April 24, 2023
From 14-year-olds earning their degree to graduates whose career paths that were inspired by the pandemic, this year's graduating class has blazed new trails and made notable discoveries inside and outside the classroom.
Some 19,664 students — a 6.9% increase from spring 2022 — will graduate on May 8, earning 20,460 degrees. Meet some of these outstanding spring 2023 grads.
(Check back on this page as we add more throughout the month.)
Most students in the ninth grade are learning algebra, writing book reports and trying to navigate high school life. Gavin Munson, however, isn’t like most students. This semester, he’s set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology at age 14.
Among honors student Brooke Zanon's many scholarships and awards, she received the Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship. The Medallion Scholars program led to her job at the Arizona Senate, where she worked during her freshman, sophomore and junior years.
Kyle Polen will graduate with dual degrees in biochemistry and global health and has been accepted into 13 medical schools. This spring, he received the Distinguished Merit Award from the School of Molecular Sciences.
Kacy Hatfield said "the goal is to help people feel less scared about machine learning" using her children's book. She is graduating with a degree in digital culture and is an undergraduate researcher for the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics.
When Kristen Krip graduated from ASU in 2018 with an English degree, she loved writing but realized it wasn't what she wanted for her career. This spring, Kripis graduating summa cum laude with a degree in biochemistry, while homeschooling her three children, ages 10, 8 and 6.
Honors student Eva Chen worked alongside graduate researchers in project on peptides in DNA nanostructures and plans to pursue a PhD in biomedical sciences.
Matthew Lutz never intended to go to law school. He was content working in the technology consulting field as a project manager. It wasn’t until his wife, Caroline, started earning her juris doctor degree at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law that he thought about doing the same.
As Alex Blanche sat down to work on his career fair project in fifth grade, little did he know that the assignment would spark a lifelong passion for astrophysics. With a poster titled "Why I Want to be an Astronomer," Blanche’s fascination with space began to take shape and evolve into a career path.
During Madeleine Steppel's first year, she quickly realized her interest in religion and decided to explore that by changing her major to religious studies with a concentration in religion, politics and global affairs. Not long after, she learned of the certificate program in political history and leadership and decided it would fit well with her interests and future career goals.
Anna Gutmann is graduating with her bachelor’s degree in philosophy with a concentration in morality, politics and law and is the Dean's Medalist for the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.
Skyler Bean was born on an U.S. Air Force base in Saudi Arabia not too long before the Gulf War began. He was evacuated from the kingdom along with his mother and sister, while his father stayed to carry out Operation Desert Shield, and eventually, Operation Desert Storm. “My research interests are a result of my desire to understand the confluence of multivalent, transnational causes which precipitated my parents’ presence, and by extension, my presence, in the kingdom,” Bean said.
Lennon Audrain won’t have to send out resumes after graduation or go hunting for a job. He’s already entrenched in his field. “In February I defended my dissertation, and by March I started my new job,” said Audrain, who will be awarded his PhD in educational policy and evaluation from ASU in May and is now a research assistant professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. The 23-year-old leads the strategy on the Next Education Workforce Initiative's Teacher and School Leader Grant.
Cora Souffront collaborated with the American Holistic Nurses Association, or AHNA, chapter on a project to help students on the Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses reduce their stress. The honors student facilitated a program called Talking Circles and created a digital toolkit to replicate them on other university campuses as her honors thesis.
Mackenzie Wright will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Science in anthropology. She hopes to become "a collections manager or Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act coordinator to ensure museum collections are up to date with legal and ethical standards."
Anusha Natarajan has made a splash at ASU as a leader, diligent student and involved community member. She has been featured in ASU News previously for being a Killam Fellow, being selected for the Henry Clay Center College Student Congress and for winning the 2022 John Lewis Youth Leadership Award from the Arizona Secretary of State's Office. However, this barely scratches the surface of what Natarajan accomplished while at ASU.
Daniella Peinado’s journey to understanding human nature began early in life. The more she learned about people and history, the more questions she had about how humans made decisions and justified their actions. Why did people behave the way they did and choose certain courses of action? Questions like this drove Peinado’s interests as she began planning her college career.
Sydney Tran has always wondered what makes people unique. As a child, she was curious about people and what made them relate. This desire to understand others increased as she entered high school and began noticing how factors such as race, culture and religion influenced identity, behavior and choices.
