Seven graduates will receive Presidential Scholar honors at WWU Commencement

Western Washington University President Sabah Randhawa will honor seven graduates as Presidential Scholars during Commencement on Saturday, June 10.

Presidential Scholar awards honor top students in six colleges for their exceptional scholarship and service to the university and community.

Randhawa will present each of the following Presidential Scholars with a medallion:

Brittney Nalani Dover

Huxley College of the Environment

Brittney Dover will graduate this summer with a Bachelor of Arts degree in urban planning and sustainable development and a minor in political science. An accomplished, engaged scholar, Dover’s passion for justice and equity is evident in her academic work and activities on and off campus. One of her projects included research on community organizing that led her to engage with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition in Seattle. In her planning studio work, she created a report on affordable housing in Bellingham and presented it to Bellingham city planners. She worked with Huxley College’s efforts to adopt a Diversity and Inclusion Plan and put together a framework for advancing and funding diversity in undergraduate education at Huxley. She’s also a volunteer with the Whatcom County Marine Mammal Stranding Network and participates in trail restoration work parties at Western. Dover, the daughter of Rebecca Haske, attended Mountain View High School in Vancouver, Washington. After graduation, she plans to find a career in which she can employ her planning skills and work toward a more equitable society.

Sinai Gonzalez

Woodring College of Education

Sinai Gonzalez is completing a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree with a major in exceptionality and disability and a minor in education for social justice. She is a four-year recipient of the Inspired for Teaching Excellence Award and has a passion for making a difference through teaching. Gonzalez’s faculty mentors say her intellectual acuity goes well beyond that of a typical undergraduate. Yet her theoretical sophistication didn’t take away from the grounded realities she shared in class from the perspective of a K-12 teacher. Gonzalez’s field work culminated in a full-time internship at Whatcom Discovery Center, a referral-based school for students with significant emotional, social and behavioral needs. She also works during the summers in her home community of Lakewood as a lead mentor and secretarial assistant at Clover Park High School, and she worked as an assistant for Viking Launch in 2015. A graduate of Clover Park High School, Gonzalez is the daughter of Norberta Joya and Hugo Hernandez. After graduation, she hopes to work as a behavioral interventionist for students with autism or as an instructional assistant at a school like Whatcom Discovery Center. Eventually, she wants to earn a teaching credential to work with students with emotional or behavioral disorders.

Alexandra Marie Jordan

College of Humanities and Social Sciences – Social Sciences Division

Andra Jordan graduated in March magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology, a minor in German, and as a graduate of the Honors Program. She was consistently a top performer in each of her courses in the demanding kinesiology curriculum while specializing in pre-physical therapy. She presented her honors senior project on hip muscle strength and dynamic Q-angle at the Northwest Biomechanics Symposium at the University of Oregon in May. She was an instructional assistant for two courses, and thoroughly enjoyed working closely with students from a variety of majors, even recruiting several of them to participate in her honors senior project. The little sister of a man with autism spectrum disorder, Jordan is also passionate about supporting and including people with disabilities. She was a volunteer for Special Olympics and in an elementary school classroom alongside occupational therapists serving students with disabilities. Jordan is the daughter of Mark and Angela Jordan and a graduate of Woodinville High School. Now, Jordan plans to attend the University of Washington in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

Katherine Mahalia Mullen

College of Fine and Performing Arts

Katherine Mullen is graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a double major in dance and sociology. Her two majors “go together beautifully in my life,” she said at the recent Western Foundation Scholarship Dinner. “Art is a teacher—it makes us better, more complete people. The arts can spark movements that become catalysts for real change.” During her time at Western, Mullen performed in five mainstage productions in the Performing Arts Center and three performances elsewhere on campus. She also joined the Pacific Northwest Opera to dance in “Carmen” last fall. In addition, Mullen is a talented harpist who has toured with a musical ensemble. She’s known for her strong sense of teamwork, work ethic and creativity that she brings to demanding rehearsal sessions. For her sociology coursework, Mullen’s capstone project explored how political orientation affects interracial dating. She also helped Assistant Sociology Professor Patrick Gillham in research on policing strategies in protest situations. Mullen has traveled extensively in Europe and northern India, including time spent interviewing Tibetan refugees in Dharamshala, and has spoken about their experiences at Fairhaven Middle School and at the Seeds of Change Conference at Whatcom Community College. She also served as a volunteer with the Lighthouse Mission and Growing Veterans. The daughter of Mary Mullen and Michael Chiavario, Mullen is a graduate of Sehome High School and Whatcom Community College. After graduation, she will travel around the world for 10 months, including a visit to Dharamshala, then pursue a master’s degree in sociology.

Huy Nguyen

College of Science and Engineering

Huy Nguyen is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in physics and mathematics and as the Outstanding Graduate of the Physics and Astronomy Department. Nguyen is a deeply engaged and accomplished scholar, leader and role model known for his independence and work ethic. He has been a member of two research groups at Western, first investigating star formation processes with Assistant Professor Kevin Covey, and working to improve the efficiency of organic solar panels using thin film structures with Professor Janelle Leger. He presented his work at the American Physical Society in March. He also worked with his fellow students as a teaching assistant in physics and tutor in the Math Center. And he supports underrepresented students in the department through his membership in the Women in Physics club, volunteering for outreach efforts and serving as a speaker on panels about inclusion in the sciences. As president of Western’s Association of Mathematics, Nguyen also works to create an environment where students from diverse backgrounds in math can develop together. He knows how hard math and science can be – because of his early struggles with math, he didn’t pass the sophomore physics class on the first try, setting him back for a whole year. He often uses that story to tell other students to never give up. Nguyen, who moved from Vietnam to the U.S. with his family when he was a small child, is the son of Tram Nguyen and Chay Nguyen and a graduate of Evergreen High School in Burien. After graduation he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Michigan.

Danielle Marie Payton

College of Humanities and Social Sciences – Humanities Division

Dee Payton is graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and as the Outstanding Graduate in the Philosophy Department. Her faculty mentor characterizes her as razor-smart, unfailingly compassionate and universally respected. In addition to completing nearly every course in the department, she completed six directed independent study courses and six senior seminars. She participated in the Rutgers Summer Institute for Diversity in Philosophy, repeatedly served as a session chair in professional conferences and presented original scholarship in four different venues including the Annual Ida B. Wells Philosophy Conference at the University of Memphis. She was a peer writing tutor in the Hacherl Research & Writing Studio, president of the Philosophy Club and lead organizer of Western’s first Philosophy of Race forum, which attracted more than 300 people and drew two eminent philosophers as guest speakers. She was also an assistant organizer of the 2015 Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference and a mentor to Sehome High School’s Philosophy Club. Finally, she is the most successful graduate applicant the department has ever produced, with offers of admission and generous support from some of the best philosophy departments in the world. With her interests in Islamic theology, Payton is poised to make significant contributions in the emerging philosophical field of analytic theology. Next, she’ll attend Rutgers University to begin a Ph.D. program in philosophy. Payton, from Yamhill, Oregon, is the daughter of Mark and Christiane Payton and a graduate of McMinnville High School.

Torrey Holden Yost

College of Business and Economics

Torrey Yost graduates with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting and as the Outstanding Graduate in the Accounting Department. He has a near-perfect grade point average and is known for his thoughtful, questioning mind and positive attitude in class. Yost often pursues the broader implications of technical accounting questions and seems to enjoy considering the ramifications and applications of class concepts to other disciplines, society and his own life. He was an energetic tutor and coordinator for the Accounting Tutoring Center, recruiting fellow students to help beginners find their way through their first CBE courses. He also served as a conversation partner with Western’s Intensive English Program. Yost was born and raised in Spain and has traveled extensively. He has had an accounting internship in Papua New Guinea as well as one locally.  Yost, the son of Andy and Cheryl Yost, he plans to enter public accounting with a local Bellingham firm.