November 29, 2022
Here's a look at some of the most impressive students graduating this fall
As Arizona State University's fall graduating class grows, so does the number of students who have excelled in their university careers — and beyond. From athletes to artists, here's a look at some of those remarkable students.
Lieske Carleer, a standout ASU women’s soccer player and honors international student, is a consummate scholar-athlete whose drive on the pitch matched her dedication in the classroom throughout her years as a Sun Devil.
During summer 2020, Matthew Kling wanted a challenge. So he enrolled in Intermediate Microeconomic Theory and ended up with the highest grade in the class. The December grad advises all ASU students to follow his lead in pushing academic boundaries.
As a choral director and musician for 24 years, Cary Burns knows all about group dynamics. But he wanted to educate himself on the science behind it. After graduation, he is looking forward to using his knowledge of social structures to become a better music educator and community member.
Psychology grad Annie Cooper came to ASU as a transfer student from community college and immediately immersed herself in as many opportunities as possible. She joined Psi Chi as the director of their social media accounts and found herself realizing that she could be the next president.
Outstanding Graduate Carlos Aguiar Hernandez recently completed his PhD in sustainable energy through the School of Sustainability in the College of Global Futures. His time at ASU gave him a renewed sense of determination and new insight into the energy field to complement his prior experience.
Through the generous partnership between Uber and Arizona State University, Richard Percoco was able to receive his education from a world-class university. Taking advantage of the academic opportunities, Percoco will graduate with two degrees this December, one in political science and another in history.
One of Tatjana Carranza's favorite things about the U.S. is how people have more freedom to switch fields compared to in her homeland of Germany. Carranza, whose initial plans were to become a language translator, eventually landed on legal studies for her bachelor's degree, and now a master’s degree in crime analysis.
For Laura Bargfeld, the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to slow down and refocus on their career goals. They began to think of different ways to share their storytelling skills with the world, which led them to ASU's Cronkite School, where they will receive their Master of Mass Communication in December.
In high school, Kevin Brown-Kaufman decided to fast-track his enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps by dropping out to complete the requirements more quickly in night school, but he ended up becoming a young father and put aside those goals. Seven years later, he decided to earn his diploma and serve in the Marine Corps, and now, after seeing his daughter attend ASU, is also earning a bachelor’s degree.
Estelle Golden’s professional life is full. She’s been an actress in films and plays for more than 35 years. She directs and teaches drama classes at a community college in Washington. And now she's adding another credential to her list: a master's degree in film and media studies from ASU Online.
When Aviel Waxman’s father had multiple sclerosis, Waxman helped care for him until his father's death four years ago. Being there for his father helped the fall 2022 Outstanding Graduate realize the importance of helping others.
Gerald Sayles III has been interested in many aspects of World War II, including the social conditions in the U.S. at the time and various myths about the war that have defined an entire generation of Americans. His interest led him to enrolling in the online master’s in World War II studies program at ASU.
Gerald Sayles III
From studying journalism as an undergraduate to earning a master’s degree in sustainable tourism three decades later, Alexandra Ghiozzi has crafted her career by adding one experience to another.
As the youngest of five children, Ty’Lesha Yellowhair had more than enough incentive to pursue her education. Following the example of their mother — who holds three master’s degrees — all four of Yellowhair’s siblings also earned degrees.
For Ella Gallagher, changing society’s dependence on fossil fuels is of primary importance. “It’s a modern miracle that we can use electricity to power a car now, but what about a plane?” said Gallagher, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business law and is a Medallion Scholarship recipient.
Holly Hemesath, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science and the Dean’s Medal, had thought coding was like learning a foreign language and that it was just a lot of memory work. She soon realized, upon compounding programming with biochemistry, that it provides one with an essentially limitless potential to create anything one might need or want.
For Alia Rocha, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, a family tragedy drove her to want to become a licensed therapist. But she also credits ASU's Student Alumni Association with providing her a sense of perspective and belonging.
The path that led Paul Mrstik to where he is now was far from straightforward. Accessible degree programs and his love for languages have helped him find his niche.
As a fourth-generation Arizonan, Nathaniel Ross always knew he wanted to stay in the state for the long run. So in 2019, when he was one of 20 high school seniors from Arizona selected for the Flinn Scholarship, which provides a full ride to any in-state university, it was the perfect opportunity to stay.
Esly Diaz and his family immigrated from Mexico to the United States when he was a child, a move that brought to light the challenges immigrants face. Now as a husband and father to two teenage boys, Diaz’s dedication and strength is what has kept him pursuing higher education.
Shawn Banzhaf, author of “The Five Ls: A Practical Guide for Helping Loved Ones Heal After Trauma" and newly named executive director of ASU's Pat Tillman Veterans Center, is graduating with his master’s degree in sociology this fall.
