This fall Arizona State University will confer nearly 11,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees on students during commencement Dec. 11.
These graduates come from a variety of backgrounds and have studied a diverse range of disciplines — but something that many of them have in common is their determination and desire to make a difference in the world.
Here, we take a look at just some of the many outstanding graduates who will soon make their mark on the world. (Check back as we will continue to update this page.)
At the start of his undergraduate journey, Rhad Fakhoury was studying to go into medicine. However, he ended up finding his passion elsewhere after a failed test and a cultural anthropology course led him to major in anthropology.
Ted Friedli's path to graduation was put on hold in 1990 when, as a student-athlete, he suffered significant injuries and slipping grades. Thirty years later he was able to reenroll thanks to the “Sun Devils for Life” scholarship program and is graduating this fall with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
In the groove of a successful career, established author Lily Anderson decided to go back to school to officially pursue her curiosity about humanity and its various life stages.
In 2020, from her Central Pennsylvania home, Susan Kiskis obtained an undergraduate degree from ASU Online, and this fall she will graduate with a Master in Science in global health from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.
As a first-generation college student, Malak El-Jada said she had to work to overcome imposter syndrome. With the guidance of professors and advisors, El-Jada found her calling in global health and succeeded at ASU.
Alayna Taylor did not let the struggles of freshman year hold her back, and after discussing long-term goals and passions with her advisor, she switched from a political science major to justice studies and African and African American studies within the School of Social Transformation.
Merrill Magowan is a search-and-rescue controller in the United States Coast Guard but is taking steps to become an aviator. He knew he was missing one important thing to get there: education. ASU is helping Magowan to realize his dream.
Meghna Chowdhury has a passion for shaping public policy for juvenile justice. She’s graduating this fall as the ASU Department of Psychology Dean’s Medalist and has her sights set on law school.
Graduating this December with a master’s degree in psychology, Olivia Maras is on a mission to understand the intricacies of romantic relationships.
Charles Yellow Horse served in the United States Air Force for eight years and then turned to ASU Online for his higher education. Yellow Horse obtained his Bachelor of Science in 2021, and this semester he is graduating with a Master of Science in global health.
Janis Palma has been immersed in the legal system for four decades as a certified English-Spanish interpreter. But the Puerto Rico native, now living in San Antonio, knew she needed to understand the law better to translate it effectively for her clients in their pursuit of justice.
Bethany Kolbaba Kartchner is by all accounts a true Renaissance woman. She has a master's degree in French literature and is about to graduate from ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences with a PhD in biochemistry.
A force in developmental psychology at ASU, Jeri Sasser’s journey is marked by a commitment to mentorship, groundbreaking research and a unique initiative guiding underrepresented students in STEM.
Piper Heiligenstein’s undergraduate experience at Arizona State University was a combination of academics, adventure, prestigious research opportunities and personal autonomy.
Aidan Carson's venture into civil engineering stemmed from a family friend's surveying firm. Now, he aims to contribute to large-scale aviation projects.
Ellie Smith is graduating in December from ASU with a bachelor's degree in film (film and media studies). She rounded out her analytical, critical studies with practical experience by completing an industry-focused internship, participating in two summer film institutes at UCLA and studying art and architecture abroad in Rome.
For decades, Don Christoff was acutely aware of ASU. He had always been curious about studying here, and he watched his daughter graduate before deciding to enroll himself. After looking through the degree programs, Christoff found a perfect fit with the Bachelor of Arts in innovation in society and a minor in sustainability.
Domenika Turkovic, originally from Zagreb, Croatia, has made Tempe her home since arriving at ASU nearly four years ago to play tennis. After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology at ASU in 2022 while playing the sport she’s loved for 17 years, she decided to seek her Master of Sports Law and Business.
Alayna Taylor did not let the struggles of freshman year hold her back. After discussing long-term goals and passions with an advisor, she switched from a political science major to justice studies and African and African American studies within the School of Social Transformation.
When Staçia Meconiates was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a genetic collagen disorder that affects their ligaments, tendons and heart valves, it impacted their previous experience in music performance — so for their thesis work, they focused on creating interactive multimedia that is accessible to those with disabilities.
As a daughter of an immigrant, Azalea Roman knew her calling was to create a better society for communities. This fall, she graduates with degrees in justice studies and women, gender and sexuality studies, as well as a minor in Spanish and a certificate in human rights.
During her time at ASU, Jamie Winterton brought extensive experience in research to both her role as a PhD student and her former position as the senior director of research strategy for ASU’s Global Security Initiative.
