10, 260 students have been approved for commencement ceremonies this year.
Below are several of San Diego State University's featured graduates from the class of 2011, which includes 10,260 degree candidates.
College of Arts and Letters
College of Business Administration
College of Education
College of Engineering
College of Health and Human Services
College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts
College of Sciences
Associated Students Executive Board
COLLEGE OF ARTS AND LETTERS
Derek Macatantan, 25, B.A., Japanese, minor in accounting
The financial crisis in 2008 opened doors for Macatantan, who was studying abroad in Oita, Japan, at the time. He found it difficult to make ends meet, so he found part-time jobs and began teaching English to children. It was then when he found his passion and knew he would one day return to Japan.
Macatantan is the president of SDSU's Japanese Student Association and has been highly involved in fundraising for recent Japanese disaster relief efforts. He is the multiple-year winner of a best student award for Japanese language students and was honored at the 2008 Oita City Speech Contest. Upon graduation, Macatantan plans to teach in the Japan Exchange Teaching Programme, a prestigious English teaching program in Japan. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)
Christopher David Tartre
Christopher David Tartre, 21, B.A., Spanish; B.S., business administration (accounting); minor in honors interdisciplinary studies
As a homeschooler in high school, Tartre took classes at Palomar Community College while playing competitive junior tennis. He came to SDSU to pursue his dream of playing Division I tennis; instead, he will graduate Magna Cum Laude through the University Honors Program with two majors and a minor, as the Outstanding Graduate from the department of Spanish and Portuguese.
During his four years at SDSU, Tartre has learned to transfer his competitive nature and drive from the courts to the classroom, and now, he will continue to use these attributes in his professional accounting career. Upon graduation, Tartre will travel to Spain and Israel before beginning his career in public accounting as an assurance associate with Deloitte in San Diego. He plans on attaining his Certified Public Accountant certification within the next year and pursuing an MBA in the future. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)
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COLLEGE OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
Shelley House, 27, B.S., business management
House began her educational journey after being selected for the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program. The transition to college life was difficult at first for House, but became easier after getting involved with SDSU's Student Veteran Organization (SVO).
She has spent numerous hours volunteering at the SVO, as well as blood banks and charity drives. House was nominated for Homecoming Court in 2010 and is one of the individuals featured on the Aztec for Life trolley. She will receive her commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps on May 20. (Hometown: Hastings, Neb.)
Kevin Matthew Kwoka
Kevin Matthew Kwoka, 22, B.S, business management (finance); B.A., economics
Kwoka took on multiple leadership positions on campus during his time at SDSU. He was selected as a 2011 Future Rising Business Leader, Quest for the Best student, and was voted to the 2010 Homecoming Court.
After graduation, Kwoka plans to become a regional director for his fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon. He ultimately would like to get into green energy business consulting to help businesses reduce their environmental impact in their everyday operations. (Hometown: Roseville, Calif.)
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COLLEGE OF EDUCATION
Angelia (Niecy) Watkins
Angelia (Niecy) Watkins, 43, M.A., special education
In Watkins’ life, family has always come first, which explains the long journey she endured to finish her education. She went back to school in her late 30s as a married mother of three sons in order to earn a bachelor’s degree, and, much to her surprise, went on to earn a master’s degree.
Watkins has received awards in liberal studies and special education credential programs and was named Outstanding Student of SDSU’s special education program. She plans to continue to work as a special education teacher, and in two years, she hopes to return to school and earn a doctorate degree. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)
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COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING
Danielle Marie Gilbert
Danielle Marie Gilbert, 21, B.S., aerospace engineering
From a young age, Gilbert knew she wanted to become an aerospace engineer, and witnessing her father launch a rocket further strengthened her passion for the field. Gilbert is a member of several engineering honor societies and has served as president of the Associated Engineering Student Council and is the Associated Students representative for the college of engineering.
Following graduation, she will begin her career with the United Launch Alliance, where she started as an intern in 2008. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in space systems operations management at Webster University. (Hometown: Parker, Colo.)
Eric Miller, 22, B.S., mechanical engineering, minor in Spanish
A summa cum laude graduate, Miller has been involved with several engineering organizations, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which he led as co-chair to earn the Most Improved Engineering Organization award in 2011. He was also an executive officer in SDSU’s Associated Engineering Student Council this past year and held several jobs and engineering internships throughout his time at SDSU.
He was named 2010-11 Student of the Year in the department of mechanical engineering, and came in third at the 2010 AIAA Undergraduate Team Space Transportation Design Competition. Miller will begin working at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in June and plans to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at UCSD in the fall. (Hometown: Portland, Ore.)
Carissa Williams, 29, M.S., environmental engineering
Despite having a non-math educational background, Williams completed a master’s degree in three years while also supporting herself through school. She is the president of SDSU’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and because of her contributions to the community, she received the William J. Fisher Award, presented by the Society of Women Engineers.
