2023 Outstanding Graduates: CHSS Humanities

Latin American Studies, Spanish, French, History, Literature, Communication Studies, Journalism, Creative Writing, East Asian Studies, Chinese

This year's Outstanding Graduates from the CHSS Humanities Division, selected by their faculty, include an editor of a bilingual magazine, a former math major who switched to creative writing, and a grad with three majors who was named the outstanding graduate in two of them.

WWU Communications reached out to all the 2023 Outstanding Graduates to share their stories and photos. We've been celebrating these grads on social media and here at WWU News. 

Meet some of the Outstanding Graduates from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Humanities Division: 

Lily Berver

Latin American Studies


Lily Berver, Latin American Studies and Spanish

A rare triple-major, (she also majored in cultural anthropology) Lily impressed faculty with her intellectual curiosity, advanced analytical skills and constant dedication. Lily worked as a peer mentor in the Tutoring Center, studied abroad in Buenos Aires, and interned with the Fort Walla Walla Museum’s Latino Heritage Project on the history of the area’s Latinx community. Through her studies, Lily has treasured the opportunities to better understand and build deeper connections with her community and her own Mexican heritage. Next, Lily will travel to Mexico as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. 

Brianna Corley


Brianna Corley, French

Brianna’s French professors highlight not only her excellence in the language, but also her commitment and contributions to the French program. Brianna was a tutor in the French Department, a student facilitator for the Employee Language Program and a panelist for a study abroad information session. She studied abroad in Lyon, France, in the spring of 2022 and achieved a 3.93 cumulative GPA with a double major in French and English - creative writing. After graduation, Brianna is headed to France as a language assistant in the TAPIF program.

Petra Ellerby


Petra Ellerby, History

Petra, the Presidential Scholar for CHSS in Humanities, graduated magna cum laude with a 4.0 GPA. She has three papers forthcoming from U.C. Berkeley’s Undergraduate Journal of Classics, UMN Duluth’s Aisthesis, and Columbia University’s Columbia Journal of History. A talented violinist, Petra played with Western’s orchestral ensembles and will be joining the Symphony Orchestra on tour in Spain this June. Petra also worked with her peers at the Hacherl Research & Writing Studio. Now, she plans to begin graduate school in the humanities in fall 2024.

Jannah Hinthorne

English Literature

Jannah Hinthorne, English Literature

Jannah was the editor-in-chief of Occam’s Razor, leading the editorial team of Western’s student academic journal. She was also a tutor at the Hacherl Research & Writing Studio, a Compass2Campus mentor, a counselor at the WWU K-5 Rec Camp, and selected to be a student speaker at June Commencement. Jannah’s professors described her as a “breathtakingly wonderful reader, theorist, and class discussant” as well as a strong advocate of student research. Next, Jannah will intern at Chanticleer Book Reviews and Copper Canyon Press, and begin her Ph.D. the following year. 

Aika Okayama

Communication Studies

Aika Okayama, Communication Studies

Aika was selected by the department to present at Scholars Week and was thrilled to share her research about secrets shared among friends. An international student herself, Aika worked to build community as a peer adviser and International Buddy Program coordinator for International Student & Scholar Services. Faculty were impressed with Aika’s exceptional academic achievement, impressive leadership skills and her deep commitment to promoting cultural understanding and engagement. Next, she will return to Japan to work for her dream company, Shiseido. 

Rishi Mahendran Nair

East Asian Studies

Rishi Mahendran Nair, East Asian Studies

Rishi shows a deep appreciation for not only the East Asian Studies Program at Western, but also for Chinese studies in general. He strives to imbibe the cultural aspects of his studies into his life as much as possible, and is inspired by the passion and wisdom of his professors. He was awarded the Sarah Ann Wirth Memorial Scholarship in 2021 and has conducted meditation and music therapy programs across the nation. After graduation, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in Chinese language and culture and work toward bridging and reconciling the cultures of India and China. But first, he’ll work as a camp counselor for special needs kids.

Olivia Palmer


Olivia Palmer, Journalism

Olivia deeply values the storytelling skills she developed during her time at Western and the ways they’ve intersected with topics she is passionate about, such as communities and the environment. An environmental journalism major, she wrote for three of Western’s student publications, served as editor-in-chief of the Front, and produced a four-part podcast about her experience as a classically trained violinist. After graduating magna cum laude winter quarter, Olivia worked as a news intern for the Cascadia Daily News. This summer, she’ll be a data journalism intern at The News Tribune in Tacoma through the Dow Jones News Fund.

Nick Satnik

English - Creative Writing

Nick Satnik, English - Creative Writing

Nick began at Western as a math major, and even tutored fellow students in the Math Center for two years. Shifting to a writing major took a lot of courage, he says, but it was worth it. He graduates as a “brilliant” writer whose work is among the best by undergrads the faculty have seen. He’s published poems and short stories in Jeopardy, Coffin Bell and Literally Stories and interned at Wanderword, an interactive audio publisher. His honors project was a blog with research essays, short stories, and poems on fear and horror media. Next he’ll work on his interactive fiction project and work as a tutor before going to graduate school. 

Laura Wagner


Laura Wagner, Chinese

In addition to pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese language and culture and a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science during her five years at Western, Laura held many student jobs and an internship, including the 2021-22 ASWWU vice president for Sustainability. She is also proud of her recent work as a story editor and contributor for the Chinese program’s bilingual digital and print magazine, 镜 | Mirror. Faculty were impressed with Laura’s deep commitment to her study of language and culture, especially through her Chinese calligraphy and Chinese project abilities. Laura hopes to eventually attend graduate school, but first will join the workforce.

More 2023 Outstanding Grads



Coming up: 

  • College of Science and Engineering
  • Woodring College of Education
  • Interdisciplinary Programs
  • College of the Environment
  • Honors College