Outstanding seniors of 2015
Each spring, with the excitement of commencement in the air, the College of Arts and Sciences recognizes the extraordinary accomplishments of our graduating seniors. Again this year, each degree program on the Pullman campus selected one graduation candidate whose academic achievement and dedication to learning and service exemplified the best qualities of its scholars.
Among the 24 students recognized are a philosopher, creative writers, research scientists, activists, musicians, athletes, linguists, military officers, student leaders, and world travelers. The collective array of their experiences includes study abroad in several countries, volunteering in numerous community service and outreach activities, participation in research projects and internships across the globe, and being first in their families to attend college.
These students hail from communities across Washington, four other states, and Austria. All are poised for more success ahead.
During the recognition event held on May 8, Dean Daryll DeWald presented the Outstanding Senior certificates, and faculty from the students’ departments conferred the award medallions.
Merrhea Teixeira – Anthropology
Hometown: Yelm, Wash.
Before she came to study at WSU, Merrhea attended several Future Farmers of America conferences on the Pullman campus—experiences that influenced her decision to become a Coug. Since 7th grade, she wanted to study anthropology. She now hopes to join the Peace Corps to work in in West Africa or Eastern Europe. She is particularly interested in working with child soldiers in Uganda’s “Free the Children” program.
During her time at WSU, Merrhea was very active in her department and received the Ackerman Scholarship for all-around accomplishment. She volunteered to work in a research lab where she processed and analyzed archaeological artifacts and entered data collected in the field. She also participated in a month-long field school in Western New Mexico, conducting surface surveys and recording newly discovered sites.
Joshua Garvison – Asian Studies
Hometown: Tumwater, Wash.
BA, Asian Studies
Joshua came to WSU several years after first studying in Oregon, moving to Virginia, and making plans to enlist in the U.S. Air Force (USAF). However, he decided to return to his home state of Washington and enrolled at WSU and its branch of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). “These two decisions were the best I have made in my life,” he said.
Joshua has studied intensive Arabic in Amman, Jordan on two occasions. His first stint was Project Global Officer training. He returned to continue his studies in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies. While a member of ROTC, Joshua has been a plans officer, Vice Wing commander, and vice commander in field training preparation and has received numerous scholarships and awards. He plans to commission as a Second Lieutenant in the USAF and build a career in military intelligence using his Middle East-focused Asian Studies degree.
Scott Mitchell – Biology
Hometown: Woodinville, Wash.
Scott’s interest in the outdoors extended to his work at WSU and beyond. When he was a child, his grandfather taught him to blacksmith; he is now an accomplished blacksmith, knife-maker, leather-worker, and wood-worker. After graduation, he plans to climb, backpack, and hike, followed by a month in Panama with a field ecology study abroad program.
While at WSU, Scott was very active in the Circle K International Club, serving as its fall conference district chair, social events coordinator, and, most recently, as president. He served as a summer camp instructor for the Wilderness Awareness School and as a peer mentor for the Multicultural Student Services Team Mentoring Program. He also worked as an undergraduate research assistant on projects such as the frequency of seed sample germination and nitrogen absorption in lichen species. He hopes eventually to teach ecology at a university.
Moises Morales Padilla – Chemistry
Hometown: Yakima, Wash.
BS, Biochemistry; BS, Chemistry
Moises first visited WSU with the Future Cougars of Color program and realized then it was the right place for him. As a migrant student, he has always felt welcome here, something that was very important to him. Born near Mexico City, Moises lived along the Texas border until he was eight, when his parents decided to pursue more opportunity in Washington’s farming industry.
At WSU, Moises was named a Regents Scholar and has been involved in a number of activities, from holding two offices in the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students to volunteering as a tutor with the College Assistant Migrant Program, mentoring with the Team Mentoring Program that assists underrepresented students in STEM majors, and organizing a leadership conference intended to help high school students become more aware of the valuable programs that WSU offers. He was part of an American Chemistry Society Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship that successfully developed a new methodology that fills a major gap in synthetic art. He plans to pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry at Purdue University and wants to work in industry, specifically in research and design.
Christina Sessoms – Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies
Hometown: Federal Way, Wash.
BA, Comparative Ethnic Studies
Christina was an exemplar when it came to campus involvement, from participating in the Black Student Union to acting as assistant director of multicultural affairs for ASWSU and taking part in Greek life. She worked in various campus units, including her major department, athletics, New Student Programs, Residence Life, and the Office of Equity and Diversity. Christina was also a CAS student ambassador and contributed significantly to the Pullman community through food drives for the needy, the NAACP Martin Luther King Jr. march, and Coug Day volunteer lobbying at the state capitol.
