Komisi is a first generation college who hopes to use his computer science skills to support his community. In addition to being a student, Komisi serves as a Peer Success Mentor at the UW Tacoma Teaching and Learning Center. He is also proud to have co-facilitated a workshop to 80+ college students at a conference about health, networking, being a speaker at a scholarship donor dinner, as well as mentoring high school students on their path to college. After graduation, Komisi plans to work for a tech company and hopes to inspire other Pacific Islanders to pursue STEM careers.
Ihsanullah Abdulrahimzai (Premajor)
Achieving higher education had always been Ihsanullah’s dream especially since neither of his parents graduated high school. As an immigrant to the United States, it wasn’t clear if that dream was attainable, and family obligations initially prevented him from attending university. Ihsanullah has worked as a Finance Officer and Payable Accountant for over four years in Afghanistan. After coming to the U.S., he attended Highline College to pursue an Associate Degree of Business Emphasis in Accounting (DTA). He is working towards an Accounting degree at UW Tacoma.
Melissa Atienza (Global Studies and Business Management, BA ’20)
Growing up as a military child, Melissa lived in Indonesia, Japan, Italy, and Bahrain for eleven years before returning to the United States to attend college. During her first year at UW Tacoma, Melissa joined the Asian Pacific Islander Student Union (APISU), an organization she now leads as president: “APISU has taught me the importance of a cultural identity … If we lose our ancestral footprint, we lose our uniqueness ... As president of APISU, I want to carry the tradition and essence of the organization, be an influencer that encourages the next generation of APIs to achieve the unthinkable, especially higher education.” Melissa also works as the Marketing Assistant for Career Development on campus.
Jonah was born and raised in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S., where he focuses his studies on Computer Engineering. He is pursuing this field because he is passionate about technology development: “The technological revolution of the 21st century, and the innovation that continues to result from it, has changed everything we thought we knew about the world. The way we work, live, and communicate was altered immensely in the last ten years, and will continue to change as more and more advancement is made in technology.” He looks forward to helping to shape this future.
Caleb Chang (Computer Science & Systems, BS ’21)
Caleb is studying Computer Science with the goal of becoming a software engineer, and he hopes to develop technology that benefits older adults as well as people with disabilities. He plans to join the HusCII coding club on campus and pursue an internship with a tech company this summer. Knowing as much as he does about both hardware and software, he is often asked by friends and family to help explain new technology and volunteers in community centers to help older adults with technology use.
Joseph Dayonot (Information Technology, BS’ 20)
Joe is a half Samoan, half Filipino student studying Information Technology at UW Tacoma. He is currently the treasurer for the Asian Pacific Islander Student Union (APISU). Joe plans on continuing to work with APISU in helping others find their place on campus.
Abid Rahmani (Business Administration, BA ‘21)
Abid was born in Afghanistan, but his family decided to seek refuge in Pakistan as the security situation in his country of birth worsened. After completing primary, middle, and high school in Pakistan, Abid moved back to Afghanistan in 2008 to work on USAID funded economic and regional projects. Due to his employment with a U.S. government agency, his life was in jeopardy, and he eventually moved to the United States with his family.
After working as a security officer in the U.S., Abid is now a business student at UW Tacoma. He continues to work as an Economic Development Specialist with the Diocese of Olympia while pursuing his education. His goal is to pursue an MBA in Management and to eventually run his own business.
Francine Ruth (Pre-major)
As a recipient of the AANAPISI scholarship, Francine vows to work diligently to bridge families and communities while encouraging support for one another. “My journey in obtaining my degree has given me the liberty to speak about learning for a lifespan to my children and many others. To return to [college] at 39 years old was not a choice I took lightly.”
As her son became gravely ill, Francine watched her two teenagers support him selflessly. Her children’s compassion encouraged her to stop her career and follow a longtime dream of working toward a bachelor’s degree. The AANAPISI Scholarship will support her in achieving that dream.
Cindy Thao (Healthcare Leadership, BA ‘20)
Cindy is grateful for the support she received from people who believed in her and helped her believe in herself. Growing up poor, she had to work to support her parents and younger siblings. Says Cindy: “I did drugs, I was diagnosed with depression, and I lost everything, but somehow I was able to realize that there is more to life.” She decided to go back to school to become a licensed vocational nurse and completed her Associate’s degree in 2016.
She is now a student in the Healthcare Leadership program and works as a student research assistant for the Nourish Pierce County program. After completing her Bachelor’s, she hopes to pursue a Doctorate of Nursing Practice, in an effort to better understand how to improve care and provide culturally appropriate nutrition at long-term care facilities.
Eric Min (Information Technology, BS ‘19)
Eric focused his studies on cybersecurity and information assurance with a minor in business administration and hopes to work in project management or cybersecurity after graduation. While at UW Tacoma, he founded Campus Adult Ministry (CAM), a registered student organization, to give back, share his faith, and build community. He is grateful to the guidance he has received from his mentors and proud that he was able to overcome his shyness and lack of ambition to thrive in college.
Jenny Rubario (pre-major)
Jenny Rubario is a recent immigrant to the United States. She transferred to UW Tacoma from Pierce College, where she was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, American Honors, and ASPIRE, a support program for Asian American and Pacific Islander students. Jenny plans to pursue a Business major and hopes to work in the financial sector after graduation.
Truc Tran (Healthcare Leadership, BA ‘20)
Truc immigrated to the United States from Vietnam with her family as a child. When they first arrived in the United States, they had had to start all over: adapt to a new place, to a new language, and to everything else that was different. Her interest in the healthcare field was piqued while she looked after her sick grandfather near the end of his life: “I would feed him and help him with his necessities. The one thing that stood out for me was that he always smiled and appreciated all the things I did for him. The feeling I had every time he would smile felt so powerful.” Truc hopes to help others in need by working in the healthcare field after graduation.
Tuyen Ngoc Tran (Business Administration, BA ‘20)
Tuyen immigrated to the United States from Vietnam, which she describes as “one of the most influential personal events that has shaped my character through academic and cultural challenges”. It is this immigration experience and the subsequent integration into U.S. society that have helped her build important intercultural skills. Tuyen is active in the Vietnamese Student Association and the Power Lifting Club at UW Tacoma and works at the front desk of the Center for Student Involvement. She hopes to manage her own non-profit organization to provide support and opportunities for families and young adults.
Dilluchei (Lu-A) Kikuo (Politics, Philosophy, & Economics, BA ‘19)
I am from the Republic of Palau, a small and young island nation in the Micronesian region of the Pacific Islands. I came to the U.S. right after high school to go to college. However, due to some financial and personal setbacks, my educational journey has taken quite some time to complete. After transferring to UW-Tacoma from my former schools and changing my major to PPE: Politics and Philosophy, I finally feel that I am on the right track. This has made my learning experience more fun, satisfying, and engaging.
I am interested in law school after my undergraduate studies. My ultimate goal is to move back to Palau with my husband and our son to live there once I have completed law school. I believe that for me personally, studying politics and law holds the key to becoming a competent and conscientious contributing member of Palauan society.
Kennaro Samrith (Accounting, BA ‘18)
Since moving to Tacoma, WA for college I was introduced to various community members from different cultural disciplines. Each of them has either encouraged, challenged or mentored me to become the person I am today.
An important goal for me was to overcome my shyness and explore the world for what it has to offer. Each and every day I promise myself to seek discomfort to learn more about myself by simply just saying, “YES”. This ranges from riding an electric longboard for the first time to traveling with a group of strangers across the country to help with disaster relief efforts.
My overall goal is to educate individuals on the importance of community. I plan to utilize my role as a student leader to connect students with Tacoma communities to learn from and with each other.
Kinza Mohammad (Healthcare Leadership, BA ‘19)
I was born in Las Vegas, NV to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan. Being a Muslim Woman, it is often a challenge to fit in. Sometimes, you are told things by your own people that break you, like, “You’re a Woman, you can’t be doing that.” Well, being as stubborn as I am, I did all of those things, that “I wasn’t supposed to do.” I played sports – including Judo and Track, joined many clubs, participated in science fairs, ran for class president, volunteered, and started working at age 16. At Green River College, I worked as a Biology Lab tech aid and a peer navigator in the Office of Diversity. But to be honest, I almost didn’t graduate high school. I was failing 3 classes, had 2 C’s and one B. If it wasn’t for running start, I don’t think I would have graduated. My running start teachers allowed me to find my true potential. My family pushed me to keep moving forward, and encouraged me to do the impossible. I am in the healthcare leadership program now and aspire to help those in countries that do not have adequate healthcare. Being the first in my family to go to college, everything is new to me. It is sometimes a hassle to find out what step comes next, but I am slowly working my way through.
James Da (Social Welfare, BA '19)
James Christian Da is a first generation college student who identifies as a queer person of color studying social work and global honors at the University of Washington Tacoma. He is the co-founder of the first student-led, student-funded, and student-driven program on campus that specifically caters, supports, and celebrates first generation students (First Gen Fellows), while also serving and representing undeclared students in his capacity as an Undeclared Senator for the ASUWT Student Government. He is committed to educational growth and the overall advancement for all students of different backgrounds as he himself is the first individual in his family to attend a high-ranking university. He aims to become a social worker or serve in any capacity that advocates for those who are underrepresented and marginalized.
Leonard Da (Premajor)
I am an Asian-American first generation college student studying Healthcare Leadership. I wasn’t sure if I could afford going to college. Both my parents attended college in the Philippines but they never completed a degree because of financial hardship. I’m very blessed and thankful for my parents shaping my character, and helping me realize what a privilege receiving an education is.
My career goal is to become a healthcare provider so that I may be able to help others in need. I plan on giving back to my community after completing my education by volunteering and interning at local hospitals and care management facilities. After that, I would like to work for an organization that provides healthcare resources to developing countries.
Malinda Osborn (Communication, BA' 18)
I am a first-generation Chamorro student and work at UW Tacoma Library and the Center for Equity & Inclusion where I develop events and workshops focused on Identity. I am very excited to study abroad in Italy with support from a Gilman International Scholarship in winter 2018. I will be participating in the “Creativity and Place: Seeing and Re-seeing Rome and Italy” program.
David Lu (Information Technology, BS '19)
Being the first in my family to go to college was challenging. I didn't know what resources I had available to me. My parents immigrated here from Vietnam and had no experience with the American education system. I often kept to myself and tried not to be a bother to anyone. This resulted in me being an introvert. When I came to UW Tacoma I didn't know anyone. I kept to myself for two quarters before I told myself that I was tired of being alone all the time. I mustered up the strength to go check out a few RSO's on campus. This is where everything started to change. I started meeting more people and socializing more. My personality and habits took a 180 degree turn. I went from being antisocial and not knowing what I wanted to major in to the complete opposite.
I am now majoring in Information Technology and my goal is to educate everyone about the effects of e-waste on the environment. At my past internship they were tossing a semi-new phone when I asked if I could have it. They said yes, so I took it home and refurbished it, and it is now the phone I use. Any electronic contains elements that can be reused or chemicals that need to be properly disposed of. If everyone were to know about this, we could be more efficient about what we do with our e-waste and make reduce the amount of e-waste that we produce
Vanessa Hung (Premajor)
As the daughter of a Chinese immigrant and a Vietnamese refugee, I am pursuing my dream of becoming a cyber-consultant with time, dedication, effort, and passion. The United States Department of Homeland Security states that 90 percent of security incidents are caused by poor software development. When my skills are well developed in the near future, I will provide my utmost abilities and effort to protect this nation from further cyberattacks.
I am a hardworking student regardless of any financial and academic difficulties I have faced. I have sacrificed a lot of time from leisure activities and focused on academics, school activities as well as volunteering. I was a concertmaster of orchestra from grade 5 to grade 12 and received state and solo awards in orchestra performances and competitions. I volunteered as a Study Zone tutor at the Kent Regional Library for 3 years and at Northwest Harvest to help provide food for those in need.
Motivated by her own experiences during adolescence and early adulthood, as a Bonderman Fellow, Drew plans to explore the intersection of spirituality and resilience. Mindfulness and meditation have been significant aspects of her daily life, and she plans to dedicate her time discovering cultures that find their roots in these practices, and where they, and the natural environment inspire resilience through acceptance of the present, and grace in understanding the past and implications for the future. Drew plans to immerse herself in the respectful consideration of cultures that continue to influence and shape the lens through which she views the world and her place in it. Her Bonderman journey will take her through South America visiting Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. She then will spend time traveling through Southeast Asia where she will stay in Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos among other countries. Finally, Drew’s Bonderman travels will conclude in India and Nepal.
Azad Mohammed (Geospatial Technologies, MS ‘18)
Maps were Azad’s way of understanding and knowing the unfamiliar world around him, outside of his hometown in Boise, Idaho and his place of birth in Kurdistan. He has always been intrigued by them in any format, either on screen or on paper; the power they can hold is central to his motivation to obtain a master’s in geospatial technologies. Realizing he is part of this global world and that he somehow fits somewhere, he has always been adamant to take that next step outside of his comfort zone. His countries of choice reflect that statement: Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Kevin Bogue (Sustainable Urban Development, BA ‘15)
Kevin has a strong interest in the construction, environmental stewardship, and continued development of urban centers. As a Bonderman Fellow, he plans to explore urban environments throughout Southeast Asia, Turkey, as well as Southern and Eastern Europe. He hopes to return with new and exciting ideas about more sustainable approaches to urban planning and development.
The Bonderman Travel Fellowship provides $20,000 to fourteen UW students every year for eight months of solo travel to at least six different countries in two main world regions.
Chinese Government Scholarship
Inteus Taylor (Global Studies, BA ’15)
He will be pursuing a Master’s Degree in Global Studies at Nanjing University.
While at UW Tacoma, Inte studied Mandarin and spent a full academic year in China. He participated in UW Tacoma’s summer study abroad program in China and also studied at Nanjing University through CIEE.
Inte is very skilled at learning foreign languages: he studied Japanese in high school, is proficient in Mandarin and is hoping to tackle Korean next.
Korey, a veteran and Computer Science student, started his study of Mandarin while in the U.S. Army and has been interested in Chinese culture for a while. “When I found out about the CLS program I immediately started the application process. Although studying in China won’t contribute to my major, my hope is to earn a minor in Asian studies. I look forward to the opportunities and experiences that lay ahead!”
Beleqsa Tamaami (Global Studies, Global Honors, BA’16)
Last fall, Beleqsa studied abroad at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco as a 2015 Gilman Scholar; she will be continuing her Arabic study in Jordan this summer. As the oldest sibling and the first in her family to attend college, Beleqsa has spent a lot of time convincing her parents that studying abroad is worthwhile and of great benefit to her. As a result of her own experience, Beleqsa is motivated to provide access to higher education opportunities such as study abroad to her siblings and other youth.
On campus, Beleqsa worked in the Center for Service and Leadership as the Spring Breakaway Coordinator. Her 2015 spring service project focused on mentoring youth at the Willie Stewart Reengagement Center alongside other UW Tacoma students and staff volunteers. Huge congratulations!
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Critical Language Scholarship provides fully funded overseas summer language institutes in fourteen foreign languages.
Degan Hussein (Biomedical Sciences, BS'21)
Degan planned to participate in the 2020-2021 academic year Korea University Exchange Program in Seoul, South Korea. "I was inspired to apply to this program because my minor is Korean, and I wanted to spend some time in the country that I was studying. This will be my first time living alone, and I hope that it will be an impactful time away from home. One of my passions has always been learning languages so I am excited for this opportunity." Due to COVID-19, she had to defer the award until 2021. Degan also received the Gilman International Scholarship.
The Freeman-ASIA provides support for undergraduate students who are planning to study overseas in East or Southeast Asia. Grantees help promote study abroad on their home campuses and communities.
Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) Fellowship
Melanie Randall (Information Technology, BS'17)
Melanie is a first-generation college student who transferred to UW Tacoma from Highline College in 2015. Prior to UW Tacoma, she was a pastry chef in restaurants on the East Coast, in the Southwest, and right here in Washington. She has also worked in sales, customer service, and at the IT help desk for REI. She may not have realized it then, but these fast-paced, multi-cultural environments have prepared her well for her future role as a Foreign Affairs IT Specialist.
Melanie is also the proud mother of a daughter who’s attending college. With support of the FAIT Fellowship, Melanie will be pursuing a Master of Science in Information Management at the UW iSchool. Congratulations to Melanie, her academic unit, and her mentors!
Fulbright U.S. Student Program
Saranda Ross (Communication, BA '15; UW Law School, JD '19)
A Tacoma native, Saranda Ross is a 2019 UW Law graduate and licensed attorney who has received a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct fieldwork in Brazil. Fluent in Portuguese, Ross will work with underserved communities in Brazil to advance equal access to food justice. Her project focuses on legislative and sociopolitical solutions to environment-related food insecurity including availability, access, utilization, and stability of resources.
Ross is well-prepared for the challenges she will face in completing her nine-month project. While she earned her bachelor’s degree in communications and human rights from UW Tacoma, she also volunteered offering civil legal aid services at Tacoma Pro Bono. She then lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she studied Spanish and volunteered for a local environmental organization. During law school, Ross received a FLAS fellowship to study Portuguese and international law, and was also a Senior Managing Editor on the Washington International Law Journal. In addition to working at a civil litigation law firm during her 1L and 2L summers, she received funding from a second FLAS fellowship to continue her Portuguese studies in Lisbon, Portugal.
Currently, Ross is a law clerk at the Washington State Court of Appeals, a volunteer attorney for Tacoma Pro Bono, a board member in two legal minority associations, and a professional mentor to pre-law students. In her free time, she trains in Muay Thai, worships the moon, and binge-reads post-apocalyptic novels.
Sophie Nop (Computer Science & Systems, BS ‘16)
She will be spending a year in Kralanh, Cambodia and plans to work with a local NGO on a participatory research project: Her goal is to better understand how mobile app development can advance digital literacy in rural areas, and how Cambodian youth interact with technology. Huge congratulations to Sophie and to everyone who’s taught, inspired, and supported her during her time at UW Tacoma. Sophie served as ASUWT president from 2015-16.
