemakers in the Kenyan village where she had stayed. As a research assistant for Associate Professor Liz Mogford, Hansen analyzed “health maps” drawn by residents of Kochia, Kenya, to gain insight into how people conceptualize health and to find ways to manage potential threats to public health. Mogford “encouraged me to think deeply, take risks, and to lean into discomfort to grow,” Hansen says. “Her ability to lead with both wholehearted compassion and unflinching honesty is something I try very hard to emulate.” Hansen was also a research assistant for Assistant Professor Patrick Gillham, observing protests and policing during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. She co-wrote a paper on the research and co-presented the paper at the 2017 Pacific Sociological Meetings. Off campus, Hansen was involved with Planned Parenthood, Community to Community Development, the Bellingham Racial Justice Coalition, Black Lives Matter Bellingham, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, Red Line Salish Sea, and HomesNow. She also volunteered for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services and did an internship with the Bellingham Tenants Union. Hansen is a graduate of South Puget Sound Community College and the daughter of Stacy Hansen and Stu Hansen. Her partner is Glen Kidwell. After graduation, she’ll continue to volunteer at DVSAS and work for a year before applying to graduate school in sociology.
Kailey Hegedus graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor Arts degree with a double major in linguistics and Chinese and as the Outstanding Graduate in Linguistics. She also minored in Spanish and in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Hegedus is known to be a selfless and dedicated student. She presented a research paper at Western’s Scholars Week about native English speakers’ ability to learn to pronounce Mandarin allophone consonants without formal instruction. This summer, she’ll work with TESOL faculty to teach an online course in English grammar and writing to students who are from Taiwan – and will travel to Taiwan to meet the students in December. After this she plans to stay in Taiwan and teach even more students how to read, write and speak English. Hegedus grew up in many places, including Maryland, Canada and throughout Washington, and graduated from West Seattle High School. She is the daughter of Elizabeth Hegedus and Gabe and Andrea Hegedus.
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Madeline Henry of Stanwood graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree and is the Outstanding Graduate in Communication Sciences and Disorders. In addition to her CSD major, she minored in psychology. Henry, a person with autism, worked with faculty member Fletcher Scott to develop and teach a course in the CSD department, “Autism in Adolescence and Young Adulthood,” which approaches autism from a more neurodiverse perspective. Henry also worked with Scott to create a year-long course for peer mentors of students with autism, as well as a graduate seminar on autism and an honors course exploring the interactions between autism, technology and the brain. Outside of class, Henry worked for Western’s disAbility Resources for Students office and created the Western Autism Community – and served as president. After graduation, Henry will attend graduate school at the University of Colorado – Boulder, where she will work toward a Clinical Doctorate of Audiology. She hopes to specialize in geriatric and medical audiology and would like to work in a hospital after completing her doctorate. Eventually, she’d like to get a Ph.D. in audiology. Henry is a graduate of Stanwood High School and Skagit Valley College and the daughter of Teresa VanSant and the late Keith Henry.
Madeleine Hopkins of Redmond graduated cum laude in June with two bachelor’s degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in biology/anthropology and a Bachelor of Science in behavioral neuroscience. She also minored in chemistry and is the Outstanding Graduate in the Anthropology Department. Hopkins was a research assistant with Jeffrey Grimm, exploring the neurobiology of drug relapse and addiction. She was also treasurer of the Neuroscience Research Driven Students (NeRDS) club and worked as a drop-in tutor and study group leader for organic chemistry in the Tutoring Center. “The Tutoring Center really helped me through my general chemistry and early math classes,” Hopkins says. “It was amazing to be able to work there for three years not only to watch it grow but to work closely with and encourage students who may have been struggling as hard as I was in some of my earlier classes.” Now, Hopkins will work at a clinical research coordinator at NorthWest Clinical Research Center in Bellevue while preparing for graduate school. The daughter of Polly Hopkins and David Hopkins, Madeleine Hopkins is a graduate of Interlake High School. Her younger brother, Nicolas Hopkins, is a Western student.
