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Class of 2012 Featured Grads

9,973 students have been approved for commencement ceremonies this year.
By Glenn S. Robertson

Below are several of San Diego State University's featured graduates from the class of 2012, which includes 9,973 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
Imperial Valley Campus
Associated Students


Jessica Davis
Jessica Davis

Jessica Davis, 29, M.A., Philosophy

Jessica Davis believes philosophy can save education. Her Ideal School Foundation promotes the creation of philosophy-based charter high schools that encourage clear, critical thinking and lively debate.   

Davis had a difficult time finishing high school and didn’t even consider college. Although testing identified her as a gifted student, she grew disillusioned with the disconnect between public schools and real life.

Eventually, Davis realized that to change education, she would need credentials. And now she has them — a B.A. and M.A. in philosophy from SDSU, plus acceptance to the prestigious Ph.D. program at Teachers College Columbia University. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.) 

“My vision is a network of schools in which every student flourishes," she said.

Rawan Elhalaby
Rawan Elhalaby

Rawan Elhalaby, 21,
B.A., Political Science; Minor in History and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies

Rawan Elhalaby has built on a life-long interest in political and social movements and a deep desire to inspire people to action and applied it toward a bachelor's degree in political science.  She's also minoring in history and interdisciplinary studies.

While at SDSU, she became actively involved in cultural and political organizations on campus, such as the Muslim Student Association and Justice for Palestine, but she also took time to tutor refugee students at the International
Rescue Committee.  She will graduate Summa Cum Laude and hopes to pursue a graduate degree in public administration and then working for a non-profit organization. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)

Nicole Ganz
Nicole Ganz

Nicole Ganz, 22, Double Major, B.A., Political Science, B.A., Communication

A Compact Scholar from Eastlake High, Ganz found her niche at SDSU through Associated Students. Government and civics seem to be in her blood, as she interned in the office of a current San Diego mayoral candidate in addition to running and winning the position of Lobby Corps Officer for the California State Student Association, advocating on behalf of every student in the CSU system.  

After graduation, Ganz hopes to begin a career in local government for the City of San Diego. However, she would also like to teach high school government and instill the importance of government and advocacy for every individual into her students. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)

"My time in AS and as a YMCA Youth Advisor has solidified in me a desire to work in a field of civic engagement."

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Miles Bower
Miles Bower

Miles Bower, 30, M.B.A., Sports Business MBA Program

Bower may have felt somewhat out of place as an "old man on campus," but this former Marine officer had already seen and overcome a number of challenges. After serving for six years and three deployments to Iraq, he left the Marine Corps in 2009 and started working in sports marketing. SDSU's history of supporting veteran students played a key role in his success.

"That's why I chose San Diego State.  As opposed to just implementing veteran-service programs, it truly seemed that people at SDSU had taken the time to understand the issues specific to our community."

After graduation, Bower plans on using his sports business education to organize adventures and road races in support of veteran-focused charities, as well as working on his own business to promote military marketing programs for sports organizations. (Hometown: Paoli, Penn.)

Michael and Melissa Keane
Michael and Melissa Keane

Melissa and Michael Keane, 22 and 56, B.S. in Accounting, M.S. in Accounting

Accounting runs in the family for this father-daughter duo. Michael earned his bachelor's degree in accounting at SDSU in 1981, and then returned to earn his master's degree while Melissa was earning her bachelor's.  They will graduate together on May 19.

Michael has run a private CPA practice in San Diego since September 1989, one month before Melissa's birth and is currently a member of the board of directors for a local community bank as well as the Mizzen Mast captain on the Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship in the world located in San Diego's harbor.

Melissa plans to follow in her father's footsteps and start her own business as well — born out of her hobby of crocheting handmade crafts for babies and children.  (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)

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Lindsay Goulet
Lindsay Goulet
Lindsay Goulet, 22, B.S., Social Science (in preparation for the Single Subject Teaching Credential)

Lindsey Goulet came to SDSU through the Compact for Success program, a partnership with the Sweetwater Union High School District designed to offer students guaranteed admission to the university.

Inspired to create a positive change in her community, Goulet decided the best way to carry on the legacy of empowerment given to her by her high school teachers was to become an educator herself.

Goulet will earn her bachelor’s degree in social science and plans to pursue a teaching credential in high school science and physics. Ultimately, she hopes to find a teaching position in the South County so she can give back to the community that inspired her.  (Hometown: National City, Calif.)

Malia Green
Malia Green

Malia Green, 29, B.S. Child Development, Minor in LGBT Studies

Malia Green chose to attend SDSU for two reasons — diversity and community engagement.  The former Marine Staff Sgt. joined the military at age 17 and left the service after seven years to focus on family and education. Her son had begun attending preschool, and seeing his excitement, she enrolled in a introductory child development class at a community college.  The rest is history. 

She fell in love with the subject, and transferred to SDSU in 2009 — where she has been very active in a number of student organizations. In addition to maintaing her status on the Dean's List, she volunteers teaching art class to elementary students, provides support to deployed Sailors and Marines through the Helping Hands Volunteer program, and works with the SDSU Youth Violence Research Lab to help implement curriculum in high and middle schools to combat bullying. Eventually, she hopes to secure a career working with at-risk LGBT youth. (Hometown: Alexandria, Va.)

"My goal? At the end of the day, I want to be able to go home and say I made a diference in someone's life today."

Leslie Thompson
Leslie Thompson

Leslie Thompson, 63, M.A. Educational Technology

Earning a graduate degree while teaching at an American school in Saudi Arabia can be a difficult obstacle, but that is exactly what Leslie Thompson accomplished from thousands of miles away.

"Completing the program entirely online means I've never met any teachers or students face to face, but between email, Skype, Adobe Connect, Moodle and Blackboard, I was able to plug in and stay connected to work on long-term projects as efficiently as though I was right there in San Diego."

She has seen the world while taking classes, attending classes while visiting locales such as Mumbai, Kuala Lumpur, Cairo, Bangkok and London, to name a few. During all this, the program that she began in fall of 2009 has given her the opportunity to do more than 20 hands-on projects directly related to her present position and goals for her professional future. (Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.)

Joseph Young
Joseph Michael DeAngelo Young

Joseph Michael DeAngelo Young, 22, B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies (Multimedia, Journalism and Educational Technology), Minor in International Studies.

Young has attended SDSU since 2007, and in that time, served as web editor for the Daily Aztec, and was the recipient of the Ozzie Roberts Scholarship in 2010 from the San Diego Black Journalists Association. Admittedly introverted, he has worked at length and with success to "put himself out there" more than he had before.

For his last semester, he made the decision to leave his comfort zone and go abroad. That led him to Hamburg, Germany, where he is working on a research project and taking classes at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. His most immediate goal upon graduation is to help his brother and sister with their studies — both at San Diego State. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)

"Now that I've had a chance to see the world outside of my normal routine, I have a strong interest in keeping that going and traveling the world."

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Levi Lentz
Levi Lentz

Levi Lentz, 22, B.S., Mechanical Engineering

Levi Lentz is the first in his family to go to college, and he has made the most of his years at SDSU.

Not only is he the only SDSU engineering student to ever be elected into all five all-disciplinary honor societies, he won the Italian Machine Tool Design Award from the Italian Trade Commission and performed research into manufacturing systems —  all while paying his own way.

The 2012 Homecoming King and College of Engineering valedictorian will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next semester to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering en route to a Ph.D. (Hometown: Escondido, Calif.)

Jose Alonso Navarro
Jose Alonso Navarro

Jose Alonso Navarro, 21, B.S., Aerospace Engineering

Jose Alonso Navarro knew he wanted to earn a Ph.D, but recognized he would have a tough road.

After emigrating from Mexico at age 8, his teachers mistook his inability to speak English well as an incapability to learn, which eventually fueled his passion to succeed. 

While at SDSU, Navarro completed an internship under NASA’s chief technologist, Mason Peck, at Cornell University.  As an undergraduate, he has worked in the SDSU Combustion and Solar Energy Lab, furthering his research by working on the design of the control systems for a solar simulator.

His graduate studies will take him to the University of Wisconsin, where he will pursue a Nuclear Engineering doctoral degree and hopes to eventually work at NASA as a researcher. (Hometown: Guadalajara, Mexico/San Diego, Calif.)

Phillip Patague
Phillip James Patague
Phillip James Patague, 24, B.S., Civil Engineering

This Summa Cum Laude graduate is focused on a bright future of helping others. He tutors his classmates, holding study sessions weekly. He received the "Quest for the Best" Vice Presidential Student Service Award and the Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Outstanding Graduate Award.

Civil service is a huge focus for this civil engineer, as well.  As president of the Chi Epsilon Civil Engineering Honor Society in Spring 2011, he mandated volunteer efforts for members, participating and organizing efforts in canyon and park cleanups, and took time to talk to K-12 students about the engineering fields. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)

"I'm going to focus my graduate studies in such a way that those fields will help me contribute to the world the most.  My ultimate goal is to help underdeveloped communities through environmental remediation and minimizing structural damage." 

Ismael Reveles
Ismael Reveles

Ismael Reveles, 23, B.S., Aerospace Engineering

Helping others to be whole again is an idea Reveles takes to heart, almost literally.  His future plans will take him into the field of biomechanics and prostheses, building on his education in SDSU's Bioengineering Lab where he's researched applications of artificial cardiac muscle actuators in rehabilitation for stroke victims.

He hopes to be part of the group of scientists who will develop the first functional robot arms, and will join a group of students to present research findings on the topic at the University of Washington this month, as part of a three-university partnership to develop a center for research in prosthetics and rehabilitation devices.

“The work is geared mostly for military vets and amputees, but it can also be used for kids with cerebral palsy. They may have the limb, but it’s not functional. But With an assistive device, they can be functional again.”

The first-generation student serves as president of the SDSU chapter of the Society for Advancements of Chicanos and Native Americans in Sciences. He’s also co-president of an engineering society that recently organized a week-long "build-off" program called "Engineering in the Barrio." (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)

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Jia Huang
Jia Huang
Jia Huang, 23, B.S., Public Health

Jia Huang may have come from a difficult socio-economic upbringing, but she learned from experience and by watching her family the power of dedication and focus. She will build on her experience at SDSU on her way to the medical profession.

Since coming to SDSU, she has been actively involved in health education, reaching out to students to raise awareness on a number of health issues such as STDs, domestic abuse and birth control. She has also volunteered at the ER at Alvarado Hospital, which strengthened her passion to serve and inspire awareness amongst underserved populations.

She has been on the Dean's List since Fall 2007, and recently earned the School of Public Health's Outstanding Undergraduate. She plans to apply for medical school in hopes of building relationships with patients and empowering them to lead healthier lifestyles through a blend of medicine and health education. (Hometown: San Francisco, Calif.)

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Diana Crofts-Pelayo
Diana Crofts-Pelayo
Diana Crofts-Pelayo, 21, B.A., Journalism, B.A., Spanish, Minor in Interdisciplinary Studies

The first-generation Mexican American was told from an early age by her great-grandmother "Si lo puedes ver, lo puedes lograr" — "If you can see it, you can achieve it."

"Reporting is my passion and I strongly believe that I can help make the world a better place through media."

Double-majoring in journalism and Spanish, Crofts-Palayo has been on the Dean's List every semester, earning a 3.9 GPA throughout and accepted into several honors societies across disciplines. 

She didn't waste any time pursuing her passion. While studying at SDSU, she also worked as a staff writer for the Daily Aztec, and interned at both KPBS and NBC7 San Diego. (Hometown: San Diego, CA)

Arlene Cagayat de Guzman
Arlene Cagayat de Guzman

Arlene Cagayat De Guzman, 23, B.A., Journalism with an Emphasis in Public Relations, Minor in Political Science

De Guzman may have been an undeclared major up until her junior year at SDSU, but when she completed her general education courses, it became clear the communications field was for her.  At first, she set upon journalism, but after taking a class with Professor Bey-Ling Sha, she realized it would have to be public relations, and declared that emphasis.  

