The College of Arts and Sciences celebrates the wide range of graduating students who leave their mark on the college in truly unique ways. To recognize these outstanding students for 2023, we asked for nominations across campus to select their top students.
Here are a few of those amazing graduating students, prefaced by comments from the faculty and staff who nominated them:
Economics, History, Jewish Studies and Leadership Studies | Undergraduate
From Hilary Kalisman, assistant professor: "My courses deal with controversial issues, such as violence, injustice, law, and politics in Israel and for Palestinians. Mr. Ball spoke and thought about these issues carefully. He considered multiple perspectives, even those he strenuously disagreed with while maintaining a high level of insight and critical thinking. It is Mr. Ball’s combination of academic achievement and dedication to public service that led the Jewish studies program to nominate him for the Barry and Sue Baer Undergraduate Scholarship, the top honor the Jewish Studies program offers undergraduates. He is one of the most amazing and involved students our program has had."
I encourage other students to take advantage of the many unique opportunities offered at CU to explore new subject areas and new ways of thinking critically. Making interdisciplinary connections between content or analytical methods is intellectually challenging and incredibly rewarding.
Cassandra (Cassie) Blew
Psychology and Neuroscience | Undergraduate
From Kelly Gildersleeve, teaching assistant professor: "Cassie is “amazing” in so many ways. Among the many bright and highly motivated undergraduate students we have had the pleasure of teaching and mentoring, Cassie stands out for her truly exceptional academic performance, rigorous research training, and resilience in the face of significant adversity. Looking ahead, we have unqualified confidence that Cassie will not only achieve her ambitious goal of becoming a physician-scientist but will go on to become a champion of cutting-edge biomedical research and compassionate patient care."
My best advice for other students is to look inside yourself, find your passion, and then follow it down the rabbit hole. Even if your dreams change along the way, if you stay true to yourself and ignore those who tell you you can't, you are bound to end up in Wonderland.
Ecology and evolutionary biology BAM | Concurrent
From Luke Evans, assistant professor: "The academics speak for themselves - 4.0 BA, 4.0 MS, summa cum laude, her honor's thesis in review at a great journal, and her separate master's thesis nearing submission to another excellent journal. Doing all of the BAM requirements in 4 years total, rather than the expected 5, which is itself a compressed timeline that is often difficult for students to successfully complete."
The greatest gifts I will carry with me from my time at CU are the ones that will continue to grow over time, such as the relationships I’ve formed with friends, peers, and mentors. I cannot wait to see how these continue transforming through my next chapter of life and beyond.
Ecology and evolutionary biology/molecular, cellular and developmental biology | Undergraduate
From Stacey Smith, assistant professor: "Among the many things that make Abel amazing, he is endlessly curious about plant evolution, he is an innovative scientist, and he is one of the friendliest people you'll ever meet!"
The main thing I will take from my time at CU is the knowledge of how to learn new things. Taking such a wide variety of courses and having to learn so many different kinds of material has allowed me to develop the skill of learning and now as I look forward to new challenges I am confident in my ability to grasp new concepts and adapt to new circumstances.
Julianna (Jay) Cessna
Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences | Undergraduate
From David Brain, professor: "Jay is amazing for a couple of reasons. Her Honors Thesis was excellent, and her committee agreed that it would have compared favorably to a graduate Master's Thesis. The scope of work was large, the presentation of complex concepts in space plasmas was clear and well-organized, and she handled questions very well. What makes her amazing, though, is the independence she demonstrated over the course of the last year in completing the work and (especially) the way that her confidence in herself has grown."
It's okay to not know everything, and it's okay to struggle. It's all a part of the learning process, and everyone else around you is trying to figure things out too. Give yourself some grace and don't take things too seriously, have a little fun.
Integrative physiology | Graduate
From Tanya Alderete, assistant professor: "Kevin Clark joined our laboratory as a post-baccalaureate student in 2020. He went from working night shifts as an EMT in the emergency department, serving the Boulder community, to researching night shift work and its physical health effects for his graduate research. In addition to this research, he led a COVID-19 study looking at mask use and student opinions on our campus and this was part of a larger Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. Concurrent with these efforts, Kevin fostered collaborations with the Colorado State University (CSU) campus in order to compare mask adherence across campuses in Colorado. The results of the study were recently published in BMC Public Health (Clark et al., 2023).
