WWU names 2009-2010 Outstanding Graduates

Western Washington University honored its Outstanding Graduates for the 2009-2010 academic year at spring Commencement June 12.

Faculty Members from each academic department 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.

This year’s Outstanding Graduates include:


Graphic Design Outstanding Graduate Emma James earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Design and a minor in Psychology. James has worked as a student coordinator of reservations and Web development for New Student Services and Family Outreach, and was nominated as Student Employee of the Year for the 2009-10 academic year. She was also a recipient of the President’s Scholarship from 2005 to 2007. After graduating, James plans to move to Seattle to pursue a career in Web design and development. James is a graduate of Anacortes High School and the daughter of Peter and Deborah James of Bellingham.


Environmental Studies Outstanding Graduate Emily Lewis earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Policy. Lewis served as a student advisor and secretary general for the International Affairs Association student club from 2009 to 2010, where she advised club officers on conference planning and organized a statewide Model United Nations conference for high school students. In June 2009, she represented Washington state at the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship Student Congress in Lexington, Ky. There, she attended lectures on diplomacy, learned negotiation and diplomacy techniques, and compiled and published the 2009 Global Threats Index, which outlined the five most significant global threats facing the next generation. Lewis plans to move to Amman, Jordan to intern with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization before applying to graduate school for International Development Studies. Lewis is a graduate of Bainbridge High School, the sister of Kael Lewis and the daughter of Christine Lewis and the late David Lewis, all of Bainbridge Island.


Canadian-American Studies Outstanding Graduate Kathlleen Mintz earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Canadian-American Studies and French, as well as a minor in TESOL. Mintz was active in a number of student clubs including Club Canada, where she was co-prime minister, and the Scottish Country Dancing Club where she was secretary and dancer. She was also team captain for Cancer Knows No Borders during WWU’s Relay for Life event. Mintz received a number of scholarships during her time at Western, including the Herb and Beth Hersey Scholarship, which is for student employees of the WWU library, and the Krejci Inukshuk Scholarship for Canadian-American Studies students. She also studied abroad in Canada at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, on a full scholarship, and in Quebec. This summer, Mintz will intern as a data analyst for the Whatcom Council of Governments in Bellingham before serving as a language-teaching assistant in France during the 2010-11 academic year. In the future, she hopes to continue teaching English overseas and attend graduate school. Mintz is a graduate of CAM High School in Battle Ground and is the daughter of Alex Mintz and Judy Zeider of Battle Ground.


Communication Sciences and Disorders Outstanding Graduate Jessica Dalgas earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders and a minor in Psychology. In addition to serving as a faculty liaison for the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, Dalgas helped plan the annual benefit auction for the Speech and Hearing clinic at WWU. This fall, she will begin her studies at the Speech Language Pathology graduate program at Western. Dalgas is a graduate of Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wis., and Whatcom Community College and is the daughter of Lee and Cheryl Kuhtz of Woodland Park, Colo. Her spouse is Nate Dalgas of Bellingham.

Communications Outstanding Graduate Catherine Shornick earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and a minor in Creative Writing. Shornick graduated Magna Cum Laude and was a Presidential Scholar for the 2009-10 academic year. A majority of her scholarly work centered on the effects of war on women and children. A WWU staff member since 2002, Shornick attended one or two classes at a time to complete her degree. Beginning this fall, she will serve as assistant to the dean at WWU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She also hopes to spend more time with her family: Shornick has four adult children and eight grandchildren and is the daughter of Winston Shornick and the late Mary Shornick.

Economics Outstanding Graduate Elizabeth Buren earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Financial Economics and a minor in Mathematics. Buren received several scholarships and maintained a 3.99 grade point average at Western. Having recently passed two actuarial exams, Buren plans to pursue a career as an actuary and is currently applying for jobs. Buren graduated valedictorian of Meridian High School and is the daughter of Mike and Lori Buren of Whatcom County.


Theatre Arts Outstanding Graduate Lauren Robbins earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts. Having spent nearly all of her time working in the Theatre Arts Department, Robbins has worked on eight different productions in a variety of positions, including electrics, set construction, prop design, and stage management. She was also recently inducted to the Phi Kappa Phi honors society. Robbins will serve as a stage manager intern this summer for the WWU Theatre Arts production of “Private Lives,” which will be directed by Jon Kretzu from the Artist’s Repertory Theatre in Portland, Ore. She will also look for future internships, apprenticeships, or a full-time job in theatre. Robbins is a former homeschooler, graduate of Cascadia Community College and the daughter of Michael and Suzanne Robbins of Bothell. 


