April 24, 2018
Get to know some of the university's impressive spring 2018 graduates
Thousands of students are set to graduate from Arizona State University at commencement on May 7. Here's a look at some of those outstanding grads.
Thomas Quiroz said his decision to enter the military right after high school was influenced heavily by financial considerations. The first year of his duty, he began taking classes at a community college, eventually transitioning to ASU Online when the military took him around the world.
Education grad Maria Ramirez feels like she’s lived her life in reverse. Married at 15, mother at 16, putting two daughters through ASU in her 30s, and today, finally graduating college herself at 47. She credits her two daughters, Elizabeth and Staphany, whose childhood photos fill her living room, with her success.
Jacob Sorenson, a transfer student from Mesa Community College, came to ASU in 2016. Inspired by several public-health-focused trips to Africa, the Barrett honors student will head to medical school with a $75,000 Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship.
When Melody Pierce graduates from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, she will make a career of giving others a voice through their stories. But along the way, she shared her own story to help those dealing with eating disorders and mental illness.
During the past four years while he listened to lectures, studied, did homework, took tests and performed class projects, Carl Harris was not only on active duty in the U.S. military but often deployed overseas in regions enmeshed in some of the most intense conflicts in the world.
Renée Dennison’s grandmother was born June 14, 1910. More than 100 years later, Dennison, who is graduating with her MFA in photography decided to document her grandmother’s traditional way of life on the Navajo reservation.
JP Nelson is no stranger to going the distance — in academics and on the track field. As a National Merit Scholar, distance runner for ASU and recipient of a 2018 Mouer award recognizing his 4.0 GPA, Nelson kept busy throughout his four years at ASU.
Helen Goldstein is a lot of things. She is a mother of four children, ages 11, 9, 7 and 4. She is the wife of one of three rabbis at ASU, heavily involved in the local Jewish community. She is an advocate for women’s empowerment, and a mentor to young women. And, now, she will be a graduate from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
Bobbi Doherty is not your typical Arizona State University graduate. She was in her 40s when she decided to switch her career path and turn to education. She secured a job at a local school district while maintaining a GPA to qualify her to graduate summa cum laude when she receives her bachelor's in secondary education–history.
A corrupt attorney inspired Thomas Kim to go to law school. Kim and his family, who immigrated from Korea to Oregon, were seeking legal citizenship and put their trust in a local Korean attorney, who absconded with their money providing no legal help. It made Kim want to become an advocate for families like his.
College is about more than academics, more than finding a career. For ASU digital culture student Samedi Johnson, a big part of college was about finding community. Johnson has also made a difference, founding TransFam, a transgender-focused community organization, and writing the Faculty Guide for Trans Student Inclusion in the Classroom.
Rutledge switched career paths when his father-in-law encouraged him to apply to a four-year apprenticeship program with Caterpillar. Within two years, Rutledge had completed his apprenticeship requirements and earned his associate degree, and following his four-year program he enrolled in the W. P. Carey School of Business through ASU Online.
Ask Solveig Parsons where her hometown is, and she’ll tell you she moved around too much to have one. After attending Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, she then enrolled at NYU Law. But after falling in love with Phoenix during an internship, she found herself looking into the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and its Indian Legal Program.
Family helped pave the way for Arizona State University Army ROTC Cadet Daina Nicole Cing, who will carry on her family’s tradition of serving in the military when she commissions as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Rachelle Dart has been a theater artist her entire life. For the last five years, she has trained in stage combat. She is a freelance fight choreographer in Phoenix and an advanced actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors. And now she's an ASU graduate.
Astrophysicist, researcher, concertmaster/violinist, activist, policy director, scholar of classical Greek literature… just a few of the many ways to caption an image of human and social dimensions student Elizabeth Garbee. With this medley of accomplishments, accolades and eclectic pursuits, Garbee’s modest disposition belies her impressive resume.
