Learn more about some of this semester's top graduates and their post-commencement plans
This year's fall 2021 grads have overcome many obstacles on the path to their diploma, and they are entering a workforce with unprecedented challenges — but the help and education they received along the way at ASU has prepared them to rise to those challenges.
Learn more about some of the top graduates from this year's fall class.
“Outline your life in pencil, not in pen.” That's the advice Trevor Brendlin gives to current students at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, as he’s about to earn his Master of Sports Law and Business degree this fall.
While working toward her degree in the Allan “Bud” Selig Sports Law and Business program at ASU, Janae Reeves interned with the Arizona Sports & Entertainment Commission, for former NFL player Lorenzo Alexander’s ACES Foundation and its NFL Flag League Arcadia, and as a sports agent at Divine Sports and Entertainment.
After returning from a UN mission in the Central African Republic, Youssef Kchiere started looking for online programs in international security that would help him achieve his career transition goals. Kchiere found what he was looking for in the MA in global security
In the pursuit to understand the role of law in human resources and the financial industry, Todd Transue had been looking for a program like the Master of Legal Studies at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
It doesn’t take a futurist to predict that Fulbright Scholar and journalism graduate Zoha Tunio will be transformative in her job as an investigative journalist once she gets settled in and starts her career.
As Emily Gale Tooher graduates this fall with a Master of Laws with an emphasis in human resources and employment law, Tooher reflects on when she earned her Juris Doctor from ASU Law in 2019.
After earning dual bachelor’s degrees from ASU and working for two years in program management post-graduation, Abbey Hawthorne knew she wanted to return to ASU to pursue her JD from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
Janna Tobin, who will graduate with her MA in global security is nominated for the Marshall Scholarship, which provides full support for two years of graduate study at any university in the United Kingdom.
Graduating MFA in ceramics student Miru Kim was one of 11 students from around the world to be awarded the prestigious International Sculpture Center's Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award for 2021.
An advertising professional-turned-creative-writer, Sharon Enck graduates this fall with a BA in English (creative writing) and a 4.29 weighted GPA. She has also been named Dean’s Medalist for English in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
What are the long-term health issues people who have had COVID-19 may experience? What policies could we see in the future as a result of COVID-19? College of Global Futures graduate Melissa Smallwood is working to answer those questions.
From short stories and poetry to screenplays, Shannon Sons, who is graduating with a BA in film and media production, said she has been writing and sharing stories her whole life.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Nikhil Dave knew he had to do something to help. As part of his work in the Luminosity Lab at ASU, Dave, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in innovation in society, developed several projects to aid health care workers and prevent the spread of the disease.
Logan Gin, a first-generation college student, was inspired by the work being done at the School of Life Sciences around diversity, equity and inclusion in biology. This fall, Gin will receive his PhD in biology and society.
Online student Morgen Julia Schreiner love of ancient things started as a young child growing up in Gnadenhutten, Ohio. The first-generation college graduate is earning Bachelor of Arts degrees in anthropology and history this fall.
In October 2020, ASU student Dafna Danesh had to undergo brain surgery. Now, over a year later, Danesh is healthy and about to graduate a semester early with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a biomedical sciences concentration.
Zorica Gutic was born and raised in Bosnia and moved to Arizona in 2009. When the pandemic started, and her job in the hospitality industry evaporated, she decided to go back to college. This fall, Gutic will graduate in December with a major in biochemistry.
While attending ASU, Taylor Guthrie tackled classes, work and extracurriculars through a careful balance of responsibilities and is graduating this semester with a 4.15 GPA with degrees in psychology and philosophy.
In high school, Aubrey Feyrer fell in love with history and decided to pursue a degree in it through ASU. He will be graduating this semester having earned six consecutive Dean’s List awards and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest academic honor societies in the U.S.
Before attending ASU, Kaitlyn Dalton was enrolled in a small, private liberal arts college near her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. She didn’t intend to study religious studies, but after walking into a required introduction to religions course, she fell in love with the discipline. Now she's graduating from ASU with bachelor’s degree in religion, culture and public life
When the pandemic hit, Anthony Child-Rinearson took that as an opportunity to go back to school online. Now he's graduating with his bachelor’s in philosophy and is also the recipient of the Dean’s Medal from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.
Taylor O’Connor has always had a soft spot in her heart for children. Her mother was a preschool teacher ever since she could remember. This fall, O'Connor graduates with a degree in family and human development. She plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a preschool director someday.
Rachael Shantz comes from a family of aviators — her dad is a pilot, her uncle is a flight instructor and even some of her cousins are aviators. Shantz decided to embrace her family’s legacy in the air traffic management program at ASU.
From a young age, Alyssa Foster has closely followed current events and politics. Now, the soon-to-be Arizona State University graduate is beginning her career in politics with the Office of Governor Doug Ducey.