Human Services Outstanding Graduate Kathleen Christiansen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Services and Rehabilitation Counseling. During her time at Western, she interned for Rebound of Whatcom County, where she worked as an administrative and planning assistant and volunteered for its Flying Colors after-school program. Christiansen also interned with the Bellingham Cooperative School, where she planned fundraisers and coordinated events. This summer, she will work as the director of the City of Burien’s summer day camp. In the future, she plans to move to Kitsap County to apply for jobs in the human services field. Christiansen is a graduate of Highline High School and the daughter of Jeff and Mary Christiansen of Burien.


Geology Outstanding Graduate Marin Trautman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology and a minor in French. Trautman, a graduate of WWU’s Honors Program, was included the President’s Honor Roll list nine times. Her field work in geology landed her a summer 2010 internship with the U.S. Geological Survey at the University of Washington. She also attended an advanced, six-week field course in New Zealand on structural geology. Her senior thesis explored fracture origin on Puget Lowland coastal bluffs. Trautman served as a study skills tutor for four years at WWU’s Tutoring Center and was recommended for WWU Student Employee of the Year in 2010. She also was a member of WWU’s Concert Choir for three years, touring with the group to Argentina and Uruguay in summer 2009. She performed and worked backstage during WWU Summerstock in 2007 and volunteered with Kidstage! Youth Theatre Camps in 2006. After her internship this summer, Trautman will attend University of Texas to begin a master’s degree in Structural Geology. She is a graduate of Stanwood High School and the daughter of Phil and Candy Trautman of Camano Island.


Management Outstanding Graduate Frederick Alexander Helpenstell earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business and minors in Spanish and Economics. Now an intern doing market research for Darigold, Helpenstell is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma and Sigma Iota Epsilon honor societies and was a member of WWU’s International Business Club. After graduation, he will travel to South America as a Peace Corps volunteer. The son of Mark Helpenstell and Kim Allen of South Whidbey, he is a graduate of South Whidbey High School.


Mathematics Outstanding Graduate Adam Welly earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and a minor in Physics. Welly won numerous scholarships, including the Mathematics Memorial scholarship and Richard Greene Scholarship. He served as a tutor in WWU’s Math Center from fall 2008 to winter 2010 and wrote a research paper titled, “Differential Equations and Symmetry Groups.”A graduate of Everett High School and the son of Jerry and Maureen Welly of Everett, he will attend graduate school at the University of Oregon in the fall.


Special Education Outstanding Graduate Kimberly Assink earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Special Education. During her time at Western, Assink was involved in many extracurricular activities, including the Phi Kappa Phi honor society and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). In 2009, she attended the CEC National Conference in Seattle and was the newsletter editor for the WWU CEC chapter. Assink also volunteered in the Special Olympics bowling program. In the future, she plans teach elementary school in Whatcom County. Assink is a graduate of Whatcom Community College and the daughter of Kenneth and Maxine Loomer of Bellingham. Her husband is Phil Assink of Everson and her children are Daniel Assink of Lynden and Melinda Assink of Everson, who is also a teacher and a 2006 WWU graduate.


Computer Science Outstanding Graduate Amanda Font earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and a minor in Spanish. Font was a teaching assistant in WWU’s Computer Science Department in winter 2008 and treasurer of the Association of Women in Computing from 2007 to 2009. She held summer internships with Vitech Business Group in Bellingham and with Microsoft in Redmond. She also played on WWU’s women’s soccer team from 2004 to 2007 and was captain for two of those years. Font, who graduated in December 2009, now works as a program manager in Windows Live at Microsoft. She is a graduate of Decatur High School and the daughter of Peter and Susanne Font of Federal Way.


Biology Outstanding Graduate Gail Butler earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology as well as a minor in Chemistry. Active in research in both the Biology and Chemistry departments, Butler participated in summer research internships funded by the National Science Foundation at both Cornell University and the University of Oregon and is preparing to publish a scientific paper based on her work at the University of Oregon. She was also a member of both the National Society for Collegiate Scholars and the WWU chapter of the Association for Women in Science. An accomplished athlete, Butler participated in varsity track and field as a long jumper and sprinter during all four years at Western and was named to the GNAC All-Academic Track and Field Team. Outside of Western, Butler interned with the Meals on Wheels program in Whatcom County in 2007. She plans to attend graduate school at the University of Michigan to pursue a doctorate in Cellular and Molecular Biology. A graduate of Issaquah High School, Butler is the daughter of Thomas and Joan Butler of Issaquah.