East Asian Studies
Matthew Horn of Maple Valley graduated cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a double-major: Chinese language and culture and East Asian studies. He’s also the Outstanding Graduate of East Asian Studies. While at Western, Horn studied abroad in China for a summer and volunteered as a Chinese language tutor in the Modern and Classical Languages Department. His research paper in Chinese linguistics, “Change in the Usage of 老 in Chinese Vernacular Literature,” won the Western Libraries undergraduate research award. And his research paper on a Chinese poet, “Wang Wei and the Buddhist Value of Nature,” won the department’s Diana Wright East Asian Studies Research Paper of the Year Award. After graduation, he’s considering graduate school in East Asian studies or in Chinese and becoming a professor or a language teacher or pursuing a career in international relations. Horn is a graduate of Tahoma High School and the son of Blaine and Kendra Horn.
Celeste Hufford of Moscow, Idaho, graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree and is the Outstanding Graduate in German. Hufford is known as a dedicated, enthusiastic student. On campus, Hufford worked with the Education Abroad office and volunteered with the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. She also volunteered with Animals as Natural Therapy, which works with at-risk youth. Hufford is a graduate of Moscow High School. After graduation, she’s heading to Frankfurt, Germany on a Fulbright Fellowship to teach English.
Ellie James of Kelso graduated cum laude and with University Honors in June with a Bachelor of Science Degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Chemistry. James majored in biochemistry, minored in materials science and was a member of the Honors Program. At Western, James was a part of Associate Professor Amanda Murphy’s research group, working on the design and synthesis of peptide-based conducting “wires” for biomedical applications. “We are working to replace traditional metal electrodes with conductive hydrogels based on self-assembly peptides and conductive polymers,” James says. She added that Murphy has been an invaluable mentor: “She has taught me how to design experiments, do chemistry, analyze data, write scientifically, present confidently, and mentor effectively.” James co-authored a peer-reviewed publication describing the work and is working on another manuscript. She has presented her work at several conferences, including the American Chemical Society meeting. James is the recipient of the Barbara Ellen Maguire Scholarship, the Denice (Ambrose) Hougen Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the two-year Knapman Scholarship. She also worked for Residence Life as a resident adviser and an assistant resident director, and she served on several academic student advisory boards. James is a graduate of Kelso High School and the daughter of Rochalle and Tim James. Next, she’ll begin a doctoral program in molecular engineering at University of Washington.
Chloe Jones of Issaquah graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Science degree and a major in cell and molecular biology. She is also the Outstanding Graduate in Biology. At Western, Jones was an undergraduate teaching assistant in both lower- and upper-division biology classes and was part of Assistant Professor Suzanne Lee’s research lab. Lee taught her not only lab technique but also the science behind the procedures they did, allowing Jones to work almost autonomously in the lab. “More than anything else,” Jones says, “She believed in me and encouraged me to grow as both a person and a scientist.” Jones also received funding for her own research from Western’s Research and Creative Opportunities for Undergraduates grant. She and a fellow student presented their work during Scholars Week, won an award for outstanding poster and were asked to present at WWU Alumni Weekend. She also served on Western’s Resident Hall Association and on the Fairhaven Hall Council and volunteered over the summer for her community’s food bank. Jones is a graduate of Issaquah High School and the daughter of Roberta Jones. She was recently hired to work on HIV research at the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle.
Alyssa Jillian Kaufman,
Alyssa Jillian Kaufman of Longview and Kalispell, Montana, graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelors of Arts, University Honors and as the Outstanding Graduate in English Literature. She majored in English literature with a teaching endorsement in secondary education and minored in Spanish and law, diversity & justice. Kaufman, who is known for her hard work and dedication to the English Department, said she’s thankful she got to know people from so many communities at Western, and that she had such a strong support system. She said her greatest accomplishment was her work at the Hacherl Research and Writing Studio, where she worked as a studio assistant for four years. As a three-year coordinator at the studio, she helped design the staff-development curriculum, presented at conferences, spoke at large donor events, and met her closest friends. She is also proud of her Honors Program senior research paper, “The Athena Effect,” which she presented at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association conference in Honolulu in fall 2017. Outside of class, she was operations officer of Western’s student chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action. She plans to work in Seattle as a canvasser over the summer and return to college in Seattle as a post-baccalaureate student to begin student-teaching in the fall. Eventually, she hopes to become a teacher in English language arts and social studies. Kaufman is a graduate of Mark Morris High School and Lower Columbia College in Longview and the daughter of Mark and Jill Kaufman.
