Seven WWU Graduates Receive Presidential Scholar Honors

Western Washington University President Sabah Randhawa honored seven graduates as Presidential Scholars during Commencement on Saturday, June 16.

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

Randhawa presented each of the following Presidential Scholars with a medallion:

Grace Coffey and President Sabah RandhawaGrace D. Coffey

Huxley College of the Environment

Grace D. Coffey graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in urban planning and sustainable development from Huxley College of the Environment. Boasting the second-highest GPA in the Department of Environmental Studies, Coffey showed her commitment to the study and practice of environmental justice. Coffey was a student at Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies in addition to her urban planning major at Huxley, and was a recipient of Fairhaven’s Adventure Learning Grant. She spent a year traveling through the Andes Mountains, experienced city life and innovative urban planning in Medellín, Colombia, and Valparaíso, Chile, and lived in a rural isolated community on the border of Ecuador and Colombia teaching English and learning about rural economies. While traveling on the grant, she was able to attend the United Nations Habitat III Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development in Quito, Ecuador. She has proven her dedication to working with underrepresented and underprivileged groups in Bellingham through her research on housing affordability and accessory dwelling units as well as volunteering with the Whatcom Literary Council. Her other service work varies from distributing food at the Bellingham Food Bank to serving as a Housing and Green Building intern with Sustainable Connections. Coffey, the daughter of Dawn and Jack Coffey, is a graduate of Ilwaco High School and attended Running Start at Clatsop Community College. After graduation, she plans to do the Washington state portion of the Pacific Crest trail and then move to Portland to work in urban planning.

Dalton Jones and President Sabah RandhawaDalton Jones

College of Science and Engineering

Dalton Jones graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. Hard-working, passionate and curious, Jones has the unique ability to make progress on challenging, open-ended and multi-faceted research problems. In his research with Assistant Professor Armin Rahmani on a project with applications in quantum computing, Jones displayed a good understanding of complex subjects like quantum dynamics and entanglement, making enough progress on the project that he will soon submit results for publication. Outside of his academics, he was active in the Native American Student Union (NASU) where he organized community fundraisers and club trips, such as a trip to the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a rich experience for Native American and First Nations people from across North America. Jones was also involved in the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and Western’s Ethnic Student Center, coordinating events and outreach to high schools and helping students of color with available resources such as scholarships, research opportunities and support systems. Jones, the son of Brad Jones and Cheryl Lolkema, is a graduate of Nooksack Valley High School. After graduation, he plans to pursue graduate studies in theoretical physics at the University of California Los Angeles.

Phi Le Nguyen and President Sabah RandhawaPhi Le Nguyen

Woodring College of Education

Phi Le Nguyen graduated last winter with a Bachelor of Arts degree in education with an endorsement in early childhood education from Woodring College of Education. She is also a first-generation college student and the first in her family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Nguyen has demonstrated her knowledge of teaching and learning processes in order to support children, teachers and families and has shared her work locally and internationally. For her internship in WWU’s Child Development Center, she adapted the Katz Project Approach to engage children in an inquiry-based study of their community in which art was integrated into learning. She presented her work at a summer symposium with faculty, students and teachers visiting Western from Southwest University in Chongqing, China. Later, Early Childhood Education program director Marilyn Chu invited Nguyen on a collaborative educational study tour to China, where Nguyen was able to present her research at Southwest University. Nguyen is the daughter of Hoang Phung Nguyen and Le Thi Le and a graduate of Highline High School in Burien. Next, Nguyen will become a kindergarten teacher in the Nooksack Valley School District.

