More than 50 Western Washington University students and graduates received Outstanding Graduate honors for the 2018-19 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 15. As the College of Humanities and Social Sciences is so large, we have broken it up into its two divisions, Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences.
The Outstanding Graduates from CHSS/Social and Behavioral Sciences are:
Outstanding Graduate in Recreation
Mireille Brown of Boulder, Colorado, graduated magna cum laude in December with a Bachelors of Arts and majored in therapeutic recreation with minors in psychology as well as social entrepreneurship and innovation. During her time at Western, Brown co-founded a program for fifth-grade girls to build their confidence and leadership skills. She also volunteered with groups focused on kids at different levels of physical and mental ability. These include volunteering at the Arne Hanna Aquatic Center and working as an assistant teacher at a youth summer camp for those with autism, FACES Northwest. Brown completed her internship at the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction as a recreation therapy intern helping to develop alternative ways to aid in clients' healing and recovery. She also studied abroad in Rwanda. Brown received the Recreation Program Legacy scholarship and Double Eagle II scholarship. She plans to move to Wyoming this summer to work for NOLS, a global wilderness education nonprofit, and hopes to continue to explore the importance of arts and expressive therapies in helping people live life to the highest degree. Brown graduated from Boulder High School and is the daughter of Boyd Brown and Johanna Gangemi.
Outstanding Graduate of Anthropology
Shay Edwards of Baker City, Oregon, graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Arts and majored in anthropology. Edwards says that her proudest achievements at Western were maintaining a high GPA, her research and her work as an undergraduate teaching assistant for biological anthropology. Edwards' research includes the implications of academic bullying, the societal implications of embryonic genetic editing, and the Ukrainian Genocide, the Holodomor. Outside of her academic studies, Edwards was on the Navigators Leadership Council, a leadership committee whose role was to mentor incoming high school students. Edwards is a graduate of Gates High School in Tacoma and is daughter to Stacy Dwyer.
Presidential Scholar for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Social Sciences Division
Outstanding Graduate in Sociology
Breneya Johnson graduated in cum laude June with two degrees, a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology. Johnson collaborated with Sociology Professor Glenn Tsunokai on a manuscript about President Obama’s presidency and trends in interracial dating. She also presented her work at the 2018 California Sociological Association on the prospect of cooperation among white and black nationalist groups and presented the findings of her senior thesis on implicit bias in interracial dating at the 2019 Pacific Sociological Association Annual Meetings. Johnson is known among faculty for her intelligence, eloquence and energy and as an engaged citizen and sociologist. She served as secretary of the Black Student Union, president of the Sociology/Demography Club, co-president of Western’s chapter of Psi-Chi, the international honor society of psychology, and was a member of AKD Sociology Honor Society. Off campus, she works as a behavior technician for children diagnosed with autism and similar developmental disorders, and she volunteers at Bellingham at Orchard, an assisted living community. Johnson, of Tacoma, graduated from Lincoln High School and is the daughter of Brenda, Jerald, and Marquita Johnson, and she is the first of her family to go to college. After graduation, Johnson hopes to work as a college and career coach for underserved and minority student populations before pursuing a joint doctoral degree in African diaspora studies and sociology.
Outstanding Graduate of Physical Education and Health
Kelsey Machado of Shoreline graduated in March with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and majored in PK-12 physical education and health with a minor in communications. During her time at Western, the Society of Health and Physical Educators America selected Machado for their Major of the Year award and invited her to attend the award ceremony at their national convention in Tampa, Florida. Machado served as area director for Skyhawks Sports Academy where she trained coaches and shared her passion for teaching sports. She also was a part of Compass 2 Campus and a volunteer for Bellingham School District fifth-grade track meets, the Junior Ski to Sea, and the track and field Special Olympics. She completed her student teaching at Shorecrest High School in her hometown where she felt her time there solidified her interest in physical education as a career. After graduation, Machado returned home to Shoreline where she is substituting in the district while looking for teaching positions in the upcoming school year.
Outstanding Graduate in Community Health
Erin Montgomery of Maple Valley will graduate in August with a Bachelor of Science degree. She is majoring in community health with a minor in Spanish. Montgomery volunteers on campus as a Peer Sexual Health Educator and at Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood, doing outreach, patient advocacy and more. She also served as the Planned Parenthood Generation Coordinator, which was honored with an AS Club of the Year award. After graduation, Montgomery will work as a community health educator at Mt. Baker Planned Parenthood and is considering graduate school for a master's in Public Health. Montgomery is a graduate of Tahoma High School and Green River College and the daughter of Jim and Kathy Montgomery.
