2020 graduates

Resilient, creative fall 2020 graduates are ready for the next chapter

Capping off a year of unprecedented challenges, ASU will hold its second-ever virtual commencement ceremony on Monday, Dec. 14, gathering digitally to honor and celebrate the university's newest crop of graduates.

ASU Now has collected the stories of many of these impressively resilient students, who overcame obstacles on top of the pandemic, excelled in their chosen fields of study and worked hard over their entire academic careers, finding a place to thrive at ASU.

Active-duty military student and religious studies grad named a fall 2020 Dean’s Medalist

As an active-duty military member and full-time student, Garcia often felt he should put his education on hold. This felt especially true for him while he was deployed in Afghanistan. But he didn’t let these obstacles stop him.

A passion for learning drives undergraduate to pursue a future researching German history

Matthew Hoober has always loved learning. His mother was a first grade teacher and his father was a museum director, so from a young age, he knew he wanted to pursue a college degree just like them.

Geological sciences major recognized as fall 2020 Dean’s Medalist

Sarah Braunisch found her passion for planetary science when she joined the Christensen Research Group, led by Regents Professor Philip Christensen.

Graduating with her master’s degree in history, student plunges into the world of research 

Hales is graduating with her master’s degree in history with a focus on North American history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. She stumbled into the world of history unexpectedly about seven years ago and hasn’t turned back.

No-notice deployment, two moves and a marriage: ASU Online grad did it all while pursuing degree

Iiae Hess always loved school and learning new things. This month, she will be graduating with a degree in sociology and a minor in organizational leadership.

Graduating Jewish studies student hopes to build human connection

Norma Owens is graduating with a bachelor's degree in Jewish studies, a certificate in Hebrew and a teaching certificate.

ASU grad discovers passion for science, humanities and the arts

When first-generation college student Sofia Vine started out at ASU in 2017, she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to study or pursue as a career. But over the next three-and-a-half years, Vine said she truly discovered herself.

New American Film School graduate finds hope in the classroom

Accomplished students are frequently asked about their “aha moments,” when they discovered their path in life. But few of those students experience “aha moments” as life-altering as the one that film grad Michael Hasan faced.

Michael Hasan opened up to one of his film classes about his mental struggles and felt surprised at the support he received. Courtesy Michael Hasan

PhD linguist, athlete goes from undocumented to unstoppable

Cristian Lopez Villegas has achieved rare success in martial arts and in academia. But his journey was far from easy.

Undergraduate double major celebrates his time as a research assistant, legislative intern

Raised in Arizona, Dino Hadziahmetovic has balanced a lot while pursuing his undergraduate education. He enrolled at Arizona State University with the President’s Award after his acceptance to Barrett, The Honors College and decided to double major in philosophy and political science.

A 'Moneyball' moment for business analytics grad

When most people think about analytics in sports, they consider stats like free throw percentages, fourth down conversions, or home run exit velocity. But W. P. Carey Outstanding Graduate Student Jeff Luczak saw a whole other side to analytics in sports.

Toward healing divides, doctoral graduate focuses on education and language

ASU student Young Wha Lee has been a champion of friendly Korean-American relations for much of her adult life. Lee’s desire to encourage functional and open communication between cultures led her to study language and identity. This fall, Lee completed her PhD in linguistics and applied linguistics at ASU.

Active-duty Army officer among first to graduate with master’s degree in WWII studies

Kelly Jones grew up in a small town in western New York and has always been interested in pursuing a higher education. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from the Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in global and international studies from the University of Kansas, he wanted to return to school for an additional master’s degree.

Soon-to-be grad already at work as spokesperson for state treasurer's office

Part-time jobs, which students often take while finishing school, aren’t usually known for their location at the Arizona State Capitol. Hannah Roehr won’t go full time in her position until she graduates from Arizona State University in December, but she’s already the public information officer, known as a PIO, for one of the state’s top elected officials.

Linguistics grad pours his heart into making connections

Gary Schultz, who tended bar to support himself through college, has concocted a winning degree mix: one that reflects his love of the art-science dichotomy. 

From performer to philosopher, undergraduate makes moves to better the world

Logan Mitchell is graduating this semester with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a minor in nonprofit leadership and management, a certificate in ethics and a nonprofit professional certification.

Measuring up: The sky is the limit for aviation grad

Katie Vosler wanted to follow in her father's Navy pilot footsteps, but her height came up short. “I still wanted to stay in aviation so I decided to go the civilian route, which led me to ASU!” she said.

Katie Vosler

ASU aviation graduate Katie Vosler. 

School of Molecular Sciences graduate receives Moeur Award

Sabrina Mango successfully completed her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences. She also gained new perspectives.

