(Image above: On all three campuses, ceremonial occasions like Commencement begin with the entrance of the University Mace. The mace was presented to the University on the occasion of its 100th anniversary in 1961 by the UW Alumni Association. Read more about the mace here.)
You can hear the sentiment echoed by faculty, staff and students throughout the UW Tacoma campus: we finally get to return to an in-person Commencement.
Colleges and universities across the country made amazing strides in virtual celebrations over the last two years, but nothing can replace the joy of physically walking across the stage, shaking the hand of a university leader, and soaking up the cheers and applause of loved ones and family members.
But constant throughout all the pandemic adjustments has been this: people getting UW Tacoma degrees are doing amazing things.
Click on the tiles immediately below to read about a selection of UW Tacoma graduates from 2020 and 2021.
And scroll down to read about a few amazing people from the Class of 2022.
Chanelle Allen has faced challenges as a Black woman in STEM, but she is prepared to handle them. By offering her support to others, she becomes more deeply immersed in her chosen field. She know that she is getting in by giving back.
Leticia Barreto overcame both her anxiety about public speaking and a pandemic-influenced isolation, and dove into campus life. She worked as a Pack Advisor and in the Teaching & Learning Center, and she served as the Urban Studies senator in student government.
Jalen Bounthong's degree sets a high bar for his siblings to follow. A first-generation college student of Cambodian and Laotian heritage, he transformed from a shy freshman to a confident senior and hopes to use his new-found leadership skills to achieve business success.
Selena Caldera is a military veteran, a political activist and labor organizer. For her, a law and policy degree and, soon, law school are a natural progression toward becoming a lawyer and fighting the injustices that she sees in the world.
Bengisu Cicek, the 2022 UW Tacoma Chancellor's Medalist, dealt with a monstrous commute from Bellevue to UW Tacoma, and, along with everyone else, a pandemic. They didn't curb her desire to take part in campus life, as a writer for The Ledger, an officer with ASUWT and president of the Muslim Student Association.
Read Bengisu's Story
Maryam Al Darraji has a dream to become a surgeon, which has taken her from Iraq to Jordan to Kent to UW Tacoma. Her persistence has rubbed off on her mother, who will soon get her own college degree in early childhood education.
Heather Finch turned her concern for animal welfare into a computer science degree. She hopes some day to play a role in creating technologies that can be used to replace live animal testing in scientific research.
Andre Henderson's life was teetering on the brink. But then the Navy veteran recalled his mother’s words urging higher education, and he took a path that turned his life around. Now the Governor's Student Civic Leadership Award-winner plans to go on to get a gradate degree in social work.
Chanise Jackson has achieved her goal of a college degree four years after a medical diagnosis threatened to end her college career before it even began. Along the way, she has been named a Truman Scholar, a Bamford Fellow, and served as a senator in UW Tacoma student government.
Andre Jimenez, the outgoing ASUWT President, is all about the transformative impact of education. Once he started college, both his brother and his wife followed suit. Once he earns his master's degree from Princeton in public affairs, he may go on to law school, or he may take the dive into politics.
Kashira Jenkins is willing to do the work to make a difference in social welfare policy. She has seen first-hand how lack of representation in the profession leads to biased decisions that affect families for generations.
Kevin Yuan-Jie Liu thought he wanted to be a diplomat, but the more he learned the more he thought law school would be a better fit for his gaming interests and personal style. In the fall he will start on a full-tuition scholarship at University of Oregon School of Law.
Melissa Nunez is getting established in her career as a nurse, but the journey has been one with many detours. As a first-generation college student, she found many who are willing to help, but knowing what and who to ask could be difficult.
Kristina Pogosian is soaring high. An Armenian American, she served as UW Student Regent in 2020-21. Before that, she was President of the TCC student government. She is heading to Armenia to work as a teacher for at least the next year.
Dustin Ray is one of UW Tacoma's Commencement student speakers in 2022. In his talk, he will share how he gained his love and skill at math at UW Tacoma, and how he also gained a desire to harness the power of artificial intelligence for social good.
Sarah Sutton (Wilkinson) got her degree in 2020, but Commencement that year was virtual-only. This year, she is walking across the stage, along with her husband, Josh Sutton, '21, and her niece, Talilia Gadbaw, '22.
Innovative systems in UW Tacoma's new Milgard Hall include custom-designed modular pods containing electrical, low-voltage, plumbing and mechanical systems such as lighting, fire detectors and sprinklers.
Former student Arabelis Wally has received a prestigious fellowship at Johns Hopkins University that will support her graduate work. The Thomas Scholarship is awarded to "exceptional students from ... minority-serving institutions to pursue PhDs in STEM fields ... ."