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Fall 2019 grads ready to take on the world

Meet outstanding graduates from across the university's schools and colleges

December 03, 2019

This Dec. 16, thousands of students will cross the commencement stage in advance of heading out to solve problems, be creative, make discoveries and help their communities. ASU Now is looking at some of the outstanding students who will soon be able to call themselves alumni.

Starbucks partner finds her passion for justice studies in ASU Online classes

Contrary to the busy morning bustle as a shift supervisor at Starbucks, Britta Grant says “don’t rush through your classes ... take time to relish and ponder over the lessons learned in class.” 

Jolene Johnson reaches graduation due to Starbucks College Achievement Plan

With a degree in organizational leadership and a minor in film and media studies, Jolene Johnson plans to climb the corporate ladder at Starbucks. Right now, she enjoys working in their human resources department as a recruiter. 

Mother, student, designer — now graduate

Rebecca Sjorup will be graduating this December with a bachelor’s degree in graphic information technology, but the technical skills didn’t always come second nature to her. Once Photoshop finally clicked, Sjorup knew she was on the right track for a fulfilling and creative career.

Civil engineering grad builds a bright future

Aidan Bjelland always enjoyed building with LEGO bricks growing up and dreamed of a career in architecture. Then he saw more opportunities in civil engineering.

Hannah Pebler named Outstanding Graduate in aviation

Having balanced the demands of being both a mother and a full-time college student, Hannah Pebler says simply making it to graduation day is a great reward in itself. But Pebler has also earned the proverbial icing on the cake in completing her studies by being named the Outstanding Graduate in the Fulton Schools aviation programs.

IMPACT Award winner and grad sees water management as a major issue

Olga Hart’s journey to a doctoral degree started as an undergraduate civil engineering major in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Hart views water management as a major issue that needs to be addressed to help secure a sustainable future and this has guided her doctoral research.

ASU first-gen grad sees the impact she can make as a nurse

Ayanna Bernard, a first-generation and TRIO student at ASU, shares with ASU Now the story of making it through the nursing program and her first clinical to get to graduation. 

ASU grad dedicates herself to sexual violence prevention in Arizona

Mia Reza, a graduating senior striving to make a difference in the world through social work, shares what advice she would give to those still in school and what the future looks like for her. 

woman's portrait

Carolyn Clark

LEAP Scholar awarded School of Molecular Sciences Dean’s Medal

Carolyn Clark is among a distinguished group of students to receive the 2019 fall semester Dean’s Medal from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.

First-gen student took the path through college seriously

When an unexpected injury changed the course of Melinda Nicholson's career, she knew she had to dedicate herself solely to finding a new one.

Math Dean's Medalist to pursue career as an actuary

Emma Terry is graduating from the ASU School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences with a Bachelor of Science in actuarial science.

ASU graduating senior wins $10K on esports reality show

Tasha Romero was one of seven contestants selected to compete for $10K and a chance to sign as one of G2 Esports’ official content creators.

Finding electricity in life as an English major 

Marshal Meador returned to college to make a career transition from electrician to educator. He looks forward to living and working overseas, teaching English to speakers of other languages.

Helping others love the smile they were born with

ASU Polytechnic campus applied biological sciences major Jennifer Gutierrez, an outstanding graduate of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, will be applying to dental schools in June. Her decorated mortar board expresses gratitude for the sacrifices her parents made for her future.

Angeleno makes fresh start at ASU Polytechnic campus

Interdisciplinary studies graduate Nakia Gorden didn't know a soul when he moved with his son from Los Angeles to attend ASU. He found a welcoming community at the ASU Polytechnic campus and discovered his passion for teaching.

man holding pole vault

Matt Eckles. Photo by Jamie Ell

ASU graduate raises the bar for academic and athletic excellence

At 6 foot, 5 inches tall, Matt Eckles towers over his peers. But perhaps even more impressive than his height is the reach of his undergraduate career. This December, he’ll graduate with two degrees from the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a Bachelor of Science in integrative health.

Psychology Dean’s Medalist researches how therapy dogs reduce stress

Not all Sun Devils have two legs. Throughout the academic year, groups like Sparky’s Service Dogs, the Psychology Engagement Team, and Sun Devil Paws help the Arizona State University community de-stress by interacting with trained service dogs. Gillian Bryant, who is the Dean’s Medalist for the Department of Psychology, wondered about how dogs help college students relax.

Dual graduate shares how experiences in The College helped her grow

Sarah Winkelman says her passion for political science took off in her sophomore year of college. Winkelman said she encountered challenges while pursuing her degrees, the most difficult of which was finding herself.

ASU at Lake Havasu kinesiology graduate is accepted to top doctoral program

Jonathan O’Neill will graduate this December with a degree in kinesiology. The ASU at Lake Havasu grad and veteran is the first graduate to be accepted to a top choice Doctor of Physical Therapy program. 