As a full-time gunner’s mate for the U.S. Coast Guard, Kimberly Zsuffa needed to find a degree program that fit her schedule. That’s where ASU Online came in. Zsuffa is graduating this fall with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences.
In 2009, Bruce Ward was incarcerated and served 11 years. When he was released in 2020, he began his education at ASU only nine days later. Now, Ward is set to graduate this fall with a BFA in sculpture, a minor in architectural studies and aspirations to begin his MFA soon after.
It was during high school that Kevin Sinwelski became interested in medicine. But he wanted to know more than just what it does — he wanted to know how it works. This December, the Clearwater, Forida, resident will graduate with a degree in biochemistry.
Dylan Fitzgibbons, who says he chose to study ceramics for its versatility, will graduate from the School of Art with an MFA this December and plans to continue his journey of learning, teaching, traveling, exploring, questioning the art world, and, of course, making art.
While pursuing his business administration degree, Marine Corps veteran Dawson Hendricks juggled responsibilities as a father, husband, full-time mortgage lender and community advocate, all while maintaining over a 4.0 GPA.
Anthony Liardo chose to obtain his electrical engineering degree online through Arizona State University’s partnership with Uber Eats, which enabled him to obtain full tuition coverage. He chose to major in electrical engineering to satisfy his fascination with all aspects of electrical and electronic technology.
One of the most memorable lessons Taylor Merwin, a soon-to-be graduate of the Master of Sports Law and Business (MSLB) program at ASU Law, learned as a student was the importance of sowing the seeds of relationships. That lesson will be important in his future career in the sports industry. Between the relationships he has built through the MLSB program and his current position as a community impact intern with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Merwin feels prepared to take the next steps in his career.
New York native and Barrett, The Honors College transfer student Fajr Ahmad is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communication and representing the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication as its Dean’s Medalist.
During the Global Intensive Experience in Belize, offered through the School of Sustainability, ASU Online student Kadison Willis learned she’d been offered the opportunity to work as an environmental justice intern for the White House Council on Environmental Quality in Washington, D.C.
Aspiring ecologist and College of Integrative Sciences and Arts notable graduate Margaret Huck’s research is contributing directly to protect Arizona rivers and wildlife as part of efforts led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
After transitioning to civilian life, McVay knew she couldn’t ignore the writing itch any longer. She enrolled in Arizona State University’s fully online Master of Arts in English program in January 2023 and is graduating this December.
Before coming to ASU, Chitray “Ray” Eddy was considering graduate school but wasn’t interested in pursuing a degree in business. After participating in a work project supplying donated mattresses to families in need, everything changed.
Once Thomas Spencer decided to study computer science and focus on cybersecurity, he found a passion for learning and helping others start their own journeys.
Colton Cagle was prepared for the financial challenges, but the mental aspect of being undecided in his major took him by surprise. All of that changed when one of his mentors sent him an article on Elaine Welteroth, the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue and one of the judges on Project Runway. Reinvigorated, Cagle turned to the Starbucks College Achievement Plan.
Zachary Norris cultivated his passion for fixing bicycles into a dynamic college career and a promising future. He achieved top honors at ASU while competing in engineering competitions on a national level and mentoring students in the NASA L'SPACE program.
College of Integrative Sciences and Arts notable graduate Megan Armstrong’s social science research delves into the positive impacts of social emotional learning
Nidhi Bansal has long harbored a desire to delve into food and nutrition. She and her family had already transitioned to a plant-based lifestyle when she decided to pursue her Bachelor of Science in food and nutrition entrepreneurship through ASU Online and the College of Health Solutions in 2018.
Rachel Einecker is graduating in December with a Bachelor of Science in environmental chemistry and the prestigious School of Molecular Sciences Dean’s Medal in honor of her scholastic achievements.
When Danyela Hinojosa graduated from high school in 2002, she embarked on a journey of self-discovery that included culinary school and a trip around the world. At the conclusion of her travels, Hinojosa returned home to Corpus Christi, Texas, and started working at a local Starbucks. She was also determined to complete a college degree — which she accomplished through the Starbucks College Achievement Program.
Samuel Watson knew he wanted to double-major in chemical engineering and economics at ASU, but he couldn’t shake that feeling that something was missing — so he added a third degree, a Bachelor of Arts in Asia studies.
Gina Bounds already had a 20-year career in the tech industry before she came to ASU. A move to Phoenix invigorated her focus on pursuing her degree, which she did first at Paradise Valley Community College and later, with the efficient help of the MyPath2ASU transfer tool, through ASU Online.
