Outstanding seniors excel in academics, leadership, service

Sean Swalling, Samantha King-Shaw, andMegan Wong.Writers, researchers, scientists, musicians, athletes, activists, adventurers… the 23 students who received this year’s Outstanding Senior honors from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) excelled in academic performance and in service to their department or school and to the broader Washington State University community.

Among those honored for 2021 are Regents scholars, National Merit scholars, transfer students, and Honors College graduates. The students were selected by the faculty in their respective degree areas and heads of the department or school, and each is poised for success in careers or in graduate or professional schools.

Many of the students traveled during their WSU years to study in places around the world, including China, Ireland, and Greece. They hail from communities across the state of Washington, as well as Idaho, California, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Texas, Alaska, and Canada.

“Our Outstanding Seniors of 2021 have demonstrated great dedication to academics, leadership, and service,” said Todd Butler, CAS dean. “These exceptional students possesses the knowledge, skills, and motivation needed to further advance WSU’s mission of making the world a better place.

Meet the honorees

Outstanding Senior in mathematics and statistics, Sean Swalling is passionate about sharing knowledge with others and is already experienced in his chosen field of teaching. In addition to serving as a summer tutor and camp counselor, he has proven himself a leader in the classroom.

Sean Swalling

“While it sometimes occurs that successful mathematicians can be a bit socially awkward, that is not the case for Mr. Swalling. He is simultaneously curious and intelligent, yet very personable, helpful, and genuine,” said Kevin Cooper, one of his instructors. “In my class I encouraged collaboration among students, and Sean often helped others. He was very effective and patient about explaining things, and his pleasant personality made his fellow students seek him out,” Cooper said.

“I have always connected with mathematics due to its logic and straight-forward conclusions that help life to be a little less confusing,” Swalling said. And while the courses he took in secondary mathematics education at WSU further cemented his career desires, he also “encountered boundless opportunities in all sorts of subjects of my interest—all brought about by instructors that teem with wisdom and support,” he said.

Originally from Alaska and fluent in both English and Japanese, Swalling wrote his Honors College thesis on “Effects of Bilingual Learning on Fraction Comprehension in Mathematics.” An Eagle Scout and avid filmmaker, he began his college career with sophomore standing, transferring in 33 advanced placement credits, and completed his BS degree in three years.

Samantha King-Shaw

Samantha King-Shaw, Outstanding Senior in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies (WGSS), is an accomplished student–athlete of color whose performance in the classroom, on the track, and in service to the community won great praise from WGSS faculty. “King-Shaw’s academic success and record of community service demonstrate an extraordinary ability apply what she learned as a women’s studies major,” they said.

Also an Honors College student, King-Shaw was active in a number of WSU advisory boards, outreach groups, and activities supporting marginalized students. King-Shaw plans to attend graduate school this fall at University at Buffalo, New York, in pursuit of a doctoral degree in global gender and sexuality studies. Her long-term goals include obtaining a professorship to teach, research, and “keep learning forever.”

Megan Wong

Described by one of her professors as “bright, talented, motivated, collaborative, and kind,” Megan Wong, Outstanding Senior for the School of Biological Sciences, packed into her college career not only stellar achievements in academics but also a host of extracurricular activities.

A National Merit finalist and Honors College student, Wong was a WSU Launch ambassador, a psychology research assistant, a fitness instructor, and a member of the Crimson Girls dance team. An aspiring medical doctor, she studied abroad in Ireland, volunteered at a Buddhist hospital in Taiwan, assisted with the Cougs Cancel COVID campaign, and was selected for the 2020 Hearts in Motion medical mission in Guatemala which was canceled because of the pandemic.

Her Honors thesis, which passed “with excellence,” focused on agent-based mathematical modeling of COVID-19.

Read more about all 23 of the CAS Outstanding Seniors of 2021.

Top image, left to right: Swalling, King-Shaw, and Wong.

By J. Adrian Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences.