Here’s a look at some of the most impressive students graduating this fall
As Arizona State University’s fall graduating class grows, so does the number of students who have excelled in their university careers — and beyond. From athletes to artists, here’s a look at some of those remarkable students.
International scholar-athlete excelled in soccer, academics
Lieske Carleer, a standout ASU women’s soccer player and honors international student, is a consummate scholar-athlete whose drive on the pitch matched her dedication in the classroom throughout her years as a Sun Devil.
Outstanding graduating senior achieves excellence by pushing boundaries
During summer 2020, Matthew Kling wanted a challenge. So he enrolled in Intermediate Microeconomic Theory and ended up with the highest grade in the class. The December grad advises all ASU students to follow his lead in pushing academic boundaries.
ASU grad to use sociology in music career
As a choral director and musician for 24 years, Cary Burns knows all about group dynamics. But he wanted to educate himself on the science behind it. After graduation, he is looking forward to using his knowledge of social structures to become a better music educator and community member.
Psychology Dean’s Medalist aims to help teens to recognize digital domestic violence
Psychology grad Annie Cooper came to ASU as a transfer student from community college and immediately immersed herself in as many opportunities as possible. She joined Psi Chi as the director of their social media accounts and found herself realizing that she could be the next president.
Doctoral student shifting Arizona toward a more sustainable energy future
Outstanding Graduate Carlos Aguiar Hernandez recently completed his PhD in sustainable energy through the School of Sustainability in the College of Global Futures. His time at ASU gave him a renewed sense of determination and new insight into the energy field to complement his prior experience.
ASU, Uber partnership allows student to complete bachelor’s degree
Through the generous partnership between Uber and Arizona State University, Richard Percoco was able to receive his education from a world-class university. Taking advantage of the academic opportunities, Percoco will graduate with two degrees this December, one in political science and another in history.
Criminal justice grad appreciates greater freedom in US to choose an academic field
One of Tatjana Carranza’s favorite things about the U.S. is how people have more freedom to switch fields compared to in her homeland of Germany. Carranza, whose initial plans were to become a language translator, eventually landed on legal studies for her bachelor’s degree, and now a master’s degree in crime analysis.
Cronkite graduate finds new ways to tell stories after career change
For Laura Bargfeld, the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to slow down and refocus on their career goals. They began to think of different ways to share their storytelling skills with the world, which led them to ASU’s Cronkite School, where they will receive their Master of Mass Communication in December.
Veteran’s path to earn social work degree took many turns
In high school, Kevin Brown-Kaufman decided to fast-track his enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps by dropping out to complete the requirements more quickly in night school, but he ended up becoming a young father and put aside those goals. Seven years later, he decided to earn his diploma and serve in the Marine Corps, and now, after seeing his daughter attend ASU, is also earning a bachelor’s degree.
Actress, director earns master’s degree in film and media studies
Estelle Golden’s professional life is full. She’s been an actress in films and plays for more than 35 years. She directs and teaches drama classes at a community college in Washington. And now she’s adding another credential to her list: a master’s degree in film and media studies from ASU Online.
Grad’s late father taught him the importance of helping others, listening
When Aviel Waxman’s father had multiple sclerosis, Waxman helped care for him until his father’s death four years ago. Being there for his father helped the fall 2022 Outstanding Graduate realize the importance of helping others.
World War II studies graduate looks to bring new perspective to the past
Gerald Sayles III has been interested in many aspects of World War II, including the social conditions in the U.S. at the time and various myths about the war that have defined an entire generation of Americans. His interest led him to enrolling in the online master’s in World War II studies program at ASU.
One-time bank worker set to pursue career in sustainable tourism
From studying journalism as an undergraduate to earning a master’s degree in sustainable tourism three decades later, Alexandra Ghiozzi has crafted her career by adding one experience to another.
Grad charted own course to social work, public affairs
As the youngest of five children, Ty’Lesha Yellowhair had more than enough incentive to pursue her education. Following the example of their mother — who holds three master’s degrees — all four of Yellowhair’s siblings also earned degrees.
