The San Diego State University graduating class of 2013 is filled with future doctors, researchers, academics and artists. With nearly 9,100 degree candidates, these are just some of the students whose transformational college experiences have led them to impactful careers paths.
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
COLLEGE OF ARTS AND LETTERS
Megan Laddusaw, 22, B.A., English literature, minor in international studies
A life-long passion for reading and writing compelled Megan Laddusaw to study English literature at SDSU. As an international studies minor, she completed some of her coursework in Paris, France.
Laddusaw volunteered with the International Student Center’s Tutor/Mentor Program and worked as a student assistant for the Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies. She also contributed to the Aztec Literary Review, a student-run periodical where she served as associate editor.
Laddusaw was a member of SDSU’s Sigma Tau Delta International English Honors Society and will graduate cum laude with a special honors distinction from the English Department. She hopes to teach English overseas before continuing her studies in a graduate program.
“My best experiences have come through trying new things and making the effort to participate as much as possible on campus such as joining a club that a peer has mentioned, attending an author's reading at the library, volunteering and meeting with my instructors during their office hours," said Laddusaw.
“SDSU has taught me how to build connections, to communicate, and to have an open mind about the opportunities around me. For that, I am very grateful!”
Katie Martin, 22, double major, B.S., international security and conflict resolution and political science, minor in honors interdisciplinary studies
With many Aztec family members, Katie Martin was destined to wear red and black. In 2009, she was the first winner of the SDSU Alumni Association’s Legacy Scholarship. Since then, Martin has continued to make an impact on SDSU.
During her freshman year she became vice president of Aztecs for Africa, directing a book drive that collected 33,000 books for children in Uganda. Martin has also served multiple leadership roles in the International Security and Conflict Resolution Student Society and was elected as a representative for the College of Arts and Letters.
In 2011, she was selected for SDSU’s Homecoming Court and in 2012 she was honored as one of SDSU’s Quest for the Best winners.
Outside of San Diego, Martin studied abroad in Rimini, Italy and interned on Capitol Hill in Congresswoman Susan Davis’ office through the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.
This semester, Martin assisted in the Office of Vice President Joe Biden, helping staff from the domestic and economic policy departments. She will graduate summa cum laude with the Henry L. Janssen Award for involvement in all five interdisciplinary honors societies.
Read more about Katie Martin.
Paris Wittman Brown, 40, M.A., English, specialization in 20th-century American literature
Paris Wittman Brown
Paris Wittman Brown's research is inspired by theoretical exchanges between society and literature and, specifically, by intersections among cultural borders, gender, psychology and techno-culture.
I found the existing Master of Arts cohort at SDSU both challenging and inspiring,” said Brown. “They were exploring mind-blowing theoretical relationships between literature and culture, and I instinctively wanted to be an active part of this exciting atmosphere.”
While at SDSU, she served as a graduate teaching assistant in the English and Rhetoric and Writing Studies departments, a writing tutor, and co-editor-in-chief of Pacific REVIEW West Coast Arts Journal.
While pursuing her education, Brown also worked full-time and has presented papers at several national and international conferences. She has been accepted into University of California, Riverside’s English doctorate program and will begin pursuing her Ph.D. in the fall.
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COLLEGE OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
Pooria Daryabeygi, 29, B.A., marketing
Pooria Daryabeygi hopes to earn a Masters of Business Administration so he can achieve his dream of opening multiple schools in underdeveloped neighborhoods.
In every struggle there is optimism,” said Daryabeygi as he recalls his journey to SDSU.
Daryabeygi was born and raised in Iran until at the age of 10 his family was forced to flee because of political and religious issues. After months of living a life of hiding, Daryabeygi and his family settled in Austria for three years before moving to the United States. From his travels, Daryabeygi became fluent in Farsi, German, English and Spanish.
At SDSU, Daryabeygi is a member of multiple honors societies and the Associated Student Council for Finance Board. He is also the recipient of the Future Rising Business Leader Award from the College of Business Administration.