Robert Fuller, who came to ASU with a master's degree in history from the University of Texas-Arlington, knew he would continue to focus his research on apocalypticism — a unique interdisciplinary field — and ASU offered him the means to do so.
Sydney Tepper, a New American University Scholarship recipient, is graduating three semesters early, saying she learned to advocate for herself early on in her academic journey. That self-advocacy and self-awareness, along with her humanities degree, opened up a new pathway she didn’t realize could be a viable career for her: athletics.
William Holly has lived in many places, but Arizona is the place he has felt most at home. When applying to PhD programs, Holly knew he would be researching the sacred ancestral lands in the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, so getting into ASU’s history program was ideal.
This December is the culmination of six years of study for Michi Ito, who graduates from ASU Online with a BA in English. It’s no problem that English is Ito’s second language; she excelled in it to graduate with a 4.0 GPA.
Esperanza Biggs knew from a young age she wanted to be a pediatric nurse and that she wanted to get her degree from ASU, inspired by two experiences from her childhood. Now the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation will be working in the hematology/oncology unit at Phoenix Children’s.
In 2012, ASU partnered with the Mastercard Foundation to provide access to quality education to high-achieving African students who face socioeconomic barriers. A final cohort of 10 scholars is underway, leveraging the degree programs offered through ASU Online. This fall, five scholars from the last cohort will graduate from the program.
As technologies with unprecedented aptitude, adaptability and influence proliferate across every industry, it’s up to tomorrow’s leaders to learn how to implement those technologies responsibly. As the first technological leadership student to be awarded a Dean’s Medal at ASU, Benjamin Pan is set to step into that role.
Sunil Devaraj came to ASU to obtain a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering or biology. Once he got to campus, however, he made a dramatic decision — he switched to a philosophy major.
As the founder and president of Nutritional Manufacturing Services based in Chandler, Arizona, Shannon Heying is always looking for ways to become a better leader and provide the highest-quality nutritional products and solutions to her customers.
Evan Koutsogiannis’ passion for music and video games started at a young age. Now, he will receive a Bachelor of Arts in media arts and sciences with a focus in music from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and a minor in Mandarin Chinese this fall.
Sometimes in the pursuit of something you’ve always wanted, you realize you don’t actually even like it. Sarah Bruder came to this conclusion during her third semester of nursing school. After talking with her advisor, she learned about Edson College’s Health Entrepreneurship and Innovation program.
College of Integrative Sciences and Arts notable graduate Jacoby Geenen pushed the boundaries of their own self-expression while supporting others facing similar challenges during their time at ASU.
Heather Varsalona’s goal of getting a college degree has been twenty years in the making. This fall, Varsalona will not only graduate with two degrees — global health and communication — she will be able to show her children the results of perseverance and achieving your goals.
First-generation college student Austin Adams is graduating from ASU this fall with a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science. He will be honored as the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences 2023 Dean’s Medalist at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ convocation in December.
How does Gue Yong Lee describe his time at Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University? “Incredibly fruitful and knowledge enriching.”
Managing work and family, among other duties, can make pursuing a degree seem like an impossible task, but for Lynette Smith-Clay, she found that ASU Online and the Master of Science in global health program offered just what she needed to be successful.
There were many times during Shanna Doucet’s pursuit of a degree that she could have given up, but she persevered with the support of her family, faith and program advisors. Doucet will graduate this December with a PhD in nursing and healthcare innovation.
Yannik Haller discovered a passion for molecular biology during an undergraduate immunology class. “In this class I learned about the molecular basis of life and how everything is intertwined on a molecular level,” said Haller, who is graduating with a PhD in molecular biology.
After an 18-year pause, Vanessa O'Neal returned to college and earned a Bachelor of Global Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management. During her time at ASU, she was honored with the Dean’s Circle Award for exceptional leadership, as well as the prestigious Barton Kyle Yount Award for exemplifying the principles of scholarship, accomplishment and character at Thunderbird.
Audrey Schlichting is graduating magna cum laude with two bachelor’s degrees — one in aeronautical management technology (professional flight) and another in engineering (mechanical engineering systems). She has accepted a job as a flight deck crew operations engineer with Boeing.
A daughter of immigrant parents, Mariam Khan said she feels fortunate to have access to education, and this perspective empowered her to make the most of her time at ASU.
When Alena McQuarter enrolled at ASU, it didn’t take long for her to discover her true passion. This December the now-14-year-old graduates with her undergraduate degree in biological sciences (biomedical sciences) and is one of the fall 2023 recipients of the Dean’s Medal.
