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Fall commencement 2016: Student profiles

December 8, 2016

A look at some of the standout students from ASU's fall 2016 graduates.

Check back as we will be adding more throughout commencement week.

student in graduation cap and gown flashing pitchfork

'Some of the best stories that have been told are true'

For as long as journalism major Cassidy Trowbridge can remember, she’s enjoyed telling stories. A few years ago, she realized "that some of the best stories that have ever been told are true stories. I enjoy telling those stories, too.”

student sitting in lab

ASU senior exemplifies transdisciplinary research

"Transdisciplinary" means applying one field of knowledge to another, and it defines graduating senior Kate Spencer's research at ASU. Spencer is graduating with a major in biochemistry and a minor in anthropology — although her field was chosen through a happy accident.

student standing in front of West campus gates

'My dedication and persistence will pay off'

Sandra Vazquez Salas is preparing to stand up in front of a crowd of hundreds on Fletcher Lawn at ASU's West campus to deliver a speech as the Outstanding Undergraduate Speaker for the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

man standing on Thunderbird campus

Thunderbird grad sees opportunity in Cuba

A few months ago, David Roman spent days walking the streets of Havana, connecting to his past and also seeing opportunity in the formerly closed off Cuban capital. Roman will carry the Cuban flag as part of the traditional Parade of Flags at the Thunderbird School of Global Management convocation.

woman sitting on bench

The joy – and necessity – of critical reading

English student Sheilah Cummings has rediscovered a dormant intellectual curiosity — and love for literature — that she hopes now to share with others. She wants to help students see literature as way for identifying and critiquing the larger culture.

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It started with a rock that was 2 billion years old 

For Ryan Burke, it all began with a nearly 2 billion-year-old rock. “It represented a quarter of the time of all the matter in the universe,” he said. “It was tangible, and I thought that was amazing.” Burke has been awarded the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medal. 

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Advocacy through storytelling

Gary Walker-Roberts says he no longer feels overwhelmed when facing a technological challenge. In fact, he has applied his new digital skills to an online LGBTQ public awareness campaign that he launched as part of his final applied project.

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Late start didn't stop student from finding her passion

Lisa Lacouette’s first attended ASU in 1985, intent on becoming an elementary teacher. However, she found college didn’t suit her and she left for other pursuits. Thirty-one years later, she’s graduating with an engineering degree.

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Guitarist finds inspiration in father 

Graduate student Fábio Bartoloni was inspired by his father — a concert performer and a guitar professor at São Paulo State University in Brazil — to forge his own path in the arts.

Leslie Weir

ASU student finds inspiration in archives

Full-time graduate study in English had long been Leslie Weir’s dream before she entered ASU’s master's online program. Weir discovered a love of archival work while developing original research for her applied project in the program, from which she will graduate this fall.

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ASU student moves toward ‘relentless forward motion’

Extreme athlete Paulette Stevenson is completing one of her toughest personal challenges to date: earning her doctorate. Stevenson will graduate this fall from ASU’s writing, rhetorics and literacies program and with a certificate in gender studies.

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Taking off on a career in aviation

Joshua Grzywa used to jump out of planes as part of his work during his 15 years in the U.S. Army Infantry. Now he flies them. One conversation with an ASU Professional Flight program student at an aviation fair changed his relationship with flight.

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Online history student graduates from Down Under

Devon Probol has made an impression at Arizona State University's School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, despite being almost 8,000 miles away in Canberra, Australia. Probol will be receiving the Dean's Medal at commencement ceremonies this winter. 

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Enthusiasm for weather, aviation launches career

Kenneth Brown was always interested in weather, and by high school, had identified meteorology as his chosen area of study. A conversation about the role of meteorology in aviation added aerospace engineering to his educational plans. Now he's graduating with two degrees from ASU.

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 Student wants to make the world a better place

Thanks to the development experience she gained in the Peace Corps and a solid foundation of knowledge from ASU’s GTD program, Anna Laird says she feels prepared to pursue a career in international development work and seek innovative solutions to problems. 

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Letters and Cultures student wins Liberal Arts Dean’s Medal

Glenn Maur worked with professors at the School of International Letters and Cultures to research the impact Alexander the Great had on literature in multiple cultures, multiple languages and over 1000 years.

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ASU grad excited for a life of investigation

Fernanda Silva Celaya, an ASU pre-dental graduating senior from Mexico, is exuberant about her new-found confidence as a scientist and researcher.

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Starbucks manager grows support network as ASU online student

Madison Bales lives and works full-time in Northern California, but this week she's graduating summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a degree in technical communication.

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Persistence leads graduating ASU vet to Fortune 500 Company

Justin Arispe is resilient. Despite being rejected time and again, the U.S. Navy veteran and graduating Arizona State University student pushed forward and landed a software engineer job with one of the most respected insurance companies in the nation, USAA.