For Army ROTC cadet Tyrus Griffin, hard work and dedication have always been second nature because of his competitive drive, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when he found out he was ranked as the No. 1 cadet in all of Arizona.
Ana Contreras immigrated to Phoenix from Mexico with her family when she was three years old. After teaching kindergarten for 10 years she recently came back to Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to pursue a master’s degree in educational policy.
Can a fast food job, the Navy and Wikipedia lead to your ideal career? It did for Christopher Cameron, who will be receiving his Arizona State University actuarial sciences degree May 7. After Cameron completed his service, he chose ASU for its veteran-friendly policies and the proximity of his parents who had retired in Arizona.
Lora Eger never questioned what she wanted to do with her life: teaching. Eger grew up in the small community of San Tan Valley, Arizona, and is now student teaching at a charter school in the same area. She teaches seventh-grade math and has signed a contract to teach at the school next year.
To get the full human story, you sometimes have to look in untraditional places, where people of all backgrounds communicated from the heart and off the cuff. That realization is part of what inspired Alexa Rose, a graduating senior from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, to take a closer look at ancient graffiti in the city of Pompeii.
Everyone thought Marylyn Aguilar would pursue a career in singing, but it took an essay on her future and some tears for her to find her own path. As she wrote, a Francis Ford Coppola movie playing in the background led her to the ASU film program.
Zhihan Jennifer Zhang is graduating with degrees in actuarial science, business global politics and business law. She will begin her job in government health care consulting with the goal of making health care accessible and affordable, and making the community better for everyone.
Graduating senior Kaitlyn Felix dreams of becoming a surgeon someday. To help her achieve that goal, however, she didn’t just study health sciences. She studied Spanish at the School of International Letters and Cultures.
Sustainability graduate Yann Raymond moved to Tempe from northwestern France, where the beaches experience green tides that discourage tourism and compromise the ecosystem.
Corina Tapscott has made the most of her time at ASU, pursuing a triple major and getting involved on campus and in the community in pursuit of a career in social work.
When Jay Patel graduated from college in India in 2015, he planned to start his own business. But he wanted to explore the diverse ideas offered in the U.S., so he came to ASU. He earned a master’s degree in information management technology from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Now he’s ready to return home and execute his idea.
For Victoria Crynes, it’s all about the perfect fit. She knew Arizona State University could offer what no other university could, and she was right. Crynes is graduating with a degree in global politics in business from the W. P. Carey School of Business, where she is the outstanding graduate. She’s also in Barrett, the Honors College.
Stefano Chang had a good job in his field and was one class away from a master’s degree in software engineering from ASU. Then his vision went wonky. He saw double because of a tumor in his head. Work and school came to a screeching halt as he went to Mayo Clinic for treatment. But Chang wanted that degree, so he completed it online while in treatment.
Alexandria Layton, from Ahwatukee, Arizona, is a graduating biochemistry major with an emphasis in medicinal chemistry, in the School of Molecular Sciences. She describes herself as quiet and just keeping her head down and blissfully enjoying her classes, and it wasn’t until her junior year in her first biochemistry class with Professor Kevin Redding that things really turned around for her.
This spring, Arizona State University student Katherine Morelli is earning her PhD in English with a concentration in writing, rhetorics and literacies. Her dissertation shares findings from a yearlong investigation of the practices and beliefs of five health navigators working in a local pediatrics clinic.
For Kristin Antkoviak, plants and trees are one way to achieve social justice. Antkoviak, who is graduating with a master’s degree in landscape architecture, has used her expertise to help revitalize her Phoenix neighborhood. And in connecting her neighbors with a little bit of nature, she’s carving out a new kind of career.
Global studies majors focus on the globalized world and traveling to learn about the problems we face. Emily Gough is a senior at ASU studying global studies and women and gender studies; thanks to the Barrett Global Explorers Grant, Gough was recently able to conduct research across three different countries.