Medallion Scholar eyes law school
For Ella Gallagher, changing society’s dependence on fossil fuels is of primary importance. “It’s a modern miracle that we can use electricity to power a car now, but what about a plane?” said Gallagher, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business law and is a Medallion Scholarship recipient.
School of Molecular Sciences Dean’s Medalist has a passion for coding
Holly Hemesath, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science and the Dean’s Medal, had thought coding was like learning a foreign language and that it was just a lot of memory work. She soon realized, upon compounding programming with biochemistry, that it provides one with an essentially limitless potential to create anything one might need or want.
Family tragedy drove ASU grad’s aspirations
For Alia Rocha, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, a family tragedy drove her to want to become a licensed therapist. But she also credits ASU’s Student Alumni Association with providing her a sense of perspective and belonging.
ASU’s online Spanish program provides a path for student with vision impairment
The path that led Paul Mrstik to where he is now was far from straightforward. Accessible degree programs and his love for languages have helped him find his niche.
Quadruple major graduates with plans of helping people with disabilities
As a fourth-generation Arizonan, Nathaniel Ross always knew he wanted to stay in the state for the long run. So in 2019, when he was one of 20 high school seniors from Arizona selected for the Flinn Scholarship, which provides a full ride to any in-state university, it was the perfect opportunity to stay.
Thunderbird grad ‘honors his roots’ and dreams of giving back to his community
Esly Diaz and his family immigrated from Mexico to the United States when he was a child, a move that brought to light the challenges immigrants face. Now as a husband and father to two teenage boys, Diaz’s dedication and strength is what has kept him pursuing higher education.
Sociology graduate set to work at dream job
Shawn Banzhaf, author of “The Five Ls: A Practical Guide for Helping Loved Ones Heal After Trauma” and newly named executive director of ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center, is graduating with his master’s degree in sociology this fall.
Graduate finds a new perspective at ASU
Adriana (Audrey) Talamante chose to attend ASU because of the diverse field of opportunities in the engineering school and the possibilities for student involvement. As a first-generation student and native Arizonan, financial aid allowed her to focus on her studies, make mistakes and network without carrying a financial burden.
Global health student has a passion for helping others
Alicia Marisol Hernandez, a first-generation college student and Teach for America Campus ambassador, graduates this fall with a Bachelors of Arts degree in global health. “… I was interested in health issues around the world and how this affects communities,” she says.
Award-winning graduate student to launch career after graduation
Thu Thao Nguyen is a graduating with a PhD in chemistry after a journey that began in middle school in Hanoi, Vietnam, where she discovered her passion for the field. Nguyen investigated universities and professors, and eventually found Ryan Trovitch’s research group at ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences to be a perfect fit.
Thunderbird grad embraces family history to excel in classroom, beyond
Born and raised in downtown Phoenix, Jesse Avalos was no stranger to Thunderbird School of Global Management when he enrolled in the Master of Applied Leadership and Management program. In fact, he had just started working as the executive assistant to Thunderbird Director General and Dean Sanjeev Khagram.
Anthropology PhD graduate researches human migration in risky coastal environments
Anthropology student Charlotte Till’s research focuses on human migration and how environmental changes affect migration. The international student will be graduating with a PhD this fall from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.
Marketing major finds his balance
Tyler Burnside is a native of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and after visiting the ASU Tempe campus during his senior year of high school, he knew where his academic path would begin.
Outstanding graduate explores role of technology in gender-based violence
Toby Shulruff is earning her master’s degree online in public interest technology after her work experience led her to question the function and future outcomes of technology in society as it is currently used.
Catalysts for a nature-based future
On a trip home to Philadelphia after 20 years in the Marine Corps, Nick Heier noticed the anaerobic state of the creeks he used to spend time in. This was an initial spark that eventually brought him to ASU to study biomimicry and construction management.
Global community motivates Thunderbird grad to make lasting impact
As DeMaurya Seymore graduates this fall with a Master of Global Management with a concentration in global affairs, he reflects on how far he has come and how he is more driven than ever to use his appreciation for languages and international relations to make a true impact.