Rebecca Striffler gained a passion for journalism when she joined her high school yearbook program. Her passion continued to grow after she visited ASU's Cronkite School during an Open Door event. Now a graduating student herself, Striffler will be able to share about her experiences at Cronkite's fall 2023 convocation ceremony, where she will serve as the student speaker.
The practice of law and the practice of theater have one major thing in common: performance. That’s according to Zach Rufa, who is graduating from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law this fall with his Juris Doctor. Before attending ASU Law, Rufa was a playwright and artist living and working in New York.
In a world where science often intertwines with the unexpected, new 2023 fall graduate Ayesha Babbrah has journeyed from a curiosity with the wooly mammoth to a career in biotechnology.
Arizona State University double-alum music student Julian Tuan Anh Nguyen will graduate in December from the School of Music, Dance and Theatre with a Doctor of Musical Arts in violin performance.
Most people who complete their degree gain a great education, a community of friends and a more fruitful career. For Prerna Rodney, she received all of this and more, ascending to many leadership roles within the Thunderbird School of Global Management — and ended up meeting her husband Isaac through the program as well.
First-generation college student Azucena “Suzie” Villalobos-Lopez will receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology and two certificates — one in law and human behavior and another in transformation and change.
Courtney Robinson’s passion for sports began as a child growing up in a family where athletics were often the center of conversation. She carried that love of sports through her time at Arizona State University, where she’s graduating with a master's degree in sports journalism.
Magen Martinez, who is graduating with a master’s degree in biomedical diagnostics, is also a full-time laboratory operations manager at Tricore Reference Laboratories in New Mexico. But before those two things, she is a single parent to her daughter, which she says has helped her thrive in pursuit of her higher education.
After starting to study exercise science during his undergrad, College of Health Solutions graduate Tanner Boro found his passion in sports nutrition. Now, he's graduating with a master's degree in nutrition science and using his thesis project to test a new electrolyte sports drink.
Veteran Lucas Woyton is charting a new path as a legal paraprofessional after earning his Master of Legal Studies from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.
Being the first person in her immediate family to graduate college and earn a Master of Human Resources and Employment Law (MHREL) with an emphasis in conflict resolution while managing a full-time career was no easy task for Miranda Duffrin. But that's exactly what she will have accomplished when she graduates in December.
Every student's journey to graduation is different. For Vianey Garcia Leal, she never would have imagined her path as a winding road that would ultimately lead to a passion in public policy and advocacy. Vianey is a senior in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions studying public service and public policy — but her pathway to ASU didn’t begin there.
Angelo “Vo Vera” Sapienza is graduating in December from the School of Music, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. During his time at Arizona State University, he, along with his street arts collective, has received more than 20 grants, including funding he received as a student. These arts and culture, academic and event grants helped Vo Vera develop at least seven community events.
Jacob Patterson, who has earned a bachelor's degree in kinesiology from the College of Health Solutions, let a lifelong passion help guide his studies: basketball.
Without ASU's generosity and commitment to balancing athletics and academics, international student Juan José García Mesa might not have embarked on his transformative journey toward earning a PhD in biological design at the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
A Phoenix native and child of ASU Associate Professor Kathryn Nakagawa, Thea Eigo decided that they wanted to go out of state for college to experience a new area. Soon after their first semester began, they realized that ASU was calling them back. They got involved on campus through a number of student organizations, and they are graduating as the Dean’s Medalist for the School of Social Transformation.
Albert Serna Jr. wanted to be a journalist for as long as he can remember. He has now completed his Master of Arts in investigative journalism from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Investigative journalism as a focus grew out of my experience with reporting. I wanted to tell deeper stories that facilitated change,” he said.
When Alexander Graf’s sister earned two bachelor’s degrees through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP), he sought to follow in her footsteps. This fall, he will graduate with four bachelor’s degrees in history, philosophy, political science and religious studies through the Starbucks and ASU partnership program.
Only a year after appearing on the list of notable 2022 graduates from ASU News, soccer star and classroom wizard Lieske Carleer is back on the 2023 list as she graduates with her master’s degree in clinical exercise physiology. Carleer, from Winterswijk, Netherlands, is being honored as the College of Health Solutions' Outstanding Graduate.
Originally from Livingston and Great Falls, Montana, Rebecca Chatham-Vazquez came to Arizona State University in 2018 to pursue a PhD in English (English education). But she wasn’t just a student. While studying, attending conferences, conducting research and writing a dissertation, she also made huge differences in the community.
