2019 Honorees Set a High Bar

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Students and faculty individually recognized at UW Tacoma's 2019 Commencement represent accomplishments in scholarship, community engagement and contributions to the campus and university.

Humans give each other awards to mark accomplishment, connote prestige and celebrate values. UW Tacoma gives awards, just like most other institutions of higher education. In particular, our awards emphasize our values as an urban-serving, community-engaged university campus. The people below are celebrated for their accomplishments in teaching, research, community engagement and contributions to UW Tacoma and UW.

President's Medal

The President's Medal recipient is selected from graduating seniors with the most distinguished academic record. This year's medalist earned a 3.99 GPA.

Sarah L. Lindhartsen graduates with a bachelor of science degree in biomedical sciences. The 40-year-old mother of three went back to school in 2013 after her spouse passed away. Lindhartsen completed an associate's degree at Tacoma Community College before transferring to UW Tacoma. During her time on campus, Lindhartsen has worked as a student researcher in Dr. Marc Nahmani's neuroscience lab and plans to continue working in the lab during the summer. She also worked as a student assistant for the ACCESS in STEM program at UW Tacoma. She is currently enrolled in a one-year histology technician certificate program. Following completion of the program, Lindhartsen intends to work in a medical or research lab for a few years before returning to school to earn a Ph.D.

Chancellor's Medal

The Chancellor's Medal recognizes an individual who has been a consistent source of inspiration for faculty and fellow students alike, and who has overcome significant obstacles in order to complete a degree.

Katherine Felts is motivated by people. The first-generation student has a passion for helping others succeed. During her time on campus, Felts worked as a career prep consultant and as Vet Corps Navigator. She also served as vice president of UW Tacoma's Student Veterans Association. Felts has a personal connection to the veteran community. Most of her family, including her mother, served in the military. Felts graduates with a bachlor of arts degree in ethnic, gender and labor studies. She hopes to continue her education by pursuing a master of fine arts in creative writing.

Read Katherine Felts: Becoming a Renaissance Woman, 2017.

Student Speaker

Diana Sheila Algomeda Villada, '19, B.A. Ethnic, Gender & Labor Studies, 2019 UW Tacoma Commencement Student SpeakerDiana Sheila Algomeda Villada is never not busy. Algomeda Villada has been a peer advisor, ASUWT senator and the director of internal communications and affairs for ASUWT. She worked to create the First Gen Fellows program which helps first-generation students adapt and thrive in higher education. She was a 2018-19 Dressel Scholar and a recipient of a Rod Hagenbuch Gift of Service Award. Off-campus, Algomeda Villada served as a tutor for Highline Public Schools. On top of this, she works a regular job. The money she makes goes to help her mother, father and three siblings. Algomeda Villada recently completed an internship at Tacoma Community House where she helped immigrants and refugees find employment. Her bachelor of arts degree is in ethnic, gender and labor studies with global honors.

Read Diana Sheila Algomeda Villada: Sense of Belonging, 2019.

Student Speaker

Justin Cabanos, '19, B.A. Business Administration, UW Tacoma 2019 Commencement Student SpeakerJustin Cabanos has accomplished a lot and he's only 19 years old. Cabanos earned his associate's degree in high school through the Running Start program. He came to the UW Tacoma MIlgard School of Business as a junior and graduates today with a bachelor of arts degree in business administration. During his time on campus, Cabanos has served as the treasurer for the Filipino Student Association and the Ping Pong Club. He also helped new students get acclimated to college life in his role as a Pack Advisor. Cabanos won't have much downtime after graduation. He has been accepted into the Master of Science in Finance program at Pacific Lutheran University and is scheduled to begin coursework in the fall of 2019.

Read Justin Cabanos: Enabling Success, 2019.

Community Engagement Awards

Community engagement is built on the spirit of partnership and reciprocity, a process that values community knowledge and contributes to it in a manner that is respectful of our partners. The true spirit of community partnership is achieved through a deep and sustained relationship with partners who engage in the co-production of knowledge. These partnerships improve the everyday lives of community members, and contribute to our public research and pedagogy.

Dr. Michelle Montgomery, Assistant Professor, Social & Historical Studies, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, 2019 UW Tacoma Community Engagement AwardDr. Michelle Montgomery, Assistant Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, Social & Historical Division, connects research, teaching and service with a commitment to increasing collective knowledge of the histories, cultures and political struggles of Indigenous populations. Dr. Montgomery creates space for dialogue and the co-production of knowledge among organizations at the local, regional and national level. Among her long-term community partnerships, Dr. Montgomery serves as a committee member on The Living Breath of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposia at UW in Seattle and the Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Working Group.

Read Multiple Versions of the Same Person, 2018

Dr. Turan Kayaoglu, Professor, Politics, Philosophy & Public Affairs, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, 2019 UW Tacoma Community Engagement Award.Dr. Turan Kayaoğlu, Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, Politics, Philosophy & Public Affairs Division, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Research, has been working locally and internationally to improve knowledge about Islam and the Muslim community. Dr. Kayaoğlu travels across the state speaking about Islam as part of Humanities Washington. He is also active with the World Affairs Council Tacoma. Dr. Kayaoğlu works with the organization to develop programs and host speakers that provide critical insight into national and international issues. Among his many campus roles, Dr. Kayaoğlu serves as the advisor for the Muslim Student Association.

Distinguished Teaching Award

Dr. Anaid Yerena, Assistant Professor, Urban Studies, 2019 UW Tacoma Distinguished Teaching AwardDr. Anaid Yerena, Assistant Professor, Urban Studies, uses a strengths-based, individualized approach to learning. Her students engage in community projects that affect policy and practice in the region, in turn becoming influential in the community. She has a deep, ongoing commitment to professional development and pedagogy. She worked as an architect before she got her master's and Ph.D. at UC Irvine in 2015 and came to UW Tacoma in that year. Dr. Yerena's research examines housing policyand the role of locally-generated solutions to displacement and housing-affordabillity imbalances. She teaches courses in urban planning, housing and urban design, and has been instrumental in the creation of UW Tacoma's undergraduate urban design degree. Dr. Yerena has been honored in 2018 and 2019 at the UW Latinx Faculty Recognition Event.

Distinguished Research Award

Dr. Ka Yee Yeung, Associate Professor, School of Engineering & Technology, 2019 UW Tacoma Distinguished Research AwardDr. Ka Yee Yeung, Associate Professor, School of Engineering & Technology, focuses on the development of machine learning tools, their application to computational biology and the development of containerized tools to enhance the reproducibility of research. Dr. Yeung is currently the primary investigator on a National Institutes of Health-funded project investigating containerized cloud-enabled software tools and methods that support reproducible analyses of big biomedical data. One goal of this project is to develop a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface to enable biomedical researchers to build and edit containerized workflows. Dr. Yeung's work is widely cited, and three of her papers have been acknowledged for pushing the boundaries of the field.

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / June 15, 2019
Media contact: 

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