Outstanding Seniors 2016
Every spring, on the eve of Commencement at WSU Pullman, the College of Arts and Sciences recognizes the extraordinary accomplishments of our graduating seniors. Each degree program selects one graduation candidate who exemplifies the best qualities of WSU graduates, including outstanding academic accomplishments and dedication to learning and service.
Among the 24 students recognized this year are poets, athletes, musicians, scientists, student leaders, adventurers, and activists. During their time at WSU, they have studied in 15 countries and completed numerous internships. Some worked as teachers and academic researchers, in publishing, editing, and design, and in community advocacy. Others worked in museums, at a luxury clothing store and non-profit agencies, on a navy ship, and in wildlife rehabilitation and cancer research.
These students, who hail from communities across Washington and four other states, are poised for success in new careers or further study at graduate and professional schools.
During the recognition event held on May 6, Dean Daryll DeWald presented the Outstanding Senior certificates and faculty from the students’ departments conferred the award medallions.
Grayson Dean Dirk – Anthropology
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
BA, Anthropology; Honors
Grayson’s passion for protecting cultural heritage and maintaining our connection to the past fits very well with his chosen major.
Grayson interned with the WSU Museum of Anthropology and has worked as a technical assistant, doing research, artifact identification, analysis, and cataloguing. He also served as an undergraduate innovator for the museum, researching Nez Perce women’s history while collaborating with Nez Perce tribal staff. When the Anthropology Club president had to step down last year, Grayson stepped in, kept the club running for the remainder of the year, and was elected president for this year as well.
Following graduation, Grayson will attend the University of Washington for a graduate program in museology (museum design, organization, and management). Eventually, he would like to find a niche in anthropology or in museums to help the LGBTQA community. He would also like to be an activist and run a house for queer youth.
Tyler Mitchell Lanfear – Asian Studies
Hometown: Bellevue, Wash.
BA, Asian Studies; BA, Chinese Language
Tyler is a Midshipman First Class in Naval ROTC, he has served as Platoon Sergeant for Charlie Platoon and as Battalion Fitness Leader. He is currently the Battalion Executive Officer of the Naval ROTC UI/WSU Battalion. He has earned numerous ribbons and medals for community service, academic excellence and outstanding service. Tyler was accepted to several schools—and some were on the beach—but he still chose WSU. For a Navy man, that says a lot!
Although his original plan was to major in electrical engineering, he found a better fit in languages after taking a class in Mandarin. During his time at WSU, Tyler was a member and Special Events Coordinator in Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, an organization that hosts many social and philanthropic events for people with disabilities.
Tyler has been accepted to the Pensacola Flight School, where he hopes to fly the F-18 (the fighter jets onboard ships and flown by the Blue Angels). His first goal is to be the best pilot he can be. Possible long-term plans include a full military career, an MBA degree, or perhaps law school.
Juan Ramirez – Biology
Hometown: Yakima, Wash.
Juan has received numerous honors and awards for mentoring, academics, service, and achievement at WSU. He has been active in the Team Mentoring Program and the Pacific Northwest Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, served as a mentor and tutor for biology and chemistry, and held offices for the Pre-Dental Club and the Chemistry Club. He also participated in the Hearts in Motion medical mission trip to Guatemala.
According to his research mentor, Erica Crespi, his performance contributed significantly to the research objectives in her lab, where he performed at the level of a master’s degree student in quality and quantity. “Juan has overcome many obstacles to attain this level of achievement, having spent his early years in a small village in Mexico and coming to this country in high school without any knowledge of English,” Crespi said. “He is a constant reminder of the amazing things students at WSU can do.”
Juan was accepted to all three dental schools where he interviewed, and received a scholarship to attend the University of the Pacific. He also has been accepted into the Army National Guard, which will partially fund his dental school expenses. He plans to specialize in oral surgery.
Brynden Kennedy Riggan – Chemistry
Hometown: Spokane, Wash.
After high school, Brynden spent 18 months working before starting college elsewhere in the state. He eventually transferred to WSU because of the greater resources found at a larger university and the opportunity to study geology, a subject he loves.
Brynden has worked in the lab of Nathalie Wall doing research related to glass alteration for application to nuclear waste management, providing invaluable assistance to the U.S. Department of Energy to reach its goal of advancing a robust predictive understanding of nuclear waste containment. He also completed training at the WSU Nuclear Radiation Center and was licensed by the U.S. Regulatory Commission as a nuclear reactor operator, conducting daily operations, maintenance, the shipment of radioactive materials, operating a 6-ton overhead gantry crane, and performing system repairs and calibration.
Brynden has applied to the Navy Aviation Program and plans to attend Officer Candidate School. He hopes to someday fly F-18s, to be carrier and combat certified, and to serve his country in the military. Graduate school may one day be in his future but being an F-18 pilot is his dream job.
Sophia Akiko Stephens – Comparative Ethnic Studies
Hometown: Wenatchee, Wash.
BA, English and Comparative Ethnic Studies
Growing up, Sophia recognized that her education did not represent the diversity of human life, but then found a place where people could actually discuss those topics: Comparative Ethnic Studies at WSU. Here, Sophia excelled in academics and also worked as a writing consultant for the Undergraduate Writing Center and as a group facilitator. She was an orientation counselor for the Alive Orientation program, an undergraduate teaching assistant, a nonfiction editor for the creative arts journal LandEscapes, and an opinion columnist for the Daily Evergreen student newspaper.
“Her sensitivity to language, ideas, and social justice should make her the kind of student of literature who will infuse her readings with a commitment to compassion and advocacy,” said John Streamas, one of her professors.
Following graduation, Sophia will be working for a tutoring company in Seattle. Her long-term goal is to earn a master’s degree and teach English at the community college level.
Kathryn Culleeny – Criminal Justice & Criminology
Hometown: Newport, Wash.
BA, Criminal Justice
Kathryn transferred to WSU from Arizona State University, and on the day before her orientation on the Pullman campus, she was still undecided about her major. After investigating options online, she recognized that the practical nature of Criminal Justice and the abstract qualities of sociology were a great combination for her.
During the spring of 2015, Kathryn worked as a research assistant in sociology, developing the largest database on white-collar crime to date, a project funded by the National Institute of Justice. This year she has been active in the department’s Prison Debate Project and worked as a criminal justice tutor for WSU student athletes.
Kathryn’s long-term goals include working in community outreach, doing program planning and implementation for organizations. She enjoys the study of theory and will probably study criminology or public policy.
Mara Jhozel Almanzor – Digital Technology & Culture
Hometown: Covington, Wash.
BA, Digital Technology & Culture
When Mara discovered Digital Technology and Culture, she found the right balance of creating media and understanding the rhetoric behind it. She is a member of the Digital Media Club, previously serving as a project manager and vice president. She is also a member of Alpha Delta Pi, for which she served as the recruitment information manager.
She has completed several internships to develop and maintain websites. As web designer and editor for the creative arts journal LandEscapes, she planned, redesigned, and relaunched the journal website and was responsible for hiring and training new web editors. She worked part-time as a media technical assistant before moving up to being a full-time program coordinator for the Academic Outreach and Innovation program at WSU, supporting online course production and design, and training faculty and staff in using educational technologies.
Mara is considering graduate school to pursue a degree in computer science or doing interactive design work for a design firm. Her long-term goal is to be a creative director or project manager working with video, web, and graphics.
Travis A. Bryant – English
Hometown: Spokane, Wash.
Travis has wanted to be a writer since he was 10 years old. In his spare time, he writes poetry and short stories and enjoys studying religions. He was editor-in-chief for the creative arts journal LandEscapes and has been an officer and active member in the English Club. He also participates regularly in the club’s open mic events.
Following graduation, Travis will enter the graduate program in English at WSU Pullman. His long-term goal is to be a writer and teacher, to earn master of fine arts and doctoral degrees, and to run a literary magazine.