Finance and Marketing
Reece Lodder of Everson graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Marketing and as the Outstanding Graduate in Finance and Marketing. Faculty members were impressed with Lodder’s communication skills, mastery of content, creativity, hard work and dedication to his own education. Lodder is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who maintained a very high grade point average while running his own brand development agency, Lede Creative, and leading an extremely busy family life. Lodder’s wife, Krissy, battled brain cancer while Lodder was in school, and insisted that he press forward to complete his studies. Lodder also credits faculty members for their support, flexibility and empathy. In addition, he received support from fellow students – while he was in the hospital with his wife after her emergency brain surgery, one class voted to allow him to skip a midterm and take the class average grade on the exam instead. Now, Lodder is looking forward to being able to spend more time with his family and on his business. An award-winning prior Marine Corps writer, photographer and marketer, Lodder now works with small businesses and nonprofit organizations to tell their own stories. He does brand development work for organizations like US Expeditions and Explorations, a nonprofit that sends military veterans to assist on field research expeditions such as their recent summit of North America’s highest peak, Denali, for high-altitude cardiology research. He also served as an editor on “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan,” published by Penguin Random House/Alfred A. Knopf in 2016. Lodder is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a graduate of Whatcom Community College and Cornerstone Christian School in Lynden. He’s also the father of two kids, 3 and 5.
Derek Loerzel of Ethel, Lewis County, graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Dance. Loerzel was an assistant to the artistic director for WWU’s new touring company Movement Graffiti: Dance Theatre. He was also rehearsal director for guest artist Rachael Lincoln’s “Probable Fall,” and an undergraduate teaching assistant for Senior Instructor Shurla Thibou for courses in the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program as well as Freshman Interest Group Seminars. His major research topics included “Rudolf Nureyev’s life during the AIDS Epidemic” and “Men and Masculinity in Ballet.” He completed a stage manager internship with Bellingham Repertory Dance, taught pilates in a local studio and worked full time. He is considering graduate school. “I have been offered a few professional dance opportunities by companies across the country,” he said. “The future possibilities are beginning to surface, and there is no way of knowing exactly where they will take me.” Loerzel, a graduate of Mossyrock High School, is the son of Steven Loerzel and Holly Chadbourne.
Zak Meyer of Seattle graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree, a major in business administration concentrating in management information systems and a minor in writing studies. He is also the Outstanding Graduate in Decision Sciences. In addition to his strong academic work – and a near-perfect grade point average – Meyer has been an outstanding contributor to Campus Recreation’s efforts to become more accessible for patrons of all abilities; he helped plan Western’s first wheelchair basketball tournament. Meyer was a member of the Student Recreation Center’s Advisory Council and worked at the center for two years as a front desk associate. Off campus, he completed an internship at Liberty Mutual Insurance as a data analyst and spent one winter quarter in Bend, Oregon, immersing himself in adaptive monoskiing. Now, he will return to Liberty Mutual for their Analyst Development Program. Meyer is a graduate of The Center School and the son of Roxane Broadhead and Paul Meyer.
Julianne Nienhuis graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in French and a minor in bilingual education; she’ll complete an endorsement in elementary education later this year. She is also the Outstanding Graduate in French. Nienhuis, the recipient of the President’s Scholarship and the Catherine Ruth Jarvis Scholarship, served as a Compass 2 Campus mentor and volunteered in elementary school classrooms and the Boys and Girls Club. She was also a student-teacher in elementary schools in the Bellingham, Burlington-Edison and Lynden school districts. Nienhuis is planning a teaching career in international schools and will finish her elementary education internship this fall in an international school in France. Nienhuis lived in several places around the world growing up, and graduated from Issaquah High School. Her parents are Chris and Sonya Nienhuis.
Adam Oberstadt of Mountlake Terrace graduated magna cum laude in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He majored in history, minored in political science and was the Outstanding Graduate in History. Oberstadt’s senior research paper, “Joining the ‘Empire of the Whites’: Fort Nisqually’s Families and American Colonization, 1846-1860,” is now part of the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum’s reference files. History faculty members were impressed with how Oberstadt was able to master the substantial body of historical work on the subject. Oberstadt also presented his work on Canada’s Cold War union purges at the 2017 Phi Alpha Theta Northwest Regional Conference. Off campus, Oberstadt helped research and write for a new exhibit at the Edmonds Historical Museum and completed an internship at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. He also attended several conferences as a member of Western’s Model United Nations team and received awards at four conferences, including one for Outstanding Delegate. He served as president of the LEAD Club, which is dedicated to environmental learning. Oberstadt plans to continue working at A Place for Mom, a senior living information company, and volunteering in the community, particularly with the Edmonds Historical Museum and for the city of Mountlake Terrace’s invasive plant committee. He is also helping to run two high school Model U.N. conferences later this year. Eventually, Oberstadt hopes to attend graduate school in history. He is a graduate of Mountlake Terrace High School and Edmonds Community College and the son of Michael and Kara Oberstadt.