Academically, Christina was a McNair Scholar who carried out research on “The American White Racial Frame Effect on Afro-Cubans’ Racial Location in Post-Cuban Revolution Cuba”. CCGRS faculty described her as “an exceptional student with an agile mind.” She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in American Studies at the University of Maryland and become a professor in academic spaces surrounding ethnic, cultural, and American studies.
Calen Hardin Olesen – Criminal Justice and Criminology
Hometown: Kirkland, Wash.
BA, Criminal Justice; BA, Sociology; Honors
Calen chose to attend WSU because of the excellent reputations of both the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology and the Honors College. She is passionate about issues of race and class conflict: her Honors thesis focused on the possible effects of the Occupy Movement on incidents of hate crime in New York City, and she plans to earn a master’s in a similar subject at one of the seven graduate schools in the UK to which she has been accepted.
While a WSU student, Calen was a member of the Global Case Competition Steering Committee; taught English and Spanish in Southern Siberia and studied Russian and political science in St. Petersburg; worked as a peer advisor for the WSU Education Abroad Office; and helped students look for global opportunities during her internship as a Global Learning peer advisor. She also was a Regents Scholar and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. After graduate school, she hopes to become a social worker in Europe, working with migrant and immigrant populations.
Kelsey Johnson – Digital Technology & Culture
Hometown: Renton, Wash.
BA, Digital Technology & Culture
Kelsey was encouraged to apply to WSU by her high school advisor (a WSU alumnus), and found the right fit in the Digital Technology & Culture (DTC) major. She hopes to work for a design or advertising firm in Seattle, ideally with company branding; eventually, she wants to see her designs on billboards.
At WSU, Kelsey was a campus leader, coordinating the work of about 15 students each week as president of the Digital Media Club. She also was design editor for DTC’s student-produced arts journal, LandEscapes, and was the design intern for College Hill Custom Threads, a graphic arts printing company. She took classes in art history and painting during a study-abroad session in Paris. In 2014, she won the “Best Stop-Motion Animation” in the DTC Awards as well as “Best Animated Film Jury Award” in the WSU Independent Film Festival.
Ana Schmidt – English
Hometown: Puyallup, Wash.
Ana decided to study English at WSU after taking her first course in creative writing. She enjoys writing creative non-fiction, mostly memoir-style essays, but it’s her work in the area of editing and publishing that is most important to her.
At WSU, she was editor-in-chief for the LandEscapes creative arts journal for two years and led a staff of 18 students. She also was lead intern for the Blood Orange Review and worked as a mentor consultant in the WSU Writing Center. In addition, she was the alumni and outreach coordinator for the Department of English and received numerous awards for creative writing, tutoring excellence, writing, and overall achievement.
Steve Cottrill – Fine Arts
Hometown: Garfield, Wash.
BA, Fine Arts
After graduating from high school in 2003, Steve Cottrill attended Spokane Falls Community College for a year, moved to Alaska for a while, eventually returned to Washington and earned his associate of arts degree from Seattle Central Community College. He chose to complete his BA at WSU because his family was close by and because he had previously worked for WSU’s Facilities Operations.
Steve originally planned to study architecture but found that fine arts was a better fit for him. He has worked for various construction companies in the Pacific Northwest, doing interior work and remodeling, and is an interdisciplinary artist with an emphasis in sculpture. Steve loves to take something that someone else has thrown away and make it new. He also loves to play his guitar, especially blues and jazz, and he teaches private guitar lessons. He hopes to travel and do artist residencies and is considering a graduate program in design. He has always loved doing seasonal work as it allows some time to pursue new things, and would like to continue in a job that allows some freedom to travel.
Jennifer Hergert – Foreign Languages and Cultures
Hometown: Woodinville, Wash.
BA, Foreign Languages & Cultures; BS, Animal Sciences
Jenn loved working with animals even before coming to WSU. In her hometown, she worked as a kennel assistant at an animal hospital, taking care of animals, cleaning facilities, and assisting doctors when needed. When she came to WSU, she chose her majors carefully: animal science to aim for veterinary school, and French because she loved the language and hoped to travel.
At WSU, she worked as a student manager in Housing and Dining Services and as a custodian for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital; she was active in the Raptor Club, the Pre-Veterinary Club, the Collegiate Horseman’s Association, the Companion Animal Club, the Zoology Club, and the Art Club. Her community service included working at Orphan Acres, a rescued-horse sanctuary; at Feral Cat Solutions, a feral cat spay and neuter clinic; and at the WSU Knott Dairy Center. She was accepted to the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine and plans to become a veterinary specialist. She hopes to travel to Africa one day to conduct conservation work and to put her French skills to good use.