“I love this school, and I want this school to know that, if it’d have me, I’d marry it and I’d stick around. We wouldn’t always have happiness or money. But dammit, we’d always have each other. And we’d always have adventure,” he said.
Rebecca Mitchell – Environment
Hometown: Hillsboro, Ore.
BS, Geology; BS, Microbiology; BS, Genetics & Cell Biology; Honors
Rebecca is a Regents Scholar and an Honors College student. Her original plan was to pursue a career in medicine, but a visit to the Museum of Natural History in London drew her to geology. Her main interest is microbial life and extreme organisms, particularly those that survive in glacial ice, the deep Earth, and outer space.
Rebecca’s work for her honors thesis involved mathematical modeling to examine possible causes for the resurgence of whooping cough. She was able to demonstrate the disease’s ability to persist in a vaccinated population. She also has worked as a lab technician in the WSU GeoAnalytical Lab, as a teaching assistant for an Introduction to Microbiology lab, and as a research assistant in three other labs. She served as president of the Geology Club and has received numerous awards and scholarships.
After graduation, Rebecca will attend graduate school at Montana State University for a master’s degree in earth science followed by a PhD in either astrobiology or geobiology. She hopes to one day work for NASA or a national laboratory.
Jonathan Seth Matteson – Fine Arts
Hometown: Vancouver, Wash.
BFA, Fine Arts
In his youth, Jonathan never liked school and wanted to join the workforce instead. So he dropped out of high school, earned a computer certificate from a technical institute, and struck out at an early age to find a career. After many jobs, he worked for 10 years as a director of marketing and became a sought-after retail consultant in the horticultural industry. He taught nursery and garden center operators how to use social media in their marketing campaigns.
When Jonathan came to study at WSU, he interned with the Museum of Art and served as gallery programmer for the CUB. He also curated many aesthetic experiences, such as the Art + Science Laboratory at the Palouse Discovery Science Center, Sketch Wednesdays, and the Art Therapy exhibit featuring art from Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane. Also a musician, he has used his creative talents to encourage people in local prisons and in impoverished places as far away as Nairobi, Kenya.
After graduation, Jonathan will attend the University of Idaho’s Art and Design program and teach while earning a master of fine arts degree. His long-term goal is to work symbiotically with people who share his passion for art education.
Jansen VanderMeulen – Foreign Languages & Cultures
Hometown: Sedro-Woolley, Wash.
BA, Foreign Languages & Cultures/Spanish; BA, Philosophy/Pre-Law; Honors
Jansen is a Silver Regents Scholar and an Honors College student with a long list of service to WSU and students statewide. His work with the Associated Students of WSU includes being director of legislative affairs, director of university affairs, and ASWSU vice president. He also served as vice president of legislative affairs for the Washington Student Association, a state-wide lobbying organization for Washington’s public four-year institutions of higher education. In that capacity, he served as chief legislative officer for the six public baccalaureate institutions of Washington and their branch campuses.
Jansen was chosen by the Honors College to serve as one of 16 Freshman Seminar facilitators, and he instructed three semester-long Spanish speaking courses in the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures. This past year, Jansen served as the recruitment and retention intern for the College of Arts and Sciences. He was nominated by student leadership at WSU and appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to serve as Student Regent on the governing board of Washington State University.
Jansen’s future plans include law school, which he will begin this fall at the University of Virginia. He hopes to practice law in a public sector setting, perhaps federal or state law enforcement.
Tangi Brantley – General Studies: Humanities
Tangi is the first of six children in her family to attend college. Her original plan was to study international business and Chinese, but she found General Studies to be a place she could achieve her potential.
Tangi has been active in PAWS (Philanthropy at Washington State) and served as its president and marketing communications chair. Students in PAWS help promote awareness of philanthropy at WSU, demonstrate the importance and tradition of private donations among the WSU family, and create a larger and more philanthropic-minded community of future donors.
Following graduation, Tangi will return to Seattle and begin her career with TEKsystems as a Technical Recruiter. Her long-term goal is to be happy and to find a satisfying and fitting career that will allow her to give back to the WSU community.