Graduating film student sets out to create meaningful entertainment
Jayla Johnson, who was born and raised in a small town in Wyoming, said she decided to get an early start on pursuing her passion, earning an associate degree before even graduating from high school. Johnson always knew she wanted a career in the entertainment industry, so she continued her path at ASU and is graduating this fall with a BFA in film and media production and a minor in business.
Writing toward wholeness
Graduating student Katherine Santana Brickey believes there’s power in the written word. Brickey’s work for her online Master of Arts in English points to her conviction that words can nurture both mind and body.
A military man embraces a life of the mind
Lane Hiser is graduating this fall with a 4.13 GPA, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a minor in military leadership. He was also selected as The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist for the Department of English, an honor bestowed on the most outstanding graduate in the unit.
PhD grad creates important opportunities for emerging artists
Garrett Laroy Johnson, from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, created new opportunities for creative expression when the pandemic was shuttering access to these forms of practice.
Outstanding graduate encourages students to try everything, fail often, learn always
John Rudebeck, originally an undecided student, is graduating with his bachelor’s degree in innovation in society at ASU’s College of Global Futures. His college career includes two capstone projects, starting a temporary student organization that participated in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society’s curriculum discussions and serving as a new student ambassador.
Graduating chemistry PhD overcomes doubts to encourage others
Graduate student Donald Glaser feels fortunate and honored to receive a PhD in chemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences. As a self-described nontraditional student, Glaser wants others to know that achieving your dreams is possible, despite having what others might consider a less-than-ideal beginning.
Chance opportunity ‘hooked’ Outstanding Graduate Student on business analytics
Mario Liddell discovered his passion for data analytics amid a challenge. The W. P. Carey Outstanding Graduate Student was working in financial sales and trying to prepare talking points, presentation decks and dashboards on behalf of a colleague on paternal leave.
ASU film grad wants to teach the art of critique
Graduating ASU student Adam Khromachou discovered his love of film analysis early in life and lately has honed the skill by writing and narrating more than 1,500 “60-Second Film Reviews” on TikTok. He currently has upwards of 30,000 followers.
Psychology grad has a heart for the homeless
Ryan Pizzo Bieniek, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and minoring in Spanish, has a heart for people who struggle to find housing and other necessities. “There need to be more resources and free housing made available to people left homeless and in less fortunate situations,” he says.
Lifelong learner keeps promise, returns to college
When Kelly Berg first graduated from high school, she started college but ended up dropping out during her second semester. This fall 2022, she is keeping a promise she made to herself to go back and finish her degree.
Fall graduate already working in procurement for state of Arizona
Julia Ladner, a business communication major, will apply what she learned through her honors thesis and an internship in a job with the state of Arizona.
Mother, community, service inspire 2022 grad
Arianna Tillman was inspired by her community and her mother to pursue a bachelor’s degree in medical studies at ASU. After graduation, she plans on working as a medical scribe and applying to medical schools.
International ASU grad uses experiences to undo waste
Nivedita Biyani, who is earning her PhD in civil and environmental engineering, wants to use her life experiences and everything she’s learned at ASU to reimagine how we think about waste.
A love for research inspired alumna to return to ASU for nursing
Alyssa Ingurgio already has a job lined up post-graduation that combines her passion for research and working with people.
Microbiology grad student finds success through ASU community connections
In his time at ASU, Mark Reynolds earned the Robert P. Stearns/SCS Engineers Scholarship from the Solid Waste Association of North America, which allowed him to further pursue his research in microbiology.
ASU master’s grad follows passion for storytelling
Lisa Diethelm graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication and a certificate in philosophy, rhetoric and literature. But her Sun Devil story didn’t end there. After contemplating her career path upon graduation, Diethelm decided to pursue a different kind of storytelling with a master’s degree in English from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.
‘Off the charts empathy’ a superpower for this new ASU graduate
Graduate student Alisa Bozich feels led to help those new to the U.S. find their footing. Her new Master of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages – which she is earning this fall through ASU Online — will make doing just that a bit easier.
Top photo: A student has his photo taken for graduation in front of a 2022 sign placed at Old Main on ASU’s Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News