"Overall, Kevin has an abundance of outstanding personal qualities – he has impeccable work habits, is extremely self-driven, and is thoughtful and caring. His academic and research achievement, paired with his commitment to serving and improving the health of others, make him an amazing student who will undoubtedly go on to have positive impacts on the science and healthcare communities in which he works."
I’ve developed a fascination with the systems and interconnectedness of the human body, particularly the effects of physical activity, sleep, and the circadian system on physiology. I am excited to continue to expand on this and answer impactful questions for human health using the scientific inquiry and critical thinking skills I acquired and refined during my graduate education at CU.
English | Undergraduate
From Nan Goodman, professor: "Desean took a Critical analysis class with me in the spring of 2021 called "Fake News in America." In this class, we read texts from the eighteenth through the twenty-first centuries exploring the rhetoric and mechanisms of "fake news" in fictional and non-fictional representations. Among other texts, we read George Washington's "Spurious Letters," Edgar Allan Poe's "The Adventures of Hans Pfall," Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here and Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America." Desean was such an attentive and insightful reader of these texts that I encouraged him to do an honors thesis the following year, and I am delighted to say he did! I have been advising Desean's honors work this year, and he has put together a wonderful thesis on Lewis and Roth's novels. His thesis investigates the various rhetorical and political strategies that are inherent to democracy but, when abused, allow fascism to take hold. His work is historically meticulous and analytically impressive."
In my next chapter, I will carry with me the importance of voice, critical thinking, and challenging yourself. I learned that it’s okay to step out of my comfort zone and test my limits in a way that is unique to me. Regardless of success or failure, there is a level of euphoria that comes from pushing myself forward and trying something new, difficult, and engaging. I’ve adopted this mindset at CU and hope it stays with me for my future pursuits.
Environmental Studies | Graduate
From Lisa Dilling, professor: "What makes Will amazing is how he brilliantly blended qualitative and quantitative social science methods and his own traditional knowledge to produce a scientifically- and culturally-relevant thesis that will support his tribe, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, in managing a significant plant species. Will truly embodies the notion of a tribal climate leader as he navigated the world of climate adaptation and protecting sensitive knowledge to produce a lasting impact for members of his tribe and his colleagues at CU Boulder."
Thanks to my time at CU, I was able to learn from some amazing professors and it is the knowledge and skills that I obtained from their classes that I will carry into my next chapter. Also, thanks to the Tribal Climate Leaders Program, I will also carry the knowledge and skills shared with me by the elders and knowledge carriers in my own tribal community.
Chinese | Undergraduate
From Yingjie Li, teaching associate professor: "I think Jenny is an amazing student because of her maturity, kindness, and positivity, which I have observed when she was in my Chinese language courses. Her outgoing personality and people skills make her a natural fit for a career in TESOL education after she graduates from CUB. I know Jenny has been volunteering in her church and community frequently, and this demonstrates her commitment to making a positive impact on society. Thus, I believe she is amazing."
Between classes during the pandemic, family problems, and all the other things life throws at you, thanks to my time at CU, I know whatever challenges may come, I can make it through.
Classics/art and art history | Undergraduate
From Elspeth Dusinberre, professor of distinction: Jasmine came to CU-Boulder as a junior, from Washtenaw Community College in Michigan. Here she has majored in Classics and has also taken studio art classes and a museum internship course through the Department of Art & Art History. In Fall 2022 she did an intensive independent readings course with Prof. Sarah James on Egyptian art and archaeology, and in Spring 2023 she transferred to me to write her senior honors thesis on “Orientalism in the Field of Classics: Cultural Entanglement and Visual Hybridity between Greeks and Egyptians, ca. 625-525 BCE.” Jasmine had taken on an enormous topic, one that could go in any of myriad directions and required a vast amount of knowledge to manage. It was awe-inspiring for me to watch her scholarly growth, including her insights into the material, the process of doing research, critical thinking and the deep evaluation of evidence, and how to organize and write about a vast amount of complex information. This culminated in her developing a new interpretive framework and way to approach the stone architecture and sculpture of early Greek sanctuaries. She is graduating summa cum laude.
And to cap it all off...: As part of her museum internship course, Jasmine did an internship at the Longmont Museum. They have now hired her full-time! Jasmine’s success is remarkable, richly earned, and one that will benefit our community as well as Jasmine herself. Jasmine is an amazing student.
What I will carry with me from my time at CU are the relationships developed between classmates and professors. People are rooting for you, and they want to see you succeed!