2019 graduate interested in politics, community service

Someday we may see the name Roman Sierra on the ballot for political office. Sierra is graduating Arizona State University in December with a bachelor’s degree in political science and honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

Graduate follows passion to give back through health care

Although Sarah Pinson is a born and raised Texan from Fort Worth, she has a brand new, global outlook on life — all thanks to her experience at ASU. 

ASU grad watches life through a shadowy lens

What makes a film a “noir”? Must it have a scene that takes place in a smoke-filled police interrogation room? Must the protagonist be brooding and struggling with personal demons? While the exact definition of “noir” is still up for discussion, graduating Arizona State University student Patrick Boontho’s appreciation for it certainly isn’t.

ASU grad understands importance of home

For the past two years, graduating Arizona State University student Beckett Eickerman has been active in internships teaching English to adults in the Phoenix area, including to refugees. Eickerman, who formerly worked in I.T., said he was inspired to the teaching career in an undergraduate linguistics class.

Roy Wasson Valle. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU sculptor envisions a human community living and working on Mars

Roy Wasson Valle has had a flourishing art practice in the Valley for several years, but decided he wanted to expand his horizons, so he returned to Arizona State University to pursue a master’s of fine arts degree.

ASU soccer player and honors student graduates with 2 degrees

To say that Christina Edwards was busy throughout her undergraduate career at Arizona State University is an understatement. Edwards spent many hours training, traveling and playing on the field as a member of the Sun Devil Women’s Soccer team and many more hours studying to finish two degrees in less than four years.

ASU grad sets sights on impacting design and film industries

Jose Guerrero discovered Arizona State University’s online degree programs while listening to the radio — and it changed his life.  

First-gen student overcomes bumpy road to earn art degree

It’s taken five years, hard work and a few bumps, but Katherine Del Rosario is finally graduating. This month she will receive her BFA in art with a focus on painting, and will be the first one in her family to graduate from college, thanks to the sacrifices, support and inspiration from those around her.

Commitment to public service led outstanding graduate to study nonprofit leadership and management

As a career choice, the nonprofit sector hadn’t initially occurred to Atlas Pillar, who originally enrolled in ASU as a double major in musical theater and journalism. But, reflecting on his life and the many champions who helped him along the way, Pillar eventually decided he wanted to devote his life to serving others. 

Philosophy, honors student graduates despite life obstacles

John Dreyfus is graduating this semester with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a concentration in morality, politics and law.

Online biochemistry undergraduate finds academic home at ASU

Arizona State University online biochemistry student and full-time mom Kassandra Herndon is reaching her goal of earning a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry.

Erika Martinez

Erika Martinez. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU grad enjoys the esprit de corps of her profession

Erika Martinez enjoys several things about teaching – sparking the imagination, passing on her knowledge to others and potentially changing the lives of students. But what she enjoys most about the job is the professional camaraderie among teachers.

ASU graduating student combines music, science as a 21st-century musician

Felix Herbst refuses to settle on one path. The 21st-century musician is a violinist, vocalist and arranger-composer as well as a scientist. 

Far from home to realize freedom of speech and the American dream

Passing the high school entrance national exam with top scores, Tuan Nguyen got admitted to a prestigious Vietnam high school for the gifted. Nguyen later transferred to Barrett, The Honors College in 2017 to major in supply chain management, thanks to winning an All-Arizona full-ride scholarship.

In praise of happenstance

Graduating ASU student Leah Soto started out as a journalist and ended up as an editor but one thread was constant: her love for the written word.

Fascination with complex societies leads evolutionary biology PhD to bees

Gyan Harwood discovers colony immunity in honeybees en route to earning his PhD in evolutionary biology.

Internship led Watts College outstanding grad to fall 'in love with local government'

Ashley Funneman was a case manager and crisis intervention specialist working in a state-funded program to help seriously mentally ill adults and children when she realized she wanted to learn more about how such programs are run. That is, what it’s like to be the boss.

Family and human development grad aims to help children in need

Two weeks before the start of the fall 2016 semester, Ayeleth Aragon came to Arizona State University as part of the very first Early Start cohort in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics. Three and half years later, Aragon is graduating a semester early with her BS in family and human development and hopes to enter a career helping children in need.

It's technical: ASU English grad has a way with complicated words

Arizona State University student Seth Zimmerer is earning a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in technical communication this December. He hopes to break into the burgeoning field of technical writing.

Vanessa Porter

Vanessa Porter. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The long and winding road to health and happiness

The road to success is more often winding than a straight line, and Vanessa Porter knows all about that. Porter will graduate this December with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition dietetics from Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions, but her journey there began more than a decade ago. 

Enabled by scholarship support, future lawyer finds opportunities at ASU Law

Steven Laxton grew up in Cedar Hill, Texas, and then spent his high school years in Henrico, Virginia, eventually making his way to the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law to pursue a juris doctorate degree.