Elementary Education Outstanding Graduate Mary Donna Ballew earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education Studies and a minor in Elementary Education. Ballew has served as an intern at Blaine Primary School teaching first-graders and has other practicum experiences in Bellingham, Burlington, and the Lummi community. Ballew first became interested in teaching after volunteering in her son’s Head Start classroom. A 1981 graduate of Oakland High School in California who had worked in office professions, she decided to shift her focus to education and earned an early childhood education certificate from Northwest Indian College. After serving as a Lummi Head Start teacher for four years, she decided that in order to be an exceptional teacher, she needed a teaching degree. Ballew graduated with high honors with an associate’s degree from NWIC in 2005 before transferring to WWU. She plans to teach in Whatcom County. Ballew is married to Cas Ballew and has two children, her niece Tonya and son Jonah.


Finance and Marketing Outstanding Graduate Jonathan Dunning earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance with minors in Accounting and Psychology. While at Western, Dunning earned a 3.96 GPA, was president of WWU’s Finance Club and a member of the team that won a financial accounting case study competition sponsored by KPMG. After graduation, Dunning will work as a business analyst at the Boeing Co., working on the 787 program. The son of Steve Dunning of Seattle and Duangporn Tengtrirat of Melbourne, Australia, he is a graduate of Mercer Island High School.


Accounting Outstanding Graduate Libbe Bear earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting with a minor in Business Administration. She was president of WWU’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi in winter 2010 and currently serves as the executive vice president. She earned second place at the Beta Alpha Psi Regional Conference in 2010 for her presentation, “Best Practices Competition for Ethics and Integrity.” Bear also volunteered as a coach for Girls on the Run, which uses running to teach character-building skills to third- through fifth-grade girls. After graduation, Bear plans to work at Moss Adams as an intern before returning to Western in the fall to complete her master’s degree in Accounting. Bear is a graduate of Oak Harbor High School and the daughter of Chris Bear of Montana and Maggie Bear of Oak Harbor.


Music Outstanding Graduate Gentry Hill earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Viola Performance. Hill was a recipient of the Don C. Walter Memorial Scholarship and a member of the WWU Scholarship Quartet. She also served as Principal Chair for WWU’s symphony for two years. Hill will continue to play the viola at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she will pursue a master’s degree in music. She is a graduate of Black Hills High School and the daughter of Ron and Grace Hill of Olympia.


Kinesiology Outstanding Graduate Kathryn Lorraine Johnson earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mixed Media Art and a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Fitness. In addition to membership in WWU’s National Society of Collegiate Scholars from 2005 to 2010, Johnson became an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist in 2009. She has served as a personal trainer, yoga instructor and weight room attendant at WWU’s Wade King Student Recreation Center. Her volunteer activities include being a yoga instructor for the INN University Ministries, a soccer coach for Whatcom County’s YMCA Rookie League, and a designer for WWU’s Adult Fitness Program logo and t-shirts. She also participated in fundraisers for the American Red Cross and Haitian earthquake recovery and volunteers with Salt on the Street delivering food to homeless people. After graduating, Johnson is working in Alaska before applying to graduate schools. Johnson is a graduate of Rogers High School and the daughter of Bruce and Susan Johnson of Puyallup.

English Outstanding Graduate Jessica Dana Crockett earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing. Crockett has been on the President’s List consistently throughout her time at Western, missing only one quarter, and currently serves as a member of Phi Kappa Phi. She won the Centrum Forum Scholarship award for poetry to attend a workshop in Port Townsend this summer. Her piece “Yahtzee Cheats and Charcoal Peas,” was included in WWU’s spring edition of Jeopardy Magazine. Off campus, she volunteers at PAWS, a no-kill animal shelter in Lynwood. Crockett plans to move back home for a few months, reconnect with family, find an internship and prepare to apply for graduate school at Western. A graduate of Emerald Ridge High School who also attended Pierce College, Crockett is the daughter of Kathryn Guerrero of Puyallup and is engaged to Jason Flores of Renton.

Physics & Astronomy Outstanding Graduate Daniel Gifford earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics with a minor in Astronomy. A student speaker at Commencement, Gifford was also one of seven Presidential Scholars honored for exceptional scholarship and community service. Gifford has conducted research on galaxy clusters alongside WWU Assistant Professor Kenneth Rines for two years. During summer 2009, he participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he studied galaxies at the edge of our visible universe. Gifford has also been on the President’s List every quarter during his four years at Western. A recipient of the 2010 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, he plans to attend graduate school at the University of Michigan, where he will pursue a doctorate in Astrophysics. Gifford is a graduate of Rogers High School and the son of David and Susan Gifford of Puyallup.