“I want to create something that will help to reduce poverty, starvation, and corruption, and make the world — or at least a few neighborhoods — a better place.”
Jeremy Poincenot, 23, B.A., business management, emphasis in entrepreneurship
In 2008, typical life as an SDSU student was interrupted for Jeremy Poincenot when he suddenly lost his central vision. The rare genetic disorder, Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy — or LHONs — left him legally blind. Because there is no cure or treatment for the disorder, Poincenot decided his only option was to turn a life challenge into motivation.
Poincenot continued his passion for golf and became the World Blind Golf Champion in 2010 and the U.S. National B-2 Blind Golf Champion in 2011. As a motivational speaker, he inspires others to overcome life’s hardships while raising awareness and funds to find a cure for LHONs.
"My career and personal goal is to inspire as many people as possible with my story of overcoming adversity. I hope to write a book in the near future.”
Read more about Jeremy Poincenot.
Mor Frankle, 21, B.A., administration, emphasis in finance
Mor Frankle has immersed herself in campus organizations, becoming a member of the international professional business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi and the Cultural Arts Special Events Board of Associated Students. She has helped re-establish the student organization Aztecs for Israel and has held nearly every executive position in the student organization.
“I am a firm believer in the SDSU ethos ‘Leadership Starts Here,’” said Frankle. “I am an example of it.”
Frankle plans to attend graduate school and has applied to the organizational behavior and development master’s program at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzilah in Israel, made up of students from across the globe.
Doug Kelley, 27, B.S., business administration, accounting, M.S., accountancy, emphasis in taxation
In 2009, Doug Kelley applied to the Seaman to Admiral–21 Program which allows sailors to go back to school, obtain a bachelor’s degree, and upon completion get commissioned in the Navy. Kelley eventually received special permission to obtain a BMAcc, a joint bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's degree in accounting.
The first in his family to attend college, Kelly said he feels privileged and grateful to have had the opportunity to obtain simultaneous bachelor's and master's degrees at SDSU.
“I set a goal for myself ten years ago, upon joining the Navy, to get a degree in accounting; I can finally say I accomplished that goal,” Kelley said.
After graduation, Kelley will be commissioned as an Intelligence Officer and will go to the Navy Marine Corps Intelligence Training Camp in Dam Neck, VA. The five-month program instructs attendees about the intelligence field.
“I look forward to proudly continuing to serve my country.”
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COLLEGE OF EDUCATION
Hayley Ryan, 23, M.S., postsecondary educational leadership, specialization in student affairs
A graduate student studying postsecondary educational leadership, Hayley Ryan plans to earn a Ph.D. and become a professor in the Student Affairs program at SDSU. She was recently awarded the Outstanding Student Award for her department.
As an assistant program coordinator for the SDSU College of Education, she coordinates the outreach, recruitment and selection of future students for the program. She has plans to work for Associated Students at the University of California San Diego after graduation.
Ryan's favorite thing about SDSU is the relationships she formed while attending.
“The people at SDSU are some of the warmest, smartest, and most creative people I have ever met,” Williams said.
Will Melman, 32, M.S., educational leadership
Will Melman will finish his master’s degree in educational leadership this May. He currently works as a school administrator at Health Science High and Middle College, a charter school in City Heights.
Melman, who has plans to apply for SDSU's Ed. D program in K-12 educational leadership, will be promoted to vice principal at the school in 2014.
“I want to have as large a positive impact on educational systems as I can, and in turn help as many kids as I can,” Melman said.
Melman said SDSU faculty and programs have been impactful for him. “The faculty is incredibly helpful, encouraging and knowledgeable. They are world-class,” Melman said. “And the university tours offered to San Diego youth help our youngsters to visualize themselves as college students.”
Ashley Day, 25, M.S., child and family development and B.A. Spanish
After graduation, Ashley Day will participate in a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Costa Rica for 10 months. She currently works for the Center for Autism and Related Disorders as a behavioral therapist and was chosen by the College of Education as an outstanding graduate.
