Published: Sept. 11, 2023

From the class of 2023


Read words of wisdom from some of the many talented and innovative students who graduated in May 2023, leaving inspirational legacies—with advice and reflection—for those who follow. 



What you’ll carry forth

Erika Gossett

 I feel like a lot of musicians are really focused on the creative side of things, and pursuing a business minor and the Music Entrepreneurship Certificate definitely helped me to think more entrepreneurially, find my footing and discover a new career path. The most valuable thing I learned is how to work with a team.”

 MediaSt, Mus’23

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Denis Muthike

 Being at CU was a truly fulfilling experience. I had been a professional for more than 10 years working at an international level, which would indicate I was way ahead of the pack in terms of experience, but nothing could be further from the truth! I learned many new valuable ways of thinking, innovativeness, collaboration, negotiation and communication. I will carry these new skills with me as a testament to CU’s excellence, no matter the stage of one's career.”


Bailey Ghashghai

 During my time at CU I have built more meaningful relationships and connections than I thought possible. I have built the best support system I could have ever imagined. I have learned so much from everyone around me and will take it all with me as I begin this next chapter of my life.”


Spencer Chuck

 Coming into the College of Engineering and Applied Science I was scared of failing and not being smart enough. However, the complete opposite happened. I found a degree that I fell in love with, which led me to a dream job, and I found success and fulfillment in the challenging coursework throughout my four years. What I will carry with me is summed up in the words of Henry Ford: ‘Whether you think you can or you think you cannot, you are right.’”

 Architectural Engineering Milo S. Ketchum Award​ winner

Vinitha Gadiraju

 I am continuously inspired by how graduate students at CU have advocated for student rights, created spaces for equity and inclusion, and made waves in their research fields. I hope to carry the passion and curiosity exemplified by my incredible peers and faculty to my future endeavors.”

 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow

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Erin Sandau

 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 I am a person who can overcome anything, and that lesson will follow me forever.”

Ling, AsianSt’23

Wes Weber

 You walk out of Leeds feeling prepared for anything. My professors have given me the confidence and preparedness to help me feel I can do this.”

Mktg’22, MSBA’23
Ralphie Handler

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Marley Horn

I've had the most incredible experience student-teaching in a bilingual first-grade classroom in Denver Public Schools. Every single one of my students has helped me to become not only a better teacher but a better person...The School of Education has helped me find my passion for working with emergent bilingual students, using culturally sustaining pedagogies and always striving to employ an antiracist, anti-bias approach to teaching.”


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Zepeng Lei

 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.”


Desean Connors

 In my next chapter, I will carry with me the importance of voice, critical thinking and challenging yourself. I learned it’s OK 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.”


Gabriela Galarraga

As I continue onward to the next chapter, what I take with me is persistence, determination and, most importantly, the willingness to try.​”


Sophie Friedman

 I have had a great undergraduate and graduate school experience at CU Boulder and a fantastic student-teaching placement at Century Middle School, which has provided me the opportunity to grow as a STEM teacher and learn what it means to be a teacher beyond the content.”


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Jasmine Dinnell

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!”


Molly Hamm-Rodriguez

When I started the PhD program, I had a lot of questions about education, society and inequity. I’m leaving with even more questions, which I consider to be a good sign I’m in a better place than when I began. Graduating does not represent an end but rather a beginning, as learning and unlearning is a lifelong journey. I know I'm leaving with new ways of thinking and being that I will continue to use for social change.”


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Bri Spitz

I feel a lot more confident after working at the library. This job helped me a lot interacting with people. I am now comfortable finding resources and helping others find resources.”

 Student Assistant, Business Library Circulation
University Libraries Outstanding Graduating Senior

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Desi Beardmore

 I will cherish and continue to develop the community, family and friends I have made during my time at CU.”

 Engineering GoldShirt Program Manager, BOLD Center

Anya Aidun

 The way I view leadership now is knowing yourself, showing up authentically and inspiring other people to do the same thing. At Leeds, I learned more about myself, which lets me show up in a more intentional way for other people.”


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Yamelit Medina-Lopez

 I have learned that perseverance is about continuing to push but also taking care of yourself, knowing not to burn yourself out so much. It's important to take a little break and take a deep breath. You're still human, not a robot, you know?”