Araceli Villezcas is graduating with honors this May, completing her honors thesis on the stories of her father's life as an immigrant. She is a recipient of a Wells Fargo award and serves as editor-in-chief of Lux Undergraduate Creative Review, a showcase of literary, artistic, musical and cinematic work.
Lindsey Conrow had hit an obstacle in her doctoral research at ASU when the new PLuS Alliance initiative cleared the way for her to move forward. Conrow was able to complete her PhD in geography from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning thanks to ASU’s partnership with the UNSW Sydney in Australia and King’s College London.
For Maritsa Leyva Martinez, fiction writing is a community endeavor. Her love for the craft began in a community setting and has continued at ASU in her work as a citizen-artist. Martinez is graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing (fiction) after defending her thesis, a collection of short stories titled “Fiesta Inn Motel.”
Adam Pinkerton has a few titles: father, high school teacher and, soon, master’s graduate. He has been an online student in the history master’s program in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. This May, the Fortuna, California, native will be receiving his master’s in history where he specialized in North American history.
A first-generation college student who grew up in Tempe, Melissa Beltran will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in sociology in May. From very early on in Beltran’s life, her parents always stressed the importance of a college education to both her and her two siblings.
This May, Heather Meyer will be graduating from ASU with her PhD in geological sciences from the School of Earth and Space Exploration. She had the opportunity as a kid to see a space shuttle launch from Kennedy Space Center, sparking her interest in space.
Shawn Courson stands out among his fellow history majors due to his commitment to others and his education. Because of his accomplishments and engagement to ASU, he was chosen as the Dean’s Medalist for the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.
Melanie Wood dropped out of community college, got married and started her family. Because of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan and its inclusion of veterans’ family members, 15 years after leaving school Wood has earned a degree in family and human development.
Arizona State University student Ryan Lee graduates this spring with a bachelor’s degree in English (linguistics); in some ways, this has always been his path. He has had a love of words his whole life — his friends used to call him a “walking dictionary” — and he thrilled to rigorous language research once introduced to it.
President's Professor Ariel Anbar describes a phone conversation two years ago he had with Logan Tegler, who was keen to do summer research in his lab. Anbar was struck by Tegler’s intelligence, persistence and politeness, so he welcomed her into his lab and has never regretted it.
Judith Perera is ready to finish her 26th consecutive year of school: an undergraduate degree in history and a law degree from Pepperdine University and now a PhD in history from ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. The Sri Lankan-born Perera has had an influence on both ASU and the surrounding deserts of Arizona.
An avid hiker and explorer, geology was a natural fit for Chad Kwiatkowski. And having grown up in the northern part of Phoenix, choosing geological sciences for his major gave him a chance to study the landforms that had surrounded him during his childhood, like the McDowell Mountains.
Navneet Kaur was raised in India and moved to Phoenix when she was 9. In high school, she took a psychology class and discovered a fascination with the human mind. She wanted to further her education with a focus on young children’s cognitive development.
Forrest Schreick has long been a friendly face around Coor Hall. For the last six years, the graduating philosophy MA student made the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies his academic home and even helped fellow students as a writing tutor.
Chelsey Sands taught special education for five years in Tucson. An active and healthy lifestyle has always been important to Sands, so it made sense to combine her two passions, and she returned to Arizona State Univesrity to pursue a master's degree in physical education.
Daniela Rios always wanted to be a pediatrician and was accepted into Bioscience High School. She decided to major in psychology when she came to ASU. Along the way, she decided to add on a major in family and human development.
At ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation commencement, Erandi Ortiz Galvan will be one of two students who are the first to graduate from the health care compliance and regulations program. A native of Mexico who moved to the U.S. at age 8, her real dream is to help combat America’s opioid crisis.
Niraj Javia was volunteering at refugee schools in the Atlanta area. One day, a female student from Somalia approached him and asked if there were any girls in automotive engineering because she heard “girls can’t do that.” This conversation was a turning point for Javia, who earned his master's degree at ASU in secondary education with a concentration in math.
