Outstanding Graduates 2023

Each year, graduate faculty across WWU's campuses select a student from each graduate program who best demonstrates excellence in scholarship, professionalism, citizenship, and teaching. We'd like to congratulate and recognize these graduate students for their outstanding performance during their time at Western. 

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Sophia Brauner smiling in hood, cap, and gown

Sophia Brauner

Master of Arts, English Studies

Rhetorical Vulnerability

Sophia illustrated exemplary leadership and enhanced the English community, most obviously through her significant work as English Grad Rep and President of the English Graduate Association. She's a notably loving and powerful citizen in our department—someone her fellow TAs go to when struggling with difficult classroom dynamics or lesson plans. We celebrate her exemplary teaching and ambitious, lights-out scholarship. Sophia clearly brings deep awareness, curiosity, and heart to everything she does.

WWU Outstanding Grad Theressa Porcarelli Carey smiling with mountainside and clouds in the background

Theressa Porcarelli Carey

Master of Education, Language and Literacy

Tess is a high school English language arts teacher at Lynden High School. She also teaches English acquisition and development for multilingual students. In her work she has served as a department chair, union representative, AVID classroom teacher, and multilingual advisor. During her time in the program, Tess completed a TESOL certificate and participated in a Taiwan teacher exchange program.  She is a strong advocate for all learners. Her master’s project examined the intersection of two support programs for secondary students – AVID (designed to provide support for students who will be first generation college attendees) and Multilingual Academic English (for students who are building English language skills in high school). Tess’s work will help content-area teachers integrate strategies of support into their classrooms. Tess’s commitment to support both colleagues and students and her persistence in her academic work make her a model for other graduate students. 

Christina Choi-Pearce

Master of Science, Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Throughout her time in the program, Christina has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to becoming a culturally responsive, trauma-informed counselor who works toward reducing behavioral health disparities associated with systemic oppression and societal inequities.

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Anna Cortines with gown, hood, and other regalia

Anna Cortines

Master of Professional Accounting

Anna is an intelligent, hard-working, well-disciplined, driven, and highly involved student. She consistently produces high-quality work and demonstrates a thoughtful, questioning mind and positive attitude in class interactions with teachers and fellow students. Throughout the competition of the MPAC program, Anna demonstrated great perseverance and initiative and was not only motivated to learn the material but put a great deal of work into developing her own ideas about topics discussed. The accounting faculty predicts that Anna will be an outstanding leader and accounting professional.

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Alivia Eng holding a piece of equipment out to the side under a row of posters hung on the wall.

Alivia Eng

Master of Science, Geology

A Mastcam Multispectral Investigation of Rock Variability in Gale Crater, Mars: Implications for Alteration in the Clay-Sulfate Transition of Mount Sharp

Alivia completed her MS degree in geology in spring 2023. Her thesis research focused on analyzing spectra from the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover’s Mastcam instrument, building upon work she started as a WWU undergraduate in 2020. She also collected spectra of Mars analog materials in WWU’s Reflectance Lab and at the University of Winnipeg to supplement her analyses. She has presented her work at two Lunar and Planetary Science Conferences and multiple Curiosity Science Team Meetings. Additionally, Alivia works for NASA Mars rover operations in key roles for both the Curiosity and Perseverance mission science teams. She's preparing her thesis work as a manuscript to be submitted to Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets; she will be the lead author and is managing contributions from a dozen other mission scientists. All these accomplishments have earned her much respect among the Mars rover teams, and she was recruited by a colleague at Georgia Tech to apply for a PhD position and continue her NASA mission work, where she will start in fall 2023.

Camille Fogel

Master of Science, Experimental Psychology

Moral Injury in Survivors of Domestic Violence

While a graduate student at WWU, Camille has given five poster presentations at conferences, including WPA 2022/2023 and PsychFest 2022/2023. She's the fifth author on a manuscript in second review at Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and second author on another manuscript currently being revised for publication. Camille has held a leadership role in multiple research labs. Her work has included developing protocols as well as mentoring and training undergraduates. She was also praised for her work as a teaching assistant. Her graduate GPA is 4.0.