Ecology and evolutionary biology | Undergraduate
From Stacey Dewitt Smith, associate professor: Rachel is a total go-getter! She sets high goals for herself and takes on new challenges with an endlessly positive attitude. Rachel is also a model of professionalism and organization (I'm jealous!) and a whiz at statistics and programming. She will go far!
Based on my experience, my best advice for other students is to actively engage and get involved in the CU community. While the vast student body can feel overwhelming at first, building smaller communities by talking to anyone and everyone around you, reaching out to professors, joining clubs, or getting involved in research can foster a sense of connection and provide a support system for navigating this transitory period in your life.
Physics/math | Undergraduate
From Kirsten Apodaca, undergraduate program manager: "Nick Entin completed and defended an honors thesis, earning summa cum laude! He also earned a near-perfect GPA of 3.991! He was also a key organizer for our Society of Physics Students group. Community is so important, especially in physics, and Nick (along with another student leader) helped to reinvigorate the SPS group. Nick will be continuing to pursue a Ph.D. in Physics at Stanford."
My best piece of advice is to prioritize being a part of a community that gives you a sense of belonging and supports you through every challenge that college throws at you.
PhD economics | Graduate
From Francisca Antman, professor: "It is amazing to me that Jim is only just finishing his PhD—one year earlier than is the norm in our field—and yet he has already achieved so much. The fact that he has established relationships with several faculty members who are coauthoring papers with him speaks to how well-regarded he is as a researcher and collaborator. While Jim stands apart for his already impressive research publications and potential, he is also committed to excellence as a teacher. I have seen first-hand how he mentors students and uses every opportunity to build students' skills in a supportive environment. I am beyond proud of him, and I know that he will only continue to excel in his career as a professor."
Graduating from CU with my Ph.D. in economics represents an important milestone for me and a step into the career I have been working towards for almost a decade. When I started here in 2018, my main goal was to get a tenure-track faculty position in an economics department, and with the support of my mentors and cohort, I was able to do exactly that. I am now incredibly excited for the next step in my journey, where I will continue developing as a researcher and work to provide the same level of mentorship and support to my students that my committee at CU has provided for me.
PhD geological sciences | Graduate
From Kevin Mahan, associate professor: "Michael Frothingham is graduating this Spring, 2023, with a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences, co-advised by Drs. Kevin Mahan and Vera Schulte-Pelkum. Michael’s accomplishments are amazing because he crossed traditional boundaries between geology and physics that are often very hard to scale in order to reach his research goals. Another reason why Michael is amazing is that he published the entirety of his dissertation (three main papers) before defending, which is a very difficult feat, and within the standard timeframe for our Ph.D. program! Finally, a third reason why Michael is amazing is that he is one of the most accomplished graduate student teachers from our department, with experiences ranging from teaching assistantships, guest lecturing, obtaining a graduate teaching certificate, mentoring undergraduate students on research projects, as well as developing, teaching and publishing a remote field course module."
Based on my time as a graduate student at CU, what I plan to carry with me onto my next chapter is an openness to reach out for help and collaboration. At its core, my Ph.D. research is about identifying the limitations within my own scientific specialization (Structural Geology), reaching out to peers with complementary abilities (Geophysics), and exploring how collaboration can address geologic questions of mountain building in a whole new light. This interdisciplinary research helped us find an entirely new branch of low-hanging scientific fruit. In my next chapter as a Geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, I similarly plan to learn the advanced questions and state-of-the-art techniques that my peers are working on, to freely bounce ideas off each other, and to build effective collaborations that can tackle outstanding questions and drive our science to new frontiers. I never want to be afraid to ask for help.
Psychology and neuroscience | Undergraduate
From Zoe Donaldson, associate professor: "One of Allison's other professors noted that when she got something wrong on an exam, he always checked his exam to make sure he hadn't made a mistake. This was enough to ask her to join my lab, where she demonstrated exceptional dedication and focus. Due to her hard work, she is one of only a few undergraduates to be included as an author on a peer-reviewed manuscript from my lab. Making this accomplishment even more notable, she did so while maintaining a 4.0 GPA!"
College can be super hectic. I found myself easily burned out. I wasn’t keeping my priorities in order and was just trying to get everything done at once without the mental capacity to do so. Eventually, I started scheduling out my days on paper to manage my time better and prioritize what mattered the most, and it changed my life. If there was one piece of advice I could give other students, it would be to schedule a routine and prioritize the time each day for what matters. By learning good time management, my college experience has become more well-rounded: I see friends, I see my significant other, I go into my lab, and I get all my schoolwork done while making good grades.