When Hannah Jackson chose to attend ASU, she wanted to experience life outside her hometown of Lake Havasu City. What she discovered was a diverse community filled with new friends from different cultures and perspectives, all contributing to her success as a Sun Devil.
Natalie Jenq was in her second year at ASU as a business management major when COVID-19 threw a curveball at her plans. “All the losses during the pandemic brought to light what I truly valued and how life is too short not to try for the things you love,” she said. The Turken Family Outstanding Graduating Senior added a degree in marketing and a minor in film and media production. She spent her final year at ASU editing bays and soundstages and will soon work as an actor and producer.
Rishabh Kakkar's MBA journey started during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when the supply chain dominated headlines. "It was interesting to see how involved the supply chain was with everything," he said. This spring, he is graduating as W. P. Carey School of Business' Outstanding Graduate Student.
Darrell Hill found his way back to school after a 20-year absence thanks to the Uber Education Partnership, a tuition-coverage program for qualifying Uber drivers and eligible family members to earn an undergraduate degree through ASU Online. Now Hill would like to pay it forward and use his new degree to make a difference in his community — “I’d really like to help the youth in inner cities, so I applied to Teach for America” — while also setting his sights on a master’s degree.
Lizzie Quigley was interested in exploring a variety of fields and tried a few different majors before landing on business. But she still felt something was missing. A volunteer position with ASU's Changemaker Central led her to realize that sustainability was the field she was looking for. She is graduating with dual degrees: supply chain management and sustainability with an emphasis on international development.
“Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all ways you can, as long as ever you can.” These words of principle motivated Frank Martinez throughout his time at Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU, from which he graduates this spring with a Master of Global Management.
Eden Noelle Prieve
When Eden Noelle Prieve started her academic career at ASU, she never anticipated she would be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in film. “The arts have always held importance to me, but I never thought that I would turn my ‘hobby’ into my career,” she said. “I started college as a psychology major and enjoyed it, but didn’t feel like it was my calling.” She attended some film club meetings and realized her true path.
Taking care of oneself and prioritizing mental health has always been a top priority for Katie Cormier — especially considering the hectic nature of academic coursework. In addition, understanding the journeys of others and utilizing actionable wellness tools is a top priority for this graduate of the ASU Online MBA program at the W. P. Carey School of Business.
Although Grecia Cubillas was born in Tucson, Arizona, she was raised in Santa Ana, a small town in Sonora, Mexico, and spent her formative years outside of the United States, returning when she was 16. She fully intended to move back to Mexico after high school, but an opportunity to attend ASU with the President Barack Obama Scholars Program proved life-changing.
ASU doctoral degree graduate Fantasi Nicole explored the struggles of Black women pursuing engineering doctoral degrees in her dissertation while making a difference in her community through outreach and service.
Amassing well over 200 credit hours in four years, completing a Barrett, The Honors College thesis, and graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA, three degrees, a minor and three certificates is a spectacular accomplishment for any student. But what distinguishes Isabelle Kinney’s undergraduate career at ASU is her range of experiences, particularly in original research.
Equipped with international travel experience as a young adult, Matthew Pepper knew early on that a global career was in the cards for him. Raised in a Houston suburb, Pepper had the opportunity to travel with his family around the world. These experiences delving into other cultures heavily influenced his decision to enroll in a Bachelor of Global Management program at Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Armando Montero is graduating with three degrees in political science, economics and mathematics with a focus in statistics. He is a student in Barrett, The Honors College as well as a 2022 Harry S. Truman Scholar representing Arizona. Throughout his undergraduate experience, he found multiple ways to get involved in political and community engagement.
After working for 25 years in human resources, Heather Ashworth decided to pursue her Master of Legal Studies and focus on contract administration to enhance her career skills. She had always been interested in the law, but she didn’t realize her time at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law would help her find her passion.
After serving for 21 years in the U.S. Army, raising children and sending them off to college, Tashieka Russell felt it was important to finish her education that she started before the military. Russell, who lives in Seattle, was inspired by her life experiences to pursue a degree in African and African American studies through ASU Online. She's the Dean's Medalist for the School of Social Transformation.
When Autriya Maneshni arrived in the U.S. in 2009, she learned how to speak English from watching news programs, including those on Arizona PBS. Years later, Maneshni is set to embark on her own journalism career after attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and reporting for the news division of Arizona PBS, Cronkite News.