Physics and Astronomy
Elle Ojala of Snohomish graduated in June with a Bachelor of Science degree and is the Outstanding Graduate in Physics and Astronomy. She majored in physics, and minored in astronomy, English and mathematics. While at Western, Ojala worked in the research lab of Assistant Professor Kevin Covey and traveled to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania for the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. She later presented the results of her work at the national meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Ojala is a leader in inclusivity in STEM, serving as a volunteer for Western’s GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math and Science) events and as secretary for Women in Physics. She also helped establish a peer mentoring program to help younger students and prospective majors feel more at home in the Physics and Astronomy Department. “Working as a math fellow and a tutor allowed me to help instill confidence in students who think they aren't a ‘science person’ or a ‘math person,’” she says. “One of the big things that everyone needs to hear is that we all feel like we’re not smart enough a lot of the time; that doesn't mean we can't be scientists.” Now, Ojala plans to work in industry for a year and volunteer in high schools while she weighs graduate school; she’s been accepted to a physics Ph.D. program at Lehigh as well as a master’s program in astronautical engineering at University of Southern California. Ojala is a graduate of Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish and the daughter of Emery and Sonja Ojala.
Dana Oviedo of Denver graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree and is the Outstanding Graduate in Communication Studies. In the Communications Department, Oviedo’s research focused on rhetoric and communication theory, as well as organizational communication. Oviedo was a member of Western’s nationally ranked Debate Team, was an on-air DJ for the student radio station KUGS, and helped with the Viking e-Bike program. He was also active with the Associated Students Resources and Outreach Programs’ Legal Information Center, which offers peer counseling and legal resources to students, and participated in the Talkin’ Race Community Dialogue Series. Off-campus, Oviedo volunteered with Law Advocates’ Street Law program and with Project Homeless Connect in Bellingham. Next, he’s heading to law school at Golden Gate University in San Francisco to focus on Public Interest Law. Oviedo is a graduate of Whatcom Community College.
Sean Nalty of Anchorage, Alaska, graduated cum laude in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Philosophy. He also minored in Latin. Nalty was highly involved in research, reviewing papers and chairing conference sessions at Western, Pacific University and University of Southern California. He also served as an assistant organizer for USC’s California Metaphysics Conference and was a proofreader for “Paradoxes of Time Travel” By Ryan Wasserman, published by Oxford University Press. Nalty was accepted at six graduate programs in philosophy and accepted a fellowship from Syracuse University, where he’ll enroll in August. Nalty is a graduate of Holy Rosary Academy and the son of Mark Nalty and Claudia Phillips.
Maria José Palacios Figueroa,
Maria José Palacios Figueroa of Sammamish graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts with a double-major in in Spanish and linguistics and a minor in Latin American studies. She is also the Presidential Scholar for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences – Humanities Division and the Outstanding Graduate in Spanish. A talented and engaged scholar, Palacios Figueroa’s passion for language, literature and culture is evident in her academic work and activities on and off campus. She taught Spanish to university faculty and staff as part of Western’s Employee Language Program, was a tutor for the Modern and Classical Languages Department, and took part in the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, Sigma Delta Pi. Palacios Figueroa also worked with Senior Instructor of Spanish Kirsten Drickey and Senior Instructor of Linguistics Jordan Sandoval to design a new curriculum for intermediate Spanish classes, addressing common pronunciation problems of native speakers of English. She was a leader in creating Escuchando Entendemos/Community Voices, a speaker series that builds community around Spanish speakers and learners at Western. A WWU IDEA Institute Changemaker Fellow, she immersed herself in an exploration of the politics of language and identity, focusing on cultural attitudes toward Heritage Speakers in the U.S. Palacios Figueroa, the daughter of Ana Isabel Figueroa Gálvez and Ramón Alfonso Palacios Durazo, is a graduate of Skyline High School in Sammamish. After graduation, she will travel to Brazil on a Fulbright Scholarship to be an English Teaching Assistant for university students.