Outstanding Graduate in Linguistics
Laura Munger of Portland, Oregon, graduated magna cum laude and with University Honors in June with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She majored in linguistics with a minor in Arabic and Islamic studies. During her time at Western, Munger pursued major-concentrations in second language acquisition and language change, all while maintaining a 3.98 GPA. Her capstone project involved exploring the changing uses of taboo words in English over time. She also worked as a research assistant for Western Talks, helping to raise awareness of linguistic diversity in the WWU community. After graduation, she plans to pursue a doctorate in linguistics at the University of Washington. Munger is a graduate of Central Catholic High School.
Outstanding Graduate of Psychology
Soha Pourpirali of Bellingham graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor of Science and majored in psychology with a minor in writing studies. Pourpirali says her proudest accomplishments at Western are the relationships she's developed with staff, faculty, and fellow peers. "In 50 years, these relationships will be the highlight of my undergraduate life," Pourpirali says. During her time at Western, Pourpirali was heavily involved in the community, working with kids and fellow peers. Pourpirali volunteered as a mentor of middle-school aged kids through the Junior Youth Empowerment Program and for two years she has met weekly with her group to create a safe space for young kids to develop intellectually, morally and socially. Pourpirali has also been a peer mentor with Western's Student Outreach Services (SOS) since fall 2017 — working with first-year students to help them acclimate to life at college. Finally, Pourpirali has been a Studio Aid at the Hacherl Research and Writing Studio, helping students on anything related to writing, research and reading. During winter quarter 2019, Pourpirali was selected to join a multidisciplinary team of undergraduate Microsoft user experience researchers, and her team designed and conducted user research employing numerous qualitative and quantitative methods. In addition to her user experience work for Microsoft, Pourpirali was also a research assistant in the Applied Cognition lab of Psychology Professor Ira Hyman. For two years, she led a team of undergraduate researchers studying the cognitive phenomena of attention and memory. After graduation, Pourpirali will take on a user experience research internship in Portland, where she will work at a data analytics and performance monitoring software company called New Relic. Eventually, she'd like to go to graduate school to study human centered design and engineering, or study a specialized field in psychology. Pourpirali is a graduate of Squalicum High School and is daughter to Nahid Manouchehri and the late Saadatollah Pourpirali.
Outstanding Graduate in Communication Sciences and Disorders
Hunter Stuehm from Vancouver, Washington, graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts and majored in communication sciences and disorders with a minor in linguistics. This year, Stuehm worked alongside Assistant Professor Douglas Sladen as a research assistant helping to study speech perception abilities in adults with single-sided deafness and cochlear implants. Stuehm served as a resident adviser, and he was named RA of the Quarter twice as he worked to build inclusive communities in the residence halls. Stuehm served as peer-adviser to residence hall councils, connecting student leaders to involvement opportunities on campus. He received several academic awards, including scholarships from the Vancouver Rotary Foundation, the Jolene Sanchez Memorial Scholarship, the WWU Alumni Foundation, the Evergreen School District PSE Union and the Audria M. Edwards Memorial Foundation Scholarship. He also served as a member of the Campus Public Safety Advisory Council, R.A. Advisory Council, University Housing Representation and Advocacy Committee, and is a member of the National Student Speech-Language and Hearing Association. Stuehm plans to begin Western's doctorate of audiology program in the fall. He is a graduate of the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics and is son to Damon and Trina Stuehm.
Outstanding Graduate in Political Science
Gabriella Nazari of Pullman graduated magna cum laude in June with a Bachelor's of Arts with double-majors in political science and sociology. During her time at Western, Nazari led the organization of the student-run Western Regional Global Health Conference focused on the health implications of oppression, titled: "Criminalization of the Body: Life, Liberty and Liberation." She worked to plan and coordinate panels that focused on the intersections of race, ethnicity and indigeneity and how communities are criminalized based upon these immutable characteristics. Nazari also served as a student-at-large committee member for the Associated Students Legislative Affairs Council where she engaged with elected officials to ensure that student perspectives were being considered. She has also worked with the Young Democrats of WWU as membership chair and event planning chair. Nazari interned as a fellow at Washington Bus, a non-profit, non-partisan group focused on getting young people involved in politics. After graduating, she plans to move to Seattle to continue to push for positive social and structural changes doing organizing, advocacy, or policy work. Nazari graduated from Pullman High School and is daughter to Megan Guido and Jeff Kimberling, granddaughter to Jane Guido, and sister to Ariana Nazari.