Lilianna Valdivia will graduate from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in forensic science. Born and raised in Peoria, Arizona, by a single mother, the Barrett, The Honors College student and Hispanic Honor Society member relied on scholarships and determination to get where she is today.
Jameson Lopez has dedicated his life to higher education and finding opportunities for Native Americans to obtain their degrees. After graduation, he will become a tenure-track professor at the University of Arizona and continue his research in Indian Country.
Ashley Gagnon opted for the military instead of college after high school to discover where her talents lay. After serving a few years, she had found her calling: being a doctor. “My life was almost entirely molded during my time in the military,” said Gagnon, who will graduate from ASU at Lake Havasu on May 5 with a degree in biology.
Papay Solomon knows what it’s like to live in between. The Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting graduate has lived between two worlds for almost his whole life. Solomon was born in Africa and has lived in Phoenix since high school. “I’m trying to tell those stories of the in-betweeness that we all carry,” said Solomon.
Keerthi Vedantam said journalism has shaped her and offered up a clear career path ever since she joined her high school newspaper. Vedantam, who is graduating this month from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, spent the last four years asking questions, seeking answers and gaining experience.
Meet Austin and Daniel Cotter, possibly better known as the Wonder Twins. The graduates from ASU’s School of Life Sciences each received Outstanding Student of the Year awards in their respective concentrations. The Phoenix natives, both 22, are headed for careers in medicine.
Getting a degree or being a parent is a lot of work for anyone, requiring careful time management and a strong work ethic. Rachel Hill, a senior at the School of International Letters and Cultures, has taken on both and will graduate in May while her three children watch from the crowd.
Catie Carson will graduate with a double major in psychology and justice studies, and with a human rights certificate and minor in Mandarin Chinese. Carson was named the spring 2018 Dean’s Medalist for the ASU Department of Psychology.
For Adam Gushgari, who is graduating with his PhD in Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering, the opioid epidemic hits close to home. After two close friends died from overdoses, Gushgari was inspired to pursue a course of study that would help stem such tragedies and have a positive impact on the world.
Seham Abdulhameed Tomihi applied for ASU’s MTESOL program more than four times before she was eventually admitted. “I loved teaching, and it became a personal challenge,” she said. "My goal was to be admitted in the MTESOL program, and I worked hard and did my best and finally the dream came true.”
Alexis Abboud knew from a young age that she wanted to study law. What she didn’t know was that her path to law school would take her through a series of unexpected personal discoveries.
Arizona State University undergraduate Dimiana “Dimi” Wassef knows where she’s going. Specifically, the English literature major knows she’ll be graduating with her bachelor’s degree this spring and that she has been accepted into graduate school at Durham University in England.
With less than one week to go before defending her doctoral dissertation, Katelyn Cooper found herself in an unexpected position — the international media spotlight. One of her studies focused on “perceived intelligence” and the differences between genders, and it struck a chord.
Susan Nguyen has called the desert her home for the past three years. She is earning her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing (poetry) here, where she served as the poetry editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review and received several fellowships from the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. PBS NewsHour called her one of "three women poets to watch in 2018."
Due to circumstances out of Elizabeth Barnes' control, she dropped out of high school. Eventually, she found her way into classes at a community college and, soon after, into ASU. "Fast-forward 10 years later and I am now Dr. Elizabeth Barnes with eight peer-reviewed publications," she said.
For Lauren Pious, there’s no place quite like home. Still, as she puts it: “I have a very complex relationship with Chicago.” After graduating from ASU with a bachelor's degree in English literature, Pious is ready to return to the Windy City, where she'll attend graduate school, and where she hopes to make a difference in people's lives.
New Jersey's Victoria Hernandez had never heard of ASU when she was in high school. In fact, her mother nearly threw out a letter offering her a New American University Scholarship, covering the entirety of her out-of-state tuition. ASU gave Victoria the opportunity, so she grabbed it.