Science helps quench curiosity of biology and society PhD

Michelle Sullivan Govani earned her PhD in biology and society and has accepted a position as a university innovation fellow in ASU’s Office of University Initiatives.

Practical magic: ASU grad revels in service to peers, community

Meghan Nestel, a native of Sandy, Utah, is earning a PhD in English (literature) from ASU this December after defending her dissertation, “Revelations to Others in Medieval Hagiographical and Visionary Texts,” on Nov. 4. The defense was a culmination of years of research into mystical and spiritual experiences of medieval people.

First-gen ASU grad pursues passion for pediatric nursing

Graduating Sun Devil Anjelica Yapura talks about her journey as a first-generation student earning her degree in nursing.

Religious studies graduate earns degree while running nonprofit organization

Azra Hussain is graduating this semester with a degree in religious studies and a certificate in Islamic studies. 

ASU School of Music graduating mezzo-soprano hopes to launch opera career

Ariana Warren, a mezzo-soprano of exceptional talent, embodies everything that the ASU School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts expects from students — excellence, motivation, creativity and innovation. 

Fall 2019 SFIS Outstanding Graduate student

Katherine Ball

Engaging citizens through gameplay

When a local concerned citizens' group reached out to an ASU professor and his research team of students on ways to better educate others on the issues surrounding helium extractions, Master of Science and Technology Policy graduate Katherine Ball knew she could help.

California native reflects on experiences, personal growth gained at ASU

On the eve of graduation, human and family development major Holly Latorre is still enamored by all things Arizona State University.

ASU grad seeks to be a future change maker

When New Mexico native and Barrett, The Honors College undergraduate Katja Klosterman enrolled at Arizona State University three years ago she wasn’t so sure she had made the right choice. But after being accepted into the Next Generation Service Corps program, Klosterman said she "was able to immerse myself in many different experiences that I don’t think I could have gotten any place else."

Science becomes a team sport for neuroscience PhD

Inspired by his baseball hero Lou Gehrig, Michael Holter earned his PhD in neuroscience studying neurodevelopmental disorders.

Microbiology graduate to pursue advanced degree in bioterrorism and biodefense

When Megan Davis transferred to ASU, she knew she wanted to change her major. But what she didn’t expect was to find a degree she’s certain will support any professional direction she pursues.

Scholarship enables master’s degree student's dream of a law degree

Vince Nicholes is a busy father and working professional who is about to graduate with a master’s degree in legal studies and business administration, as part of a concurrent degree program between the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the W. P. Carey School of Business. When reflecting back on his law school and business school journey, Nicholes considered himself lucky for this opportunity.

Outstanding grad overcame personal, academic challenges to complete online program

Several difficulties presented themselves to the School of Social Work’s fall 2019 Outstanding Graduate. The biggest: During her course of study, Wendi Malmgren had to deal with the deaths of two immediate family members.

Grant Crim

Grant Crim. Courtesy photo

Cancer fighter boosts edge with ASU degree

Obstacles don’t do well in front of Grant Crim. A brain tumor left him partially blind when he was only 2 years old. He’s been locked in a lifelong battle with the tumor and residual effects. He has barreled through that barrier and many others. Now he graduates summa cum laude with a degree in organizational leadership from Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.

For this ASU grad, the real joy is the journey, not the destination

International student Murtada al Mohsin found his way to Arizona State University through the ASU Global Launch Intensive English Program in 2015. Mohsin received the King Abdullah Scholarship to study abroad at ASU and pursue a degree in chemistry. 

Outstanding grad credits ASU program for becoming a fire captain at 24

For a firefighter to attain the rank of captain usually takes several years, often a decade or two, of dedicated service. At age 24, Utah Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Oliver Silva — make that Fire Captain Oliver Silva — credits his graduate studies at ASU as what set him apart from his colleagues.

ASU grad shares her gift for linguistics with the world

Melody Taylor, a graduating linguistics major, uses her language skills to proofread materials for students with visual impairment and also to teach English to international students. 

History graduate desires to pursue a career in museums

Mary Zoll-Montoya has always had a love for art, but one thing she wasn’t expecting to take over while she was at ASU was her love for history as well.

Digital culture graduate discovers how to make ‘wild ideas’ come to life

When graduate student Andrew Robinson first started classes in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, he didn’t know what responsive media was – or that it even existed. 

Book that outstanding grad read as a teen led her to seek a criminology career

Brittny Dwyer's experiences at ASU helped her realize something she hadn’t before: That merely being inspired or motivated only takes a person so far.

History graduate leaves her mark on the ASU international community

Rebecca Ericson is the recipient of the Dean’s Medal for the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies this semester.

Research on 'colorism' by ASU grad breaks new ground

Graduating Arizona State University student Sayantan Mukherjee believes that “quality education is the only way up.” Mukherjee, who is originally from the small town of Dubrajpur in West Bengal, India, is setting into motion his own vertical mobility by earning a PhD in linguistics and applied linguistics this fall. 

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