Neha Yeturu, graduating from the School of Molecular Sciences, looks to help others through medical school and exploring solutions to health care access. While at ASU, Yeturu learned the value of community and that great things can be achieved when working with others.
Manuel Lewis — graduating with a degree in anthropology from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change — is a full-time emergency telephone operator for the Gila River Indian Community. Lewis plans to apply for law school and continue to do work in the public service arena for Indigenous communities. “Most people think that the common experience uniting first-generation students is being the first, but, if you ask me, it’s our commitment to ensuring we’re not the last,” he said.
North Dakota native Katelyn Matter is graduating from the College of Health Solutions with a bachelor’s degree in medical studies. Matter is a recipient of the Moeur Award, an award that requires the student to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA while attending ASU. Matter’s sorority, Pi Beta Phi, and her sorority sisters were some of the biggest supporting factors in her ability to earn this award.
From an early age, Ciara Ruiz-Earle had firsthand, family experience with the criminology and criminal justice field. Her mother was a child abuse victim advocate. Ruiz-Earle, the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s fall 2023 Outstanding Graduate, developed her own passion for working with children navigating the repercussions of trauma and abuse, founding a nonprofit organization that directly impacts the lives of child victims of violent crimes.
Mutumwinka Rose, the School of Social Work’s fall 2023 Outstanding Graduate, said she wishes that the social worker who was assigned to her family when they immigrated to the U.S. from Rwanda had been less pressed for time and more culturally competent. That experience inspired her to pursue social work and help individuals who may be experiencing the things she went through.
At age 4, Chloe Ward already knew she wanted to pursue veterinary medicine. Eighteen years later, she is making her childhood dreams come true. Ward, an applied biological sciences major concentrating in preveterinary medicine, is wrapping up a stellar undergraduate career boasting 40 credits from Barrett, The Honors College and more than 4,000 hours of preveterinary clinical experience, research projects and volunteer work.
Coming from a family of doctors, Asim Osman knows he wants to be involved in medicine. From a very young age, it seemed like his destiny. “Medicine is something really prevalent in my family,” Osman said. The College of Health Solutions graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in medical studies this December.
After spending his undergraduate years studying public service and public policy, Christopher Weddigen — the School of Public Affairs' fall 2023 Outstanding Graduate — said he has come to a deeper understanding about the role of government in society. One of his clearest conclusions is that it’s about people, not institutions, serving other people.
To find examples of adaptation, ingenuity and survival against the odds, Robin Berry turns to the outdoors. Berry, the School of Complex Adaptive Systems' fall 2023 Outstanding Graduate, is graduating with a Master of Science in biomimicry. She said that moving to the Sonoran Desert cemented her interest in replicating one of nature’s greatest skills: resilience.
Now that she has earned a bachelor’s degree in tourism development and management, Noor Alhakeem's focus is on Expo 2030. The ASU grad plans to return to her native country of Saudi Arabia, where the expo is to be held, to put her skills to work promoting it as a tourist destination.
Dallas Salas stands apart from the typical 18-year-old, having faced challenges beyond the normal for someone his age. Growing up, he experienced homelessness, violence and crime in the family, as well as a battle with leukemia at a young age. Despite all that, he is graduating this fall with a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience.
Since she was 11 years old, Kaley Danks has loved the Spanish language. The double major in Spanish and biological sciences (biology and society) was chosen as the fall 2023 Dean’s Medalist for the School of International Letters and Cultures. Danks is currently applying to law school in hopes of using her Spanish-speaking skills to make a difference in the Arizona community.
With a passion for numbers and a keen eye for detail, Marina Mancuso — a PhD graduate in applied mathematics from Cleveland — has made significant contributions to applied mathematics throughout her academic career. Her research has focused on developing mathematical models that can be applied to real-world problems.
Suzzel Alberto wants to make sure future and current ASU students know they can have a fulfilling college experience while earning their degree online. Alberto, who earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science, made an impact by being involved with university life even though she was working from her home in Ontario, California.
Hailing from Toluca, Mexico, Ivonne Lujani Vilchis graduates this fall from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College with a PhD in educational policy and evaluation. Motivated to explore the intersection of inclusion and innovation in educational research, she has accomplished a great deal in the field of education policy.
"Once a Sun Devil, always a Sun Devil" is a sentiment of this fall graduate who has earned a PhD from the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering. Melanie Newell discusses her love for Arizona and advice for students no matter where they are in their academic journey.
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