Elizabeth Dellinger – General Studies: Humanities
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
Before coming to WSU, Elizabeth was a Division I varsity rower at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. After an injury forced her to reconsider her path, she was determined to have a “real college experience at a bigger school in a small town,” and decided on WSU and Pullman. She loved the general studies humanities degree because she was able to pick all kinds of interesting classes across a variety of disciplines.
At WSU, Elizabeth worked for University Recreation in a customer service role and as a tutor in the Academic Success and Career Center. Her other volunteer activities included teaching at Lincoln Middle School in Pullman and doing community service work at Orphan Acres, a program that cares for rescued horses. Elizabeth has an ROTC background from high school and hopes to eventually become a Navy officer, ideally in surface warfare, intelligence, or supplies.
Joanna (Joey) Redmon – General Sciences: Basic Medical Sciences
Hometown: Spokane, Wash.
BS, Basic Medical Sciences; Honors
Joey spent her first year of college studying dance at Miracosta College in San Diego, California. Personal medical concerns fueled her interest in pharmacy. She decided to pursue a basic medical science degree because it was a good fit for her goal to enter pharmacy school.
At WSU, Joey was a member and captain of the Crimson Girls, WSU’s competitive dance team, and involved with the Pre-Pharmacy Club and the Cougar Health Awareness Team. She did undergraduate research, taking second place in the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine Student Research Symposium and passing her Honors thesis with distinction; she also participated in a Fulbright UK Summer Institute and went to the National Model United Nations Conference. This summer, she plans to travel to Tanzania with a WSU Global Animal Health team to participate in research on antimicrobial resistance. Joey has been accepted to the WSU College of Pharmacy, where she plans to become a disease state management pharmacist, working with a healthcare team for patients with a focus on autoimmune and Crohn’s diseases. She also plans to pursue pharmaceutical research.
Michaela Attaway – General Studies: Social Sciences
Hometown: Sultan, Wash.
BA, Social Sciences
Two big factors in Michaela’s decision to attend WSU were her Regents Scholarship and her admission to the Honors College. She had broad interests and finally decided on social sciences, which introduced her to multiple disciplines; her Honors thesis was titled How Mainstream Standards of Beauty Affect Women’s Psychological Well-Being Cross-Culturally.
At WSU, Michaela was a teaching assistant in the Academic Success and Career Center, where she helped facilitate student groups, graded assignments, and presented on various topics, including international collegiate opportunities. She also worked at a restaurant in downtown Pullman and as a clerical assistant for the WSU Accounts Receivable office. Michaela plans to take time off from school to make decisions about next steps, and is considering both graduate school and the Peace Corps; she recently spent a month in Zambia, visiting her mother and developing her appreciation for other cultures.
Benjamin Hess Gruber – Geology
Hometown: Spokane Valley, Wash.
Ben came from a family of Cougs—his father and two of his uncles went to WSU—so coming here was an easy choice for him. As a kid, he loved volcanoes and rocks and was hooked on geology as early as his 7th-grade Earth science class. Upon his arrival, he was welcomed into the School of the Environment.
Ben made the most of his time at WSU. He served as vice president, then president, of the Geology Club; under his leadership, the club membership more than doubled. In addition, he worked as a sample prep technician at the WSU GeoAnalytical Lab, tutored for a mineralogy class, and focused his senior thesis on the petrology and geochemistry of the Browns Creek rhyolite found on Idaho’s Snake River Plain. He has been accepted to a master’s degree program in geology at Michigan Tech; he hopes to earn a PhD and do research for a mining company, a university, or the U.S. Geological Survey.
Lauren Rachel Young – History
Hometown: Lake Oswego, Ore.
BA, History; Honors
Rachel came to WSU because of its Honors College, its beautiful campus, and its friendly people. She chose to study history with a pre-law option, since her ultimate educational goal was to pursue a career in law. Her Honors thesis, The New Wave of Propaganda: The Effects of Video Games on a State’s Historical Memory and the Psyche of its Citizenry, earned a highly competitive Auvil Fellowship from the Office of Undergraduate Education, and won a crimson award (the highest level) in the social sciences category at the 2015 Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.