Williams also received the Carol Forrest, P.E. Memorial Watershed Management Scholarship, a scholarship for graduate students who are interested in studying water resources affected by storm water and urban runoff. After graduation, Williams intends to find a career where she can use her engineering and management skills to advance sustainable practices. (Hometown: Attleboro, Mass.)
Mohammad Zekria, 41, M.S., civil engineering
Zekria obtained a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Nangarhar Univeristy, one of the largest universities in Afghanistan, where he also served as a professor for seven years. Teaching others was something that came natural to Zekria because as the oldest in his family, he mentored and helped his siblings in their education.
With the help of scholarships, he was able to pursue a master’s degree at SDSU. While here, he became a volunteer member of SDSU’s Language Acquisition Resource Center. Following graduation, Zekria intends to search for a career in engineering. In addition, he will either earn a Ph.D. in the U.S. Otherwise or return to work at Nangarhar University.
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COLLEGE OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Lauren Branch, 21, B.A., speech-language pathology
Branch originally wanted to become an elementary school teacher, until one day her mother—an SDSU alum and current audiology lecturer—encouraged her to observe a speech-language pathologist in a classroom. Once Branch started the coursework, she fell in love with the field. She spent the fall 2010 semester in Glasgow, Scotland, where she gained an international perspective of her field.
Branch plans to obtain a master’s degree at SDSU while her mother (also the clinical supervisor in the joint doctoral program in audiology at SDSU/UCSD) pursues a transitional doctorate of audiology. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)
Nicole Stephanie Levin
Nicole Stephanie Levin, 26, B.S., nursing; B.A., international security and conflict resolution; minor in health science
Though she was born in the U.S., Levin was raised in Russia and the Ukraine, where she witnessed many health and wealth disparities. This cultivated her passion for human rights and global access to health care. Having an interest in working with refugee populations, Levin founded and co-chaired SDSU’s first Refugee Awareness Week.
Moving from the Ukraine to San Diego to pursue a college education was challenging, but nonetheless, she became involved in leadership roles in a variety of organizations and is in several national honor organizations. Levin has also won several awards, including Quest for the Best and a nursing award for Outstanding Excellence and Vision in Leadership. After graduation, she plans on earning dual master’s degrees in public health and international development. (Hometown: Kyiv, Ukraine)
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COLLEGE OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES AND FINE ARTS
Jemalyn Chavez, 21, B.A., journalism (emphasis in public relations)
Coming from a low-income, single-parent household, Chavez had to support her family, which instilled in her a strong work ethic and foundation for success. She is involved in several organizations, including Public Relations Student Society of America and the Mortar Board National Honor Society, and has served in various leadership positions within her college. She has also received numerous scholarships and awards, including Quest for the Best and the Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Scholarship.
After graduation, Chavez will work at the Alexander Hamilton Friends Association in New York during the summer. Afterward, she will return to San Diego to work with Meeting Sites Pro Inc., and in three years, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in international communications. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)
Breena Loraine, 21, B.S., business administration; B.M., music (emphasis in vocal performance); minor in interdisciplinary studies
The link between music and business is something that Loraine is passionate about, and she has been actively involved in contributing to both fields. This includes representing the College of Business Administration at international business case competitions and assisting the Community Council for Music in the Schools, among other things.
Aside from community efforts, Loraine has volunteered as a peer scholar mentor for SDSU’s University Honors Program and is involved in a number of honor societies. She is the winner of numerous awards, such as the Undergraduate Research Excellence Award from the Student Research Symposium, Quest for the Best, and one of PSFA's two Outstanding Graduates.
After graduation, Loraine will return to SDSU and concurrently pursue master’s degrees in business administration and musicology. Afterward, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in music history or musicology. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)
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COLLEGE OF SCIENCES
Karina Kangas, 21, B.S., chemistry
In high school, Kangas became fascinated with chemistry, but when she became pregnant she questioned whether she would be able to pursue higher education. She pressed on, becoming the first member of her family to attend college. Within her first year at SDSU, Kangas got involved with research and later co-authored publications in chemistry journals. She is now graduating as the Outstanding Senior in the College of Sciences.
Among numerous distinctions, Kangas served as vice president of the Scholar for Success program and is a Minority for Biomedical Research Support scholar. She is a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, a Quest for the Best student, and has been awarded scholarships from several organizations. Kangas is also active in community involvement, including speaking with underrepresented students from the community and introducing them to the science field, as well as speaking to young mothers in teen centers to promote and encourage higher education.
After graduation, Kangas will begin a chemistry doctoral program at the University of California San Diego. (Hometown: Chula Vista, Calif.)
