1,850 Change Makers

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Read about some of more than 1,850 UW Tacoma change-makers launching into the world in June 2018 with their newly-minted University of Washington degrees.

The 2018 graduates of UW Tacoma are taking the next step into a world of possibility, even as each is already making our world and future a better place. Here are just a few of more than 1,850 individuals who inspire with their boundless passion and excellence. Explore their stories by clicking their images below.

 
Fadumo Abdirahman, ’18

Fadumo Abdirahman, ’18

B.A. Communication
2018 Commencement Speaker

Fadumo Abdirahman is, in her words, “the first to do everything.” The UW Tacoma senior is the oldest of eight children. “There’s a lot of pressure on me but that’s a good thing,” she said. “I feel like it’s helped me stay focused because I know my siblings are watching.“

Read Fadumo's Story

Beck Adelante, ’18

Beck Adelante, ’18

B.A. Arts, Media & Culture
2018 Husky 100

College has the potential to transform someone’s life—just ask UW Tacoma senior Beck Adelante. Adelante, who prefers non-gendered pronouns, grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and got used to sunshine and dry weather, but moved to Vermont for their mother’s work. After a few years on the East Coast, the two of them decided to head west. “We came out here and looked around and were just like, ‘Yeah, we should move out here’,” Adelante said.

Read Beck's Story

Eric Ballentine, ’18

Eric Ballentine, ’18

B.A. Urban Studies
2018 Rod Hagenbuch Gift of Service Award

UW Tacoma senior Eric Ballentine didn’t always feel like he had a purpose. But after working as UW Tacoma’s Vet Corps Navigator, the UW Tacoma senior is spending his time helping others find theirs.

Read Eric's Story

Brit Barnhouse, ’18

Brit Barnhouse, ’18

B.A. Writing Studies
2018 Husky 100

If you had to define your UW Tacoma experience in one word, what would it be? UW Tacoma Senior Brit Barnhouse chose one she found on the internet. Barnhouse came to UW Tacoma for a list of reasons, but ultimately, she wanted to overcome the anxiety she felt from watching life pass her by too quickly.

Read Brit's Story

Youcef Bennour, ’18

Youcef Bennour, ’18

B.S. Computer Science & Systems
2018 Husky 100

Youcef Bennour quietly worked his way through the crowd assembled inside the Keystone Building. He approached a staff member and whispered something in her ear. She nodded and handed him an umbrella. Bennour walked down the stairs and went outside. He opened the umbrella and held it over the Air Force bugler standing unshielded in the cold February rain.

Read Youcef's Story

Amy Boucher, ’18

Amy Boucher, ’18

B.A. Sustainable Urban Development

Healthy soil is a nutrient rich playground that encourages growth. Most anything can develop in this environment given the proper care. It’s not surprising then that Amy Boucher spends much of her time with spade in hand, digging beneath the surface, cultivating the fertile ground below.

Read Amy's Story

Chris Burd, ’18

Chris Burd, ’18

B.A. Business Administration

“Is this really happening right now?” said Chris Burd. “If you told me at age 17 that I would one day be sitting thirty feet away from the President of the United States, I would have thought you were lying.” Burd, who graduates in June 2018 with a degree in business administration, is recalling a 2017 trip to Dallas where he was honored by the Student Veterans Association’s Leadership Institute. The George W. Bush Presidential Center hosted the event and the former president stopped by to speak with the honorees.

Read Chris's Story

Emily Clouse, ’18

Emily Clouse, ’18

B.A. Psychology
2018 Husky 100

Ten year-old Emily Clouse used to sneak out of her house and make her way to the bus stop. From there she’d ride into downtown Olympia, some ten miles from her home. “I was looking for my dad,” said Clouse. “I had a notepad, and would go around to different homeless shelters asking about him.”

Read Emily's Story

Evan Contreras, ’18

Evan Contreras, ’18

B.S. Information Technology

The United States Secret Service wanted to talk with Evan Contreras, so they sent him a letter. The document from the agency’s Seattle field office thanked Contreras for his forensic analysis of a credit card skimmer. Thieves used the device to steal information from unsuspecting customers. “It was a very slick operation,” said Contreras. “It sat right on top of the credit card reader in the checkout lane. All they [the thieves] had to do was slap it on, walk away and wait for the skimmer to start collecting information.”