Maksim Rusev (Accounting, BA ’15 & MAcc ’16)
Maksim is no stranger to international travel and language learning. He is proficient in Spanish, Russian, and Bulgarian, and studied abroad in St. Petersburg and Mexico as an undergraduate. He has family roots in Bulgaria and is now making the most of his Fulbright in Bulgaria: In addition to teaching at a secondary school, he started a speech and debate team that is competing all over the country, is coaching the school's basketball team, and started a language exchange cafe. Here's a brief video summarizing his first 100 days and pictures from his time in Bulgaria.
Lizeth Garcia (Politics, Philosophy and Economics '13)
As the first UW Tacoma student to receive this award, she will be developing and leading language classes at a Brazilian teachers college and representing the U.S. abroad as a citizen ambassador.
Lizeth is the first in her family to graduate from college, and she has gained valuable tutoring experience while working with a local community organization that supports the education of Latino children. Since graduating from UW Tacoma, she’s worked as a legislative aide at King County Council.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards funding for one academic year of self-designed study, research, creative projects, or teaching English in one of over 140 countries around the world. Eligible applicants are U.S. citizens who will have a bachelor's degree before the start of the grant, but not yet a PhD.
Fund for Education Abroad Scholar
Gabriela Romero (Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies; Psychology BA ‘23)
Fund for Education Abroad Scholar, 2021 (deferred)
Gabriela is a transfer student from South Seattle College, currently in her junior year at UW Tacoma. Throughout her college journey she has truly began to find herself through my studies. She says: “My education is easily one of the most important things to me, and I feel immensely grateful to be able to study at the University of Washington Tacoma. I am currently in the midst of declaring a double major in Psychology and Ethnic, Gender, & Labor Studies and very much look forward to continuing on to attain my PhD in Psychology. My passion is people, and although I am not entirely sure of what my future holds, I know that whatever profession I chose will be centered around helping people live more fulfilling, happy lives. I strongly believe that every human being, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status, deserves to have their needs met in order to thrive in their communities.” Gabriela is hoping to study abroad in an intensive Spanish language program.
Natalye Guzman (Spanish Language & Culture and Psychology, BA '21)
Natalye planned to participate in the summer 2020 Spanish Language and Culture in Cusco, Peru program. "I've always wanted to visit South America; the Mesoamerican and Andean history fascinates me. I grew up understanding Spanish as I was born to Mexican parents, but I seek to recognize the complexities of Latinx culture. I intend to learn about different experiences on the continent of America in order to grasp a better understanding of the experience of immigrants and the Latinx community in the U.S." Due to COVID-19, she had to defer the award until 2021.
Degan Hussein (Biomedical Sciences, BS'21)
Degan planned to participate in the 2020-2021 academic year Korea University Exchange Program in Seoul, South Korea. "I was inspired to apply to this program because my minor is Korean, and I wanted to spend some time in the country that I was studying. This will be my first time living alone, and I hope that it will be an impactful time away from home. One of my passions has always been learning languages so I am excited for this opportunity." Due to COVID-19, she had to defer the award until 2021. Degan also received the Freeman-Asia award.
Nicole Hunter (Communication, BA' 20)
Nicole planned to participate in the summer 2020 Vietnam: Peace and Social Change program. Due to COVID-19, she had to defer the award until 2021.
Harmanjit Dhillon (Biomedical Sciences, BS' 21)
Harmanjit planned to participate in the early fall 2020 CFHI: Public Health and Community Medicine in Delhi, India program. Due to COVID-19, he had to defer the award until 2021.
Fadumo Diriye (pre-major, '20)
Fadumo will be participating in the 2018 CIEE Summer Korean Studies program in Seoul, South Korea. Longer bio forthcoming.
Shivani Lal (Sustainable Urban Development, BA '19)
Shivani will be participating in the summer 2018 UW Urban Design and Planning United Kingdom: Sustainable Regional Development program. Longer bio forthcoming.
Tina Van (Business Administration, BA '19)
Tina will be participating in the summer 2018 UW Tacoma Ecuador: Spanish Language and Culture program. Longer bio forthcoming.
Vasika Cheng (Communication, BA '19)
Vasika will be participating in the Seoul National University Exchange program in South Korea for the 2018-2019 academic year. Longer bio forthcoming.
Malinda Osborn (Communication, BA '18)
I am a first-generation Chamorro student and work at UW Tacoma Library and the Center for Equity & Inclusion where I develop events and workshops focused on Identity. I am very excited to study abroad in Italy with support from a Gilman International Scholarship in winter 2018. I will be participating in the “Creativity and Place: Seeing and Re-seeing Rome and Italy” program.".
Arwa Dubad (Philosophy, Politics & Economics, BA '18)
Arwa is honored to be studying in Brazil this summer with UW Tacoma Brazil: Movements and Intersections trip. She fell in love with South America during the summer 2016 when she had her first study abroad experience in Argentina. Less Going back to explore another region that is famous for the intersectionality of its people is exciting opportunity for Arwa. After the program, Arwa plans to visit the her high school to inspire students to attend college and study abroad.
April Lai (Business Administration, BA '19)
April is a sophomore studying Business Administration at UW Tacoma. She will be learning and exploring in China with the UWT Past and Present program for Summer 2017. Coming from Chinese descent she is ecstatic to learn more about her background and study Chinese economics. Less In addition, April is involved on campus as a Student Leader. She works as the Student Activities Board Entertainment Coordinator and advocates for First-Generation student success through a task force. April is running for Student Body Director of Finance and is motivated to help promote Study Abroad through these roles when she returns.
Natalie Lawrence (Psychology, BA '18)
Natalie is a transfer student from the South Puget Sound Community College and came to UWT largely in part due to the generosity of the Next Step Scholarship donors. She is a member of the Global Honors Program and a research assistant in the Behavioral Health Psychology lab on campus. Less This summer she will participate in the Brazil: Movements and Intersections program and has been drawn to Brazil because of their pioneering policy surrounding women's rights. Brazil has innovated women's police stations and Women's Rights Councils to help prevent and prosecute violent crimes against women; as well as realize women's rights as human rights. Creating a safer, more equitable world for women is something very important to Natalie. Natalie has also been awarded the Bamford Fellowship in Global Engagement; an undergraduate research opportunity in which she will be researching the intersections of rape, culture and policy within the United States and Brazil. She plans to pursue a career studying mental health disorders in order to innovate effective treatments, raise awareness, and relieve social stigma of those suffering with mental health disorders. With the privilege of education, she believes comes the duty to uphold marginalized voices. **Natalie also has been awarded the OGA Study Abroad Scholarship for 2017!