Physical Education, Health & Recreation Outstanding Graduate Melissa Mead earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health and minors in both Spanish and Psychology. Mead volunteered as a small-group leader with Campus Christian Fellowship, where she mentored several people, and volunteered with Bellingham’s Salt on the Street Ministries. She also traveled to Guatemala and Haiti to help build houses and assist in orphanages by teaching English and distributing clothing and shoes. During her freshman year, Mead was named one of 30 Woodring Future Scholars for her high school achievement and her interest in teaching. She won the WWU President’s Scholarship in 2006 and 2007 and the Nellie Martin Carman scholarship all four years. A graduate of Redmond High School and the daughter of Wally and Cheryl Mead of Redmond, she’ll spend the summer interning at SeaMar Community Health Center in Bellingham, working in a clinic serving low-income families. This fall, she’ll become a campus missionary through Campus Christian Fellowship for a year, then eventually travel abroad to work in the health field as an overseas missionary.


Chemistry Outstanding Graduate Cameron M. Moore earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. Moore worked on a research group with Assistant Chemistry Professor Timothy Clark studying organometallic chemistry, specifically the use of copper catalysts to incorporate boron into organic molecules. Moore earned a fellowship from the American Chemical Society’s Division of Organic Chemistry to work on his research over the summer, and presented his work at the world headquarters of Pfizer Inc. in Connecticut. He is now pursuing a doctorate in Chemistry at the University of Michigan. A Ridgefield High School graduate who also attended Clark Community College, Moore is the son of Mike Moore of Vancouver, Wash., and Corie Moore of Cascade Locks, Ore.


Liberal Studies Outstanding Graduate Wesleigh Richardson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies and a minor in Art History. Richardson has been on WWU’s President’s List since 2006 and was the recipient of the Humanities Department Scholarship fall quarter 2009. A volunteer for the Bellingham-based Slum Doctor Programme, she taught middle school and high school students about HIV and AIDS. Richardson has conducted research in Italian Renaissance and Islam, leading to her senior thesis, “Painting the East: the Christian-Muslim encounter from Giotto to Bellini.” After graduating, she plans to volunteer at an orphanage in Mexico before continuing her education. Richardson is a graduate of Skyline High School and the daughter of Michael and Polly Richardson of Sammamish.


Decision Sciences Outstanding Graduate Anna Kathryn Park earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration – Management Information Systems and a minor in French. She also earned a 3.9 grade point average and inclusion on the President’s List spring 2008 and winter 2009. Park served on the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society and as a volunteer leader with Campus Christian Fellowship from 2008 to 2009. In the future, Park hopes to work for a small database consulting company in the Seattle region. Park attended Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe and Everett Community College and is the daughter of Jim and Sarah Park.


American Cultural Studies Outstanding Graduate Anna Boenish earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Cultural Studies. Boenish served as a peer mentor in WWU’s Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies and taught a workshop about the narrative evaluation process in a required class for all new Fairhaven College students. She later worked as a coordinator of WWU’s Social Issues Resource Center during her junior and senior years. During this time, Boenish worked with other students and community members to plan conferences, performances and other events highlighting social issues. She plans to move to the Seattle region to be an AmeriCorps volunteer for a few years before going back to graduate school to become a high school history and social studies teacher. Boenish is a graduate of Sequim High School and the daughter of Bonnie Bless-Boenish and Hans Boenish of Sequim.


Philosophy Outstanding Graduate Christopher Bryant earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy. Bryant served as the president of WWU’s Philosophy Club from 2009 to 2010 and was a commentator or organizer at the seventh and eighth annual Northwest Student Philosophy Conferences. He was also a recipient of the Paul J. and Rebecca Ann Olscamp Philosophy Scholarship. Bryant plans to take one year off from school while working full time before pursuing a doctorate in Philosophy. Bryant is a graduate of Snohomish High School and the son of Sheryl Bryant of Greenbank.

University Honors Program Outstanding Graduate Jennifer Mankin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Linguistics and minors in both Japanese and German. While earning a certificate in TESOL, Mankin taught English grammar to exchange students in WWU’s Intensive English Program. She served as a substitute teacher and English language tutor for the program; volunteered for WWU’s Asia University America Program from 2006 to 2009, leading group discussions and demonstrating native speaker articulation; was a teaching assistant in a Linguistics class; and tutored students in German in WWU’s language lab. This summer, she will travel to Europe before teaching English in Germany for a year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. In the future, Mankin hopes to study Psycho- or Sociolinguistics in graduate school in the United Kingdom. A graduate of Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe who attended Everett Community College through Running Start, Mankin is the daughter of Paula McClory and Chris Mankin of Snohomish.