“Career-wise, I would love to get a job at Rady's Children Hospital as a behavioral specialist and continue working with children with autism,” Day said.
Day, who will be graduating magna cum laude with a master’s degree in child and family development, is grateful to the exceptional faculty members who have helped her obtain her educational goals. Day also has a bachelor’s in Spanish.
Jennifer Rangel, 24, B.S., child and family development
Jennifer Rangel is graduating summa cum laude and will receive the Most Outstanding Undergraduate ward for the Child and Family Development Department.
After graduation, she hopes to work with youth in the juvenile justice system or families whose children are at risk for delinquency.
Rangel is a member of the Child and Family Development Student Organization, which holds various fundraisers and volunteering events to support child and family agencies in the community. It also raises awareness about issues concerning children and families.
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COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING
Dejan Samardzic, 28, B.S., aerospace engineering, minor in mathematics
At the age of 12, Samardzic immigrated to the United Stated from Croatia. He attended high school in Santa Clarita, Calif. and excelled academically. After high school, Samardzic joined the Navy to serve his adopted country and earn funding for college.
While in the Navy he advanced rapidly, eventually serving in Washington, D.C., Greece and Iraq. Samardzic also earned the honors of class leader of his Engineering “A” School class and Sailor of the Quarter from Naval Facilities Engineering Command.
At SDSU, Samardzic has been on the Dean’s List every semester and will graduate summa cum laude. The veteran speaks English, Croatian, French, Italian and Spanish and chose aerospace engineering to be challenged.
After graduation, Samardzic will work as a design and development engineer for MagCanica, a San Diego company that develops high-performance wireless torque sensors for vehicles used for a wide array of applications including Formula One race cars and military vehicles. He also plans to pursue a master’s degree while working.
David Shields, 23, B.S., civil, construction, and environmental engineering
David Shields is the definition of the term “student-athlete.” A local product from Bonita, Calif., Shields has had great success in both the classroom and on the football field. During his time at SDSU, he maintained a 3.93 GPA in civil engineering and played a key role in the success of the Aztec football team that went on to win its first conference championship in more than 25 years.
Shields is a multi-time SDSU scholar-athlete. He has earned the Malik Award from SDSU Athlethics twice for highest semester GPA. Named after professor emeritus of chemistry James Malik, the award is presented to student-athletes who achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA.
During his college experience, he interned for Kiewit, a Fortune 500 contractor, was an active member of Chi Epsilon and participated in the American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter.
“I don't have any regrets in college and I know I made the right decision choosing to come to SDSU and play football,” Shields said.
“I will always cherish the relationships I built with my teammates and classmates as well as all the great memories I've made. I'm moving on, but I'll always be an Aztec for Life.”
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COLLEGE OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Erin Vierra, 22, B.S., public health, minors in Spanish and geography
Erin Vierra’s campus activities and volunteer work have propelled her to graduate as a featured graduate in the College of Health and Human Services.
Vierra has served as the president of the Health and Human Services College Council and as an officer of Students for Public Health. She also interned with San Diego Coastkeeper while working a part-time job. Her curiosity and desire to get involved has led her to graduate with a list of achievements while attending SDSU.
“I believe the more effort you put into your projects, the more you will gain from them,” Vierra said.
“I couldn’t be more thankful for all of the opportunities that have been presented to me in life. I encourage everyone to become involved in college and be the best they can be.”
Vierra is applying to graduate schools for global health and wants to get a nurse practitioners degree. She hopes to have a career working with third world communities and join Doctors Without Borders.
Douglas Dalay, 22, B.S., social work
Introverted by nature, Douglas Dalay never thought he would be a president of anything. But the motivation from his SDSU colleagues and faculty members, coupled with his desire to create meaningful relationships in the community, pushed him to become president of the Undergraduate Social Work Association.
“I found leading a dynamic group of students to be immensely rewarding,” Dalay said.