Natasha Saric – General Studies: Sciences
Hometown: Spokane, Wash.
BS, Basic Medical Science
At four years old, Natasha fled with her family from war-torn Bosnia to the United States. Now fluent in both English and Serbian, she has logged many hours as a volunteer for an array of projects in literacy and health at WSU and elsewhere.
Natasha tutored at the WSU Multicultural Center and has been involved with the English as a Second Language program and with the Read Right program at Spokane Community College. She is also an active member of the Pre-Health and the Pre-Pharmacy clubs at WSU and has volunteered at hospitals in Pullman and Spokane. She joined the WSU Hearts in Motion program to Guatemala and has served as a teacher’s aide for Biology 315.
This summer, Natasha plans to work in a research lab at WSU Spokane and will take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) before applying to medical schools. In September, she will begin working with AmeriCorps in Spokane. Her long term goal is to attend medical school and she would love to be in the first class of WSU’s new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
Algeiba B. Cagabcab – General Studies: Social Sciences
Hometown: Gig Harbor, Wash.
BA, Social Sciences; Honors
Algeiba has worked as a tutor in political science and as a substitute teaching assistant for a local childcare center. Her leadership experience at WSU includes serving as secretary of the Global Student Association and as the standards chair, director of secretarial affairs, and academics chair for her sorority, Chi Sigma Alpha. She was also an Honors College delegate for ASWSU and an intern in the Academic Success and Career Center.
Algeiba is fluent in English and the Filipino languages Tagalog and Cebuano. She also aquired limited proficiency in Mandarin and is studying Russian. And she has done all this while crossing the state each weekend to see her daughter. She writes, “I became a mother while in college, yet I decided, with the help of those who love and care for me, to continue to strive to attain my goals and make a difference in my community. I would like to serve as an inspiration to women of various colors, shapes, and sizes to pursue their goals despite any roadblocks they may face.”
Algeiba’s honors thesis, titled “First Generation Refugees in American Universities,” investigates how U.S. laws affect refugees’ opportunities in acquiring a university education. She plans to continue this research in the WSU Vancouver Master of Public Affairs program, which she will begin in the fall. Her long-term goal is to earn a PhD, become a diplomat, and work as a consul with the Department of State.
Alistair W. Fortson – History
Hometown: Berkeley, Calif.
Alistair transferred to WSU in his sophomore year and received numerous prestigious scholarships and honors, including an Auvil Fellowship. He worked for three years at the Writing Center and served as a digital archivist for the Wallis and Marylyn Kimble Northwest History Database in the Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections at the WSU Libraries.
Alistair also served as vice president of the History Club and as community actions coordinator for the WSU chapter of Mortar Board National Senior Honor Society. He is an Eagle Scout and has volunteered at the WSU Children’s Center and the Appaloosa History Museum in Moscow, Idaho.
Following graduation, Alistair will begin graduate school at the University of Oklahoma to pursue a master’s degree in American Western History, specifically the WWII era. Eventually he would like to get a PhD and work at a university.
Alden Bradford – Mathematics
BS, Mathematics & Statistics; BS, Physics
Alden always knew he wanted to study something in the physical sciences. His mom had often advised him to “always be in a math class,” so he did. He quickly accumulated enough math credits to get a minor, so he just kept on going until he earned a second degree.
At WSU, Alden served as president of the Math Club for two years and worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the Department of Mathematics & Statistics. He earned a near-perfect GPA in a rigorous curriculum and took a graduate course this semester.
Alden is fairly fluent in Spanish from attending elementary and middle school immersion programs where all math and science classes were taught in Spanish. He is a board game enthusiast, especially interested in abstract strategy and hidden identity games, and he often designs original patterns for knitting, crocheting, and sewing. He plans to take things easy this summer as he prepares to attend graduate school at Purdue University in the fall.
Regan Siglin – Music
Hometown: Spokane, Wash.