Adriana (Audrey) Talamante chose to attend ASU because of the diverse field of opportunities in the engineering school and the possibilities for student involvement. As a first-generation student and native Arizonan, financial aid allowed her to focus on her studies, make mistakes and network without carrying a financial burden.
Alicia Marisol Hernandez, a first-generation college student and Teach for America Campus ambassador, graduates this fall with a Bachelors of Arts degree in global health. "... I was interested in health issues around the world and how this affects communities,” she says.
Thu Thao Nguyen is a graduating with a PhD in chemistry after a journey that began in middle school in Hanoi, Vietnam, where she discovered her passion for the field. Nguyen investigated universities and professors, and eventually found Ryan Trovitch’s research group at ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences to be a perfect fit.
Thu Thao Nguyen
Born and raised in downtown Phoenix, Jesse Avalos was no stranger to Thunderbird School of Global Management when he enrolled in the Master of Applied Leadership and Management program. In fact, he had just started working as the executive assistant to Thunderbird Director General and Dean Sanjeev Khagram.
Anthropology student Charlotte Till's research focuses on human migration and how environmental changes affect migration. The international student will be graduating with a PhD this fall from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.
Tyler Burnside is a native of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and after visiting the ASU Tempe campus during his senior year of high school, he knew where his academic path would begin.
Toby Shulruff is earning her master's degree online in public interest technology after her work experience led her to question the function and future outcomes of technology in society as it is currently used.
On a trip home to Philadelphia after 20 years in the Marine Corps, Nick Heier noticed the anaerobic state of the creeks he used to spend time in. This was an initial spark that eventually brought him to ASU to study biomimicry and construction management.
As DeMaurya Seymore graduates this fall with a Master of Global Management with a concentration in global affairs, he reflects on how far he has come and how he is more driven than ever to use his appreciation for languages and international relations to make a true impact.
Jayla Johnson, who was born and raised in a small town in Wyoming, said she decided to get an early start on pursuing her passion, earning an associate degree before even graduating from high school. Johnson always knew she wanted a career in the entertainment industry, so she continued her path at ASU and is graduating this fall with a BFA in film and media production and a minor in business.
Graduating student Katherine Santana Brickey believes there’s power in the written word. Brickey’s work for her online Master of Arts in English points to her conviction that words can nurture both mind and body.
Katherine Santana Brickey
Lane Hiser is graduating this fall with a 4.13 GPA, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a minor in military leadership. He was also selected as The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist for the Department of English, an honor bestowed on the most outstanding graduate in the unit.
Garrett Laroy Johnson, from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, created new opportunities for creative expression when the pandemic was shuttering access to these forms of practice.
John Rudebeck, originally an undecided student, is graduating with his bachelor’s degree in innovation in society at ASU's College of Global Futures. His college career includes two capstone projects, starting a temporary student organization that participated in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society's curriculum discussions and serving as a new student ambassador.
Graduate student Donald Glaser feels fortunate and honored to receive a PhD in chemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences. As a self-described nontraditional student, Glaser wants others to know that achieving your dreams is possible, despite having what others might consider a less-than-ideal beginning.
Mario Liddell discovered his passion for data analytics amid a challenge. The W. P. Carey Outstanding Graduate Student was working in financial sales and trying to prepare talking points, presentation decks and dashboards on behalf of a colleague on paternal leave.
Graduating ASU student Adam Khromachou discovered his love of film analysis early in life and lately has honed the skill by writing and narrating more than 1,500 “60-Second Film Reviews” on TikTok. He currently has upwards of 30,000 followers.
Ryan Pizzo Bieniek, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and minoring in Spanish, has a heart for people who struggle to find housing and other necessities.“There need to be more resources and free housing made available to people left homeless and in less fortunate situations,” he says.
When Kelly Berg first graduated from high school, she started college but ended up dropping out during her second semester. This fall 2022, she is keeping a promise she made to herself to go back and finish her degree.
Julia Ladner, a business communication major, will apply what she learned through her honors thesis and an internship in a job with the state of Arizona.
Arianna Tillman was inspired by her community and her mother to pursue a bachelor’s degree in medical studies at ASU. After graduation, she plans on working as a medical scribe and applying to medical schools.
Nivedita Biyani, who is earning her PhD in civil and environmental engineering, wants to use her life experiences and everything she's learned at ASU to reimagine how we think about waste.
Alyssa Ingurgio already has a job lined up post-graduation that combines her passion for research and working with people.
In his time at ASU, Mark Reynolds earned the Robert P. Stearns/SCS Engineers Scholarship from the Solid Waste Association of North America, which allowed him to further pursue his research in microbiology.
Lisa Diethelm graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication and a certificate in philosophy, rhetoric and literature. But her Sun Devil story didn’t end there. After contemplating her career path upon graduation, Diethelm decided to pursue a different kind of storytelling with a master’s degree in English from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.