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Kosal (Junior) Gonzales with baby on his back, smiling on a bridge with waterfall and trees in the background

Kosal Gonzales

Master of Education, School Counseling

We selected Kosal (Junior) Gonzales as Outstanding School Counseling Graduate Student based on his excellent equity-driven leadership abilities, contributions to the public school internship sites, and his promise in the field of school counseling. Junior worked at Birchwood Elementary School and Options High School, where he participated in all aspects of school counseling and brought innovations to group counseling and anti-bias social emotional curriculum. Notably, during the winter months, the Bellingham School District hired him to serve as a school counselor at Sunnyland Elementary, where he worked energetically and independently to serve K-5 children when their counselor was on leave. The Auburn School District was fortunate to hire Junior for the 2023-24 school year as a middle school counselor. There is no doubt that Junior is going to make a tremendous difference in the lives of the youth he serves in the future. Congratulations on all you have achieved at WWU!

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Jeremy Johnson in regalia, holding diploma with greenery in the background

Jeremy Johnson

Master of Science, Biology

Polyunsaturated Aldehyde Production in the Salish Sea: A Survey of Benthic Diatom Producers and the Influence of Coastal Upwelling

The biology department has its own Grad Research and TA Awards. Jeremy was nominated for both of those. He collaborated between co-advisors Brady Olson in biology and Karen Lemkau in chemistry, and in the process essentially completed two MS-worthy projects in two years. His projects focused first on how to measure anti-grazing chemicals produced by marine algae and second on testing various species of algae for production of those chemicals under different environmental conditions. Both of these projects are being written up for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Jeremy also received strong nominations for his excellence in teaching from both faculty and other grad students who worked with him. They all commented on his strong leadership, his helpfulness toward other TAs, and how highly his students thought of him. His advisor notes, "In my 15 years of advising graduate student research, I have not met a more dynamic, personable, self-reliant, and unique individual than Jeremy Johnson."

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Michele Morris smiling

Michele Morris

Master of Arts, Rehabilitation Counseling

The RC faculty have unanimously nominated Michele to be our 2023 Outstanding Graduate Student. She has shown a lot of growth in both the academic world and in her professional role over the two years that she was in the program. Michele was a strong cohort member who has a strong passion for working with and advocating for individuals with disabilities. Over the two years she was in the RC program, faculty observed the effort and excellence Michele put into each of her courses. She was a compassionate and patient member of her cohort. 

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Evan Paul Smiling with greenery in the background

Evan Paul

Master of Science, Geology

Evan Paul came to WWU with a BS in earth sciences with a hydrogeology focus from Wright State University in Ohio. For his MS, he used sophisticated hydrology models and techniques to assess the change in peak flow magnitude and frequency and flood risk in the Nooksack River basin due to projected climate change. Evan’s work has significant regional importance and will be used by the Nooksack Indian Tribe, Whatcom County River and Flood Division, and the USGS for climate resilience planning and management decisions. Evan presented at multiple regional conferences and received the Best Poster Award at the 13th Washington State Hydrogeology Symposium in 2022. He also served as co-president of Geology’s AEG Student Chapter. 

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Haley Sefi-Cyr smiling and holding a dog outside

Haley Sefi-Cyr

Master of Science, Environmental Science

Impact of Carbonaceous and Inorganic Nanomaterial Chemistry on Polymer Additive Release from Weathered Epoxy Composites

I am writing to give my enthusiastic endorsement of Haley Sefi-Cyr for the 2023 Outstanding Graduate Student Award. I have worked with Haley in multiple capacities throughout her academic career, starting as a student in my classes and then moving into the lab as an undergraduate researcher and a graduate student. At every turn Haley has impressed with her scientific acumen, work ethic, and continued desire to improve her community through science. Though this letter will speak mostly to her time as a graduate student, I did want to mention that Haley had been a tremendous student in my lab since her undergraduate education. During this time, she helped a fellow professor (Prof. Lina Dahlberg) analyze data and collect survey results for an education project, earning her a co-authorship on the published manuscript "Repetition is important to students and their  understanding during  laboratory courses that include  research" in the Journal  of Microbiology & Biology Education, 22(2). Her own undergraduate research in my lab also resulted in a co-presentation of her results, a second-place award for best poster presentation at the 2020 PNW-SETAC meeting, and a co-authorship in "Development and Application of Nanoparticle-Nanopolymer Composite Spheres for the Study of Environmental Processes" in Frontiers in Toxicology.