Scotty Paton of Sammamish graduated cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Science degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Industrial Design. He also minored in user experience design. Paton was an Industrial Designers Society of America Northwest Student Merit Award winner and a western region finalist in 2018. He was also the recipient of the Boeing Engineering and Design Scholarship. During his junior year, he completed a one-year internship in industrial design and user experience design with GE Appliances in Louisville, Kentucky. Now, he plans to “live, learn and travel while making a living by implementing creativity and design in a meaningful way.” Paton is a graduate of Skyline High School and the son of Grant and Danette Paton.
Industrial Technology Vehicle Design
Ryan Peabody of Redmond graduated in June with a Bachelor of Science degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Industrial Technology Vehicle Design. At Western, Peabody participated in the 2016 Baja SAE competition in Goreman, California. He also spent three summers as a manufacturing engineering intern at Astronics AES in Kirkland, working on aircraft power system products and improving the manufacturing process of them. “Eric Leonhardt's contagious passion for automobiles deserves much of the credit for my success,” Peabody says. “He made each lecture fascinating and really allowed us all to grow as engineers by providing exciting hands on projects in tandem with the regular coursework.” Outside of school, Peabody also enjoyed designing and making furniture, clocks, jewelry, toys and other items. His hobby became a “profitable side gig,” he says, which may eventually turn into a business. But for now, he’s moving to New York City to find work. Peabody is a graduate of Redmond High School and the son of Mark and Kathy Peabody.
Laurel Puffert of Seattle will graduate in August with a Bachelor of Science degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Community Health. Puffert is also minoring in Spanish. At Western, Puffert serves as a peer advocate for Western’s Consultation and Sexual Assault Support, helping survivors of sexual assault respond to the trauma and navigate the university system. She was also a health education intern with Sea Mar Community Health Centers, working with community members on chronic disease management. She had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic to study community health, the health care system and social inequality. She serves as a tutor in Student Outreach Services and sings with Viking Vocal Jazz. She also volunteers in the Bellingham community as an advocate for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services. After graduation, Puffert plans to move to Austin, Texas, with AmeriCorps to work with young parents experiencing homelessness. She’ll also consider her own next steps in her education. Puffert is a graduate of Garfield High School, the daughter of Deeann Puffert and Richard Puffert and the granddaughter of Charles Burtch.
Mayra Esperanza Ramirez,
Canadian American Studies
Mayra Esperanza Ramirez of Burlington graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Canadian American Studies and a minor in English. She’s also the Outstanding Graduate in Canadian American Studies. Ramirez, a first-generation college graduate, served as a teaching assistant in Canadian American studies and completed a senior research paper on everyday student resistance in British Columbia’s residential schools for Indigenous children. “The children used the surrounding geography to resist colonialism,” Ramirez says. Next, she’d like to work for the government or in a position that allows her to work closely with Canada. Eventually, she would like to live and work in Vancouver. Ramirez, the daughter of Salvador and Gabriela Ramirez, graduated from Burlington Edison High School and Skagit Valley College.
Emma Scalzo of Olympia graduated cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a double-major in sociology and political science. She’s the Outstanding Graduate in Political Science. Scalzo worked for the Associated Students to organize a voter registration drive that registered 3,500 people. She also coordinated get out the vote efforts, including three educational events. Scalzo was also chair of the Associated Students Legislative Affairs Committee to develop the 2018 Legislative Agenda. Off campus, Scalzo volunteered at the Lighthouse Mission and Pickford Film Center. After graduation, Scalzo hopes to work in a law firm or government office, and eventually wants to move to Washington, D.C., to work at a nongovernment organization or foundation that aims to have a lasting and positive impact on the world. A graduate of Olympia High School, Scalzo is the daughter of Becky McLean and Paul Scalzo.
Christopher Sowers of Spokane graduated cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double-major in Accounting and Chinese. He also minored in Business Administration and is the Outstanding Graduate in Accounting. Sowers was president of Beta Alpha Psi and a volunteer tax preparer for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. He served as a tutor in the Accounting tutoring center and as budget coordinator for the Chinese Student Association. He worked for Western’s Associated Students as the club business director. In addition, he studied abroad: first, in China at Beijing Language and Culture University and then in the United Kingdom as part of the Accounting Global Experience Program. This summer, he is completing an audit internship at Deloitte in Seattle and is heading to Gonzaga University in the fall for a Masters of Accounting degree. Sowers is a graduate of Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane.