Najma Ali (Environmental Science, BS ‘17)
In addition to being a student, Najma works as a transfer peer advisor in our Office of Student Transition Programs. She will be studying abroad in Spain through UW Bothell’s Americans in Europe program. She looks forward to comparing questions of identity, diversity, and belonging between the U.S. and Spain.
Chelsea Huddy (Politics, Philosophy & Economics, Global Honors, BA ’17)
Chelsea has a long-standing interest in Japan and studied abroad at Kyushu University in Japan in the summer of 2016. It was the music and animes of the Japanese TV show InuYasha that first drew her to the country. While at Tacoma Community College, Chelsea worked with Japanese exchange students and started learning the language. Chelsea also worked in UW Tacoma's Office of Student Transition Programs when she was a student.
Adriana Meraz-Gonzalez (incoming transfer student)
Adriana is an incoming transfer student from Tacoma Community College (TCC). She plans to major in Communication and will be studying abroad in China (East to West China Study Abroad) this summer. At TCC, she was founder and president of the Scholarship Club that helped students identify and apply for scholarships and financial aid.
Diliman Abdulkader (Politics, Philosophy, & Economics, BA ’16)
In addition to being a student, Diliman served as a student senator, interned at Representative Derek Kilmer’s office, and has been raising awareness for Kurdish rights. He is also a student in our Global Honors Program. This past summer, he had the opportunity to study in China and is now looking forward to studying in Italy with a focus on European security. Academically, Diliman is most interested in international relations and human rights. He’s had a passion for politics since living in a refugee camp for seven years, after fleeing his home in Kurdistan.
Aimee Huynh (Psychology BA ’16)
Aimee is the recipient of a Spring 2015 Gilman Scholarship to Japan and spent a semester at Osaka University.
Aimee was excited to experience Japanese culture, study the language, try new foods and learn in a new country.
Aimee has been interested in the Japanese language and culture for a long time: "My interest ... started in my childhood when my father and brother would have anime movie nights."
Brian McQuay (Law & Policy BA ’16)
He was born in a small town in Missouri and joined the National Guard after graduating from high school. He is also a student assistant in the Office of Student Engagement.
Growing up in a small town, he never really thought that he would have a chance to travel outside of the United States, especially to China: “Chinese culture and history [have] always fascinated me, and with such a rich culture I am very excited to have the chance to study and explore [the] country". His academic interests are in human rights, gender and sexuality, and he is planning to pursue a graduate degree in Gender Studies.
Faith Ramos (Sustainable Urban Development, BA ’16)
Faith is a returning student; she built her first career in arts and other non-profits on only a high school education after she had to leave college for both familial and financial reasons. Faith is also UW Tacoma’s first ever Udall Scholar.
Beleqsa Tamaami (Global Studies, Global Honors, BA ’16)
She hoped to learn more about Moroccan culture and study Arabic, a long-term personal goal of hers. She was also looking forward to experiencing her religion in a majority Muslim country, outside of the private sphere.
As the oldest in her family and a first generation college student, it was difficult explaining to her parents what study abroad is and what its benefits are. For this reason, Beleqsa is motivated to provide access to higher education opportunities such as study abroad to her siblings and youth from her community in the future.
On campus, Beleqsa worked in the Center for Service and Leadership as the Spring Breakaway Coordinator. Her 2015 spring service project focused on mentoring youth at the Willie Stewart Reengagement Center alongside other UW Tacoma students and staff volunteers.
Melissa Workman (Asian History, BA ‘16)
Melissa is a transfer student who has been away from college for 17 years. She first received a Physical Therapist Assistant A.A.S. degree in 1998. During her time away from school, she lived all over the U.S. and Europe and discovered that she had a deep passion for history and culture.
She is currently studying Asian History and minoring in Asian Studies and Education while being a single mom to two young boys and working whenever she's not studying or parenting. She plans to pursue a Master’s in either Education or Library and Information Science after graduation.
Sponsored by the Department of State, the Gilman is a merit-based study abroad scholarship for Pell grant recipients. In 2014, Christine Brubaker-Holland (Healthcare Leadership) and Tiffany Fox (Global Studies) received Gilman Scholarships to China.
Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program
Mika Tanaka (Global Studies, BA ’20)
Mika has traveled to Japan multiple times throughout her life, visiting her family and friends across the country. Her father was born and raised in Hiroshima, Japan and he is the one who encouraged her love for the language and the culture. During one of her visits to Hiroshima, Mika had the opportunity to speak to the children at a local daycare she once attended; this experience introduced her to the idea of teaching English abroad. Mika would like to inspire others, in both the U.S. and Japan, to explore cultures other than their own through travel and study.
Robert Gillis (Writing Studies, BA ’19)
I’ve been living in Washington all my life, and now that I’m graduating from the University of Washington Tacoma, I’m looking to experience the world. Since I was young, I’ve always been interested in visiting Japan and in becoming a Japanese-to-English translator and English teacher there. My goal is to immerse myself in the culture and language of Japan and become a cultural ambassador between Japan and the United States. This will be the first time I travel outside of the United States.
Chelsea Huddy (Politics, Philosophy & Economics, Global Honors, BA ’17)
Chelsea is headed to Kyushu University in Japan this summer. It was the music and animes of the Japanese TV show InuYasha that first drew her to Japan. While at Tacoma Community College, Chelsea worked with Japanese exchange students and started learning the language. As a former student at an alternative high school, she hopes to inspire other students like her to study abroad after her return. Chelsea also works in our Office of Student Transition Programs.
The JET Program is a competitive opportunity that allows young professionals to work as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) in public and private schools throughout Japan. The JET Program is sponsored by the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC).