Having witnessed Haley’s strong lab skills and research abilities firsthand, I recruited her to continue the work I had started during my own post-doctoral studies, examining the release of polymer additives from nano-enabled polymer composites (PNCs). The recent acquisition of a high-resolution HPLC-quadrupole-time-of-flight-mass spectrometer enabled our research group to carry out this work. However, there was a limited pool of expertise on campus to assist with the method development, requiring Haley to spend much of her first year of graduate studies performing experiments to develop a robust and high-throughput method for quantifying these additives in aqueous solutions. During the course of these experiments, Haley demonstrated careful lab technique and developed a knack for identifying areas of her experiments in need of refinement. Over the course of her graduate studies she learned how to utilize the HPLC-qTOF-MS, confocal Raman microscopy, and FTIR spectroscopy to assess the impact of weathering and temperature variation on the leaching behavior of the PNCs. She performed a tremendous amount of work and successfully defended her master’s thesis in February 2023. Our current work time is spent writing up her thesis for publication into an appropriate academic journal. Beyond all her academic success and research enterprise, it is important to note Haley’s work ethic. I came to rely on Haley’s help in several areas during our time working together. As a teaching assistant in my water quality class, she was able to run the lab independently for the entire quarter as we had split the lab into two rooms to accommodate Covid-19 safety protocols. In helping me run my Environmental Sampling and Analysis class, she diligently took notes of her own volition on how to improve the lab experiments and assisted me in generating ideas for the class.

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Ava Stone smiling with red wall in the background

Ava Stone

Master of Arts, Environmental Studies

Adoption of Agroforestry Practices in Northwest Washington State: An Ex-ante Case-Study

I am honored and privileged to nominate Ava Stone for the Outstanding Grad Student Award in environmental studies. Ava’s academic and career interests are at the intersection of land use and climate change. In particular, she's interested in how to increase landowner participation in Natural Climate Solutions (or NCSs). NCSs are land-use practices that avoid greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon storage in forests, grassland, and wetlands. Ava graduated with BS in biology from UW, taking as many environmental and forestry courses as possible. She then taught expeditionary education courses for NOLS, was a mountain guide on Mt. Rainier, and worked as a Ski Patrol EMT. She wanted to work more directly on climate change issues, so she returned to school to pursue a degree in sustainability and natural resources here at WWU. She’s also completing a certificate in GIS. 

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Hunter Stuehm smiling and holding a small puppy

Hunter Stuehm

Clinical Doctorate in Audiology

Hunter is among the hardest-working graduate students at Western Washington University. He is graduating with his AuD and an impressive cumulative GPA of 3.98. Among his notable achievements, he was awarded an NIH T-35 Research Trainee position at the National Center for Auditory Rehabilitative Research. He was also appointed by the governor for a 1-year term as a student trustee, and he worked alongside the Whatcom Department of Health in a campaign to promote the vaccine during the recent pandemic. Hunter also worked as the AS Communications Director and as a Resident Advisor. 

Gideon Tveton

Master of Science, Mathematics

Gideon's dedication to his studies and his demonstrated ability to work independently made him stand out as a worthy recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Award.

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Nathan Van Aken smiling with greenery in the background

Nathan Van Aken

Master of Arts, History

Questioned Identity: Morisca Women and the Spanish Inquisition

Nathan Van Aken has been an outstanding graduate student in the History Department. He has enormous curiosity and initiative in his efforts to learn the historiography in his field of early modern Spain. He crafted an impressive thesis “Heresies in the Home: Morisca Women and the Spanish Inquisition,” which demonstrates his readiness to continue at the doctoral level (with full funding!). He has been a critical contributor to graduate seminars in which he raised the overall level of discussion, including outside his area of interest, to the benefit of all students. He was an effective TA as well as this year's lead TA. For everyone in the department, he's been a delight to work with in all ways.

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Taylor Walston holding a travel cup standing in snow with a snowy mountain peak in the backrgound

Taylor Walston

Master of Science, Kinesiology - Exercise Science

Force Production Asymmetry in Males and Females During Three Variations of a Countermovement Push-up

Taylor persevered through the disruption of pandemic to return and complete his thesis. His thesis provided important understanding to the topic of symmetry and asymmetry. During his research, he wrote his own MatLab code for data analysis. 

WWU Outstanding Grad Student Tanya Young with tree and sky in the background

Tanya Young

Master of Fine Arts, Creative Writing

Synonyms for Bloodline

Tanya is a talented poet and lyric essayist—a committed and active writer with many new and forthcoming publications. She's an extremely supportive community member who has participated in this program with so much integrity and compassion – going above and beyond in supporting her peers and excelling in the classroom, where she’s been thrown some significant challenges. In addition, she has been a wonderful poetry editor at Bellingham Review