While at WSU, Rachel was the College of Arts and Sciences registered student organization (RSO) intern, working with and providing support for the 45 RSOs in the college, including the CAS Student Ambassadors. She was also the ASWSU assistant director of media relations and communication, a facilitator for an Honors class, captain of the Ethics Bowl Team, and an active member of both the Pre-Law Society and the Honors Student Advisory Council. She also found time to study abroad for a semester in Austria. Outside of WSU, she has been a service dog trainer and puppy raiser with the Autism Service Dogs of America since 2008.
Jose Garcia – Mathematics
Hometown: Pasco, Wash.
Jose grew up hearing great things about WSU and transferred here after earning his associate of arts degree from Columbia Basin Community College. He became interested in mathematics education after seeing the people around him struggling with the subject. He wanted to find ways to make teaching math more effective and break down the walls that many math learners experience.
While at WSU, Jose took every opportunity to improve and enhance his math teaching skills. He worked as a math tutor at WSU and Columbia Basin. He was also employed as a WSU undergraduate teaching assistant for Math 106. In addition, Jose was a member of the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement program and the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program. After finishing his student teaching, Jose hopes to teach in his hometown, preferably at Pasco High School. Jose plans to earn his master’s degree in math instruction and curriculum and hopes to one day head a math department.
Ian Steiner – Music
Hometown: Lambach, Austria
BMus, Performance; Honors
Ian was born in Boston to an American father and an Austrian mother and grew up primarily in Lambach, Austria, where he attended an engineering high school. After high school, he moved to Seattle with his twin brother, Max, who is also a musician.
Originally, Ian planned to major in mathematics, since he had enjoyed his engineering high school, but he found it was missing the creativity he wanted. He decided to turn his attention to music. Ian performed professionally as a timpanist and percussionist for the Washington Idaho Symphony, as a touring drummer for Johnny Unicorn, and as a percussionist for the WSU summer musical production. While at WSU, he was a member of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, the Symphony Orchestra, the Cougar Marching Band drumline, and the WSU Indoor drumline. He also performed with the Percussion Ensemble and as vibraphonist for the Jazz Big Band. Ian plans to move to Berlin, Germany, where his brother now lives. Ian would like eventually to teach music in a private studio.
Lucas Grisham – Philosophy
Hometown: Oakland, Calif.
BA, Philosophy; BA, Foreign Languages and Cultures; Honors
Lucas switched to philosophy on his very first day at WSU after being introduced to it by an enthusiastic professor who moved from topic to topic so fast that he used his hand rather than an eraser to clean the board and wound up with marker residue on his face. By the time the professor waved goodbye to the students, Lucas was on his phone, sending an email to his advisor to request the switch. His second degree is in Chinese language. A dual citizen of the U.S. and the Netherlands, Lucas speaks English and Mandarin Chinese and hopes to pursue graduate studies in Chinese studies before working in private sector research or commercial diplomacy.
Lucas maintained a 4.0 GPA over five years and attended a total of four academic institutions: National Taiwan University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Brown University, and, of course, WSU. He tutored undergraduate students of Chinese at the WSU Language Learning Resource Center; taught Chinese to third-grade children at the Custom Learning Academy; was a research assistant; and participated in the Ethics Bowl for four years, acting as president in 2014-15. He plans to return to Harbin, China, for a one-year research assistant appointment, and prepare for graduate school.
Shelby Taylor – Physics & Astronomy
Hometown: Goldendale, Wash.
When Shelby was a little girl, her grandfather called her his “little rocket scientist.” His interest in space inspired her desire to learn more about it. She was the first in her family to graduate high school, something she achieved through determination and hard work. Eventually she made her way to WSU, where she decided to major in physics. Following graduation, she plans to complete a one-year internship at Disney World, followed by application to physics doctoral programs. Her dream job is to work for NASA.
At WSU, Shelby focused much of her time and attention on forming “Women in Physics Mentoring,” part of the Physics & Astronomy Club. The program supports women physics students to build connections among other physics majors, to provide research opportunities and tutoring programs, and to help fund and encourage attendance at the annual Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics. Shelby also did undergraduate research on both gravitational waves and nanowires and volunteered as a motivational speaker and fundraising participant. During ESPN’s filming last year of the annual Physics and Astronomy Pumpkin Drop, she appeared as “Pumpkin Queen.”
Devon Seymour – Political Science
Hometown: Fort Collins, Colo.
BA, Political Science; BA, Foreign Languages and Cultures; Honors
Devon applied to only one university: WSU. On a visit, she fell in love with the campus, the city, the academic areas, and the Honors College. In particular, the Honors College Global Competency certificate and the emphasis on a thesis appealed to her as she liked the idea of doing original research. She went on to earn a “Pass with Distinction” on her Honors thesis, which discussed the current Ukraine crisis through language, religion, political legitimacy, and economic factors.