Graduate student Alisa Bozich feels led to help those new to the U.S. find their footing. Her new Master of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages – which she is earning this fall through ASU Online — will make doing just that a bit easier.
Five years ago, Elizabeta Ballanca was learning English and had insecurities about attending a major university in a foreign country. Next week, she will graduate Summa Cum Laude from the W. P. Carey School of Business, earning her the honor of Turken Family Outstanding Graduating Senior Award finalist for fall 2022.
During his time at ASU, Samuel Dicaro worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant and has been honored with several awards and scholarships. He credits his experience in the Fulton Schools for helping reframe his perspective on facing difficulties.
Alexandra Pye has always had a love of the mountains and learning about the natural world. This fall, Pye will graduate with a PhD in geological sciences from ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration.
When Joonwon Lee arrived at ASU to begin his doctoral studies in 2018, he encountered difficulties understanding international students’ English accents. But Lee persevered and turned his frustration into inspiration, applying the concept of "learning transfer" to his linguistic research on English learners.
During his time at ASU, software engineering student Marcus Maczynski worked with the Jet Proportion Laboratory to make an outreach-oriented web game as part of his capstone project. After graduating with summa cum laude honors, Maczynski will continue his current role as an operations leader for a major video game company.
When Michelle Gradillas considered herself shy when she started her college career at ASU, but as her undergraduate experience comes to a close, she reflects on how far she has come. This fall, she takes the stage at the university’s Hispanic Convocation as the Jose A. Ronstadt Outstanding Undergraduate.
This fall, Clarissa Rubio Goldsmith is graduating from ASU with a PhD in English (literature), where their research focused on Latino and Chicano horror and graphic productions.
Sydney Wickman has found a passion for improving access to clean water and has spent time assessing the impact of energy usage at industrial facilities. After graduation, she plans to work in environmental remediation consulting.
Wyatt Myskow found his love for writing and reporting in high school after he was appointed editor-in-chief of his school newspaper in Apple Valley, California. That moment pushed him to pursue journalism as a college major and potential career.
When first-generation college student Lisa Redhouse decided to continue her education, she found the environmental and resource management program would help her give back to Indigenous communities and inspire those around her.
In 2019, Shannon Zellner decided it was time to go back to school, but as a military spouse and mother, she often had to move at a moment's notice. She decided she could still finish her degree if the program was online. This fall, she will graduate from ASU Online's sociology degree program.
Shreeshiv Patel says his decision to study at Arizona State University was motivated by the emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship in many of the university’s degree programs.
When Tyler Richey-Yowell signed up for physics during high school she didn’t expect to discover how much she loved learning how physics could explain how everything worked, from dropping a pencil to how our universe formed. Now she's earned a PhD in astrophysics from ASU.
Rachel Collman has always cared about people. That’s why, when it came time to choose a college program, Collman decided to turn her empathy into action by pursuing a degree in family and human development.
Rachel Welshans grew up in Bisbee, a small town in southern Arizona with a long history of mining. When Welshans decided to pursue her bachelor’s degree, she decided she wanted to learn about something she was passionate about — history.
For graduating ASU student Brady Thurman, opting for an accelerated program in English was a strategic decision. After graduating this fall with a Master of Arts in English, Thurman plans to teach in the Phoenix area. He’ll pursue a film career in Los Angeles in the summers.
ASU soccer standout Eva van Deursen is graduating from the College of Health Solutions with a Master of Science in clinical exercise physiology. A conversation with an orthopedic surgeon helped put her on the path to wanting to help others achieve their health goals.
Eva van Deursen
Originally from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India, Nivedita Mahesh says she was encouraged by her family, teachers and mentors to follow her lifelong passion for science. That passion has led her to a PhD in astronomy from the School of Earth and Space Exploration.
Sheilah Utley started her college journey in her hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona, at Northern Arizona University. She said she “major hopped” through a variety of STEM fields, but none of them made her happy. Utley realized she wanted to pursue her love of theater and needed a fresh start in a new setting, so she transferred to ASU.
Brandy Schooley’s journey to ASU's College of Health Solutions started while she was studying nursing at Glendale Community College.
When graduating violinist Sarah Abbott began research for her doctoral project on composers of violin sonatas, she discovered a great number of contributions from women in classical music that had been overlooked or even lost throughout history.
Originally from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, Siva Pooja Ramachadran studied mechanical engineering in India and finished her undergraduate degree in Connecticut. She considered pursuing an MBA but realized engineering was not her true passion. Now she is a graduating MFA dance student at ASU.
Thomas Pozsonyi is the recipient of the Department of Economics Dean Medal for Fall 2022, which recognizes the top graduating student in the economics program at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Cecilia Evans-Hernandez decided to return to school in 2020, 30 years after earning her undergraduate degree. She had hit a roadblock in her career and the pandemic, she realized, provided the time and opportunity she needed to pursue a master’s degree.