Latino Center for Health Student Scholars Fellowship
Stacey Fernandez (Social Welfare BA ’20)
Stacey Fernandez was born to Mexican immigrant parents and grew up in Southern California. The pursuit of a higher education led her to the Pacific Northwest. During her time at UWT, she took on many roles as a student leader to promote a safe and inclusive campus. Some of the roles include serving as President of the Student Social Work Organization, Senior Coordinator in the Center for Student Involvement, and serving on various committees. Stacey is an advocate for social justice and plans to pursue a career in student affairs.
Mary Gates Research Scholarship
Myai Nguyen (Healthcare Leadership BA ’20)
For this research, Myai is working with Dr. Laing and four other members. The research team addresses healthcare decision-making and system-level support for safety-net patients. This work is part of a larger study of 101 low-income patients who are accessing services in community health centers in Western Washington. Patients completed surveys about their perception of services received and their assessment of ways they think the healthcare system can help them make the best decisions about their healthcare. Myai plans to pursue a Master's of Public Health at the University of Washington Seattle after graduation, with a focus on global health.
Anna Howard (Healthcare Leadership BA ’20)
With the Mary Gates Research Scholarship, Anna will be continuing research on healthcare delivery for marginalized patients in safety-net clinics located in Washington, DC. The aim of this research, guided by Dr. Sharon Lain, is to better understand which needs of safety-net patients are not currently being supported by community health clinics - in an effort to have them be considered and implemented in future healthcare frameworks. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a Master's of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology; she hopes to continue researching and addressing social determinants of health in underserved populations.
Casey Wagner (Premajor BS ’22)
Casey is a sophomore at UW Tacoma, currently looking to dual major in Computer Science and History. He hopes to synthesize these interests into a future career. Currently splitting his time between working on campus at the IT Help Desk and with the Labor Solidarity Project, the titular independent research project under Dr. Michael Honey has made for a busy, but incredibly exciting quarter. Casey's research includes the parsing, annotation, and citation of FBI files related to a book project currently being undertaken by his advisor Dr. Michael Honey. The compilation of a rudimentary guide on proper citation practice in regard to FBI files is also underway. In addition to this, contextual research has been conducted on the period and place surrounding the various files in order to more properly pull pertinent information. The project has been underway for one quarter already, and will continue for at least another two.
Tucker Stewart (Computer Science and Systems BS ’20)
Tucker's research aims to improve forecasting models for anticipating peak volumes using time series decomposition. He is working on his research with Drs. Juhua Hu (Primary) and Anderson Nascimento (Collaboration), in collaboration with Infoblox, a Tacoma-based network control and security company.
Grace McKenney (Environmental Science BS ’19)
The Mary Gates Research Scholarship is an enormous honor, and it feels like a dream that I have actually been awarded it. This scholarship will help support my research in the Becker Lab on the DNA of bivalves (i.e. clams, oysters, and mussels) in Washington State.
For the past few years Becker Lab has been concentrating on a project tasked with counting and visually identifying bivalves in water samples collected around the state of Washington. Now that the visual identifications are complete, my research turns to analyzing the DNA of certain bivalves in order to get a better identification. My research will bring us one step closer to understanding the multitude of bivalve species living in the waters of Washington State.
Katherine Mijal (Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences BA ’19)
Katherine Mijal is planning to enter the UWT K-8 ELL teaching program next year and hopes to become an elementary school teacher. She is currently doing research on intersectional oppression and the US healthcare system, with the aim of reducing the maternal mortality rate of Black women in the United States.
Devin Reich (Computer Science and Systems BS ’20)
Devin will use the Mary Gates Scholarship to fund his research in privacy preserving screening of documents. He will contribute to the UWT PPML Lynx framework, an open source, privacy preserving machine learning framework, by developing the code to extract features from a text based document. By doing so, he will create the tools necessary for anyone to be able to screen documents for the existence of key words without revealing what the document contains or what the words are. Devin will use the SemEval 2019 hate speech data to detect hate speech in a privacy preserving manner but the code he will create can be used in many other practical applications such as spam, terrorism and depression detection.
Autumn Diaz (Psychology BA ’18, Global Honors)
Autumn will use the Mary Gates Research Scholarship to assess caregiver ethnic-racial socialization practices across the lifespan and how this socialization relates to current levels of critical consciousness, color-blind racial attitudes, and universality-diversity orientation in UWT students. This research uses data from a social justice issues study conducted by Dr. Rachel Hershberg and her Community Psychology Research Group in which Autumn is a research assistant. Inspiration for her study came from analyses of qualitative data in the first two waves of this study, which showed the need to improve cross-cultural relationships on campus and understand the formation of ideologies pertaining to race and diversity.
Sam Larsen (Psychology BA ’19)
Sam will be using the Mary Gates Research Scholarship to facilitate research into what factors contribute to prompt an individual to engage in social justice actions. This research uses data from a social justice issues study conducted by Dr. Rachel Hershberg and her Community Psychology Research Group, in which Sam holds a lab manager position.
Josiah Pollock (History BA ’18)
The Mary Gates Research Scholarship will take him to the British Columbia Provincial Archives to search for journals from Fort Nisqually. The journals were taken to Victoria in 1865, and misplaced. The information contained in the journals will offer valuable insight into the early development of the first non-native settlement on Puget Sound. As a local historian, who focuses on agricultural history, he is excited to uncover stories of early agriculture here on the shores of Puget Sound.
Brian McQuay (Law & Policy BA ’16)
Brain received a 2016 Mary Gates Scholarship for his research on discrimination against transgender individuals in the workplace (mentor: Dr. Sarah Hampson).
The Mary Gates Research Scholarship is a competitive scholarship for undergraduate UW students who’re engaged in faculty-guided research, scholarly or creative work in any field.
Mary Gates Leadership Scholarship
Adán Espino Jr. (Law & Policy, BA '19)
Adán Espino Jr is a Washingtonian born and raised and has felt a passion for his community since high school. Studying for the Law & Policy degree with a minor in Economics, Adán has served as UW Tacoma's student lobbyist to advocate for State Need Grant funding, student loan reform, and investment into UW Tacoma. He is currently advocating alongside the university administration for two new engineering degree programs and a new academic building on campus.When he graduates, he hopes to continue fighting for his South Sound community and maybe even serve as an elected official.