Maria José Palacios Figueroa  and President Sabah RandhawaMaria José Palacios Figueroa

College of Humanities and Social Sciences – Humanities Division

Maria José Palacios Figueroa graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and linguistics and a minor in Latin American studies. She is also the Outstanding Graduate in Spanish. A talented and engaged scholar, Palacios Figueroa’s passion for language, literature and culture is evident in her academic work and activities on and off campus. She taught Spanish to university faculty and staff as part of Western’s Employee Language Program, was a tutor for the Modern and Classical Languages Department, and took part in the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, Sigma Delta Pi. Palacios Figueroa also worked with Senior Instructor of Spanish Kirsten Drickey and Senior Instructor of Linguistics Jordan Sandoval to design a new curriculum for intermediate Spanish classes, addressing common pronunciation problems of native speakers of English. She was a leader in creating “Escuchando Entendemos,” a speaker series that builds community around Spanish speakers and learners at Western. A WWU IDEA Institute Changemaker Fellow, she immersed herself in an exploration of the politics of language and identity, focusing on cultural attitudes toward Heritage Speakers in the U.S. Palacios Figueroa, the daughter of Ana Isabel Figueroa Gálvez and Ramón Alfonso Palacios Durazo, is a graduate of Skyline High School in Sammamish. After graduation, she will travel to Brazil on a Fulbright Scholarship to be an English Teaching Assistant for university students.

Clinton Sana and President Sabah RandhawaClinton Sana

College of Fine and Performing Arts

Clinton Sana completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art. His work has been described as intellectually rich, beautifully crafted, and is often directly related to his multicultural heritage including indigenous Chamorro. His latest project deals with the colonial history of the Chamorro people of the Mariana Islands, especially his grandmother's memory of walking to a concentration camp during World War II. Sana has lent his talents outside of Western as well, contributing to the community by serving developmentally and intellectually disabled individuals. He has worked with the Max Higbee Program, and with students with intellectual disabilities at Happy Valley Elementary School as well as Kulshan and Fairhaven middle schools. In addition, he has been extensively involved in the Unified Sports Programs of the Special Olympics and volunteers in a special education class at Irene Reither Elementary School. After graduation he plans to visit family in Guam and continue creating art. 

Emily Stadt and President Sabah RandhawaEmily Stadt     

College of Humanities and Social Sciences – Social Sciences Division

Emily Stadt graduated with Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology/pre-physical therapy and a minor in dance. An excellent scholar throughout her college career, Stadt is finishing her time at Western with a cumulative 3.9 GPA. She has been described by many of her professors as an outstanding student who always turns in high quality work. She made the most of her time in the classroom and also in serving the community. Stadt worked with WWU’s Relay for Life as the student in charge of contacting cancer survivors and caregivers to invite them to be honored at the event. She is also a small group leader at the Inn University Ministry, a Bible study group. She has put what she learned in her classes to work by volunteering at Everson Elementary Family Fitness Nights, encouraging students and their families to stay active. She also traveled to Rwanda as a part of WWU’s Global Learning Program and she created her own dance and yoga classes for members of the Everson community. Stadt, daughter of Mark and Sylvia Stadt, attended Nooksack Valley High School in Everson and Whatcom Community College. After graduation, she plans to go to graduate school to earn a doctorate in physical therapy.

Honoka Tsutsui and President Sabah Randhawa​Honoka Tsutsui

College of Business and Economics

Honoka Tsutsui graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in International Business. Tsutsui excelled in academics at Western, earning a perfect 4.0 GPA and was known to produce extremely high quality work. Tsutsui demonstrated a unique ability to pursue her own answers to complex questions during her independent study project, and through her honors thesis project. For her honors thesis, Tsutsui conducted an extensive review of academic literature, created a theoretical model to predict the corporate social responsibility reporting activities of pharmaceutical companies, and collected panel data that she then used to run econometric models to test the theoretical model. Outside of her academic work Tsutsui played a key role in improving multicultural exchanges on campus. She started the Asian Entrepreneurship Club as a way to help students network with each other and make lasting friendships. She also served as the president of the International Business Networking Club. Outside of Western Tsutsui volunteered as a translator for tourists visiting her hometown of Kochi, Japan, and before arriving at Western, she served as a student representative on a faculty review committee at Whatcom Community College, where she began her studies in the U.S. After graduation from Western she plans to go to graduate school at Kobe University in Japan to research business, particularly corporate social responsibility and strategic alliances of corporations with non-governmental and nonprofit organizations.