Read Evan's Story

Danni Derrickson, ’18

Danni Derrickson, ’18

B.A. Communication

Anecdotes offer insights into how a person sees the world. One story isn’t a complete picture, yet it gives us enough to compose a sketch. In second grade, Danni Derrickson did something that, in retrospect, seems fitting for a future journalist. “There was a boys’ table and a girls&rsquoi; table in the cafeteria,” said Derrickson. “I wanted to sit at the boys’ table but was told I couldn’t. I didn’t like that someone told me I couldn’t sit there so I convinced one of my friends to sit at the boys’ table with me.”

Read Danni's Story

Arwa Dubad, ’18

Arwa Dubad, ’18

B.A. Politics, Philosophy & Economics

Arwa Dubad picked up the phone and dialed her best friend Kayesee Schermerhorn, ‘17 (Law & Policy). Schermerhorn had been encouraging Dubad to run for ASUWT President, the elected head of UW Tacoma’s student government. Dubad had resisted, citing concerns about the stress of her senior year.

Read Arwa's Story

Stteffany Durán, ’18

Stteffany Durán, ’18

B.A. Psychology
2018 Chancellor’s Medal

First-generation college student Stteffany Durán came to the U.S from Mexico as a five-year-old. “Leaving your country, leaving your culture, it’s maybe not because you want to,” said Durán. “Most people are trying to provide a better education for their kids, which is why my parents came.”

Read Stteffany's Story

Natalie Garces, ’18

Natalie Garces, ’18

B.A. Business Administration / Marketing
2018 Husky 100

Most college students choose their major, but if you asked UW Tacoma Senior Natalie Beth Garces, she might say it was the other way around. Garces graduates June 11 with a degree in business administration with an emphasis on marketing—but that wasn’t always her aspiration. “I used to be very soft spoken and in my shell,” she said.

Read Natalie's Story

Ramon Garza, ’18

Ramon Garza, ’18

B.S. Biomedical Sciences

Ramon Garza was a smart kid, one of the “highly capable” students who loved learning, excelled at math and science, and even took the toughest calculus classes in high school. But even good kids can get sidetracked, and Ramon’s time off the rails nearly cost him a promising future.

Read Ramon's Story

Christian Getzin, ’14, ’18

Christian Getzin, ’14, ’18

Master of Education
B.S. Information Technology

As teacher Christian Getzin’s middle-school students meld an engineering lesson about electrical circuits with an artistic project that uses currents to produce different musical tones, he sparks their excitement about learning. Now finishing his third college degree at UW Tacoma, he models an ongoing quest for education to the kids he teaches.

Read Christian's Story

Ryan Hanley, ’18

Ryan Hanley, ’18

B.S. Environmental Science
2017 Husky 100

Ryan Hanley isn’t afraid to go his own way. “I’m scared of not starting my own thing,” he said. Hanley’s perspective is borne of experience. The 34 year-old has been taking care of himself since age 17. “I was kicked out of my dad’s house when I was a teenager,” he said.

Read Ryan's Story

Tina Hernandez, ’18

Tina Hernandez, ’18

B.A. Social Welfare
2018 Husky 100

Tina Hernandez hasn’t seen her husband in almost a year. “It’s been a long nine months,” she said. Hernandez is a senior at UW Tacoma. She graduates in June with a degree in social welfare. Her husband serves in the U.S. Army and is currently deployed to Pakistan. “In past deployments he took his leave about halfway through but he decided to wait this time,” said Hernandez.

Read Tina's Story

Van Huynh, ’18

Van Huynh, ’18

B.S. Nursing

When she was hungry and scouring the streets of Vietnam for food, when her father would beat her and her mother in their tiny one-room home, as she helped clean the family’s roadside fruit stand every day, Van Huynh weathered it all with one shining goal in her sights: to get an education.

Read Van's Story

Leslie Kirk, ’18

Leslie Kirk, ’18

B.A. Sustainable Urban Development
2018 President's Medal

“I didn’t graduate from a traditional high school. I have holes in my education,” said Leslie Kirk, UW Tacoma’s 2018 President’s Medalist, who is getting her BA in sustainable urban development, along with a certificate in geospatial information systems. The President’s Medal is given each year to the graduate with the most outstanding academic record.

Read Leslie's Story

Kirsten Larican Garcia, ’18

Kirsten Larican Garcia, ’18

B.A. Healthcare Leadership

Within each of us live a thousand alternate realities. We don’t possess the ability to go back and make a different decision, but if we did, simply changing one moment could significantly impact how our lives turn out. This idea isn’t lost on UW Tacoma senior Kirsten Larican Garcia. “My family made sacrifices to get me where I am,” she said. “If they didn’t move to the United States then I wouldn’t be here.”