Clinton Roberts wanted to earn his master’s degree in history for the last 20 years, but life kept interrupting his plans. That was until one day in 2019 when he came across an advertisement for Arizona State University Online.
Ahrash Farhangi has had a non-traditional path to earning his degree. He was born in Oklahoma, but spent most of his childhood living in Iran. Then after a knee injury ended his scholarship to play soccer in college, his education was put on hold until he enrolled in the the Starbucks College Achievement Plan program.
Elizabeth Harris came to ASU to make a big change and found a new identity in informatics and digital culture. Through the Tooker House community, hackathons and serving as a teaching assistant, Harris has had a rewarding last three-and-a-half years.
Maryam Nahar Abdulle was 14 years old when she moved from Bosaso, Somalia, to Arizona in April 2013 amd she was thrown into a class of 8th-grade students knowing no English. Her struggle has paid off though, as Abdulle will graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry.
Growing up in Tuba City, Arizona, Ashley Brock used to think sickness was just a part of everyday life. When she got older, she realized how difficult it is for Indigenous people to stay healthy in a modern, American world. That realization led her to pursue a degree in the science of health care delivery, with a minor in American Indian studies.
When Abiud Hernandez-Garcia began studying criminology and criminal justice at ASU, he thought he wanted to be a police officer, but was never quite convinced it was the correct career path for him. Then, sometime during his sophomore year of his bachelor’s degree program, the excitement of making discoveries in the field through research struck him.
Dana Rowitz spent her first semester at ASU realizing that the field she initially chose wasn’t for her. But she didn’t have to go far to find her true calling. The then-elementary and special education major was browsing the university website one day — and there it was: tourism.
Eliana Vanesa Gomez Rodriguez recalls a time when she was just four years old: “I noticed a homeless person right outside of my home. He had a dirty face, and I instantly went inside, grabbed a paper towel, and washed his face for him. I have always had the instinct in me to help others.” Following that passion is what led her to study family and human development.
The workings of government and its role in society fascinated Abdulkadir Abdi enough to pursue a Master of Public Administration degree, and ASU was the place to do it. He's the School of Public Affairs' fall 2021 Outstanding Graduate.
Edie Mestas based her decision to enter social work on many contributing influences, leaving her hard-pressed to name just one particular inspiration. "The moment I was introduced to the behavioral health field, I knew it was something that I wanted to forever pursue,” said the School of Social Work's fall 2021 Outstanding Graduate.
As COVID-19 first began its assault on the nation’s health in early 2020, Rachel Henderson observed how those in charge dealt with the oncoming pandemic. Henderson is receiving a Master of Arts degree in emergency management and homeland security, and is the fall 2021 Outstanding Graduate in Interdisciplinary Programs in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.
Medallion Scholar and fall 2021 graduate Lexi Brown decided to pursue a career as a doctor after witnessing her own family face medical-related issues. She's graduating with a degree in medical studies from the College of Health Solutions.
The path to graduation for Campanella White Jr. required perseverance. Between being in and out of community college and then becoming a father, White found the determination to prove that he could balance school, work and parenting. Now he's receiving degree in political science as an ASU Online student.
Ri Lindegren is graduating from ASU with a degree in a unique area — dance and interdisciplinary media and performance. Lindegren, who is earning a master’s degree in fine arts, is the Outstanding Graduate Student in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts this semester.
Growing up in a military family, Caitlyn Finnegan lived in several different places throughout her childhood. She experienced different environments with different sustainability challenges and saw the need to address these crucial issues.
Caroline De Arras lived and breathed reading and writing growing up. She recalls lugging stacks of library books home each week and relished putting pen to paper. Thanks to the Uber and ASU partnership, De Arras was able to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in English through ASU Online.
Gabriella Mada has always been drawn to animals, wild or domestic. When the time came to attend college, she chose to major in preveterinary studies. But, as often happens with majors, she changed her mind and decided it wasn’t for her. “I have a big heart for animals,” the Phoenix native said. “Love animals, love nature. And I was like, OK, maybe this isn't the path.”
Growing up in Maine, Megan Osgood recalls taking trips to the beach with her mom and falling in love with the environment. From then on, she knew she wanted to study marine organisms, especially the environmental impact humans have on their ecology.
A presentation nearly a decade ago on the health disparities experienced by African American women in Arizona made a strong impression on Kenja Hassan, assistant vice president of ASU’s Office of Government and Community Engagement. It led her to her PhD program, and now she plans to share the insights gained from her research looking into the disparity and stigma facing African American women living with HIV with local health providers.
In his junior year of high school in Nashua, New Hampshire, Greg Vance enrolled in an introductory astronomy class that captured his imagination. This December, Vance will graduate with a PhD in astrophysics from the School of Earth and Space Exploration.
McCall Langford grew up appreciating nature’s complex systems thanks to her grandfather's sustainability-focused textile work. But it took a year of backpacking in the wilderness to solidify her purpose: to advocate for a reconnection to the natural world to create a more sustainable and regenerative future.
While the current state of the world supply chain is a topic of endless headlines and conversation, this was not always the case. In fact, a couple of years ago most people didn’t think about the supply chain at all. Luckily, W. P. Carey Outstanding Graduate Student Christian Plesca was ahead of the curve.
As the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Outstanding Graduate Student Ella Burrus prepares to walk the stage with a Master of Arts in social justice and human rights from the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, she looks forward to continuing to seamlessly incorporate art into her advocacy and activism.
Walter Sprengeler has been on active duty in the Army for the last 13 years as a logistician and currently holds the rank of a major. Despite his duties at work, he enrolled in ASU as an online student while continuing to work full-time. Now he is graduating his master’s in history this fall.
After his first degree in microbiology and a stint in the Navy, Tho Tran enrolled in the information technology program in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to explore his early fascination of working with computers.
Brielle Ruscitti, who is graduating with honors from Barrett The Honors College, made an impact in academics, leadership and service as an undergraduate. She served as president of the Barrett Leadership and Service Team (BLAST) and as a change agent at Changemaker Central @ ASU, as well as a number of other groups on campus.
For Alma Atassi — graduating with a degree in global studies and a certificate in cross-sector leadership — participating in the Arizona Legislative and Government Internship Program was the highlight of her college experience.
Fifteen years after earning a bachelor’s degree, Sean Duffey — a high school English teacher in Denver — began a graduate program through ASU Online. He is graduating this fall with an online Master of Arts in English and credits the support he received from ASU faculty and staff for his success in the program.
For as long as she can remember, Melanie Utter has loved to create art. Throughout her time at ASU, Utter was not only able to combine her passion for art and communication studies, but also come one step closer to her dream of becoming an illustrator and author of children’s novels.
“For me, my ASU story isn’t about how it’s never too late, said Kelly Freter, who is graduating with her master’s degree in political psychology after earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism from ASU in 1996. “I think I’m more excited about what comes next, just like I was at 21, although I’m much better at setting boundaries and being brazen than I was back then. I don’t have any plans to graduate again from ASU at 71, but anything could happen.”
Online transfer student Matthew Dobson’s educational journey took him outside the university with prestigious internships at SpaceX and NASA that spanned four semesters. Not only did these internships provide him with exceptional learning opportunities, but they also allowed the electrical engineering student to be a part of history.
Electric vehicles are marketed as better for the environment and a good way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But the push to go electric may come with a hidden cost: lithium mining. It's a concern that Wenjuan Liu is exploring further while earning her PhD in sustainability at the School of Sustainability.
As an ASU student, John Wynkoop has taken advantage of every opportunity to help realize his goal of becoming a physical therapist who would make a difference. He was a teaching assistant, worked as many clinical hours as he could, maintained a 4.0 GPA and still found time to volunteer for Mikey’s League, a local nonprofit that provides sports programming for people of all ages, regardless of their abilities or limitations.
Sarah Lopez counts completing her honors thesis, titled "No Mother Left Behind: An Investigation of Three Disparities that Plague Black Mothers in America," among her proudest moments at ASU. "The thesis process was incredibly challenging and rewarding for me, and ultimately, I am so proud of the final result," she said.
Adrienne Vescio was interested in space sciences since she was a child but didn't think it was for her because she struggled with math. A former instructor helped her realize that an astronomer doesn't need to look like any particular kind of person, and that you don't need to have innate talent for math or science to explore the field. Now she's graduating a double major in astrophysics and physics.
Graduating this fall with a PhD in linguistics and applied linguistics from ASU’s Department of English, Umar Sulayman’s journey to a doctorate has been eventful one. It began in his native Iraq, where he struggled with a speech difficulty while growing up.
Gabrielle Hofer enjoys solving design challenges using creative solutions. This mindset led her to pursue dual degrees in graphic information technology from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Once Trevor Mitchell joined the professional flight concentration of the aeronautical management technology program at The Polytechnic School, it was his love for flight simulators that solidified his dream of being a pilot.
Megan McGroarty is the Fall 2021 Dean’s Medalist for the School of Earth and Space Exploration. She is also a Barrett, The Honors College student and will graduate with a bachelor's degree in astrobiology and biogeosciences, a minor in German and a certificate in sustainable food systems.
Over 20 years ago, Angélica Amezcua and her family emigrated from Jalisco, Mexico, to the U.S. As she started to learn English, her Spanish literacy began to diminish. This loss of her native language has been a driving force for Amezcua, leading her to become a lifelong advocate for bilingualism in academia.
Mahnoor Ashraf's sights are set on medical school and working with Doctors Without Borders as a trauma surgeon.
Cindy Villavicencio ssays she was drawn to geography for its interdisciplinary nature and the ability to leverage geographic information systems to create solutions to environmental problems.
A passion for science and an interest in procedural crime shows on television led Aubrey Kreutzer to pursue a forensic science degree at ASU.
International student Ramon “Chino” Alfonso Soberano, who graduates this fall with a Doctor of Musical Arts in violin performance, wants all musicians to be able to achieve their goals. Last summer in his home country of the Philippines, Soberano taught free virtual masterclasses and lectures to future generations of violinists.
Angie Stephanie Valencia, who graduates with a Bachelor of Music in music learning and teaching, and a minor in transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o studies, is passionate about creating and implementing Mariachi curriculum in Arizona K–12 schools and in higher education.
Emily Onwiler grew up in Yuma, Arizona, and started at ASU when she was only 16 years old. When she was 15 years old she became caregiver to her grandfather who had Lewy body dementia, which helped inform her decision to major in sociology with a certificate in hospice and palliative care.
Kaitlyn Begay, an outstanding communication graduate in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, took advantage of many opportunities to make positive change at ASU and in the world, with ASU American Indian-associated organizations and events, and interning with the Women's Coalition.
Prince James Story wants to explore the intersection of sports and culture and tell the stories of those in underrepresented communities. Story will take a major step towards that goal when he graduates with his master's degree in sports journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Joe Simpson is the fall 2021 Dean’s Medalist for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. He has an impressive GPA of 4.21 and excelled in the most challenging senior level and graduate level actuarial science courses.
A recurring dream during childhood led first-generation student Shawn Sonies to where she is today: graduating this fall from Arizona State University with a BA in English (literature) and a certificate in environmental humanities.
For a long time, Jordan Spurgeon didn’t watch anything except sports on television. It started in the seventh grade when his uncle introduced him to SportsCenter on ESPN, which stoked his love for sports and set him on a path towards graduating with his bachelor’s degree in sports journalism, which he will accomplish this month.
In recognition of her work both inside and outside the classroom, Arianna Ruth has been named The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Fall 2021 Dean’s Medalist for the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. She is receiving a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in women and gender studies.
ASU College of Integrative Sciences and Arts graduate Duncan Reid described his decision to pursue a major in counseling and applied psychological science as as slow burn. "After pursuing other career options, I recognized that what I really wanted was to do something that made a positive impact on others."
Connor Newton, who graduates this month with his degree in film and media production, feels ready to enter the entertainment industry after a great academic and professional experience in his student worker job as a videographer for ASU Student Life, a news site run by students and for students.
It took just one geography class for Juliette Clermont to get hooked. Entering ASU as an astrophysics major, Clermont took an introductory physical geography class with an enthused professor who piqued her interest, and she changed her major to geography the next semester.
Alli Cripe spent her teens traveling the world modeling but found her way back home to the Valley once she found a career passion in journalism. It was at Mesa Community College that she first cut her teeth as a writer. She transferred to ASU and found a welcoming community.
Lilly Purdon faced difficulty in her time at ASU. She arrived from Thailand alone with two suitcases. Due to the pandemic and her financial situation, she hasn’t seen her family in more than three years. Still, the outstanding graduate directs her focus on the many opportunities she’s had.
Parker Cohensitt is the first-ever graduate from the Interplanetary Initiative’s Bachelor of Science in technological leadership. He enrolled in the brand-new technological leadership program when he was a junior, and through the program, he found that there was a different way of learning.
Cerah Moren graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics with a concentration in secondary education from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. The scholar-athlete also throws javelin for the ASU track and field team.
Angel Morales, a fall 2021 biological sciences ASU grad from Phoenix, always knew he wanted to work in the medical field. Knowing what he wanted to study was easy, but choosing where to study it meant taking many factors under consideration. But after attending Barrett Summer Scholars, Morales felt like ASU could be that home.
Michael Coffey, a master’s in geography fall 2021 graduate, is perceptive. He believes that having a deep understanding of the design choices in our environment and its effect on us, helps us not only move more intentionally through the world but enables us to design better spaces for the future.
Noemi Rodriguez, a double major in psychology and human and family development was named the 2021 Dean’s Medalist for the ASU Department of Psychology. In addition to her exemplary academic performance, Rodriguez served as a community mentor and conducted intervention-based research during her time at ASU.
Zhimin Penny Wu graduates with a PhD in applied mathematics from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Her dissertation uses data assimilation to model the northern polar vortex, and uses the same mathematical approach to model prostate cancer treatments.
The list of things Sydney Campton accomplished during her studies at ASU is rivaled only by her goals for after graduation. Campton graduated this week with bachelor’s degrees in German and in management. She also earned certificates in international business and cross-sector leadership. She also was named the Dean’s Medal recipient for SILC.