Physics | Undergrad
From Kirsten Apodaca, undergraduate program manager: "Gabriela transferred into physics from being a business major. She persisted through COVID and followed her passion for pursuing physics. She became a lead organizer for a new student group in the Department of Physics called COSMOS (Community of Support for Marginalized Students in Physics, Astrophysics, and Engineering Physics). They have formed an amazing community that has helped establish a sense of belonging for many students in physics!"
As I continue onwards to the next chapter, what I take with me is persistence, determination and, most importantly, the willingness to try.
Political Science and Spanish for Professions | Undergraduate
From Mary Long, senior instructor: "The list of Lauren's accomplishments is long. I am nominating Lauren because of her exquisite attention to topics covered in my classes and her ability to integrate, expand, and create the materials presented to her. Furthermore, she is able to engage with classmates in ways that enrich the experience for all."
Make the most out of every opportunity to connect and build relationships with people: communicate with others in class, reach out to professors, go to social events, and participate in student organizations. Ultimately, those relationships foster unforgettable experiences and support, encourage, and inspire you.
Physics/math | Undergraduate
From Kirsten Apodaca, undergraduate program manager: "Shannen is completing and defending an undergraduate honors thesis with Professor Ed Kinney, studying deep inelastic electron scattering. This involves scattering an electron off a proton to infer information about its internal structure. Shannen plans to pursue a PhD in Physics after graduating from CU!"
The environment here has been perfect for me to find supportive and wonderful people to talk with about math and physics, go on hikes and adventures with, and generally share my time here with. The community I have joined in my time here has been incredibly supportive, challenging, and fun, and it has led me to become a better student and person and will last me a lifetime.
Spanish for Professions, Pre-Nursing, Certificate in Public Health | Undergraduate
From Mary Long, senior instructor: "When she is in my class, I know that things will go well because she will explore the materials with interest and integrity and support others in their learning. Her academic excellence is complimented by her ability to provide excellent care for her patients in healthcare work, all while carrying the responsibility of family and community expectations of her as a first-generation college student."
As a first-generation Latina student, it is a big accomplishment to graduate from a University like this, which is a primarily white institution. Ultimately me receiving my degree is not only for myself but also for my family and my community.
Integrative physiology | Undergraduate
From John Rinn, professor: "Skylar ("Sky") is truly the most amazing undergraduate I have worked with in my 16 years of running a lab at Harvard and CU Boulder. Within the first year of her research in our lab, Sky developed a new way of analyzing single-molecule RNA imaging techniques. It was amazing how fast Sky learned the goals of her project, her work ethic to accomplish these goals, and bringing a bright smile to the lab environment. In fact, her work leads to a primary publication in the journal RNA -- as well as a BSI fellows position."
During my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to explore my passion for healthcare and develop essential problem-solving skills that empowered me to make a positive impact on my community. CU Boulder provided me with the resources, perspective and support to understand the bigger picture of medicine and prepared me for my next steps in creating meaningful change.
Theatre BFA in acting/French/Business | Undergraduate
From Ted Stark, associate teaching professor: "Jo is humbly talented and quietly brilliant. Soft-spoken but always present, Jo excels at whatever they touch. Having endured all the ups and downs of going through college during the pandemic, I've continually been impressed by Jo's resilience and commitment. No matter the circumstances, Jo rises to the occasion, doing great work in the classroom and the performance space, whatever that may be. Additionally, Jo has remained calm, mature, compassionate, and grounded no matter what curve ball was thrown their way. Jo is an inspiration."
Know that it is okay to put yourself first sometimes. As someone who puts a lot of academic pressure on themself, it took me a while to understand that sometimes mental health and well-being are more important than grades. Listen to your body when it is telling you it needs a break, and try to work little moments of self-care into your routine. I believe in you!
Emily Heneman Lee
Audiology | Graduate
From Tammy Frederickson, clinical associate professor: "Ms. Lee has been an amazing student to work with throughout her time in the AuD program. She is passionate about her future career, excited to learn all she can to become the best audiologist she can be, cheers on her fellow students, and exemplifies what a leader is and should be: someone with outstanding character. Fellow AuD students, faculty, and offsite preceptors have looked up to Ms. Lee and admired her ability to develop rapport with patients and families with ease - she truly listens. I've valued Ms. Lee's positive attitude and inquisitive nature. Ms. Lee has simply been an amazing student - I look forward to calling her a colleague!"
