Approximately 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students will have degrees conferred during Arizona State University's spring commencement on May 9. Some of them have escaped war-torn countries, some are using their research to change the world, and others have waited 40 years to finally pursue their dreams. Here's a look at just a few of the outstanding students coming out of the class of 2016.
At the age of 12, twins Robert and Alexi Choueiri came to the U.S. with their family, fleeing Lebanon after it had erupted into civil war. The brothers struggled at first but eventually learned to thrive. Now, with graduation approaching, the two will take separate paths after an extraordinary journey together.
Nathan Shelley likes to imagine the first people who came to the Americas looking at the Grand Canyon and other pristine places — an experience he admits he envies. He graduates with the Cynthia Lakin Award for anthropology majors who have made sustained contributions to the field while at ASU.
Andres “Andy” Meza’s goal in life is lofty but achievable: to leave a mark on the Hispanic community. If the 22-year-old Yuma native continues to follow his educational path, that goal will be attainable in just a few short years.
Nine years ago, Christine Besaw found herself the sole provider for her two young children, working for minimum wage and scraping by with help from state assistance. So she began taking courses at ASU while her daughter Courtney looked on. Now, both are graduating from ASU.
David Hutchens is out of here on a wing and a degree. Graduating with honors from the ASU's Aviation Programs with a degree in aviation management technology/professional flight, he has his sights set on big jets and faraway places.
Ulises Aragon feels a kinship with the students he has been student-teaching at Central High School in Phoenix for the past year. Aragon, a native Spanish speaker, learned to speak English while he was in elementary school, and now he’s teaching refugee students who are learning English in his environmental science class.
After leaving college in 2007 to dedicate more time to her sport, Team USA swimmer and 2012 Olympic medalist Jessica Hardy always had in the back of her mind the desire to earn a degree. It was not a lack of motivation that delayed her, but trying to fit class into an already busy schedule. Then she discovered ASU Online.
It’s rare for an entry-level job in a large organization to require a personal interview with the top boss. But when Arizona State University student and Navy ROTC Midshipman James Feddern applied for a position as a Naval Reactors engineer, that’s exactly what he had to do.
Bandak Lul came to Arizona at the age of 15, having lived 14 years of his live in an Ethiopian refugee camp after his family fled South Sudan. All but his older sister are still in that camp today. Rather than dwell on that fact, Lul focused on his education with the hope of one day returning to help his family as refugee advocate.
Miguel Otárola, who is graduating this spring with a master’s in mass communication and a bachelor’s in journalism, said his freshman experiences interning at The Arizona Republic and reporting for the student-run Downtown Devil helped launch his passion for journalism.
Miranda Herman, a graduating senior from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics, will be receiving the Dean’s Medal and Moeur Award at commencement ceremonies this spring.
Carl Fields, who will graduate this spring with dual bachelor’s degrees in physics and astrophysics, has recently been awarded both a Ford Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research fellowship.
Erica Lang, who recently received the ASU Faculty Women’s Association Distinguished Graduate Student award, plans to channel her experiences at the Cronkite School as a professional borderlands journalist.
Michael Longfellow, who is graduating from ASU this spring with a bachelor of arts in English literature, is banking on a career in stand-up comedy. The Scottsdale native trades in the vaudevillian quip, much like Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo, with a Millennial twist.
Online English major Beth Bockes will graduate from ASU this spring after a 40-year hiatus from higher education. “When I think back on all that I pushed through on my way to this day, I realize that I'm stronger than I ever knew,” she said.
Sarah Malik, the 2016 New College Outstanding Graduate, initially chose her field of psychology on a whim. But upon being introduced to social psychology she found her passion, and she is still researching it to this day.
Michael Montpetit has an autism spectrum disorder. Though much research has been done about children with autism, he says there is a dearth of information about adults on the autism spectrum. He has focused his research on correcting that imbalance.
With rapid changes in the field of health care presenting a challenge for nurses in particular, Heather Ross seeks ways to integrate clinical, social and psychological perspectives into health care.
Sarah Moser is an ASU honors student who is graduating with bachelor of science degrees in justice studies and sociology. She was selected as a Bidstrup Undergraduate Fellow for the 2015-2016 academic year in recognition of her commitment to academic excellence.
Kristen Brown is among ASU’s 2016 spring graduates to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering for her contributions to the university community.
Michael Busch, who will be graduating with a dual bachelor’s degree in astrophysics and physics, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship. Busch is also a recipient of the inaugural Origins Project Undergraduate Research Scholarship.
Truman Peyote was thoroughly convinced that he did not want to be a teacher. But life intervened; now Peyote is graduating from ASU with an master's in English literature and is planning to teach at the college level.
Nursing may seem like a 180-degree career change from the nuclear industry — but after pursuing a career as a quality-control specialist, ASU graduate Nate Beever reached a point where he wanted to retool. His aptitude tests showed STEM areas were a good fit, so Beever entered nursing school in his 40s.
In addition to finishing up her collegiate roller-derby career, Cass Murphy will graduate this May with her bachelor’s degree in English (creative writing); minors in applied biological sciences, sustainability, and parks and protected area management; and a certificate in environmental humanities.