As soon as Fares Abdullah — who hails from Dubai, United Arab Emirates — saw ASU’s political psychology program, he knew he wanted to pursue that after finishing his undergraduate degree from University of La Verne.
Kristin Leaptrott had been working as a workers’ compensation claims adjuster for five years, and being in regular contact with attorneys through her work, she eventually realized she'd rather be doing what they were doing.
Christopher Stone will achieve the highest nursing degree when he graduates from Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Advanced Nursing Practice (Family Nurse Practitioner), DNP program. It’s a major milestone for anybody but especially for Stone, a native Phoenician, who came to ASU through a less traditional route.
Learning and discovery go beyond academia — often, the greatest insights come from discovering oneself. For Christian Polo, tapping into creativity and delving into STEM resulted in surprising revelations along his journey.
Arizona native Jamie Heuremann shares how she discovered a love for supply chain management and why every student should take a personal finance class — and she expounds on the life-changing magic of effective spreadsheet organization.
While at ASU, Esmeralda Franco worked with several nonprofits and political campaigns at the local and national levels to create programs aimed at helping to engage underserved communities. Franco’s work as a Spanish program coordinator and translator for the National Domestic Workers Alliance helped people access financial, career and political resources. “There’s a lot of untapped potential with the Latinx and Chicana culture, and we haven’t explored all the ways in which we connect to those communities,” she said.
For some, discovering what they want to do is a process, and for others, their interests are clear from the start. For spring graduate Andrew Monaghan, his experience was the latter; an interest in sports, exercise and kinesiology was always at the center of his life. He graduates this spring with a PhD in exercise and nutritional sciences.
Carlos Zárate, an international student from Mexico City and a composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music, is interested in live electronics, generative systems applied to music, audiovisual art and exploring different ways in which other artistic expressions can foster musical structures. His music has been performed in festivals such as Impulse New Music Festival, PRISMS New Music Festival and more.
Cody Carter has combined his love for twirling and digital culture, creating an interactive system that sends data from a sensor on his baton to a computer. Once the data reaches the computer, depending on how he has programmed the software to respond, a stunning display of stage lights and sounds accompanies the baton twirling in real time. Carter credits his success to exploring interactive sound in a Wearable Music course.
We all notice advertisements and cookie notifications on our phones and devices – but what is the intention behind the data mining for most businesses? We talk to W. P. Carey grad Akansha Malara about the power of analytics.
Even back in elementary school, Max Pezzelle has always been intrigued by the world's unknowns. How does gravity work? What are black holes? Those were the questions he was constantly asking himself. That curiosity and pursuit of answering those questions led him to pursue a bachelor's degree in physics and a minor in mathematics.
Melissa Ballesteros' interest in global affairs, strategy, business and leadership drew her to enroll at Thunderbird School of Global Management. With a background in health care, Ballesteros plans to transition to the government sector and aspires to contribute her skills and expertise to agencies such as the U.S. State Department or Department of Commerce.
Growing up in northern Thailand, Ekkarat Ruanglertsilp was fascinated by pop artists like Britney Spears, Hilary Duff, Gwen Stefani and Miley Cyrus. He was so fascinated that his close attention to song lyrics helped improve his language skills. Ruanglertsilp is earning a PhD in linguistics and applied linguistics from ASU this spring.
A professional dancer, Tanya Dimitrov experienced an injury during her career that forced her to look at new ways of moving and connecting through dance. She said she realized during her education in the dance program at ASU that she had been using somatics to help her body heal.
Jason Bautista Pejay
Flinn Scholar Jason Bautista Pejay changed his major six times, but it took a summer honors course and a chance comment by a classmate for him to discover anthropology. "Eventually I found my place as a globetrotting, tarot-reading, Indigenous Mexican writer in the sociocultural branch of anthropology,” he said.
Tallin Speek attended an entrepreneur boot camp through the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development and developed a business specializing in wetsuits for adaptive scuba divers, which led to connections with the director of global brand strategy and marketing at GoPro, a wetsuit design firm in Western Australia, the largest wetsuit manufacturer in Thailand, and a successful pitch through ASU Changemaker Central.
Straton Rushing is graduating with an Master of Fine Arts in dramatic writing from the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. His plays have been featured with more than a dozen theater companies around the U.S. and internationally, and his work in radio theater has appeared on the “Theatrically Speaking,” “Garden of Voices” and “Between Acts” podcasts.