Graduating from graduate school has illustrated to me my own persistence, diligence, and growth. I’ve been provided with the tools necessary to develop into the clinician I’ve always been inspired to become because of the careful mentorship and attentiveness of my professors, preceptors and the rigorous coursework of our program. Now, the completion of my doctoral degree represents to me the future opportunities that I will be able to utilize these tools to hold my patients at the center of every encounter opportunity while providing evidence-based care. This is just the beginning!
International affairs and Spanish for the professions | Undergraduate
From Mary Long, senior instructor: "Not only has he excelled as a student, but he has also given back to the community through his work with the campus food bank and a secondhand-clothing, sustainable-fashion group. Finally, his ability to be his true self enhances the well-being of all who come into contact with him. I see it in the faces of his classmates."
Graduating college represents pride for me. I am proud of my dedication to school because I have seen myself grow so vibrantly as a human and student over the last four years. I am proud that I claimed my education as my own, taking an active role in what I study and how I use my knowledge in the world. It also represents pride because, over time, I have become more proud of my queer identity. Partly due to my classes at CU, I know I am valid in my identity, which is not something I have been able to be proud of for a long time. I am proud to be graduating and proud of the person I have become.
Ecology and evolutionary biology PhD | Graduate
From Laura Dee, assistant professor: "Aislyn has been an outstanding contributor to the EBIO and CU community, a mentor to CU undergraduates, and to making CU’s science matter beyond the ivory tower. Beyond her abilities to conduct independent research, what makes Aislyn stand out is her aspirations to contribute to society – to make science more accessible to everyone – and, as a result, to make STEM more inclusive and equitable."
Moving in the opposite direction of where I thought I should go has led to the most beautiful and fulfilling experiences and friendships for me. I truly will remember that no matter how spectacular a place is, it is nothing without your people.
Physics/math | Undergraduate
From Kirsten Apodaca, undergraduate program manager: "Morgan is an exceptional student who not only wrote and defended an honors thesis (and earned summa cum laude) but was also heavily involved in community building and student groups. She's also an accomplished figure skater! In Summer 2022, Morgan was selected for the prestigious US ATLAS Summer Research Program for Exceptional Researchers (SUPER) to fund her research studying the modifications of particle jets in the quark-gluon plasma created in ultra-relativistic heavy ion collisions at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. During that program, she received the "Best Presentation" prize and was awarded a week-long tour of the Large Hadron Collider facility. Morgan has also been heavily involved in organizing the Undergraduate Women & Gender Minorities in Physics group."
Don’t be afraid to seek and take advantage of opportunities! The best things I’ve done in my time at CU have been things I was terrified of. But I’ve found that an open mind and a little bit of courage that I didn’t know I had in me have gone a long way.
Physics PhD | Graduate
From Wei Zhang, professor: "Zepeng Lei has been working on his PhD research under the supervision of Prof. Wei Zhang in the Department of Chemistry at CU Boulder since 2018. In the past five years, he has demonstrated exceptional achievements in both research and academia. What makes Zepeng an amazing student are the following attributes: academic excellence, recognition by renowned organizations, commitment to teaching and mentorship and willingness to help others."
My time at CU Boulder as a graduate student in chemistry with a research direction in constructing sustainable polymers has been both challenging and rewarding. As I move forward into the next chapter of my life, there are several key lessons and experiences from my time at CU Boulder that I will carry with me:
Collaboration and teamwork: In the Zhang Group at CU Boulder, I learned the value of collaboration in addressing complex problems, which expanded my knowledge and fostered innovative solutions in sustainable polymer research.
Pursuit of knowledge: My experiences here have reinforced the value of being a lifelong learner, constantly seeking to deepen my understanding of the world around me. This drive to explore new ideas and stay informed will serve me well in my future career and personal life.
Resilience and adaptability: Throughout my academic journey, especially the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have encountered challenges and setbacks that have taught me to be resilient and adaptable. These qualities have been crucial to my success thus far and will continue to be invaluable as I face new challenges in the future.
Dedication to sustainability: At CU Boulder, where commitment to sustainability is a core value, my research on sustainable polymers has deepened my understanding of the urgent need for eco-friendly materials. This commitment to sustainability will remain a guiding principle in my work and personal life as I strive to contribute to a more sustainable future for all.
In summary, my time at CU Boulder has provided me with a strong foundation in research, collaboration, and resilience, as well as a deep commitment to sustainability. As I transition to the next chapter of my life, these lessons and experiences will remain with me, guiding my continued growth and success in both my professional and personal endeavors.