Kerri Linden Slatus is earning a doctorate in English literature this spring. Her work is situated at the crossroads of what is termed “medical humanities,” an interdisciplinary research area combining the study of medicine with such disparate fields as the arts, ethics, history, geography and culture.
For Kimberly Coley, there’s one ASU experience that will stand out: the Young Women in Business event sponsored by Intel. There the business law major learned about ways women could apply their passion for business to a variety of settings, how a supply chain works and received advice from Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg.
Zachariah Tolliver knows firsthand the challenges of being a non-traditional minority student. He has conquered those obstacles — he graduates with a bachelor’s in political science this May — and has worked during his time at Arizona State University to help others do the same.
Bobette Makelele counts as one of her greatest college accomplishments becoming an ASU Transfer Student Ambassador. “... we have become the face of ASU and have been a driving force behind giving back to the community,” said Makelele, who will be graduating with a degree in business.
Graduating as a double major in music composition and filmmaking practices, ASU honors student Bethany Brown plans to study musicology or ethnomusicology — after taking some well-deserved time to travel and rest.
Rivka Rocchio will receive her MFA in Theatre for Youth this spring. It's a degree she realized she wanted when she was teaching in Samoa with the Peace Corps.
Doctoral student Priya Nair discovered a passion for biomedical engineering early on in her academic career, and found a love for research in areas that will help better people's lives through the research opportunities available at ASU.
ASU student Kent Linthicum, who is earning his doctorate in English literature this spring, recently defended his dissertation, which used literary and scientific texts about volcanoes to examine both the popular and intellectual understanding of these geological phenomena.
A little soul-searching and the help of a best friend led Phoenix native Thomas Fyffe II to a future in construction management, where he excelled in leadership positions in student organizations.
Jorge Cardenas’ undergraduate years as an electrical engineering student at ASU have been a mixture of helping others to succeed and achieving great success himself.
For College of Letters and Sciences outstanding graduate Kali Richmond, a spur-of-the-moment job application was her entree to a rich journey of self-discovery and growth.
ASU counseling psychology doctoral graduate Erin Kube discovers a passion for helping geriatric patients who are managing terminal, chronic medical diagnoses.
Racheal White Hawk is on her way to fulfilling her dream of using her law degree to work on behalf of tribal communities.
What Cari Martin likes most about her ASU Global Technology and Development program is that it allows students to pursue many different paths.
Chad Ostrander, who will be graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences from the School of Earth and Space Exploration, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship.
Andrew Rogge chose ASU because he knew he wanted to be an urban planner. Four years later, he has contributed to bike transit planning in the City of Phoenix, worked closely with planning students in Germany, analyzed Berlin’s re-unification and is poised to help build communities.
Aaron Bia is a global health major in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and a Navajo from Canyon De Chelly, Arizona. His family influenced Bia to pursue a career as a translational physician, a role that he feels will allow him to best serve the American Indian community.
It’s common to hear people say the world is getting smaller all the time. But to Steven Flanagan, the world is getting bigger. Education, particularly the study of language, opened him to world that’s bigger than he ever imagined.
When Bridget Harding began looking for jobs in her field of sustainability, she noticed something interesting about every interview she had — the first thing employers asked her about was her ability to speak Korean.
What do brains and bassoons have in common? Perhaps only a psychology and music double major like Peter Whitehead could answer that question.
For political science major and Army ROTC Cadet Gerald Prater, attending college was not in his plans. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2010 and served as an intelligence analyst.
Nathan Williams, who will be earning his doctorate in geological sciences this spring from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, grew up in rural Massachusetts, which helped him gain a profound respect and appreciation for natural processes.
Francesca de Martini was halfway through her graduate program when she decided she wanted to start a family with her husband. She had it all planned out so the birth of her daughter wouldn’t interfere with her comprehensive exam, but then life threw her a few curveballs.
Aditya Dhumuntarao will be graduating in May with dual bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics and has earned top honors in both majors. He also earned the top award for an undergraduate in each mathematics and physics — the Charles Wexler Mathematics Prize, and the Outstanding Physics Undergraduate Award.
Tin Phan, who will be graduating with dual bachelor's degrees in mathematics and physics, will be awarded the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medal in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.
The U.S. Air Force gave Arizona State University graduating student Michael Sprague the opportunity to restart his life after family commitments placed it on hold temporarily and now, after his ASU journey, he’s heading toward an exciting new venture.
Palden Choying grew up as a shepherd in Tibet but found his way to university, where studying the pika led him to Andrew Smith's research, and to ASU.
Following in his brothers’ footsteps, Isaac Hernandez knew from a young age he wanted to join the U.S. Army and major in criminal justice. The Washington native sought new opportunities and experiences outside of his small hometown.
Samuel Peña grew up loving and making hip-hop music, but he didn't think music school was for him — until he got to ASU. On May 11, he graduates from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts with a master's in music education.
Mitzi Vilchis, a secondary education major, was recently named a Fulbright grantee and will be teaching English to school children in Mexico this fall.
During her first year at ASU, future doctor Breanne McCarthy worked in Cheryl Nickerson’s lab at ASU's Biodesign Institute, studying how the spaceflight environment will change bacterial resistance or susceptibility to antibiotics. The honors student also spent time during college volunteering in a homeless clinic and tutoring foster children.
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