 College of Engineering and Applied Science Perseverance Award winner

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Your best piece of advice

Maya Singh

My biggest piece of advice is to be open-minded to new things that come your way. Don't let fear dictate your decisions; you never know what doors could open if you say yes. Everything happens for a reason, and you just have to trust you will learn and grow from the situation.”

College of Engineering and Applied Science Academic Engagement Award winner

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Emily Nocito

Get involved in activities that aren't directly related to your research! I have met some of my best friends and made invaluable connections through volunteering and working at the college and university level.”

 Vice President of Internal Affairs, GPSG; Natural Sciences Liaison to the Graduate School; Graduate Instructor

Julia Foley

 Take the time to explore classes and subjects you are interested in, so that you can find the major that best fits you and the path you want to take during your time here at CU.”

 Information Science Outstanding Senior

Thomas Smith

 Be curious, be gritty, and take small steps. You will inevitably traverse valleys and climb peaks as you tackle challenges throughout your academic career as well as life. Throughout the journey, be sure to hold fast to the goals and dreams that drive you forward but also remember that progress and growth take time. Many small steps will lead you to your destination.”

NASA Space and Technology Research Fellow

Ava Spangler

 Take chances! I took a chance doing engineering and ended up loving it more than I could have imagined. I took chances joining groups I didn’t know if I would like and taking courses beyond the typical undergrad curriculum. Taking chances opened doors and changed the direction of my college career.”

 Civil Engineering Milo S. Ketchum Award winner

Nam Bui

 Collaboration is the efficacious route to approach the upcoming tide of advanced technologies. At CU Boulder, I have elaborated essential skills necessary for conducting interdisciplinary research. Collaborating with colleagues of various academic backgrounds has prepared me for my future career and taught me the importance of teamwork, effective communication and the value of diverse perspectives.”

 Outstanding Research Award winner
 Ralph J. Slutz Excellence Award winner

Areyana Proctor

 Don’t be scared of going to those club meetings, joining that organization, taking a chance, and meeting new people. Say yes to things. Not only will you make a lifetime of memories and friends, but these connections can also open very important and beneficial doors for you throughout life.”


Sarah Fahmy

 I encourage students to get involved on campus and in their community early, as you never know where your support networks may emerge. Also, remember to slow down and ask yourself what genuinely sparks joy in your heart, regarding your research and your teaching—as that is what will sustain and nourish you on the hard days.”

 President, Graduate and Professional Student Government; Theatre Lead, Center for Teaching and Learning

Samuel Kwon

Embrace your culture and background. Allow yourself to be different from others, and learn to enjoy yourself. You will face many difficulties and failures during your undergraduate education, but remember that growth occurs during these times.”

ChemBioEngr, ApMath’23
 Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) Award winner

Rob Streeter

 Don't fear or be discouraged by failure. By definition, graduate work is trying to expand the knowledge of the human race. Turns out that's hard. Failure isn't a shortcoming but rather just a nudge in a different direction that will lead you to your uniquely impactful work.”

Three Minute Thesis first place winner

Meenakshi Manoj

 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.​”

IntlAf, Econ’23

Haydn Crouse

 Although teaching and working toward a master’s can feel overwhelming, you are in the most incredible position. You are able to take the research practices you are learning in your courses and apply them directly to your instruction as an educator, experiencing how these practices work with immediate feedback and reflection and working through questions using knowledgeable, kind, nonjudgmental professors and colleagues as a soundboard.”


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Lexi Deal

 Harness your curiosity. I have to assume that everyone entering graduate school is curious about something. Let that curiosity guide you, let it carry you when graduate school gets difficult, and let it take you to places you never thought you would go.”

 Three Minute Thesis second place winner

Amber Hall

Give yourself the grace and room to make mistakes. It’s better to take your time and figure out what you want in life than to burn out. And lastly, if things feel off, out of place or not right, it’s OK to reevaluate your situation and make changes. It’s never too late.”


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Kassidy Whittemore

 It is OK to lean on others and ask for help when you need it. Sometimes life gets stressful, and you may not know what to do or how to approach things—this is when you can look to the people who truly want to see you succeed—friends, classmates, professors—for help. I was always someone who tried to avoid asking for help or for guidance, but the School of Education is a community that encourages getting support.”