Economics PhD | Graduate
From Carol Shiue, professor: "Peiyuan studies different episodes of civil war and domestic conflicts in China's recent history to understand the workings of the political economy of the country. This NSF-supported project is amazing because it creates new datasets about cultures and belief systems. At the conclusion of the project period, Peiyuan will make all the data publicly accessible, creating significant positive benefits for other faculty and researchers."
I’d encourage other students to explore different opportunities and not fear failure. While many of our endeavors may not succeed, what truly matters is to learn from those experiences, keep going, and give it our best shot.
Political science/data science | Undergraduate
From Haruko Greeson, manager of operations: "Alina Lopo has been working as a front office student assistant for the Department of Political Science at the University of Colorado Boulder since the beginning of her first year. When she was a freshman, she adapted to our department culture quickly and greeted our faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and outside visitors very well. She has always tried to understand their needs quickly and helps to correspond with the situation, including addressing the issues with staff members. Over the years, I gave her many projects which I did not know how to implement. For example, we decided to use Canvas to communicate and share information with over 1,000 undergraduate political science students. The challenge was how we could update the student list efficiently and accurately for every semester. I gave her raw data from the student list and asked her to add all the students to the canvas access. She tested in a different way and figured it out; She made groups by academic level (such as Freshman, Sophomore, etc.) and granted access to the academic group. In this way, the process of granting access to Canvas is much faster than adding individual students. Alina has become a great team member of our department staff. She always tries to understand why she is doing the assigned task and brings us a greater finished product/result than expected. I wrote two letters of recommendation for her future employers."
Graduating from college as a first-generation student has opened not only more doors of opportunity for me but for my family as well. This accomplishment resembles my resilience and dedication to bettering myself for them. This also means a new beginning, and I am excited to see what my future has in store.
International Affairs/economics | Undergraduate
From Yingjie Li, teaching associate professor: "Meenakshi is an amazing student. Not only did she complete all her language courses in the Chinese program with excellent grades, but she will also be graduating with a double major in International Affairs and Economics. She is a diligent and focused individual who has impressed me with her commitment to academic excellence. I really have had the pleasure of teaching Meenakshi in my Chinese language classes."
If you see an interesting opportunity, pursue it. Failure might happen, but it is an important and necessary part of the process. There might not be another point in your life where diverse opportunities are available, like when you are in college, so it's always worth trying.
Speech, language, and hearing sciences | Undergraduate
From Christine Brennan, assistant professor: "Abigail Matthews absolutely excelled in academics, research, and service. Her senior honors thesis project, which she presented at a national conference, investigated an augmentative and alternative communication system for a young adult with a rare degenerative disease. Ms. Matthews worked in two research labs and the Child Learning Center (in SLHS), where she voluntarily extended her time to help train and support new students. She has experience as an EMT and CNA (certified nurse assistant) as a home-based caregiver at a Skilled Nursing Facility and Boulder Community Health Hospital, where she worked in all units, including in the ICU, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Abigail was accepted into the graduate speech-language pathology at CU and is planning to enroll this fall. She is an impressive young woman, and I expect she will continue to excel in all she does and help many people."
I never thought I could afford to go to a university, but I decided to find a way to make it work. To me, graduating from college represents overcoming obstacles to make a better life.
Critical Ethnic Studies PhD | Graduate
From Clint Carroll, associate professor: "Natasha’s ability to conduct ethically and relationally guided research in the service of the Little River Band of Ottawa will serve as a model for others in the field of Indigenous environmental studies. She is a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Tribe, Natasha will begin a tenure-track position in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University in the fall—an amazing accomplishment that recognizes the high caliber of her work".
Ask questions and reach out to others. Continually work on the small things and work on what’s important to you.
Dance/neuroscience | Undergraduate
From Ted Stark, associate teaching professor: "Sarah can do anything she sets her mind to. She is resilient, creative, determined, and, most of all, fierce. She continually questions any status quo with which she is presented. She is not always delicate in her questioning, but her need and drive to question are always compassionate and thoughtful. With the future in Sarah's hands, I feel much more confident and comfortable about the world that is yet to develop."
My grandmother never finished high school which led to her being in abusive relationships with men in order to financially support herself and her three daughters. She taught my mom and aunts that education opens doors. Graduating means everything to me. I have had the privilege of getting an education that has fostered me as a student and person and done something my grandmother and other girls around the world have only dreamed about.