Although he started his ASU journey as a biology major and then had to take some time off from school, Bryson Brown quickly realized he was more passionate about philosophy. Now he's graduating with a BA in philosophy, religion and society.
Graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA with a double major is no easy feat, but somehow Nicole Webb made it look easy. She excelled not only in her studies, but also joined several clubs and organizations that allowed her to "make a difference in the community."
Rashmi Solanki's passion for social service and leadership served her well during her time at ASU as a member of the Technological and Entrepreneurship Management Advisory Board where she advocated for practical-based learning.
Chris Green has been fortunate to be able to apply the skills and knowledge he gained from his communication classes at ASU's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication to his student worker job in marketing at ASU.
After graduation, ASU Master of Counseling graduate Shae Moreau is joining a private practice that specializes in working with clients with complex trauma.
Kyle Durrschmidt was working as a veterinary technician when he was laid off during the COVID pandemic. The San Diego native and father of two quickly adapted to his new role as a stay-at-home parent but felt like there was more he could do to provide for his children. This fall, he graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies.
Scottie Jimmy, who is earning a Bachelor of Science degree in health sciences, likes to learn from the experiences of others. That’s why particpated in the Connected Foundation, which aims to develop a professional mentorship program pairing students pursuing careers in medicine with senior mentors at Mirabella at ASU.
Logan Wren Raming was a river guide for several years in the Grand Canyon, and it was during these expeditions that he began to recognize and appreciate the geology surrounding him. This fall, he will graduate with a PhD in geological sciences.
Rodrick Johnson’s time in Haiti serving as a technical advisor for the United Nations helped form his decision to pursue a degree in the Doctor of Behavioral Health program (specializing in management) through ASU's College of Health Solutions.
The sky is the limit for Leo Leon, who is graduating this fall with a bachelor’s degree in English. Originally wanting a teaching career, they took an advisor's advice and looked to English in order to take advantage of the many career opportunities the degree would offer.
Tucson native Davina Mena has dreamed of supporting and advocating for bodies of culture in a meaningful way for over a decade. Those dreams become reality this fall as Mena graduates from ASU Online with a Master of Social Work.
College of Health Solutions graduate Darrel Wang has served in the Air Force, competed professionally in track and field, and opened his own business — all while in his 20s. Now he has his sights set on being a physician.
Claire Cerniglia, a recipient of the New American University President’s Award, came to Arizona State University from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to pursue her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with a minor in business. This fall, she is graduating from the School of Molecular Sciences.
Sakhi Solanki knew she would learn a lot when she started the Master of Global Management program at Thunderbird but didn't anticipate how much extra life experience she would gain.
Michael Tagle graduates this fall with a Bachelor of Science in digital audiences from ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication thanks to opportunities provided by the InvestED program, a partnership between ASU and Desert Financial Credit Union.
Science was never on Lakeisha Ramona Brown’s radar. That is, until she was inspired by her ninth-grade chemistry teacher and it changed her life. Now she's graduating from ASU Online with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry.
Lakeisha Ramona Brown
Krys Newbury is following a lifelong passion by graduating with a bachelor’s degree in theater from ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, before heading to California, where they will intern as a scenic design assistant for Pacific Conservatory Theatre.
Austin Bartunek came to ASU after developing a passion for sciences in early high school. This fall, the Department of Physics has selected Bartunek, an undergraduate studying physics with a minor in mathematics, as its Dean's Medalist.
William Manuel, a member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, will graduate with a Bachelor of Music in music learning and teaching from the School of Music, Dance and Theatre.
While volunteering in hospitals during high school, Ruwaida Jaylani Abshir visited the hospital’s pharmacy most often, which led to her interest in medicinal biochemistry. Now, she is graduating with a degree in the field from the School of Molecular Sciences.
Ruwaida Jaylani Abshir
Sage Binder is the recipient of the prestigious Dean’s Medal for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences in honor of his steadfast commitment to academic excellence.
Sara Vidal is a new graduate, and a new mother, and it is through the partnership between Uber and ASU that she was able to accomplish both of her big dreams.
During his childhood, Enzo Carrascal Marquez and his family traveled the various landscapes of his home country, Peru, visiting and exploring the desert, the mountain region and the jungle. This exposure to nature, along with his interest in science since primary school, prompted him to major in geology.
Mayumi Webb grew up in a military family and spent a lot of her time outside of the United States. When it came time for her parents to retire from the United States Air Force, they chose to settle in Arizona. But it wasn't just the proximity of ASU that drew Webb here, it was her interactions with the Pat Tillman Veterans Center.
Top photo: A student has his photo taken for graduation in front of a 2022 sign placed at Old Main on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News