Read Kirsten's Story

Natalie Lawrence, ’18

Natalie Lawrence, ’18

B.A. Psychology
2018 Husky 100

Natalie Lawrence decided to make a change. Four years ago she started taking classes at South Puget Sound Community College where she nurtured a burgeoning interest in psychology. “I really liked that you could explain human behavior,” she said. “I felt like prior to that things didn’t make sense and studying psychology really put things into context for me.”

Read Natalie's Story

Michael Malek, ’18

Michael Malek, ’18

B.A. Communication

Michael Malek refused to abandon his education. His experience with Running Start—a program that gives Washington residents the opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school—had given him a taste of college, but after graduating from high school he decided to enter the workforce. He moved from his home in El Paso, Texas, to look for work in Washington. Still, college remained on his mind.

Read Michael's Story

Adriana Meraz-Gonzalez, ’18

Adriana Meraz-Gonzalez, ’18

B.A. Urban Studies / Community Development & Planning

Adriana Meraz-Gonzalez’s quest for a college education began when she was just 12 years old. Meraz-Gonzalez’s mother supported her four children with a fast-food restaurant job and a caring, but wayward, stepfather who wound up in prison. Adriana says her family had modest dreams for her: try to finish high school and then get a job.

Read Adriana's Story

Apple Ortiz, ’18

Apple Ortiz, ’18

B.A. Law & Policy

UW Tacoma senior Apple Ortiz has a way of putting people at ease. Maybe it’s his humor or ever-ready smile. While his demeanor may seem natural, Ortiz describes himself pre-UW Tacoma as being a hermit. “My time here has taught me not to be like that,” he said.

Read Apple's Story

Malinda Osborn, ’18

Malinda Osborn, ’18

B.A. Communication

The airport was quiet. Most of the bustle from end-of-season traveling had passed, but Malinda Osborn, a UW Tacoma senior, waited to board her plane. She started 2018 with an adventure, her first trip outside the United States.

Read Malinda's Story

Josiah Pollock, ’18

Josiah Pollock, ’18

B.A. History

Josiah Pollock has a favorite quote: “Pupils are taught the outline of our national and world history but little or nothing of their home city where most of them were born.” The statement comes from Clarence Bagley, one of Washington’s first historians.

Read Josiah's Story

The Purnell Family

Tori Purnell, ’15, ’18

B.A. Psychology, Master of Social Work

Olivia Purnell, ’18

B.A. History

In 2013, Tori Purnell enrolled at UW Tacoma to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Around the same time her twin daughters Olivia and Lindsee started at TCC. It didn’t take Tori long to finish her undergraduate degree and begin work on a master’s in social work. In the fall of 2016, some familiar company joined Purnell at UW Tacoma. Olivia and Lindsee transferred from TCC.

Read the Purnell's Story

Leah Ruisenor, ’18

Leah Ruisenor, ’18

B.S. Computer Science & Systems

Leah Ruisenor’s dryer broke about a year ago. The UW Tacoma senior and mother of three didn’t hesitate. “I wasn’t going to call somebody to come take it apart,” she said. “I could do that myself.” Ruisenor opened up the machine and turned over the circuit boards to find they were broken. “I was like, ‘Alright, I can solder this,’ she said. “I got my trusty soldering iron, fixed the boards, plugged the dryer back in and that sucker turned on.”

Read Leah's Story

Zahra Sabir, ’18

Zahra Sabir, ’18

B.A. Business Administration / Marketing
2018 Commencement Speaker

Zahra Sabir plans one day to be White House Communications Director. She’ll serve in the role for eight years (two terms) before leaving politics and opening her own grilled cheese restaurant in Los Angeles. “I’m the best grilled chef there is, I’m a grilled cheese connoisseur,” said Sabir. “More times than not, I’ve gotten ‘Wow, this is the best grilled cheese I’ve ever had.’“

Read Zahra's Story

Kendy Trinh, ’18

Kendy Trinh, ’18

B.A. Ethnic, Gender & Labor Studies
2018 Husky 100

Kendy Trinh wanted to get involved at UW Tacoma, but he wanted more than just that. He came ready to build a community. “I needed to find my foundation,” Trinh said.

Read Kendy's Story

Leander Yazzie, ’18

Leander Yazzie, ’18

Ed.D. Educational Leadership

Leander Yazzie called his auntie with the good news. “She had a very tired voice,” he said. Yazzie had just received his letter of acceptance into the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) at UW Tacoma. “I was still in the Army then and had just gotten off a twenty-four hour shift,” said Yazzie. “I chatted with her through my car speaker. She said, ‘That’s really good, son, I wish you well.’“Yazzie's auntie passed away two months later.

Read Leander's Story

Section: 
Written: 
June 7, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu