Departments honor Outstanding Graduate Students

Outstanding Graduate Students are selected by their programs for their achievements in several areas, including research, leadership, teaching, academics, service and promise for the future.

Twenty-six students were honored as Outstanding Graduate Students at a ceremony June 10. They include: 

Adrian Bender earned a Master of Science degree in Geology in Summer 2015. For the degree, Bender investigated rates of fault-related bedrock uplift and river incision along the Yakima River in central Washington. He published the research both in his thesis and in a recent Journal of Geophysical Research article co-authored with faculty and off-campus collaborators. Bender now works as a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska. He is the son of Stephen J. Bender and Kathleen F. Manley of Ashland, Oregon, and earned his undergraduate degree in Geology at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

Brooklynn Blackburn of Bellingham earned a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling. She completed a year-long internship with Compass Health Whatcom, where she will work after graduation as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate. Blackburn also received her undergraduate degree from Western, where she was named the Outstanding Graduate in Psychology and served as a child development research associate for Associate Professor of Psychology Rebecca Goodvin. The daughter of Jordan and Michelle Blackburn, Brooklyn Blackburn is also the fiancée of Terry Horat.  

Franklin Kelly Burton of Salt Lake City earned a Master of Arts in History with a Certificate in Archives and Records Management. During his time at Western, he served as an officer in the student chapter of the Society of American Archivists, helping to organize two conferences on campus. He also served as a film archives intern at the University of Washington Libraries, Special Collection, working on a collection of 1950s and ‘60s dance films created by a Cornish College of the Arts instructor. He continues to archive film and video in the Special Collections division of the UW Libraries. The son of Frank and Priscilla Burton, and Colleen and David Hatfield, Franklin Burton earned his undergraduate degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Utah. 

Adam Y. Chang of Bellingham earned a Master of Arts in History and completed a thesis on military reform in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in China. A graduate of the United States Military Academy, Chang plans to teach in the international history division at West Point beginning this fall. He’s grateful for the faculty at Western who helped him contribute to his field and refine his instructional methods. He is the son of CP and Li Chang, who is a fiscal technician in Western’s Print and Copy Services. Adam Chang and his wife, Amy Jean Chang, have two sons, Brandon and Samuel. 

Vivian Dang of Irvine, California, earned an MBA degree in Western’s Traditional MBA Program. She collaborated with Associate Professor of Health and Community Studies Stan Goto and graduate students from Woodring College of Education on a grant-funded market research study to examine consumer attitudes toward salmon consumption and sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Dang and Goto are refining the report for publication later this summer. Dang was also a research assistant at Western’s Center for Economic and Business Research, where she worked on business optimism survey reports and market demand research reports. After graduation, she will be working at Carlisle Interconnect Technologies, where she interned last summer, in their lean operations department. Dang, who earned her undergraduate degree from University of California, San Diego, is the daughter of Annie Vo and Toi Dang. 

Diana David of Federal Way earned a Master of Science Degree in Experimental Psychology and completed her thesis on mindfulness meditation, attention and rumination. She presented the results of her study at an Association of Psychological Sciences Conference in Chicago and worked as a teaching assistant at Western. After graduation, she’ll continue her work as a research analyst Whatcom Community and Bellingham Technical colleges under a grant that uses a data-driven approach to promote the success of disadvantaged students. The daughter of Jane and Lance David, Diana David earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Biology from Gonzaga University.  

Logan Green of Poulsbo earned a Master of Business Administration in the Accelerated MBA Program. While at Western, Green was selected by his classmates to receive the Leadership Award and participated in several projects he found meaningful, including helping to build preliminary operating forecasts for an early-stage, multi-million-dollar berry processing company in Whatcom County, and writing articles on personal finance to be published online by the WWU Financial Aid Office. After graduation, he’ll remain in Bellingham to participate in Key Bank’s management development program. Green participated in Running Start and earned his Finance Degree cum laude from Western in 2015 as the Outstanding Graduate in the Finance program and completing both his undergraduate and master’s degrees three years after graduating from high school. He is the son of Jim and Karen Green. 

Erik Hummer of Woodinville earned a Master of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science. While at Western, Hummer helped with research in the Health and Human Development Department, focusing on 3-D motion analysis. After graduation, he plans to work with a 3-D motion analysis company for a couple of years, then begin working toward a doctoral degree. The son of Jon and Betty Hummer, Erik completed his undergraduate degree at Pacific Lutheran University. 

Evan Johnson of Bellingham earned a Master of Science in Mathematics and worked as a graduate teaching assistant in the Math Department. Johnson, who earned his undergraduate degree in Physics and Mathematics in 2014 from Western, is heading to the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston this fall to pursue a doctoral degree in medical physics, which focuses on radiation therapy, diagnostic imaging and nuclear medicine. He is the son of WWU alumni Eric and Bonnie Johnson and this summer will marry Camille Gates, who is studying Music Education at Western. 

Mary Kiesau of Winthrop completed a Master of Education degree in Environmental Education not for her job as the Educational Programs Director at the Methow Conservancy, but for herself. “Choosing to dedicate a big chunk of personal time -- to think, read, write, discuss and learn with others, and share and teach -- all these things helped me understand myself better, as a person but also as a professional naturalist, communicator and educator,” she says. “I did not see myself as these things when I entered graduate school, but the program encouraged me to hone my passions and skills and it gave me the confidence to own these roles by the time I was done.” At the Methow Conservancy, Kiesau organizes and teaches in a wide variety of programs and serves on the stewardship staff team, monitoring and caring for conservation easements. Kiesau, the daughter of Carolyn Renee Townsend and the late David Jennings Kiesau, is a North Carolina native who earned her undergraduate degree in Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also a professional photographer and the partner of Merle Kirkley. 

Donal O’Leary III of Ferndale, Michigan, earned a Master of Science in Geography. His thesis work resulted in several publishable results, including a paper that has already been published with peers at Western in a recent issue of Fire Ecology, “A New Method Comparing Snowmelt Timing with Annual Area Burned.”  Next, he’ll be a National Science Foundation research fellow in Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park. O’Leary earned his undergraduate degree at Colorado State University, graduating magna cum laude, and is the son of Donal O’Leary Jr. and Mary O’Leary. 

Brian Pahl of Bellingham earned a Master of Education degree in Literacy and feels immensely grateful to family, friends and faculty who helped him complete his degree while teaching full time, serving as a teaching assistant at Western, and raising his two young children with his wife, Lynnelle Larson. Pahl is the Technology Integration Teacher on Special Assignment for the Bellingham School District, training staff in the effective, meaningful use of digital technology. He has also been an important part of the district’s 1:1 computer initiative. “One of the things I'm most proud of is that I think I am expanding our definition of literacy in Bellingham,” Pahl says. “It is important to read and write. It is imperative as a member of society in the 21st century to be a person who can make meaning from and communicate using a variety of analog AND digital tools.” After graduation, Pahl will continue as the Technology Integration Teacher on Special Assignment for the Bellingham School District and will begin teaching Instructional Technology courses for Woodring College of Education. Pahl, a graduate of New College in California, is the son of Rex Ann Pahl of Ferndale and Brian Pahl of Dowling Park, Florida. He’s the first in his family to obtain a graduate degree. 

Katrina Poppe of Bellingham earned a Master of Science degree in Environmental Science. During her time at Western, Poppe worked on a variety of research projects in Padilla Bay, the Snohomish estuary, and the Stillaguamish estuary, while also working for a number of organizations such as Northwest Ecological Services and the Samish Indian Nation. She co-authored a report on the climate benefits of estuary restoration for Restore America’s Estuaries, and co-authored a study of freshwater aquatic ecosystem representation in British Columbia to appear this summer in the Natural Areas Journal. And she served as co-secretary of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Society of Wetland Scientists. Since graduating earlier this year, Poppe has worked as a research associate with Western’s Wetland Ecology Lab and as a wetland ecologist with Northwest Ecological Services in Bellingham. Poppe earned her undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Victoria and is the daughter of Jeff and Anita Poppe and the wife of Abe Lloyd. 

Andrés J. Quesada of San José, Costa Rica, earned a Master of Science in Environmental Science. For his thesis, Andrés measured the concentration of fatty acids in the aggregating sea anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima) and the two kinds of symbiotic algae that live inside their tissues, discovering that anemones' fatty acid profiles are influenced by the type of algae they host. These findings were published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. He worked closely with his adviser, Professor of Environmental Sciences Brian Bingham, Postdoctoral Research Associate Katherina Schoo, and other staff members at the Shannon Point Marine Center. Andrés works at Northwest Indian College, where he coordinates outreach activities and helps manage research projects at the Salish Sea Research Center. The son of Marco Quesada and Lorraine Satterthwaite, Andrés Quesada earned his undergraduate degree from the Universidad de Costa Rica. 

Lynae Rickman earned a Master of Business Administration degree. She began working in Western’s Equal Opportunity Office in 2012 as an administrative assistant and recently became an equal opportunity compliance analyst in the EO Office. The daughter of Duane and Jacki Matter, Rickman is married to Garret Rickman. She earned her undergraduate degree from Whitworth University. She said that she enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other WWU employees in the MBA Program and is grateful for this and other opportunities that are available for Western employees. 

May (Mai) Sas earned a Master of Science in Geology and along the way discovered a passion for teaching at the college level. She served as a teaching assistant in Geology classrooms, in the Advanced Materials Science and Engineering Center, and at Geology Field Camp in the mountains. She also played with the Bellingham Roller Betties under the name “Pyroclastic Flo.” In September, she’s heading to Auckland, New Zealand, where she’ll begin a doctoral program in Geology. Sas, originally from Israel, earned two undergraduate degrees, in Geology and Anthropology, from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 

Megan Stephenson of Bettendorf, Iowa, earned a Master of Arts in Anthropology, focusing on applied medical anthropology and chronic disease intervention. She was awarded a grant from the Molokai Community Health Center in Kaunakakai, Hawaii, for her original research in type 2 diabetes intervention and nutritional management, research that became her master’s thesis. Stephenson also worked as a research assistant in the medical anthropology laboratory of Assistant Professor Sean Bruna. Now, she plans to use her skills in the public health sector as a social scientist and communications professional. Stephenson graduated from the University of Iowa in 2009 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Journalism and History. She is the daughter of Tish and Michael Stephenson. 

Samantha Wren of Lake Tapps earned a Master of Education in School Counseling and will become a school counselor at Issaquah High School after graduation. A Nationally Certified Counselor, she completed a year-long internship at Burlington-Edison High School and spent a summer as a counselor at an orphanage in Uganda. She also served as a middle and high school leader for Young Life. Wren, who earned her undergraduate degree from Western, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2014 in Psychology, is the daughter of Alice and Kenny Wren.  

Michelle Wuerth of Mount Vernon earned a Master of Science degree in Chemistry. While at Western, Wuerth discovered a passion for teaching while working as a graduate teaching assistant in undergraduate Chemistry lab courses. She was also a graduate research assistant in the lab of Associate Professor Paul Spiegel, where her independent research project was a study of blood coagulation factor VIII. Next, she plans to complete a doctorate in Biochemistry in order to do research and teach at the university level. Wuerth earned her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at Western in 2013, graduating cum laude. She’s also the daughter of Kay and Robert Wuerth.  

Other Outstanding Graduate students, and their programs, were:

  • Joey Farley, Professional Accounting

  • Benjamin Hansen, Mathematics

  • Petra LeBaron Botts, Environmental Education, Residency

  • M. Louis McLaughlin, English

  • Cindy-Lou Holland, MFA Creative Writing

  • Louis Williams, MBA Managers and Professionals

  • Michael Yates, Rehabilitation Counseling