“I've made so many meaningful connections during my time at SDSU with colleagues and professionals by getting myself outside of my comfort zone.”
Striving to be a leader in the healthcare sector, Dalay wants to meet evolving community needs in the face of new changes in healthcare legislation. He will be attending graduate school at SDSU for a dual Master's in Social Work and Public Health starting in the fall 2013.
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COLLEGE OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES AND FINE ARTS
Maritza Koponen, 22, B.S., hospitality and tourism management, emphasis in meetings and events
Maritza Koponen has accepted a management in training position with the food and beverage department of the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.
“I would love to be able to plan and coordinate events for people, perhaps as a banquet manager or catering sales manager,” Koponen said.
“The idea of working for a hotel, knowing the property inside and out, and being able to create magical memories for guests has really captivated my attention.”
During her time at SDSU, Koponen received many internships and awards for her dedication to the program. She attended prestigious hospitality conventions for students, served as president of the Meetings and Events Student Association and was a section leader for the entry-level hospitality and tourism management class.
“As an Aztec I not only got to spend my days on a beautiful campus, but I was also a part of one of the most unique hospitality and tourism management programs,” Koponen said.
“The director of the program and all of my professors made it a point to learn all of our names showing us they genuinely care about each of us, individually."
Kristin Sword, 21, double major, B.A., media studies and economics
After graduation, Kristin Sword will intern in project management for Red Door Interactive, a marketing company, while she prepares for the GRE and LSAT.
Sword wants to pursue both a master's and law degree in order to establish a nonprofit organization that would provide a more innovative, collaborative and individually-tailored education system for children.
“I would also love the opportunity to travel the world. It has been one of my life goals to visit a handful of developing counties and then visit them again in 20 years to see how they have developed,” Sword said.
Sword was awarded Quest for the Best in her junior year, she represented the PSFA College Council on the 2012 Homecoming Court and received the Henry L. Janssen award given to graduating seniors who are in the five university-wide honor societies.
“The thing I love most about SDSU is the numerous opportunities to get involved and grow both personally and professionally,” Sword said.
“Faculty and staff at SDSU truly want every student to succeed. I have had amazing mentors throughout my time here and I hope that one day I can give back to this university the way other alumni have done before me - I hope to impact the future generation of Aztecs.”
The Neave Trio, B.A., music
The Neave Trio
The Neave Trio is the Artist Diploma Ensemble in Residence at the School of Music and Dance, all majoring in music. The ensemble consists of violinist Anna Williams, cellist Mikhail Veselov and pianist Toni James. The trio is the first piano trio invited into the program.
“We are fortunate to be in the ensemble residency program at SDSU. It is unique because the structure of the program is geared toward honing and developing a specialized and diverse skill set to be a great musical artist and build a successful career,” Veselov said.
“The program has enabled us to work on professional development and audience building and generate career opportunities,” Williams said.
The trio takes its name, Neave, from the daughter of a resident in an assisted living facility.
“The man was severely disabled from paralysis and although performing for him felt like a small gesture for us, he was able to communicate to us the transformative, condition-altering effects the music had,” James said.
“When he was listening he said he was ‘free of pain and in a state of joy.
“The name, Neave, after his daughter, is a nod to the courage that man had and how much he inspired us,” Veselov said.
The trio is passionate about performance and utilizing different mediums and platforms to connect with audience members. They feel strongly about acting as ambassadors for music.
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COLLEGE OF SCIENCES
Karl Bloor, 28, M.S., geology
Karl Bloor is graduating with a master’s in geology and will be accepting a job as a geoscientist for Chevron in Houston in June. As a geoscientist, Bloor will study the physical components of the Earth to provide research and development opportunities for the company.
After moving to the United States with his family at the age of 12, Bloor, a New Zealand native, overcame financial struggles to achieve a better life for him and his family.
Not only did he manage graduate level coursework, he also operated his own construction company. Bloor quickly became a master of life management by balancing his work and a class schedule.