Love of the environment and the outdoors leads ASU grad to a degree in geological sciences

Rachel Adam has always loved the outdoors, so when she decided to attend ASU, it was only natural that she would choose to pursue a degree in geological sciences. 

Film student earns degree, learns to navigate life as an Uber driver

When Christian Sherman transferred to ASU from a community college in southern California, she didn’t know what to expect. She had been treading water in her job at a small-town Starbucks. She loved her coffee, but she had bigger dreams: She wanted to work in film, and she wanted to experience everything.

Fall 2020 grad is a teacher by nature

Albert Molina is earning a BA in English via ASU Online this fall and he plans to teach when he finishes his master’s degree. “Both my mother and father teach and have inspired me to share the knowledge and passion I have for English,” said Molina.

ASU Online student graduates while in the military 

Not only is graduate Kristofer Gonzalez a proud Mexican American child of an immigrant, but he is on active duty for the military, which became tough to juggle while maintaining a full-time schedule in school. 

From running cross-country to running code: ASU graduate is going the distance

Joining the Sun Devil cross-country team is what first attracted Oregon-state native Adam Klein to ASU. A few short years later, he’s the Turken Family Outstanding Graduating Senior and graduating with dual bachelor’s degrees in computer information systems and business data analytics. 

Improving international development through higher education

Graduate school was always on the agenda for Michele Piercey. As a senior adviser for peace, stability and transition at Chemonics International, she wanted to earn a degree that could help her with her work in international development and postconflict stabilization.

After years as an aesthetician, ASU grad finds right fit in global health

Nicole Waldmann said her journey to finding the right program to pursue was a long one that started in community college before she transferred to ASU to study global health at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Dean’s Medalist is planting seeds for change in the Arizona community

Born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, Jonah Ivy spent his first six semesters intentionally exploring different courses that Arizona State University had to offer. It wasn’t until he participated in a Global Intensive Experience in India that he declared a major in civic and economic thought and leadership.

Jonah Ivy

Jonah Ivy found his path on a study abroad experience in India.

Army captain wants to share her love of nature with others through teaching

After joining ASU’s Army ROTC and earning her Bachelor of Science in conservation biology and ecological sustainability, Hewitt wanted to continue her education and learn more about nature. That’s when she found the Master of Science in biomimicry online program at the School of Complex Adaptive Systems in the College of Global Futures.

ASU grad's childhood interest evolves into passion for conservation

While many children grew up watching cartoons, a young Katherine Amari was obsessing over Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and finding every opportunity to share fun biology facts with her friends and family. This fall, she will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences.

PhD student uses diverse background of disciplines to solve complex sustainability issues

When it came time to choose a topic for his dissertation, PhD candidate Robert Hobbins had firsthand experience in what he wanted to research. His house flooded in 2014, even though it wasn't in a flood zone. "I became interested in how FEMA determines flood risk and gives that information to decision-makers and homeowners.”

Transforming energy policy through a passion for sustainability

Going into college, sustainability graduate Sukhmani Singh was passionate about saving the Earth, although she wasn’t planning on studying sustainability. Her main focus was politics. But all that changed when she joined ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government.

Double major is ready to continue traveling the world

Monica Orillo will be putting her degrees in political science and German to good work after graduation as she participates in an internship with Phoenix Sister Cities before spending a year in Germany as part of the prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program.

Doctoral graduate shares her passion for Colombian cinema

Fall 2020 graduate Cindy Bonilla-Cirocco will be receiving her PhD in Latin American literature and culture in December. Earlier this year, she successfully defended her dissertation on the Caliwood movement of the 1970s in Colombian cinema.

Aid to Navajo Nation is aim of talented biochemistry graduate

Inspired by her aunt Nonita Adair, who was the first Navajo woman to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (1992), Stacee Tallman will graduate in December with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU. 

Accountancy major didn't let COVID-19 stop him from thriving

Brendan Duffy, an accounting major graduating in December 2020, feels proud about his high level of academic achievement, being able to graduate early and promoting school spirit, especially during an uncertain year. 

ASU Law fall grad overcomes early obstacles to achieve success

Wayne Unger, a fall 2020 JD candidate at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, credits the ASU community with helping him overcome life's challenges to forge a successful career.

Working mom earns master's degree in communication online to advance her career

As a single parent of two young boys, Briana Seward would wake up hours before her children to complete her coursework for the Online Master of Arts in Communication program in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at ASU.

Woman in a robe sitting on a concrete bench

Mary Mathis Burnett believes if we approach ourselves with kindness, we are better able to approach others with the same attitude. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

An English lit major with heart and smarts will graduate with highest honors

Dakota Lovins is earning a Bachelor of Arts in English degree at ASU this fall and he’s well-prepared for life after graduation. Yes, he had fun as a student, but he also completed meaningful, skill-enhancing professional development experiences. And he did it all with his trademark sense of whimsy.