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Arielle Lawton

Always remember the privilege of this education. Especially on the hard days, when you are tired and busy, try to remind yourself of the extraordinary opportunity this school presents for you to learn, grow and enjoy a wonderful future. Be grateful for the support of your professors, mentors and peers while proud of your own hard work and accomplishments.”


Carter Snelson

If there’s a goal that you have or something you want to complete that may seem incredibly challenging, don’t have any doubt that you can accomplish it.”

Fin, RealEst’23

Graham Buhse

 Make as many connections with your fellow students and instructors as you can, as those relationships will help you long past your time as a student.”


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What graduation means to you

Izzy Fincher

 As a Japanese American woman, I am very grateful for the privilege of having a college degree. Graduating from college represents empowerment and self-determination through hard work, especially for women from diverse backgrounds.”

 Jour, Mus’23
 CMCI Outstanding Grad

 College of Music Outstanding Grad

Nathan Danigelis

Graduating from CU represents a goal of mine that I'd had for something like 10 years! It's never too late to continue your education or to make a career transition”


Lydia Darlington

 I am very proud of my time at CU Boulder! To me, graduating from the Master’s in Higher Education program represents my lasting commitment to the mission of higher education and the full scope of human discovery and development.”

 Senior Executive Aide to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

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Kelsie Kerr

I am a first-generation student, so graduating college is such a significant achievement for me. Graduating really represents the culmination of the work and dedication I've put toward a goal that once seemed out of reach.”

 Media Studies Outstanding Senior

Alina Lopo

 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.”


Shay Adamo

 I come from family full of educators, and graduating from CU Boulder means I can do what my grandma, aunts and uncles did before me. I feel so proud to be able to make a positive impact on the future generations of this world, just as they did.”


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Emmett Raymond

 To graduate from CU with distinction, having given this program everything I have, is proof to myself I can pull off massive undertakings and reorient my life when it’s needed. It’s also the culmination of a lot of support from my family and friends, so for me, graduating celebrates that too!”

Communication Outstanding Senior

Sarah Leonhart

 Graduating from CU Boulder is a testament to the support of my family. As cliche as it sounds, I wouldn't have been able to do it without them. They have provided me with a solid foundation to build upon, and I cannot thank them enough. I want to give a special shoutout to my grandparents—their unwavering support has been incredible. Y’all, look at the heights we've reached!”


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Maymuna Mohamed Jeylani

My decision to attend CU Boulder was foreshadowed by high anxiety and the stress of leaving my lived reality of Blackness and Somali culture to drop into the less diverse, more affluent community of Boulder. At CU, I have experienced micro and macro aggressions, tokenism, inappropriate assignments and astounding white privilege. CU is not home or a place of refuge. Graduating represents the way I stayed alive at CU by taking coursework and being in a community that represents myself and my lived experiences. My goal was to survive but instead I thrived. I received the college education my refugee parents, who fled war-torn Somali, pushed for. My being at CU was an act of resistance. I hope my experiences and presence made room for the next students who look like me.”

 Edu, EthnSt’23

Skylar Hanson

 During my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to explore my passion for health care 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.”


More graduate reflections

Holly Henderson

On the etrepreneurial spirit of the Leeds School of Business:

 Especially coming from a startup, I’m not really big into the corporate world. A lot of business schools try to push you in that direction, but Leeds encouraged exploration.”


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Brian Tan

On graduating at age 17:

 Going to college early is definitely going to give you a hard time. You have to endure knowledge that is far beyond what you are supposed to learn now. It is going to be hard, but it will be worth every ounce of hard work you put into it. I would definitely recommend anyone to give it a shot.”

 CompSci, Math'23

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Rita Garson

On graduating five decades after starting college:

 I’m proud of myself—that I finished and that I stuck to it. It’s a feeling of accomplishment. And I really feel that it has broadened me and encouraged my sense of curiosity.”

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Cecily Coors

On stepping into her career:

 I see business as a way to do interesting things that create an impact on people’s lives. I’m not sure where my education will take me, but I’m looking forward to that next step.”


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Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity. See a list of degree abbreviations.