History Outstanding Graduate Shaun Nichols earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History minors in Philosophy and Spanish. Nichols received several scholarships at Western and was president of the WWU chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the History honors society, for the 2008-2009 academic year. He presented two papers at regional Phi Alpha Theta conferences: one about American philosopher John Dewey and the other about relations between labor unions and the state of Washington from 1900 to 1940. Nichols was a student manager at WWU’s Ridgeway Commons dining hall and now has an internship with the Port of Bellingham, where he is helping put together a history section for their website. A graduate of Snohomish High School and the son of Steven and Nalia Nichols of Snohomish, he will attend Harvard University this fall to begin his pursuit of a doctorate in History.


Humanities and Social Sciences Outstanding Graduate Zachary Snover earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in History and East Asian Studies, with minors in Political Science and TESOL. He was a DJ with KUGS, WWU’s student-run radio station, and head of the Chinese Conversation Club. After graduation, he’ll travel to China to work and study Chinese, then attend graduate school at the University of British Columbia. The son of Mark Snover of Spokane, he is a graduate of Mead High School and graduated from Spokane Falls Community College through Running Start.


Classical Language Outstanding Graduate Marten van Schijndel earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Linguistics and minors in Mathematics, Computer Science, and Spanish. Van Schijndel served as a WWU representative to regional Model UN conferences in 2008 and 2009 and was also president of WWU’s Linguistics Club from 2007 to 2009. He designed and carried out the first worldwide census of Latin scholars in 2009. A member of the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society, van Schijndel was on WWU’s President’s List Honor Roll from 2006 to 2009. After graduating, van Schijndel plans to attend graduate school to pursue a degree in computational linguistics, artificial intelligence or machine learning. A graduate of Vancouver School of Arts and Academics and Clark Community College, van Schijndel is the son of Terri Parks and Art van Schijndel of Vancouver.

Sociology Outstanding Graduate Allison McGrath earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. During her time at Western, McGrath volunteered at several Bellingham-based organizations and served as a research assistant for Associate Professor of Sociology Glenn Tsunokai. She co-authored several papers with Tsunokai, including “The Web of Hate in the 21st Century” and “Baby Boomers and Beyond: Crossing Boundaries in Search for Love.” She graduated magna cum laude and plans to continue her research with Tsunokai before applying to graduate schools. McGrath hopes to earn a doctorate in sociology with a focus on gender and race studies. McGrath is a graduate of Skyview High School and the daughter of Patti McGrath of Vancouver.


Environmental Science Outstanding Graduate Jaime Welfelt earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science. Outside of Western, Welfelt worked with students from Blaine, Bellingham and Sedro-Woolley teaching environmental education and volunteered for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service and local salmon recovery groups. Welfelt did conservation work for the Bureau of Reclamation and held a paid position monitoring a great blue heron colony at Post Point in Bellingham. This summer, she’ll work on a WWU study examining the genetics of regional mountain goat populations. In the future, she hopes to work as a wildlife ecologist. Welfelt is a graduate of Liberty Bell High School and the daughter of Jay and Sandy Welfelt of Winthrop.


Political Science Outstanding Graduate Aubrey Black earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a minor in Economics. Black’s study of participatory budgeting practices in Brazil won the department’s prize for best paper in 2009. Black was also the recipient of the Ken Hoover Memorial Scholarship. He was a member of the northwest chapter board of the international group Witness for Peace, bringing speakers to Bellingham and the WWU campus and also worked with the Associated Students of WWU to bring more organic, locally produced and sustainably grown food to campus. This fall, he’ll begin graduate studies at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington where he’ll focus on Southeast Asia. He’s also considering pursuing a degree in Marine Studies in order to become an international marine policy analyst. A graduate of North Idaho College, Black is the son of Mitch and Suzi Black of Buffalo, Wyo., and the father of Kendra, 5, who will start kindergarten in Seattle this fall as her father begins graduate school.


Anthropology Outstanding Graduate Parsan Saffaie earned both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Anthropology. Saffaie was a teaching assistant in many introductory Biology and Biological Anthropology classes, and participated in a number of research projects. She plans to study Paleoanthropology or Paleohominid Biology and earn a doctorate. A graduate of Saratoga High School in Saratoga, Calif., Saffaie is the daughter of Barry and Teresa Saffaie of Seattle.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010 - 10:53am