For the entire Kolste family, graduation means so much more than the culmination of four years of study. In May, Brent Kolste, 28, will cross the stage to shake the dean’s hand and receive his bachelor’s degree in robotics engineering. At the same ceremony, his father, Doug Kolste, 54, will walk the same stage to receive his bachelor’s degree in engineering management.
Movement defines graduating ASU student Sarah Snyder — a samba dancer and self-described overachiever. The Tempe native has been zooming through language studies since her days as an undergrad in ASU’s literature, writing and film program. She is completing her PhD in the Department of English’s writing, rhetorics and literacies program this spring.
Sometimes, it just takes one experience to change the course of your life forever. Such is the case for Max Wilson, a School of Life Sciences student and Phoenix native who is graduating in May with his doctorate in biology.
Ruben Gonzales is soon to graduate with a Jewish studies degree and minors in philosophy and Arabic studies from ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. Throughout his time at ASU, Gonzales utilized a strategic balancing act as he worked and cared for his wife and two kids.
Hannah Fowl not only received an ASU Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award, she is also a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean's Medalist. She says the best thing she did in school was to break out of her comfort zone, allowing her to grow by having new experiences.
Hailing from Kirksville, Missouri, Trevor Harcrow graduates this semester from Arizona State University with a degree in English (linguistics) and a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages. You can’t trace a direct line from his beginnings in that green, humid environment to this brown, dry one, however; Harcrow also spent several years in the U.S. Navy, where he traveled extensively.
Aslihan Kilic is graduating from ASU with a degree in English (literature) and a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages. Her facility with the language isn’t just adequate now; this former English language learner devours canonical English texts: Plath, Dickens, the Brontës, Hemingway.
Nontraditional student Stephani Watson is graduating this May with a Bachelor of Science in political science and a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies, with two areas of concentration in justice studies and sociology. But her time with and love for the university won’t end after graduation.
Paul Horton, a dual major in physics and software engineering, will intern at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab before returning to ASU for a master's degree. Finding ways to integrate and apply new knowledge is something the ASU Polytechnic campus senior has always found exciting.
During the first year of Melanie Brooks’ graduate work as a doctoral student in wind conducting in ASU’s School of Music, it quickly became apparent that she was everything conducting teachers hope for in their students.
Balanding Manneh traveled from the Gambia in West Africa to attend ASU. As a Mastercard Foundation scholar at ASU's School of Life Sciences, he jumped at the chance to try new things — from conducting research as an undergrad to starting a nonprofit to assist farmers in his native country.
Kristina Cates said ASU Online's Organizational Leadership degree program had everything she needed. “It was fully online and allowed me to build on the knowledge I had already learned,” she said.
Charity Bhebhe is graduating from the ASU School of Life Sciences with an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the world of health care. A molecular biosciences and biotechnology major, she has landed one of the world's most prestigious scholarships: the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
A high school field trip to ASU helped Alexis Mitchell, a Barrett honors student graduating with a Bachelor of Music in oboe performance and a Bachelor of Science in materials science and engineering, discover the possible connections between these two distinct disciplines.
Christina Haswood has been a Sun Devil at heart since 2010, when she first visited campus while in high school. The spring 2018 graduate discusses how her experiences at the College of Health Solutions and American Indian Policy Institute helped her learn and grow.
A Dean's Medal recipient, Gabriel Leon has turned his education into action working to provide humanitarian aid in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Leon learned not only about the issue of migrant deaths in the desert, but also how geography can be used to help address the issue.
Katelyn Hughes started college at Grand Canyon University but left after her freshman year when she came to the conclusion that it was not the right environment for her. She needed a job and applied with Starbucks, later learning about the Starbucks College Achievement Plan and earning her degree at ASU in organizational leadership.
Patty Santillanes-Soto, a first-generation graduate, was driven toward a career in social work by her desire to help those most in need of support. Soon, she will graduate magna cum laude with a degree in social work and minor in criminology and criminal justice.