Gayatri Indah Marliyani
Gayatri Indah Marliyani, 29, M.S., geological sciences
Marliyani was born and raised in a small town in Central Java, Indonesia, that was surrounded by both beauty and natural threats. Living 20 km away from Mt. Merapi, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, she was always fascinated by the topography of her homeland. The catastrophic earthquake that struck the area in 2006 motivated her to study and understand earthquakes and active faults so that she could help her country with earthquake preparedness.
Marliyani was a recipient of the San Diego Association of Geologists Award and Directorate General of Higher Education of Republic Indonesia Scholarship. This fall, she will pursue a Ph.D. at Arizona State University, after which she plans to return to Indonesia to teach at Gadjah Mada University. (Hometown: Yogyakarta, Indonesia)
Isidore Niyongabo, 29, B.A., psychology
Knowing six languages is impressive, but it’s even more so when the individual is deaf. Niyongabo was born and raised in a rural village in Burundi named Gasorwe and is fluent in Kirundi, French, English, Burundi Sign Language, Uganda Sign Language and American Sign Language. At age 10, Niyongabo lost his hearing to spinal meningitis, but continued to excel, graduating high school with honors and without an interpreter by his side. Niyongabo’s parents never had the opportunity to have a long-term education, and his father was tragically killed in Burundi’s genocide in 1993.
At SDSU, Niyongabo stayed involved while self-supporting himself and working almost full time. He founded SDSU’s American Sign Language Club and is chair of the Student Disability Services Student Advisory Board. He was also chosen as SDSU's 2010 Homecoming King. Following graduation, he plans to attend graduate school and study clinical psychology, with an emphasis in pediatric neuropsychology. (Hometown: Burundi)
Renee Payne, 22, B.A., psychology
Since she was a freshman, Payne has been involved in campus and student life. She worked as a peer coach to SDSU freshmen who were on academic probation and a research assistant for an industrial/organizational psychology professor.
Studying abroad in Singapore, traveling to 13 Southeast Asian countries and staying with her grandparents in Hong Kong, Renee was intrigued about the cultural differences between the U.S. and Asia. The experience abroad inspired her to write her honors thesis, which she presented at SDSU’s Student Research Symposium and the CSU Honors Conference.
Payne will continue her education at SDSU this fall to pursue a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology. (Hometown: San Jose, Calif.)
Anthony Porter, 24, B.S., statistics (emphasis in actuarial science)
Porter believes that working hard is simple when you enjoy what you are doing, however, for him this process took time. It wasn’t until the summer after his sophomore year that he finally felt alive in the classroom. After taking Introductory Statistics, Porter immediately changed his major and subsequently acquired a renewed sense of purpose and drive while becoming a straight-A student. Wanting to share with others the impact this change made in his life and motivate them to succeed, he became a mentor for SDSU’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).
In addition, he taught GRE math classes for EOP, instructed the SDSU drum line, and became a member of several honor societies. He also received the 2011 Academic Excellence in Statistics Award. Porter plans to continue at SDSU to pursue a master’s degree in statistics and work as an actuary in the future. (Hometown: Fresno, Calif.)
Bahareh "Berry" Soltani
Bahareh “Berry” Soltani, 21, B.A., psychology, minor in communication
Being taught to be an independent and responsible woman from her father who, in 1977, left his family in Iran to pursue an education in the U.S., has led Soltani to success. While financially supporting herself through college, she has actively been involved in the University Honors Program and now serves as the president of its Student Society.
Soltani presented at SDSU's Research Symposium and the CSU Honors Conference, earned the Dean’s Award for the College of Business Administration, was on the dean’s list, and is involved in various national honor organizations. Upon graduation, Soltani will pursue a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology at SDSU and study diversity training in fall 2011. (Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.)
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A.S. Executive Board
ASSOCIATED STUDENTS EXECUTIVE BOARD
This year's Associated Students Executive Board was dedicated to ensuring a quality experience for SDSU students, and their leadership will be felt on campus for years to come. Four out of five are graduating seniors.
• President: Grant Mack, 21, B.A., political science and history Mack was involved with many sustainability initiatives on campus, including Zipcar, SDSU's new bike lane, and planning of the new LEED-certified Aztec Center. He plans to intern in the field of sustainability or politics before pursuing a master's degree in public policy and administration, as well as a law degree.
• Executive Vice President: Sean Kashanchi, 23, B.S., business management Kashanchi was named Greek New Member of the Year, 2008-2009 and recieved the Order of Omega National Scholarship.
• Vice President of External Affairs: Laura Schofield, 22, B.S., criminal justice Schofield is a Quest for the Best recipient and made the Dean's List and PSFA Honor Roll. She is currently working at a criminal defense law firm, and plans to attend law school in fall 2012.
• Vice President of University Affairs: Candice Luistro, 23, B.A., anthropology Luistro was named Greek Woman of the Year 2009-2010 and made the Dean's List for five semesters. She plans to apply to physical therapy doctorate programs this fall while working in physical therapy clinics.
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