BMus, Music; Honors
Regan began taking piano lessons at the age of four, but it was during high school that she discovered her love of music after winning the Romantic music division at Music Fest Northwest. She loved the feeling of being calm and comfortable, knowing she was prepared, and that her performance was appreciated. Regan is a natural sight-reader who loves to compose music for piano and is currently working on several preludes—short, three-minute pieces.
Regan has received numerous awards and scholarships for her academic achievements and impressive musical accomplishments and activities. She regularly accompanies singers and instrumentalists and performs in concerts, competitions, and theatre productions. She also works as a church musician, wedding pianist, and piano teacher. She has independently recorded four CDs of solo piano music.
She served as student manager for the Honors College’s literary and arts journal. She is a member of the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success, Sigma Alpha Pi, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Regan received a scholarship and graduate assistantship from Boston University to pursue her master of music degree in collaborative piano this fall. Her long-term plans include a doctorate in music and a teaching position at a university. She would like to do what her piano professors are able to do—teach and perform.
Kyle Raleigh Hansen – Philosophy
Hometown: Vancouver, Wash.
Raleigh wasn’t especially interested in going to college after high school, so he first joined the workforce, eventually owning a company and providing consulting to other business owners. In 2011, he decided to pursue a college degree, but then was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. Fortunately, he was wearing his backpack, which protected his spine in the crash. After intense physical rehabilitation, and with a renewed motivation to succeed, he started college wearing a chest brace, walking with a cane, and taking pain medication—but he made it!
Raleigh has presented numerous papers at professional conferences and panels and has a paper forthcoming in the professional journal Acta Cogitata. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Ethics Bowl team and has been awarded a number of prestigious scholarships. He received funding from the competitive College of Arts and Sciences Summer Undergraduate Mini-Grant program and his Junior Writing Portfolio was recognized as the Best Junior Writing Portfolio for the 2014-15 academic year.
Raleigh has also worked as a teaching assistant in philosophy, and as a writing tutor and small-group writing instructor for the Undergraduate Writing Center. He plans to pursue a graduate degree, conduct independent research, and launch a career in academia.
Justin Niedermeyer – Physics
Hometown: Milton, Wash.
BS, Physics; BA, Music, German for the Professions; Honors
Of all the places he applied, WSU was the most willing to work with Justin’s broad interests. A skilled singer, drummer, and composer, Justin is also passionate about scientific research, an interest that began after he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age four. His curiosity about the technology that allowed him to manage his health needs sparked his interest in the science of light and the role of mathematics in the administration of his medications.
During his first semester at WSU, Justin attended a lecture by a Nobel Laureate in physics that further fueled his interest in physics. He spent summer 2014 in Berlin in an intensive German language program and again in 2015 for a German academic exchange program, working in a lab. He will return to Germany for the next year to continue his physics research, supported by a grant from the Fulbright Foundation.
Justin is an active member in the Physics and Astronomy Club, the Ultracold Physics Journal Club, Phi Beta Kappa, and the American Physical Society Northwest. He was also a member of the Residence Hall Student Government Board and of the National Residence Hall Honorary. He received numerous scholarships and academic awards, including the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. Following his year abroad, Justin will begin a PhD program in physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Hailey Roemer – Political Science
Hometown: Sumner, Wash.
BA, Political Science; BA, Business Administration
Hailey graduated from high school in 2013 with an associate of arts degree as a result of the Running Start program. She applied to only one university—WSU. When she took her first political science course—American Government—she was intrigued because, as she says, “It’s a cool thing to wrestle with! Political science is complex and interesting, to understand the intricacies of what it takes to accomplish even the smallest task.”
Hailey was able to study abroad one summer in Spain and France. She also completed an internship creating materials she will use to start a new business that provides home-care plans for homeowners. She has worked as a resident advisor and has served as a small group facilitator and a mentor consultant in the Undergraduate Writing Center. She served as vice president of the WSU chapter of Partnership USA, president of the International Development Club, and of the Public Relations Office for the Student Senate in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences.