Lauren Harstad is graduating with a double major in chemistry and biological sciences. She says she was drawn to ASU because undergraduate students are welcomed into professors’ labs to conduct research.
Victor Oleynik has always been passionate about international business and politics, which led him to study at Thunderbird School of Global Management. Originally from Ukraine but having spent most of his life in Moscow, Oleynik knew that he needed to broaden his perspective and build cross-border connections through a degree program that would equip him with a global mindset.
During a campus visit in 2014, John “JP” Nelson briefly sat in on a graduate course being taught by ASU President Michael Crow and Professor Daniel Sarewitz. The topic, “Science, Technology and Public Affairs,” piqued his interest. The conversations from that day covered a range of topics, from government-supported funding of scientific research to the history of nuclear power. For Nelson, this experience not only influenced his decision to attend ASU for his undergraduate studies, but also helped lay the foundation of his career trajectory.
Jonathan Ko faced a unique challenge as an electrical engineering student — he lives with a disability. He is paralyzed from the neck down. While working as an attorney, Ko decided to pursue electrical engineering to advance his career in the patent field or pursue engineering outright. He was inspired by both the advances in the field that have made it possible for those with disabilities to live fulfilling lives and a fascination with learning more about computers and how they work.
If not for the ASU Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship, Sierra Lockett would not be graduating with a psychology degree — for her, the scholarship made college possible. Medallion Scholars are chosen from incoming Arizona high school students who have received the New American University Scholar Award; final recipients receive a four-year, renewable financial award of $4,000.
Joseph Kemp said Thunderbird School of Global Management's mission to empower and influence global leaders and managers who can leverage the advantages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as well as the overall school environment, attracted him to Thunderbird. "I have had the pleasure of working with classmates from different walks of life and cultural backgrounds, thanks to the (ASU Online) school environment. I even had an amazing experience interning for an accounting firm in Dublin, Ireland, which I did for my global virtual internship requirement," he said.
Angelique Jose's educational journey led her to realize that nothing could match the feeling of helping the Native American community. Though she originally planned on pursuing philosophy, Jose felt called to explore a path more aligned with her interests. Her advisor suggested taking a few courses, including justice studies. That is how she found her passion; she is graduating with dual degrees in American Indian studies and justice studies.
Working as a certified nursing assistant in a hospital and witnessing the compassionate staff there inspired Aman Garg to pursue a career in medicine. He is graduating with a degree in biochemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences with plans to apply to medical school.
Trevor Goodwin never thought he would go to graduate school, let alone learn the law. With an obsession with sports, Goodwin knew that he wanted to go into sports marketing and game presentation. An internship at Murray State University’s athletic department at the height of the pandemic solidified his plan. That led him to the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
John Paul “JP” Rabusa
John Paul “JP” Rabusa is a Filipino-American singer-songwriter, producer and engineer. With only his voice and a guitar, Rabusa has taken his talents to some of the most renowned venues in the Valley, performing music spanning from pop and R&B to musical theatre and jazz. Over the past several years, he has honed his audio production skills and is now producing for up-and-coming artists.
Cassie Harvey is graduating with a Master of Science in criminology and criminal justice from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and a Master of Legal Studies from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Harvey also was an Outstanding Graduate in May 2017, when she earned bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and in public service and public policy.
Camron Upshur is graduating this spring from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics, minor in physics and certificate of cryptography.
Dean's Medalist Madeleine Oricchio always knew she wanted to study anthropology. She came to ASU because of the university's Institute of Human Origins. "IHO is one of the leading research institutions for biological anthropology, so it made sense to apply to ASU," she said.
Nicholas Ho, a computer science and mathematics major, has carried a 4.0 GPA and engaged in high-level research throughout his undergraduate career. He will receive his bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.
Dr. June Lau was already immersed in a career in medicine — working as an emergency physician in her home country of Malaysia — when she came across Thunderbird School of Global Management. While at a career fair, Lau spoke with a Thunderbird alumnus and was instantly intrigued by the school’s unique concentrations, which she considered crucial for her desired transition to global health care.
While at ASU, Corbin Kohtz has held several paid and volunteer positions with many diverse organizations, including the Association of Human Communication, where he held two leadership positions. Kohtz supported events and social gatherings that encouraged communication students to develop community and build career readiness.