Doctoral student learned valuable lessons in 2020

Like millions of other Americans, 2020 was a stressful year for Mary Mathis Burnett. But she learned to practice her own brand of human-centered kindness on herself and has a new philosophy on stress. She receives her EdD from Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College this December. 

ASU political science grad pursues career in policy

Myra Francisco, who will be graduating from Arizona State University this fall with a BA in political science and minor in statistics, knows that policy is important — and she wants to play a role in shaping it.

ASU Dean’s Medalist to attend law school, become a public defender

In December, Anjali Mistry will graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in women and gender studies, and political science with a perfect 4.0 GPA. 

Engineering grad finds her career path with program that combines technology and entrepreneurship

Pooja Addla Hari found her calling her very first week at ASU. She was attending the opening of the Generator Labs in 2016 when one of the leaders present talked about the new Technological Entrepreneurship and Management program, which prepares students to launch technology-based ventures and tackle social and corporate issues. "Instantly, I felt so heard and understood," said Hari, who transferred to the new program within two weeks. 

ASU Law international grad strives to grow as a human rights advocate

After undergoing a five-year legal education in Albania, Albi Cela chose ASU Law to learn more and continue to better himself as a person and as a future lawyer and human rights advocate.

ASU honors student driven by desire for health care equality

portrait of ASU student

Iman Bouanani

Growing up in Phoenix, watching her older brother devour anatomy books made a big impact on Iman Bouanani. So did his diabetes diagnosis. Bouanani, who is graduating this December from ASU’s College of Health Solutions with a bachelor’s degree in medical studies, is determined to effect change in the U.S. health care system so that everyone has access to affordable, quality care.

Graduating art student finds inspiration in American Southwest

During her time at Arizona State University, Rachel Hebert walked 500 miles across Colorado, climbed a 1,200 foot wall in Zion National Park and summited numerous 14,000-foot peaks. “I have spent much of my time here exploring the public lands that make this country great and seeking to convey their beauty in the gallery space,” said Hebert, who graduates this December with a BFA in printmaking. 

Outstanding ASU journalism student: 'I want to tell stories that promote change'

After watching an episode of “60 Minutes” with his father one night, Dylan McKim knew exactly what he wanted to do. As an undergraduate in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, McKim completed internships at Arizona PBS, 12 News, and The Arizona Republic’s breaking news desk.

A childhood promise leads to a bright future in criminal law

Once an 8-year-old child who promised his mother he would go to law school, Alexander Kong is now grateful for the knowledge he gained while pursuing his Master of Legal Studies degree.

Graduating doctoral student explores human-computer interaction

Portrait photo of

Piyum Fernando

Piyum Fernando, who received his bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering in Sri Lanka, said he had an "aha" moment after reading Don Norman’s “Design of Everyday Things” during his last year of engineering school. He joined the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and will graduate this December with a PhD in media arts and sciences.

ASU Dean’s medalist credits professors for her success

Native Arizonan and graduate of Tempe Preparatory Academy Elinor Sauer is the fall 2020 School of Molecular Sciences Dean’s Medalist. In December, Sauer will graduate, remarkably with double majors and minors, taking just four and a half years.

International ASU Law grad looks forward to landing a dream job in sports analytics

Guilherme “Gui” Leite was always fascinated by mathematics and statistics, so finding a way to combine that with his biggest passion — sports — was a deciding moment in his pursuit of a career in sports business management.

Fueling curiosity by making information available to a more diverse audience

Scientific research doesn’t come in layman’s terms. It’s up to science communicators to take that research and break it down into something that everyone can understand. Maddie Arnold sees the importance of that role. That’s why she got involved in science communication.

On her own, but not alone, single mom earns degree with university support

Balancing two jobs and two kids, Audrey Magee-Davey persevered through the turbulence of 2020 to finish her program and graduate summa cum laude. 

ASU fall grad achieves ambitious goal of earning dual law and business degrees

Thomas Grimes may be the only law student in the country who can say he was a “roughneck.” While he always dreamed of pursuing a law career, Grimes decided to take an alternate route after earning his undergraduate degree from UCLA, accepting a job working on oil rigs in West Virginia. Now he's graduating from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at ASU.

Anthropology grad inspired by her children

Inspired by the birth of her own daughter, May Benoliel is becoming the first woman in her family to graduate from college. Benoliel is graduating from ASU in December with a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

ASU Law grad looks forward to degree helping to grow her career and life learnings

As an employed single mother of two, Meghan Kammer saw the Master of Legal Studies program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University as a natural way to further her interest in the study of law while continuing to advance her career.

ASU master's degree grad is on top of the world

Courtesy photo of graduating ASU student Swatio Shrestha on top of</body></html>
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