Following graduation, Hailey will move to Spokane to start her new business. She also plans to volunteer for World Relief, to join a writing group, and, eventually, to attend law school
Stephen Paup – Psychology
Hometown: Kennewick, Wash.
BS, Psychology; BA, Anthropology
Having personally observed the impact that mental illness has on many lives, Stephen was attracted to the study of psychology. He recognizes the pain that others go through and wants to be a part of helping people get through difficult times.
Stephen has served as a teacher’s assistant in psychology and has put in many hours as a volunteer advocate for Alternatives to Violence on the Palouse. He also served as Student Ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences, where he made significant contributions.
Following graduation, Stephen’s most important next step is to marry his fiancée. He will remain in Pullman next year to continue his laboratory work and to prepare for graduate school. His long-term goal is to be a clinical psychologist working with people who have psychological disorders, especially PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Belen Carriedo – Sociology
Hometown: Toppenish, Wash.
BA, Sociology; BA, Criminal Justice
Belen chose to attend WSU after receiving the Washington College Bound Scholarship. She chose to study sociology because it made her think about the world and her place in it, and it allowed her to better understand things in her own life.
Belen has embraced every opportunity to give back to her community. On campus, she has been active as a tutor in the Academic Success and Career Center; a team leader for the VIBES Multicultural Conference; and as a peer advisor intern for the Global Learning office. She served as secretary of the Sociology Club, and is a member of the God’s Harmony Gospel Choir.
Belen has also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and served as the on-site intern for the Family Promise of the Palouse, an organization that provides immediate shelter to homeless families. She also completed a number of internships, including a service-learning experience in Costa Rica where she assisted with education programs at an orphanage; in Bangalore, India, as a children’s library and technology educator; and in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where she helped establish a community development office.
In August, Belen will begin her two-year term with the Peace Corps in Figi as a community youth empowerment volunteer. After the Peace Corps she plans to seek a master’s degree in social work.
Ruben Zecena – Women’s Studies
Hometown: Pasco, Wash.
BA, Women’s Studies; BA, English Education
Ruben was born in El Salvador and was an undocumented immigrant for most of his life. He was able to get through school because of special scholarships offered at WSU and through the Pride Foundation. He transferred to WSU in 2013 from after earning an associate of arts degree at Columbia Basin College, where he was student body president.
Ruben discovered his major when he took an English elective course for Women’s Studies. His eyes were opened to things he had never considered, especially about Latin and queer identity. While at WSU he worked as a social justice peer educator and as a Writing Center consultant. He helped organize events for the Queer People of Color and Allies organization and volunteered for Women’s Transit and for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. He is a member of the Mujeres Unidas de Washington State University (United Women); and he was an actor and organizer for V-Day at WSU.
Ruben also participated in a summer research project, which he presented at the National Association for Chicano/a Studies Conference. He won a national award for undergraduate research. Ruben will begin a PhD program in women’s studies at the University of Arizona in September. His long-term goal is to be a professor of Women’s Studies.
Allani Delis – Zoology
Hometown: Burley, Idaho
BS, Zoology/Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Spanish for the Professions
Lani was first drawn to WSU because of her interest in veterinary medicine. She chose to major in zoology because it offered a broad scope to study animals, and she loves learning about the evolution and comparison of species.
A member of the WSU dance team, the Crimson Girls, she worked with the WSU Hearts in Motion program during spring break 2014 and 2015. She became the first WSU student to participate in a field lab experience in Patagonia, Argentina, studying marine wildlife on the coast, plant regrowth, and the impact on animals and ecosystems in the Andes Mountains. For two months, she backpacked, lived in a tent, and did her homework by flashlight. She also studied rodents and hanta virus with a national science team.
Lani has been involved in a number of research projects at WSU, most recently measuring the effect of temperature on rainbow trout growth, size, and shape. She has volunteered at veterinary clinics and worked at the WSU Bear Research & Education Center and at a grizzly bear rehabilitation center in Montana. Lani will start classes at the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine this fall in hopes of practicing veterinary medicine with a global approach.