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Strong drive earns graduating veteran ESPN spot

Saying that ASU graduate student Cory Kamerschak is driven is an understatement. The sports journalism major graduates with a Master of Arts degree and soon after will relocate to ESPN headquarters in Connecticut to start his new job.

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ASU grad finds success with new study habits

When School of Life Sciences assistant professor Heather Bean first started her lab, student Darin Ellison seized the chance to get in on the ground floor. His tenacity paid off. Ellison learned to present his research in front of others and to use his critical thinking skills.

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Father of 3 discovers smooth sailing in the chaos

Whether taking care of his family or working toward his degree, ASU School of Life Sciences graduate Justin Wolter learned to deal with the unexpected.

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ASU grad earns doctorate after 4 decades away

Forty-one years after receiving her bachelor's degree Mary Drago has earned her doctorate. Going back to school took some adjusting, but she adapted to the new environment and managed to earn her degree with good grades, all while balancing a full-time time job.

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Engineering grad hopes to help the nation's soldiers

Love led Carly Thalman to engineering. “I love problem solving and I love a good challenge, and I enjoy being creative and bringing my ideas to life,” said the ASU engineering graduate. “Engineering is the perfect combination of all those things.”

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ASU grad honed engineering skills in hacking, coding competitions

An introduction in high school to the wonders of information technology was all the motivation John James “JJ” Robertson needed to major in computer science in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

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Construction major builds on career

Army veteran Darrell Stanley knew that he wouldn't always be able to rely on his body for a steady paycheck, so after nearly 20 years of blue collar work he earned a bachelor’s in construction management. The 42-year-old member of the Navajo Nation didn't stop there, however, and this week he graduates with a master's in construction management.

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'Anything is possible' with passion and a clear goal

ASU psychology and pre-med major Kylie Forbes battles through chronic illness to pursue her dream of helping others.

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'No child arrives at school a student,' ASU grad finds

Lauren Orme was raised on an Arizona cattle ranch so remote, there’s no town on the mailing address. Her mother is an alumna of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU, and Orme chose education, too.

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Math grad excels in research

Many students at ASU are involved in research, even as an undergraduates. But how many students have worked on research projects with six different professors and hope to have four manuscripts published before entering grad school? Shane Lubold is one of those students. 

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Outstanding grad student honored for commitment to community, people

Dominic Santiago Luna says that the greatest lesson his parents taught him was to be successful and then share. He was recognized for this effort with the Ed Pastor Outstanding Graduate Student Award at the Hispanic convocation.


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New ASU graduates encouraged to lift up their communities

New ASU graduates are told, "You are responsible. There is no one else."
December 12, 2016

'You are responsible,' degree-holders are told at fall 2016 commencement

Arizona State University's newest graduates were encouraged to lift up their communities as they find success with the degrees they received Monday.

ASU awarded about 5,200 bachelor’s degrees for the fall semester, with the undergraduate commencement Monday morning at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, and about 1,800 graduate degrees were awarded at the graduate commencement that afternoon.

ASU President Michael Crow told the students at the undergraduate ceremony that they are graduating “on the best day in the history of our country.”

“We’ve never been at a moment in history closer to the point where equality and liberty and justice are now much more than theoretical concepts. They are things we are actually pursuing with a vengeance — a positive vengeance,” Crow said.

But he warned the graduates that they face unique challenges.

“Every single person that is in our society has something to contribute, and we’re at a particularly hazardous moment right now where large numbers of people are feeling left behind,” he said.

“There’s a lot of resentment and a lot of anger and a lot of stress as a result of this.

“You as freshly minted college graduates have to think not only of your own success, or your family’s success, but also the broader community’s success in everything that you do,” he said.

“You must think more broadly than the small group you’re connected to.”

Crow said this is ASU’s final lesson: “You are responsible. There is no one else.”

After the undergraduate commencement on Monday morning, a number of convocations are planned for special-interest groups and ASU's individual colleges and schools. The fall 2016 semester includes 206 graduates from the Starbucks College Achievement PlanThe Starbucks College Achievement Plan, launched in 2014, offers full tuition reimbursement to employees who pursue an online degree through ASU. — a record number.

Several new graduates said their ASU education has prepared them well for their next step.

Sam Stefanski, who earned a degree in vocal performance, said he plans to teach in his own studio and to perform.

“I plan on bringing music to the next generation. I’m building my own program,” said Stefanski, who sang both the national anthem and ASU alma mater during the ceremony.

“ASU gave me the flexibility to work during my undergrad and to build my own clientele and students,” he said.

Brandon Kamentani earned a degree in pre-law and justice studies and will attend law school.

“Every class, every course I took made me completely confident in what I want to do and allowed me to figure out what I want my career in,” he said.

Top photo: Criminal justice student Alexis Cook cheers as she and other students receive their degrees during ASU's fall 2016 undergraduate commencement on Dec. 12. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News