For Julia Christine Anderson, receiving a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Award to South Korea ticked a lot of boxes: her love of teaching, her fascination with history and political science, her wanting to make an impact in international development, and her blossoming interest in South Korea.
A lifelong love of civic engagement led Samantha Hernandez to achieve her PhD in political science. She is the first Latina at ASU and among the first 50 in the nation to achieve this milestone.
On a family trip to Hawaii, Mackenzie McGuffie fell in love with nature and began to appreciate the biodiversity that connected her to nature. So she changed her major to sustainability. She is now preparing for the accelerated master’s program, which she hopes to complete in 2019.
Computer systems engineering graduate Paulina Davison applied her skills on numerous technical projects while still making time to promote diversity and play French horn.
Living near a nature preserve in Wisconsin, Tara Hansen spent much of her childhood in nature. Wanting future generations to experience the outdoors like she did, Hansen applied to Arizona State University's School of Sustainability.
Michelle Capriles-Escobedo dreams of owning a nonprofit or business that uses technology to make a social impact. A Fulton Schools Outstanding Graduate, Capriles-Escobedo graduates with a degree in software engineering this May.
In elementary school, Sarah Collins first learned that fossil fuels are scarce resources we could eventually use up. This is some pretty deep stuff, even for a third grader. So it stuck, and that's why Collins came to Arizona State University's School of Sustainability to earn her bachelor’s degree.
Peder Humlen-Ahearn credits his promotion to deputy chief to ASU Online's Master of Public Safety Leadership and Administration program. He is the College of Public Service and Community Solutions' spring 2018 outstanding graduate of cross-college programs with a 4.0 GPA.
With its roots in a plant-based diet, Julia Colbert’s interest in sustainability began to grow. Colbert understood development does not need to come at the cost of our planet, and wanted to find a way to create harmony between humans and nature.
Kylie Southard says she came to ASU from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to explore the possibilities of many different fields, and to collaborate with people with different backgrounds, ideas and passions.
After earning a bachelor's degree from Brown University in 1997, Alvin Huff joined the Peace Corps and traveled. When he returned to Phoenix, he decided to earn a master’s degree in something “more creative.” He calls an ASU class titled Interactive Environment his “gateway drug” into sculpture.
From barely getting her high school diploma to graduating ASU with her master's in social work, ASU College of Public Service and Community Solutions outstanding overall grad student Megan McDermott proves the sky is the limit.
After a challenging upbringing including time in Arizona’s foster-care system, Frank Smith III has advocated to improve the system and has desires to make a positive difference on a bigger policy scale. A dual major in political science and public service and public policy, he has served two terms as student body president and even helped get bills passed in the Arizona State Legislature.
Shayla Fordyce knew she wanted to work with people; she just didn't know it would lead to the criminal justice system. Fordyce is eager to help agencies improve their systems and processes. She is the Spring 2018 Outstanding Graduate for ASU's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Jimmy Arwood didn't wait until his degree was in hand before making an impact in his community. The Spring 2018 Outstanding Graduate in the ASU School of Public Affairs has been active in local advocacy organizations and is already working tirelessly to create more opportunities for those who feel unheard by local government.
Diana Lizcano Hernandez has lived and visited all over the world. The Spring 2018 Outstanding Graduate for the School of Community Resources and Development wants to use that global upbringing to help other countries with innovative approaches to tourism.
For Ciera Murray, approaching her college experience with a spirit of openness to new things allowed her to fully explore her passion for human communication and make the most of her time at ASU.
Math has been John Douglas (J.D.) House’s favorite subject since he was eight years old. Now he's 20 years old and graduating with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics after only three years at ASU.
John Cava is a rare college student to complete not just a double major but a triple major in his studies at ASU. Cava graduated this spring with a degrees in computer science, mathematics, and molecular biosciences and biotechnology.