The Mary Gates Leadership Scholarship encourages undergraduate students to develop their leadership abilities through practical experience, personal reflection and in community with mentors and peers.
North American Language and Culture Assistants to Spain
Nicole Baker (Psychology, BA '17)
Nicole is a first generation college student who found her love of international exchanges during her first study abroad in France & Italy during the summer of 2016. Nicole spent her last year at UW Tacoma actively involved in two psychological research teams and working as a Global Affairs Fellow, encouraging other students to experience the transforming power of international education. Upon her graduation in 2017, Nicole participated in an immersive language program in Santiago, Chile. Afterwards, she began a Master's program in Management at Seattle Pacific University. Now having graduated and enjoying the fruits of her academic labor, Nicole is eager for the next step of her journey in the Galicia region of Spain.
Audrey Weber (Arts, Media, & Culture, BA '18)
This upcoming academic year I will be teaching English, and acting as a Cultural Ambassador in Galicia, Spain. I participated in a Study Abroad program in Spain last summer, and since then have been both improving my Spanish language skills, and dreaming about going back! Being mindful of the impact I am making while spending time in foreign countries is very important to me, as such I am very excited about this opportunity. Not only will I be able to immerse myself in the culture around me by virtue of having extended time in country, and engage with local communities on a deeper level due to having more advanced language abilities. I will also be in a position to build relationships with people of varying ages, and represent my own culture during a critical time in American history!
Carmen Valenzuela-Burger (Global Studies, BA '14)
Like many transfer students, I had bounced around a bit before settling into UW Tacoma. I originally came from my home of Portland, Oregon looking for some new scenery, unsuspecting of the catalyst this campus would turn out to be. It became apparent when I seized a study abroad opportunity at the end of my junior year. I studied international law and human rights in Ireland and the Netherlands, a program that aligned perfectly with my own personal interests as well as my major, Global Studies.
Studying abroad allowed me to work as a Study Abroad Ambassador in the Office of International Programs upon my return, a role that I thoroughly embraced until I graduated in 2014. It was my responsibility, along with the other Study Abroad Ambassadors, to promote UW Tacoma’s study abroad programs and to assist students in their international endeavors.
As a first generation student, I felt incredibly proud to be helping my peers pursue such powerful and enriching opportunities. I had never imagined, before studying abroad, that I could ever offer such a service to my campus. During my early years of college, I had lacked the proper tools to navigate higher education; I struggled with utilizing available resources and establishing a place within the student body. At UW Tacoma, I found my place and, as a mentor in International Programs, strove to help others find theirs too.
Not long after graduation I decided to apply for the Fulbright, in hopes of becoming an English teaching assistant in Colombia. At the same time, I applied for the North American Language and Culture Assistants program in Spain. I was lucky enough to begin work in the Office of Advancement, which allowed me to stay close to my incredibly supportive network on campus, while continuing to develop my professional experience. Professors, colleagues, and friends all became allies in both application processes.
Within a short amount of time I was admitted to the Language and Culture Assistant program and am currently awaiting my regional placement. Even though I felt disappointment in not being accepted for a Fulbright grant, I couldn't be more excited now to move to Spain and spend the next year assisting Spanish students in their English language learning, while at the same time improving my own Spanish-speaking ability and immersing myself in the rich culture of the Iberian Peninsula. I know that all of the skills I have honed here at UW Tacoma will serve me very well in this new role, and I can't wait to get started.
Alexander Amado (Computer Science and Systems, BS '21)
Alex is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Systems with the goal of learning about the technologies that surround us. He is the Chair of Diversity for Outdoor Adventure Club and loves to explore the outdoors. He also works as a quantitative tutor at UW Tacoma’s Teaching and Learning Center. As a NSIN X-Force Fellow, he will get to study, research, and develop a project with a team.
The NSIN X-Force Fellowship program funds undergraduate and graduate STEM students who are interested in solving real-world national security problems in collaboration with the U.S. military.
Point Foundation BIPOC Scholar
Eileen Jimenez (Education, Ed.D '23)
Eileen’s mother is Maria Cruz Jimenez, her grandmother is Eloisa Saavedra and her great grandmother is Isidora Saavedra, matriarchs of the Otomi people. She is an indigenous queer artist and scholar currently living in occupied Duwamish Territory (Seattle, WA). Eileen was born in southern California, but her family is from Michoacán and Mexico City.
As an indigenous leader, community member, and as an artist, everything she does and creates is influenced by her many intersecting identities and lived experiences. She creates the art, the structures, the programming, and the educational experiences she wishes her community and she would have seen and had access to as a self-described ‘girl from the 'hood.’ Eileen’s leadership is grounded in community and specifically, she believes it is her role to continue to show up, disrupt the dominant narrative, and gain access to institutional resources to share them with her community. Her family’s stories, values, theories and practices keep her feeling whole throughout this process and she finds support through community care.
Currently, Eileen works at a community college supporting students to navigate higher education and trying to dismantle white supremacist and institutional racist policies and structures. She is currently in an Ed.D, in higher education program at the Muckleshoot Tribal College and the University of Washington, Tacoma. She loves reading and learning and you will probably see the themes of decolonized education in her current body of artwork and programming at work.
The Point Foundation offers college scholarships to promising LGBTQ+ students and just announced the first class of BIPOC LGBTQ Scholars. https://pointfoundation.org/
Presidential Management Fellows Program
Anastasia Cale (Community Planning, MA '19)
Anastasia was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2021. Anastasia was fortunate enough to move almost every two years during her formative years as a military child. Before she attended college at the United States Military Academy, she had lived in four different countries and developed a deep love of her fellow human. Her father's service inspired her to join the Army, where she served as a Signal Officer for five years. Following her time in service, Anastasia enrolled in and completed University of Washington - Tacoma's MA program in Community Planning where her love of humans and their impact on the community grew so much that she began a career in housing policy through working at the Tacoma Housing Authority. Anastasia hopes to continue her love of equitable housing policy at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Brandon Jacobsen (Global Studies, BA '10)
Brandon was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2017. Brandon is a Tacoma native, and went to public school in his hometown all the way through his time at UW Tacoma. In addition to majoring in Global Studies, he pursued minors in Hispanic Studies and Global Engagement. After graduation, he taught high school Spanish as well as serving for a time as Education Director at Tacoma’s very own Alchemy Skateboarding. In 2015, he left the City of Destiny for the other Washington (DC) to pursue a Master’s degree in the field of Peace and Conflict Resolution and a career in public service.