Sydney Still of Kent graduated in March with a Bachelor of Arts degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Recreation. She also minored in leadership. At Western, Still was inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success and the National Society for Collegiate Scholars. She was included on the Dean’s List several times and received the Recreation Program’s Academic Excellence Award. Out of class, Still was a club officer and leader with Campus Christian Fellowship and participated in service trips to Louisiana and Nicaragua. She and fellow student Trevor Bieker worked with Director of Education Abroad Ryan Larsen to incorporate ecotourism principles and practices into Western’s Study Abroad Pre-departure Orientation. Still said the faculty and staff in the Recreation Department have made a huge difference in her life: “I am forever indebted to these amazing people who really love what they do, care deeply about each of their students and who by being their genuine self and showing up everyday impact lives without even trying.” Next, she will complete a Campus Minister in Training internship with Campus Christian Fellowship at Western. Still is a graduate of Kentridge High School and the daughter of Rick and Bethany Still.
Julia Tatum of Port Angeles graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Science Degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Environmental Science. She majored in environmental science with a freshwater emphasis, minored in geographic information systems and earned a GIS certificate. While at Western, Tatum studied abroad in Queensland, Australia, where she spent six weeks in the field, including two weeks on the Great Barrier Reef, and completed two field research projects. She has been using LiDAR to measure complex forest attributes along the Nooksack River and plans to continue this work when she returns to Western in the fall for graduate work in terrestrial ecology in the Environmental Science Department. Tatum was homeschooled and graduated from Peninsula College.
Nyla Thursday of Madison, Wisconsin, graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Geography and as the Outstanding Graduate in Environmental Studies. She also minored in disaster risk reduction and completed a certificate in geographic information science. For her senior project, Thursday used her GIS skills to analyze the locations of contaminated sites throughout the state in comparison to the race of local residents in order to document social inequities. Thursday also worked with Western’s Sustainable Communities Partnership in Stanwood on flood risk reduction and explored ways to reduce flood insurance premiums in the area. After graduation, Thursday plans an extended road trip throughout the U.S. and British Columbia. Then she would like to put her skills in GIS and disaster risk reduction to work for communities, either through work with a government or with an environmental engineering firm. Thursday is a graduate of Madison East High School and Whatcom Community College and the daughter of Scott Leisman and Nancy Mae.
Stella Tsitsiragos of Anacortes graduated magna cum laude in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in energy policy and management and minors in economics and geology. She is also the Outstanding Graduate in Energy Studies. Faculty know Tsitsiragos as a reliable, effective leader and a team player with excellent communication skills and the ability to move easily between quantitative work and policy discussions. Tsitsiragos was the student director of the Women in Energy Mentoring Network, which pairs female students in energy studies with professional women in the field. She also received a competitive Gilman Scholarship from the U.S. State Department to study renewable energy and technology in Iceland during summer 2017. She was a field instructor for SnowSchool with the North Cascades Institute, served on the student research team for a community solar project and helped plan and design Project ZeNeth, a net-zero tiny house. Tsitsiragos is the recipient of the Rand-Trane Energy Solutions Scholarship as well as scholarships from the American Association of University Women, Rotary and Kiwanis. Tsitsiragos works in the energy and sustainable business development programs at Sustainable Connections. Next summer, she’ll attend graduate school at the University of Iceland to earn a master’s degree in renewable energy and economics. Tsitsiragos is a graduate of Anacortes High School, the daughter of Paula Tsitsiragos and the sister of Nota Tsitsiragos.
Ted Weber of Shoreline graduated in December 2017 with a Bachelor of Science degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in Computer Science. Weber also minored in economics. His work was published in the IEEE COMPSAC 2017 conference, and he won second place in the Association for Computing Machinery’s national student research competition at the Grace Hopper Celebration. But Weber says he’s most proud of working part-time jobs to cover all his living expenses while being a full-time student. Outside of class, Weber was a Computer Science Mentor, leading several workshops on useful tools and technologies, and volunteered as radio announcer for KUGS radio – his show, “Region Locked,” featured music from different parts of the U.S. or the world. He also interned with FAST enterprises and Tableau software and completed research with Assistant Professor Moushumi Sharmin developing an Android app to help users quit smoking. He’s continuing the work in graduate school; he’s finishing Western’s Master of Science program in Computer Science in December and hopes to eventually earn a doctoral degree. Weber is a graduate of Shorecrest High School and the son of Margaret and Joseph Weber.
Meghan Woods of Yakima graduated magna cum laude and with University Honors in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree, a major in humanities: religion and culture and minor in history. She is a member of the Honors Program and the Outstanding Graduate in Liberal Studies. A recipient of the President’s Scholarship, Woods completed a senior thesis on religious exemption law in the U.S. She also worked with the Western Foundation as a phonathon caller and served as an officer in the WWU Nerdfighters Club, which participates in charity events and fundraisers. Next, she’ll attend law school at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Woods is a graduate of West Valley High School and Yakima Valley Community College and the daughter of Rick and Tammy Woods.
Tian Qing Yen
TQ Yen of Seattle graduated magna cum laude with University Honors in June with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biochemistry and as the Outstanding Graduate of the Honors Program. She also minored in mathematics. Yen was a research assistant for Associate Professor Gregory O’Neil, studying a naturally occurring lipid found in algae called alkenones and examining their potential to be used as phase change materials. In addition to her classwork – she graduated with a near-perfect grade point average – Yen devoted her academic and extracurricular work to building inclusive community. Her senior capstone project in the Honors Program was a workshop for students in STEM, “Cultivating an Inclusive Culture in STEM” which focused on identity, privilege, and community in the sciences and how people can make the sciences more inclusive and supportive. She was also a student coordinator in the Hacherl Research and Writing Studio and put together a research project and workshop for fellow peer tutors about how racial inequality manifests on a systematic and interpersonal level in peer tutoring and in education in general. Yen and other students presented the project at the National Convention for Peer Tutoring in Writing. In addition, Yen was captain of Western’s Women's Ultimate Frisbee Team, Chaos, and went to national competitions twice with the team. “Both times we went, we made a statement about issues that we care about,” Yen says. “In 2016 when we traveled to North Carolina, we openly opposed HB2 and volunteered with Equality NC to fight against it. This year, we held a conversation about race and intersectionality at nationals as a way to call attention to inequity in our sport.” Finally, Yen worked with Western’s Outdoor Center, leading orientation trips for incoming students. In her spare time, she has climbed mounts Baker, Rainier, Adams and St. Helens. Next, she’s heading to Beijing to teach English. Yen is a graduate of Ballard High School.
Anna Marie Yanny,
Anna Marie Yanny of Seattle graduated magna cum laude with University Honors in June with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Behavioral Neuroscience and as the Outstanding Graduate of the program. A member of Western’s Honors Program, Yanny completed an ambitious research project in Associate Professor McNeel Jantzen’s Language and Neural Systems Lab, where they studied how musical training enhances speech perception. She also worked with Associate Professor Dietmar Schwartz’s Ecology Lab, studying the apple maggot fly, a major pest in the state of Washington. She presented her work at Western’s Scholars Week and she was a recipient of the Behavioral Neuroscience Neurodiagnostic Internship, which gave her experience in the PeaceHealth Neurology Clinic in Bellingham. In addition to her work in the Behavioral Neuroscience Program, Yanny founded and was president of the WWU Poets and Lyricists Club, which hosts bi-weekly poetry open mics, runs writing and performance workshops, and brings nationally known poets to campus. The most rewarding part of her college career, she said, was giving others a platform to tell their stories. Now, she wants to build a career as a neuroscience researcher and science communicator. Yanny is a graduate of Nathan Hale High School.
American Cultural Studies
Erick Yanzon of Quezon City, Philippines, graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and as the Outstanding Graduate in American Cultural Studies. Yanzon also majored in sociology and minored in education and social justice. At Western, they served as the AS vice-president for Diversity and the AS vice-president for Academic Affairs. They were also a co-founder of WWU Students for Ethnic Studies and a president of the Filipino-American Student Association. Yanzon said Assistant Professor Verónica Vélez has had a huge influence on their growth and learning. “She inspired me to be critical and advocate for justice. She has taught me how to do everything with love, and I always leave the space I have shared with her with so much passion to change the world.” Next, Yanzon will attend Seattle University for the Student Development Administration Graduate Program. A first-generation, immigrant college student, Yanzon wants to pursue a career in student affairs to help support underrepresented and marginalized students to succeed in higher education. They are a graduate of Mountlake Terrace High School.