“I want to be able to support my family without the struggles that I grew up with,” said Bloor.
While at SDSU, he excelled as a student leader. He served as president for the student chapter of American Association of Petroleum Geologists, was recognized by Department of Geology faculty and has been selected for several scholarships.
Genaro Hernandez Nunez, 23, B.S., biology
Genaro Hernandez Nunez
Genaro Hernandez will attend the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the fall for its nationally acclaimed translational research program.
Hernandez was admitted into seven elite universities including Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, UC Davis, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Johns Hopkins and the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. He chose University of Texas for the opportunity to work alongside Nobel Prize winners in the field of metabolism.
A Mortar Board student and Student Research Symposium award recipient, Hernandez held several leadership positions on campus. He was vice president of marketing for the College of Sciences Student Council and the director of communications for Mortar Board.
Hernandez said he is grateful for having the opportunity to receive guidance and mentorship from SDSU faculty.
“I was able to conduct cutting-edge research with Professor Roberta Gottlieb in the SDSU BioScience Center and worked closely with Allen Andres, a post-doctoral fellow, toward discovering a mechanism to protect the heart from suffering a heart attack with statin drugs” said. Hernandez.
“In the future I see myself as a professor conducting cutting-edge research for cures to heart disease and diabetes. Moreover, I see myself using this research to mentor students in the sciences.”
Anastasiya Irkhin, 24, B.S., environmental sciences
The second youngest of 12 children, Anastasiya Irkhin is the first member of her family to graduate from college.
In the late 1980s, her family fled the Soviet Union to escape the impending communist regime. Free from persecution, Irkhin and her family began to pursue a better life in the United States. Irkhin is proud that despite her family’s struggles, she accomplished her goal of pursuing higher education and achieving a college degree.
Her undergraduate studies focused on nuclear energy and issues related to homeland security. She will begin SDSU’s master’s program in homeland security with an emphasis in emergency disaster preparedness with implications for nuclear energy production this fall. The multidisciplinary structure of the program will enable Irkhin to collaborate with faculty and professionals of almost every major and field.
“I know that this program will open many more opportunities for me to give back not only to our community, but also our country,” said Irkhin.
Erin Fletcher, 23, B.S., microbiology, minor in public health
Next fall, Erin Fletcher will begin the Ph.D program in biological and biomedical sciences at Harvard University.
Fletcher attributes much of her success to the resources available at SDSU. She received mentorship from biology professor, Kelly Doran and expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to work alongside her in the research lab.
Fletcher is member of the SDSU Minority Biomedical Research Support program which assists students in research and applying to Ph.D programs. Fletcher also spent her time volunteering for the American Cancer Society’s Camp Reach for the Sky, which is a summer camp for kids with cancer. In addition to her studies at SDSU, her experiences volunteering helped her to realize her career goals.
“I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in cancer biology. Having seen the ways that cancer has impacted a community of kids has inspired me to improve existing cancer therapeutics,” Fletcher said.
Read more about Erin Fletcher.
Alex Arena, 22, double major, B.S., biology, and B.A., political science, minor in chemistry
Alex Arena, who double-majored in political science and biology with a minor in chemistry, plans to take a year-long break to focus on medical school applications.
Arena's future goal is to become a practicing physician, bringing healthcare to the underserved areas in the United States.
“My favorite thing about being an Aztec is that I know I am among a group of unique individuals who wish to help the world around them,” Arena said.
His dedication and hard work have been acknowledged through many awards and distinctions he’s received at SDSU including the Henry L Janssen Award, given to students who are members of the five multidisciplinary honor societies on campus. Arena also served in Associated Students throughout his undergraduate career, most notably as the College of Sciences Representative for three years.
Involved in the pre-professional health advising office, Arena has served as a peer adviser and as the coordinator for Topics in Medicine in fall 2011. He was a recipient of the 2013 Quest for the Best award.
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Please visit SDSU’s commencement website for additional information.
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