Theatre, BFA in design/technology/management | Undergraduate
From Ted Stark, associate teaching professor: "If you need a rock, Carly is the one you can depend on. Always prepared, Carly sees the big picture. As a result, she is able to be both an invaluable team member and a leader. Carly transferred to CU during the pandemic and managed to thrive, becoming a leader in the department and an indispensable member of almost every production team."
From what I have learned over these last years at CU, my best piece of advice for other students is to enjoy the little things and say yes to all the opportunities you are able to. You never know when something small can change your life.
Physics | Undergraduate
From Kirsten Apodaca, undergraduate program manager: Sophie completed a summer undergraduate internship at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, working on the lithium tokamak experiment by helping design a plasma diagnostic tool. The diagnostic tool looks at the temperature and density of the plasma and will allow the scientists to learn more about the effects lithium has on plasma confinement. She also completed and defended an honors thesis with Professor Scott Parker, earning magna cum laude! Sophie was instrumental in leading and reinvigorating the Society of Physics Students, helping form community for undergraduates in physics. After graduation, Sophie will be pursuing a PhD in nuclear engineering and engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin Madison!
Take breaks and learn to rest, no matter how
much you love what you do, you need to take breaks.
Linguistics /atmospheric and oceanic sciences/TESOL Certificate | Undergraduate
From Rai Farrelly, teaching associate professor: "Abigail is an exceptional student and human. After being homeschooled, she began her studies at CU Boulder remotely. She later landed on the in-person scene with confidence, motivation, and exceptional academic integrity. She is professional in all her oral and written communication. She is a mentor and role model to her peers. She manages her time better than most people (students and faculty) that I know. This semester alone, she is not only taking courses but coordinating the Literacy Practicum (LING 1900), teaching five classes of young learners in Vietnam (remotely), tutoring three individual refugee-background adults in Colorado (remotely), completing her TESOL practicum at the International English Center, serving as an LA in German and Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences. And on top of all this, she recently successfully defended her undergraduate Honors Thesis on the role of "native" English speaker standards on multilingual learners' identities. She passed and will graduate Summa Cum Laude. She will start an MA TESOL program at a university in Christ Church, New Zealand, in the Fall. I already consider her a colleague and look forward to future collaborations."
From my time at CU, I learned what it means to be 'Abigail' and how special and unique of a thing that really is. But most importantly, I gained the confidence to use my voice and embrace every adventure that comes my way!
History | Undergraduate
From Katlin's Thesis Advisor: "Katlin is an excellent student, but what is most remarkable about her is the way she seeks out and seizes opportunities. When she heard about the Learning Assistant program from a fellow student, Katlin reached out to me about becoming a Learning Assistant for my Imperial Russia course. Working with Katlin as my LA was a great experience. Last year, Katlin independently researched Ph.D. programs in History and interviewed several professors across the country about putting together a competitive application. Her hard work and persistence paid off. I'm happy to say that she will be going on to Duke to study women and gender in Soviet history in the fall!"
As a first-generation college student, graduating from college means opening a whole new world of opportunities. Graduating college means meeting new people, learning new things, and gaining new skills, but more than anything, it means showing the world that anyone can accomplish their dreams if they set their minds to it.
Asian studies/linguistics, Korean/TESOL | Undergraduate
From Lauren Collins, teaching assistant professor: "Erin Sandau grew up in Centennial, CO, and is graduating with a dual degree in Linguistics and Asian Studies, a minor in Korean language and culture, and a TESOL Certificate! After graduation, she plans to move to South Korea to work as an English Language instructor."
The greatest lesson I have learned at CU was finding out that the challenges, not the outcomes are what shape you. My time in college hasn't always been easy, but college isn't supposed to be. I have faced many hurdles, but here, I have learned to overcome them. I discovered how to find joy in the moments between. There is a saying that it isn't the destination but the journey that makes everything worthwhile. At Boulder, I have found that to be true. Going into my next chapter, and the rest of my life, I will always remember that it's not where you go but how you get there that matters. Boulder has taught me how to enjoy the challenges in life and what it takes for me to overcome them. Those experiences have shaped me into a person who is comfortable in my own skin and into someone who is ready for any obstacle. I know now that I am a person who can overcome anything, and that lesson will follow me forever.