Devon was extensively involved in community service projects at WSU. She coordinated fundraising and volunteers for the SR 530 Recovery Team project to help victims of the Oso, Wash., landslide; served on the board of directors for Alternatives to Violence of the Palouse; acted as student representative at the CUB; and worked in student government. She was also a CAS student ambassador for two years, acting as president and chairing the 2013 Undergraduate Multidisciplinary Research Competition, and even managed to go to Paris for a summer intensive language immersion program. Devon has been accepted to the master’s programs in both international relations and public administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. However, she has deferred her admission because she has been offered a teaching position on the island of Corsica, France, for the 2015-16 academic year.
Amy Nusbaum – Psychology
Hometown: Toutle, Wash.
Amy’s primary interest when she came to WSU was to study genetics and cell biology, but she found it wasn’t quite right for her. Once she took an introductory psychology class, however, she found her passion. Her most recent research includesChoice Representation in Simulated Gambling Performance and Enhancing Student Learning Using a Flipped Classroom, as well as research in aging and cognition and risk decision making. She was a WSU Regents Scholar and presented research at the Department of Psychology Undergraduate Research Symposium, the Western Psychological Association Conference, and the 2015 WSU Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, at which she won a 2015 gray award (second-highest level) in the social sciences category and a joint crimson award (highest level) in the same category in 2013.
Amy worked as a Cougar Connector for the WSU Office of Admissions and was a teaching and research assistant. She interned in the Office of the Dean of Students, the Academic Success and Career Center, and at Izvor Community Center in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she taught English, worked with a children’s program, and did some flood relief work in the area. She plans to return to WSU this fall to enter the doctoral program in psychology.
Vanessa Delgado – Sociology
Hometown: Prosser, Wash.
Vanessa applied to—and was accepted by—all the state universities in Washington, but she chose WSU because she loved the way students are supported and the sense of community here. Originally planning to be a veterinarian, Vanessa changed direction once she took her first sociology course. For the first time in her life she was able to validate her experience as a person of color and see things more critically.
At WSU, Vanessa was a McNair Scholar and a member of Alpha Kappa Delta International Sociology Honor Society. She earned a number of awards, from “Exceptional Senior” in the Department of Sociology to “Student of the Year” from the College Assistance Migrant Program. Vanessa also co-authored three publications, presented at multiple conferences, worked as a research assistant for the WSU Department of Human Development and for the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center, recruited multicultural high school students, and much more. This summer, Vanessa plans to conduct research through the University of Arizona Department of Education, then enter a doctoral program in sociology at the University of California–Irvine.
Morgan Brown – Women’s Studies
Hometown: DuPont, Wash.
BA, Women’s Studies
After a visit to a nearby school, Morgan and her parents decided to drive through Pullman just to check it out. She was a first-generation student and had always been a Husky fan. It took about 10 minutes on the Pullman campus to cure that: she immediately felt at home and welcomed. At WSU, she became interested in Women’s Studies through her work with domestic violence and sexual assault victims.
At WSU, Morgan was involved in the Women’s Resource Center and worked on issues of social justice, such as #blacklivesmatter. She also chaired the Coalition for Women Students at WSU. Throughout, she was “an exceptional student whose classroom contributions and intellectual talents have been consistent through her WSU tenure” and “a leader inside and outside of the classroom,” according to one of her professors. She plans to travel to Italy for a study-abroad program called Camp Adventure, then seek fulfilling work in a position where she can “pave the way for other women to do the things they are passionate about.”
Lara Ashley Heersema – Zoology
Hometown: Coppell, Tex.
BS, Zoology; BS, Chemical Engineering; Honors
Lara was originally interested in WSU because of its highly-regarded zoology program and the College of Veterinary Medicine’s focus on global animal health. She was accepted to the seven-year Honors/CVM program, and added a major in chemical engineering to help expand her analytical knowledge. She plans to defer her admission to veterinary school and pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering at the University of Texas in Austin.
As a WSU student, Lara received a number of awards and scholarships and was very involved in undergraduate research. She also was named outstanding senior by the WSU Department of Chemical Engineering. For her Honors thesis, Lara conducted an independent research project related to hantavirus outbreaks in the United States. She completed several internships: research on biofuels with the WSU Institute of Biological Chemistry; working with German author Tobias Hulswitt to understand the social and technical outlook for transportation with the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering; and developing and testing methods to increase chemical oxygen iodine laser efficiency as a Phillips Scholar with the Air Force Research Laboratory at New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base. Last but not least, she was a CAS student ambassador.