Upon finishing his graduate studies at American University’s School of International Service in 2017, Brandon was selected as a Finalist for the Presidential Management Fellowship, the U.S. Federal Government’s flagship leadership development program. He obtained an appointment in 2018 at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, where he serves as the Communications and Outreach Lead in the Presidential Management Fellows Program Office. As part of his fellowship, he will also carry out a detail on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He currently resides in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC.
The Presidential Management Fellows Program is the flagship leadership program of the US Office of Personnel Management. It includes a two-year appointment with a federal agency and leadership development for advanced degree candidates.
There, he will learn about current issues in international affairs and acquire valuable skills to prepare him for a career in the field. He is most interested in how religion shapes foreign policy and hopes to improve relationships between the US and Muslim countries.
Omer’s journey has been a remarkable one: Born in Sudan, he immigrated to the U.S. when he was 13. He spoke Arabic at home and didn’t know any English when he first arrived. He is now a sophomore at UW Tacoma who is not only thriving academically but also mentoring high school students through the Students Together Empowering Personal Success (STEPS) program. It doesn’t end there; he is active in the Muslim Student Organization, works at our Teaching and Learning Center and as an IT Student Assistant as well. His faculty mentor is Turan Kayaoglu.
In 2015, the program selected 15 Scholars out of over 500 applications. Omer is the first UW Tacoma student to be chosen for this prestigious program and only the second UW student in the program’s history.
Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security
Kebra Thompson (Computer Engineering and Systems, BS '15)
She is one of 16 Scholars nationally. Kebra is pursuing a second career after eighteen years as a high school math teacher. She is planning to use math to solve problems and looks forward to doing that in the field of cybersecurity.
She will also be working with Dr. Ka Yee Yeung at UW Tacoma on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) sponsored research project on data coordination and integration. The research is a collaborative effort between six universities across the country.
The Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security (SWSIS) is sponsored by Applied Computer Security Associates, Inc. and Hewlett-Packard. It supports female students who’re pursuing degrees in fields relating to information security. For more information, please visit the program website.
Tillman Military Scholarship
Shortly after earning his bachelor’s degree, James enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Counterintelligence Agent and later became a Green Beret. He served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and one in Iraq earning two Bronze Star Medals for his service. While deployed to Afghanistan he conducted village stability operations and helped to establish the Afghan Local Police (ALP) program.
As a post-bac student at UW Tacoma, James took prerequisite classes for the Physician Assistant program he will be starting at the UW Seattle campus this summer. He was a founding member and treasurer of the Student Veterans Association on campus. Long term, he hopes to practice and provide access to healthcare both in the rural Midwest and in Southeast Asia.
The Tillman Foundation provides scholarships for veteran and active-duty students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential, and a strong service orientation.
Chanise Jackson (Law and Policy & Business Administration, BA)
Jackson is a double major in law and policy and business administration. She is the Co-Chair (with Jimenez) of the UW Tacoma Global Honors Student Leadership Council and President of the Urban Debate Society. Originally from Fredericksburg, Virginia, Jackson developed a love for public service when growing up low-income and first generation meant relying on the community around her for needs, instructions, and hope alike. She is passionate about writing poetry, Lupus awareness, public service, human rights and activism. In her future career, Jackson wants to use her activism, experiences, and love for people to bring volume to the voices often silenced.
Jimenez, who is from Tacoma, is a junior studying law and policy and minoring in global engagement. He hopes to pursue a law degree upon graduation. He currently serves as Co-Chair (with Jackson) of the UW Tacoma Global Honors Student Leadership Council and is the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences (SIAS) senator. He also serves as a Commissioner on the City of Tacoma’s Human Rights Commission, which studies, investigates, and mediates community issues that may result from discrimination. Prior to pursuing his undergraduate education, Jimenez worked in the non-profit sector as a fundraiser and development associate.
A highly competitive award, only 62 students were selected nationwide this year for the Truman Scholarship from more than 845 nominations. The scholarship recognizes aspiring leaders driven to make change at the policy level. Students are selected on the basis of leadership skills, demonstrated civic engagement, academic potential and a desire to pursue a career in public service.
Taylor Owens (Criminal Justice, BA '21)
Taylor Owens is a Criminal Justice major, minoring in American Indian Studies, and a descendant of the Squaxin Island Tribe who hopes to use restorative justice to strengthen Native American communities. She has been working as a Tobacco Cessation Specialist for her tribe for almost two years developing innovative public health programming. She is also interning for the Department of Justice as a Legal Assistant focused on Indian Country cases.
Seeing a need in her community, she has been organizing an annual Youth Education, Career, and Recruitment Fair that connects Native youth to post-secondary education and career opportunities. After graduating from UW Tacoma, she plans to pursue a Master's in Public Administration with the goal of working in tribal government.
Faith Ramos (Sustainable Urban Development, BA ’16)
She was also awarded a Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad in the Netherlands this summer.
Faith worked for fifteen years in arts and other non-profits before coming to UW Tacoma, including for National Parks programs that bring economically disadvantaged youth to the parks. She also has a strong background in filmmaking and produced, shot, edited, and narrated the documentary “Heart & Sold,” which addresses gentrification in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood.
Faith is a returning student; she built her first career on only a high school education after she had to leave college for both familial and financial reasons.
She is currently an Urban Forestry intern for the City of Seattle and hopes to work on environmental justice issues long-term. As an undergraduate researcher, Faith is examining the links between urban forests and human health. Her research is guided by Drs. Matthew Kelley and Linda Ishem. Faith would also like to give special thanks to Gregory Lund and Mark Pendras for their ongoing encouragement and support.
The Udall Scholarship awards 55 scholarships to sophomore and junior level college students committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. The Udall Foundation seeks future leaders across a wide spectrum of environmental fields, including policy, engineering, science, education, urban planning and renewal, business, health, justice, and economics.