Electrical engineering graduate student Swetha Manickavasagam pursued her passion for diversifying STEM education through extracurricular activities. She volunteered for organizations that advocate for girls' STEM education and became heavily involved in ASU's chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.
Escaping natural disasters while growing up, then witnessing the ravages of violence during his deployment around the world, U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Cooney experienced a firsthand view of the emergency management field.
Makiyah Murray decided she was going to get a college degree — in part because so few people in her town had one. She said she grew up in a tiny community where less than 50% had college degrees. On her third attempt at college, and with the support of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, she found success in the classroom and is graduating with a degree in community advocacy and social policy.
Aryana Gonzales chose to pursue a Master of Science in health care delivery in response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. “My program is an interdisciplinary field that addresses the complex needs of our current healthcare system in the U.S.,” Gonzales said. "I became more curious about how our social determinants impact our overall health and future health outcomes.”
Lisa Knemeyer Skiles has already found success in her career. She is a well-respected architect and an adjunct instructor at the University of Arkansas. But she is also a lifelong learner. After receiving her Master of Science in biomimicry from the School of Complex Adaptive Systems, Skiles looks forward to incorporating her biomimicry education into her architectural practice and into the university courses she teaches.
Angel Jose Sanchez
It can be difficult for a first-generation college student to fully understand just what that status means. That was the case for College of Health Solutions graduate Angel Jose Sanchez. He learned to appreciate its importance while pursuing his Bachelor of Science in public health at ASU.
Hayley Rose will tell you she always felt she vibed better with teenagers than adults. It was no surprise then when the 34-year-old mom of two decided to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a focus on mental health and suicide prevention for adolescents.
After graduating from the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering with his master’s degree in electrical engineering, Ashwin Chandwani decided to continue his education with a doctoral degree and pursue research in advanced power electronics converters. His doctoral research in power electronics converters led to 12 journal and 18 conference publications and two patents pending or issued.
Chelsea Krantsevich is graduating with a PhD degree in applied mathematics. Her other accolades include the 2021 GPSA Outstanding Research Award, 2021 NSF INTERN Fellowship, 2019 Student Leadership Award and 2019 Research Training Group Fellowship.
Brooke Zanon already was keenly interested in human rights around the world before she entered ASU, so majoring in global studies and political science seemed the obvious courses of study. Zanon said that her interest sparked into passion after taking a class in human rights with Simon Adams, president and CEO of the international Center for Victims of Torture.
Patrick Wojcik was drawn to Arizona State University for its nationally recognized engineering program and innovative culture. He is looking forward to using his degree in informatics to make a positive change in the world, helping implement innovative solutions and streamline processes.
When Ananay Arora taught himself to code at age 11, he had no idea where that would take him. The years since have been full of rewarding and memorable experiences, including the Google Developer Student Club. Arora founded the club as an undergraduate student to help others learn to develop software and apps. Over the last four years, it has grown to more than 1,000 members.
Ruth Beadle, a Dean’s Medalist, is graduating this spring not only with a BA in English (creative writing), but with minors in such disparate disciplines as mathematics, art history and French. Not surprisingly, Beadle is a proponent of a holistic approach to learning — not a right-brain-versus-left-brain one.
For a family who has never experienced college, even getting their arms around the nomenclature can be a struggle. “My folks didn’t know what ‘undergrad’ meant,” said Marcus Stafford, “let alone ‘bachelor’s’ or ‘associate’ degrees. It was a learning process for all of us.” Stafford graduates this May as the Dean’s Medalist at ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.
Simonne Campos moved to Arizona from the Bay Area and was looking for new challenges and projects she could contribute to that were greater than herself. When she was accepted at the School of Transborder Studies at ASU, she found a community she could advocate for and see her impact within.
Michelle Houchins has been inspired by women in engineering and, in the future, hopes to be a leader making STEM and technology accessible to girls.
Brendan Dee Adair chose to study environmental and resource management after gaining exposure to the field while deployed with the U.S. Army in Romania. During his undergraduate studies at ASU, the transfer student got hands-on experience as a facilities engineer intern for FDM Energy Innovations, where he helped develop the battery system in development for storing electricity at ASU’s West campus.
Luke Rowland created Sun Devil Stand Up in the fall of 2022 to help aspiring comedians learn the basics of stand-up comedy and apply it to their joke writing. The club has collaborated with other student organizations in a variety of fun and funny ways, says Rowland. "We visit other ASU clubs 'on their turf' and learn the skills they have to offer in exchange for our comedians performing some light-hearted jokes via a little travel microphone."
Madeleine Zheng is multilingual and multitalented, has worked on multiple research projects and won much recognition in her undergraduate career. Zheng, who speaks Spanish and Chinese in addition to English, will graduate with two bachelor’s degrees, one in biochemistry and the other in Asian languages (Chinese). Barrett, The Honors College at ASU has named her a 2023 Outstanding Graduate for Research.
As Lauren Kuhman tackled her coursework in nonprofit leadership and management, she came upon what she called one of the biggest revelations in her time as an ASU undergraduate: People, not organizations, are responsible for effecting change.
It wasn’t a straight path to a degree for Michelle Randolph, who took several breaks from classes as she juggled various creative projects. But after some starts and stops — and a starring role in the wildly popular television series “1923” — Randolph is graduating with honors this spring from ASU, earning a BA in film (film and media studies) from the Department of English and ASU Online.
Ariah Montoya enjoys art and striking up conversations with complete strangers. Montoya had an “aha” moment when she realized that marketing was an ideal combination of both these passions. After graduation and a trip around Italy, she'll be headed to a full-time position on Intel’s Global Events team as a marketing specialist.
Honors student Lainey Waldman is graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science and a minor in economics. Not only is she the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences Spring 2023 Dean’s Medalist but Waldman will also receive the Moeur Award for maintaining a 4.0 cumulative GPA in eight consecutive fall and spring semesters.
While pursuing her PhD at Arizona State University, Brianna Avalos focused her dissertation research on the way humans initiate, manage and terminate friendships, and discovered multiple reasons why friendship breakups are so stressful.
A fascination with satellites and space exploration technology lured Leslie Miller into engineering — specifically, she said, “the vast opportunities electrical engineering has to offer.” After graduation, Miller plans to enroll in ASU's accelerated master’s degree in electrical engineering program before moving to Los Angeles to work as an engineer for the Space Force.
Mia Ramos turned to the idea of “play” when the pandemic began to close spaces for students to network, collaborate and partake in extracurricular activities at ASU. She graduates this spring with a degree in digital culture with a concentration in film.
Andrew Onodera followed his passion for journalism to the Cronkite School, which named him an Outstanding Graduate Student this May. He has made the most of his time at ASU, working as the multimedia director at The State Press; serving as a producer for Cronkite News; and landing an internship at 12News in Phoenix, where he was promoted to part-time assignment desk editor before getting hired as a full-time producer.
Claire Blaske’s fascination with the natural world began at an early age when her father, a geologist, would take her on trips to explore the breathtaking beauty of national parks across the United States. Those early experiences ignited a passion within her for the wonders of the universe and inspired her to pursue a career in astrophysics.
Austin Lamar Wiggins has always been interested in innovation. He joined the military right out of high school, and for the last few years of his career he has been serving as a consultant on a variety of innovation-related projects with the Air Force and Department of Defense. Working in this space prompted him to look for more formal innovation education to supplement his practical experience.
Anna White knew from a young age she wanted to pursue health care as a profession. This May, she will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in nursing with plans to specialize in pediatric critical care. She hopes to get a position in an intensive care unit within a new graduate nurse residency program.
A lifelong love of learning led Ben Kalahar to pursue higher education. The first in his immediate family to graduate from college, he is earning a Master of Human Resources and Employment Law from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and ASU Online.
Originally from New Iberia, Louisiana, Amber Simon got the opportunity while at ASU to work with the Psyche mission and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team and was a ASU/NASA Space Grant recipient.
Colin Bonini (with furry friends Cody and Mellow)
Fiction writer Colin Bonini’s characters plumb the depths of human experience. With stories that feature complex emotional situations as well as complex creative situations, such as an encounter with a minotaur in a cave, Bonini employs a gregarious writing sensibility that was honed with close mentorship at ASU.
Raised in a tiny apartment in Gurgaon, India, Aditya Khuller always knew he wanted to do something space-related, with hopes to one day work for NASA. This spring, he is graduating from ASU with a PhD in planetary science and geology — his third degree from ASU — and then will begin working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Jason Alexandre approaches graduation more confident in his technical skills and as a self-sufficient professional ready to take on the job he has lined up after graduation: working as a systems engineer I for the whole-life engineering department at Raytheon Missiles & Defense in Tucson.
During her time at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Nao Yamamoto’s research focused on mathematical modeling for infectious diseases, specifically COVID-19 and HIV. She is earning a PhD in applied mathematics for life and social sciences.
As a child, school field trips to musuems in Chicago piqued Ruby Maderafont’s interest in history, culture, art and science. Maderafont combined these interests as a student in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and will receive a bachelor’s degree in museum studies with a minor in Spanish this spring.
Accepted to every dental program he applied to, Spencer Bigler will attend Midwestern University in Arizona on a military scholarship with the U.S. Navy, then do an oral and maxillofacial surgery residency at a naval hospital before serving his country as a Navy dental surgeon.
When her two children were born prematurely, Alicia Lewis spent four months with them in the NICU. Her children's health battle motivated her to return to school to better understand the health care industry quantitatively. Now, Lewis, an online student, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in economics and will begin her PhD this fall.
At 14 years old, Jackson Carrion attended his first ASU football game with his grandpa, who was a season ticket holder. Since then, Carrion has been a Sun Devil for life. He is graduating with a master’s degree in biomedical informatics from the College of Health Solutions before heading to MIT. (And his answer to "favorite spot on campus" is a first for our grad profiles!)
Throughout her undergraduate career in The Design School, Lindsey Brannen combined great creativity with a knack for problem-solving to come up with innovative solutions. Brannen, also a student in Barrett, The Honors College, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in industrial design and has been named Barrett’s Outstanding Graduate for Creativity.
John Augustus Rose II
John Augustus Rose II is graduating this spring with a Master of Science in psychology from ASU Online and The College, and it is only the latest achievement in a career filled with accomplishments. Rose earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from ASU Online before pursuing his master’s degree and is now considering a doctoral program as well.
Everyone’s Sun Devil story is different. For Cody Weyhrich, his story did not start in Arizona. Weyhrich began his graduate school journey at Virginia Tech, but when seeing the opportunities at ASU and the Biodesign Institute, he knew he could not miss out.
After a middle school teacher recommended a program at ASU called Startalk, a a two-week intensive Chinese language summer program, Emma Strouse developed a wholehearted passion for the langauge.
Trixia Dela Rosa
When people think of being in a band, an interest in engineering does not often come to mind. Trixia Dela Rosa proves that idea wrong, splitting her time between her music and the lab.
Christina Grey’s path to the law wasn’t a straight line. She received her undergraduate degree in mathematics and worked as a high school math teacher for several years. Ultimately, a desire to help others took over and she found her way to law school.
Connor Ellsworth is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sustainability and geographic information systems, programs he chose to study after spending months aiding in the cleanup and recovery efforts after the 2018 Carr Fire in Northern California.
Kwam Kassim’s love of coding inspired him to pursue his Bachelor of Science in software engineering, but it was thanks to the hard work and dedication of his mom that he was able to apply to ASU Online through the ASU-Uber partnership.
Michelle Boutin’s time in the Air Force took her from the rural Midwest to the West Coast, but she didn’t have to travel a single mile to earn her college degree. The military veteran and mother of two is graduating from the School of Life Sciences with her Bachelor of Science in conservation biology and ecology via ASU Online.
During her time as an undergraduate student pursuing concurrent degrees in Spanish and organizational leadership, N’kiedra Nisbett worked tirelessly to balance working full-time, a dense class load and school work.
Chloe-Marie H. Fox
Chloe-Marie H. Fox is graduating with concurrent bachelor’s degrees that may seem like a mixed-media mashup: one in history (with a focus on religion) from the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, and the other in robotics engineering from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “The first is my passion, and I picked it up for fun and the love of learning,” said Fox. “The second is my career.”
Haley Andresen believes if there is one sign language phrase everyone needs to learn, it should be, “Nice to meet you.” She is one of a set of triplets — two girls and one boy. Born and raised in New Jersey, she and her brother, like her mother, were born with hearing loss and are legally deaf, speaking sign language at home.
Valeria Reyes will graduate this May with degrees in French and justice studies, alongside certificates in disability studies, human rights and teaching English to speakers of other languages. She ultimately wants to use her degrees to pursue a career in teaching.
Zachary Goode was surprised to learn that many of the undergraduate programs in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering offered research experience. This consideration launched him into an engineering degree with a concentration in robotics at the Polytechnic campus.
Graduating with a bachelor's degree in business (corporate accounting), Teona Kurdadze credits her academic success — including graduating with honors and making the dean’s list twice — to staying focused on her goals and using time management and organizational skills to manage family and school obligations.
Entering college, Rebecca Kittridge thought her path forward was clear: become a counselor or therapist. But then her “aha” moment happened her freshman year, and Kittridge found herself adding a second major to her class load: justice studies.
Matthew Joanes' "one true passion" from an early age has been sports — and this May he is graduating with his bachelor's degree in sports business from the W. P. Carey School of Business. In the fall, he'll begin pursuing a Master of Sports Law and Business from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU.
When Paige Oskolkoff entered ASU, she was excited to have the opportunity to grow a community — which is why she took it upon herself to create that community through her education and experiences outside the classroom as a medical scribe.
ASU graduate Antwon Eason plans to get a job in the project management field to gain enough experience to earn his Project Management Professional certificate and then work toward starting his own consulting business.
Learning about health disparities and seeing the gap in such areas as health care and food access inspired Sarah Uehara to become a dietitian. Uehara, graduating with a Master of Science in nutritional science, is being honored as the College of Health Solutions’ Outstanding Graduate Student.
Jason Miech, a PhD student of environmental analytical chemistry in the School of Molecular Sciences, is graduating this spring after an academic career of research focusing on atmospheric chemistry, including a study on the effect of COVID-19 travel restrictions on Phoenix air quality.
Vanessa Aguiar knows firsthand what it means to represent family and be a catalyst for change. Attending and completing college as a first-generation student poses significant challenges and is an enormous accomplishment for any student. But Aguiar went above and beyond — she is graduating with degrees in French, global studies, philosophy and political science.
Sarah Weiss, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' spring 2023 Dean’s Medalist for the School of Life Sciences, is graduating with her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a concentration in genetics, cell and developmental biology. She is also a member of Barrett, the Honors College, and she minored in studio art through the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.
Florian Schneider thought he was done with academia. He had already received an undergraduate and graduate degree in meteorology in Germany and believed his school days were behind him. However, an experience he had with some other solo travelers was just the push he needed. Schneider is graduating with a PhD in sustainability.
For Izzy Huckabee, pursuing a degree in astrophysics from the School of Earth and Space Exploration meant more than just finding answers about our universe and beyond. Fueled by a passion for change, Huckabee leveraged her time at ASU to talk about issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM.
A family legacy brought Ashley Torres to ASU, and where she goes from here will be propelled by the knowledge and passion she developed during her time as a Sun Devil.
Scholar-athlete Flynn Murphy, who played goalie on the ASU women's lacrosse team and was a student in Barrett, The Honors College, graduated in three years with a bachelor's degree in sports business.
Wyatt Appel, a Barrett, The Honors College student who graduated with degrees in business (law and global politics) from the W. P. Carey School of Business, says his aim is to become a public interest attorney and that he wants to be involved in impact litigation and policy work concerning human rights and youth advocacy.
This May, Maryam Alizada will become the first of the 61 Asia University for Women student refugees to graduate with a degree from Arizona State University, earning a Master of Science in finance from the W. P. Carey School of Business.
Julian Hill was a powerhouse in the swimming pool and in the classroom at ASU. He graduates this spring with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences (conservation biology and ecology) from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.
After 20 years living in the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania, Alenga Alokola and his family relocated to the U.S. in pursuit of a better life. In 2020, Alokola completed his bachelor’s degree in global management from ASU’s West campus, and this May, Alenga will graduate with a Master in Global Management with a concentration in global affairs from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.
While Joe Pitts was already on a path toward policymaking and leadership through his congressional internship in the summer of 2019, it wasn't until a fellow Sun Devil recommended a class that this path truly began to develop. Fast-forward to this spring, and Pitts is planning on embarking on a journey to Washington, D.C., for a position as a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.
Patrick Kenney (left), dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, presents a posthumous degree to Sebastían Ramírez Amaya's family and friends.
The joyous atmosphere of this year's convocation ceremony for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was also marked by loss and sadness for Fernando Ramírez Cortes and his wife as they waited to accept a degree for their son, Sebastían Ramírez Amaya, who died last year.