Audiology, clinical doctorate in audiology | Graduate
From Rachel Baiduc, assistant professor: "Amy earned her BA from CU Boulder and is graduating this May from our doctoral program in audiology. Amy has demonstrated excellence in the classroom and clinic and has made significant contributions to research in audiology. She has presented her work at state and national conferences, published research findings in top journals, and is co-authoring a book chapter on lifestyle contributors to hearing health. Amy’s performance outside the classroom and laboratory has also been exemplary. She is a certified speech-language pathology assistant, has taught English to children in Spain, and served as a teaching assistant. Her work with The Audiology Project (a non-profit organization that raises awareness regarding the association between diabetes and hearing loss) speaks to her ability to translate research beyond the laboratory to clinical practice and the public health domain. She has a kind and amicable demeanor when interacting with patients in the clinic and research participants in the laboratory. Amy unquestionably possesses intelligence and persistence and is a rising star in clinical audiology."
Continue to work hard, think critically, and build connections with your peers and faculty members. This hard work and these connections will carry over into your post-graduation life. Be sure to take a step back and enjoy your time as a student - it is a unique time in your life!
Spanish for professions, pre-med, Public Health Certificate | Undergraduate
From Mary Long, senior instructor: "Her presence in class guarantees that there will be a lively discussion and compassionate listening. She has maximized her learning opportunities at CU and combined her love of medicine and language in several key environments beyond the classroom. She has been an EMT for two years. She currently works two different jobs as an EMT- one in the emergency department of a hospital and one in the ambulance at a fire department. Though she is not an official interpreter, she is bilingual certified and uses Spanish with patients quite often."
Try everything and be open to new experiences! CU has so many amazing opportunities everywhere and the more you take advantage of them the more you’ll find what you love.
Speech-language pathology | Graduate
From Christine Brennan, assistant professor: "McKenna was an outstanding student academically and excelled as a student clinician and researcher. She is mature, professional, and enthusiastic, and her work always exceeds expectations. Her Master’s thesis project, presented at state and national conferences, tested an intervention program targeting music enjoyment for new cochlear implant users. This project was so well done it seemed more like what would be expected by an experienced doctoral student, and we hope to have it published in a peer-reviewed journal soon! I expect that McKenna will be a very successful speech-language pathologist and hope she continues to engage in research going forward, given the aptitude she has demonstrated so far."
For me, graduating from graduate school represents an exciting shift from a student to a lifelong learner. My love of learning and of my field of study has grown exponentially during my time at CU. I am looking forward to continuing to build on the skills I have developed in my professional career!
James Axel Solis-Gutierrez
Dance BFA/Business | Undergraduate
From Anya Cloud, assistant professor: "What makes James amazing is his ability to bring love to everything he does. He shows up consistently for himself and his community with such heart, fully embodied presence, and the wonder of curiosity we wish for all of our students."
Graduating college means breaking barriers that my ancestors faced to achieve the unimaginable. For me, this is a moment of humble pride, joy, and constant love for not only graduating but graduating as an artist, creative, and aspiring visionary leader who hopes to make possible the perceived impossible.
International affairs/Geography/Arabic minor | Undergraduate
From Lucy Chester, associate professor: "As a Marine from 2014-2019, Mike served as a team leader, worked as an Arabic Language Analyst at the National Security Agency, was selected for a six-month deployment in Australia supporting counterterrorism efforts, and was named his company’s 2018 Marine of the Year. Mike brought these skills and experiences with him to Boulder, where he achieved a 3.85 GPA in not one but two challenging majors (IAFS and GEOG), as well as a minor in Arabic."
Don’t obsess over making or staying on the “perfect path”; it’s perfectly normal to change course. The best decision I made at CU was extending my time here by an extra year and a half, despite a bit of pushback. I transferred here in the Spring of 2020 with the plan of getting through my undergrad in two years and bee-lining to grad school. But as I was finishing what would have been my last semester here in Fall 2021, I didn’t feel ready to leave at all: my heart was still here.
I had finally started making friends, and I felt like there was so much more I wanted to get out of undergrad. From staying an extra year and a half, I added another major, picked up valuable skills that I had been too scared to try before, had amazing research experiences, studied abroad for a semester, and became much more competitive for grad schools to where I received a fellowship offer from one of the best universities in the country.
Most importantly, staying here helped me form life-long connections; from amazing professors to some of the closest friends I’ll ever have. Sure academic experiences and achievements are great, but looking back at it, I’ll appreciate the relationships I made here the most. Some of the brightest, funniest, and most kind-hearted people I know, people I’ll treasure forever. I only got to really know them because I decided to stick around at CU just a bit longer.