During her time at SDSU, De Guzman served as the Vice Chair for AS Cultural Arts and Special Events, an organization she's been involved with since her freshman year. She was also a Compact Advisor for the Compact Scholars Program, a member of Andres Bonifacio Samahan and the Asian-Pacific Student Alliance, and involved with the Public Relations Student Society of America.

She has overcome a number of obstacles in her life, including the financial loss of her home in 2008.  However, her family would not let circumstances get the better of them and through hard work and financial planning, moved into another home in less than six months.  The lesson of diligence and effective management of money would not be lost on her.  After completing a three-month internship and impressing company officials at BAM Communications, she was hired to work as their Marketing and Social Media Coordinator in April. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.) 

Sierra and Roxanne Ellison
Sierra (L) and Roxanne Ellison

Roxanne and Sierra Ellison, 22 and 23, B.A., Television, Film and New Media

Roxanne and Sierra Ellison seem like two peas in a pod. They will both graduate from the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts with the same major; they were doubles partners on the SDSU Women's Tennis Team; and they have earned awards both on the court and for their studies.

The pair will play professionally after graduating, continuing their doubles success on the pro circuit.

Roxanne earned Mountain West Scholar Athlete honors each of her four years at SDSU, and will graduate summa cum laude as the Outstanding Graduate for the Theatre, Television and Film Department.

Sierra is a three-time All Conference Doubles player, receiving the Cissie Leary sportsmanship award in 2011, and was a finalist in the TableReadMyScreenPlay at the Sundance Film Festival. (Hometown: Coto de Caza, Calif.)

Sam Stauber
Samantha Stauber and her older brother, Houston, enjoy an athletics banquet. The bowling pin is called the "Stryker Award," which recognizes tenacity and dedication.

Samantha Stauber, 23, B.S., Criminal Justice

Samantha Stauber's heroic journey exemplifies competitive spirit and a remarkable will to survive. 

She is an SDSU Presidential Scholar, member of the crew team and a cancer survivor.  

She has been accepted by the Los Angeles Police Department and Pepperdine University's law school.  (Hometown: Pasadena, Calif.)

Learn more about her inspirational story

Osmond Nicholas, 21, B.S. Criminal Justice

Osmond Nicolas
SDSU Football player Osmond Nicholas will graduate in just three years and will continue to play for the Aztecs as he pursues his master's degree.

Osmond Nicholas is a football player but he’s always been a student first. The Oceanside High School graduate came to SDSU with 21 college credits.

After red-shirting his freshman year and sitting out as a sophomore, Nicholas earned his first letter during the 2011 season.  The scholar-athlete will get his degree in criminal justice after just three years, never having dropped below a 3.0 grade point average.

Nicolas has already began work on his master’s degree in homeland security which he will pursue as he continues to play football for the Aztecs. (Hometown: Oceanside, Calif.)

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Abdifatah Ahmed Ali
Abdifatah Ahmed Ali

Abdifatah Ahmed Ali, 27, B.S., Psychology

Somali-born Ali has shouldered a great deal of responsibility on his academic and personal journey. While earning his degree, he has financially supported his family, including his disabled father and his mother and siblings in Kenya.  He enrolled in Grossmont Gollege in 2007, transferred to SDSU in 2009, and has been heavily involved in organizational psychology research. Ali will continue on to a Ph.D. in organizational psychology at Michigan State University in the fall. 

"All the different setbacks and obstacles I've encountered in my life have made me who I am.  I am thankful for the people who have supported me throughout my college years."

Ali has been recognized with a number of awards, fellowships and scholarships, including an National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Student Research Symposium Provost Award for Outstanding Presentation, and the McNair Summer Research Scholar. (Hometown: San Diego, Calif.)

Ellese Carmona
Ellese Carmona

Ellese Carmona, 23, B.S., Microbiology

Chula Vista native Ellese Carmona came to SDSU through the Compact for Success program and found her calling in microbiology research.

She joined the Minority Access to Research Careers program, joined Kelly Doran's microbiology lab and has been on the Dean’s List seven times during her four years at SDSU. 

After her graduation from SDSU, she will attend Harvard University to pursue a Ph.D. in biology and biomedical sciences. (Hometown: Chula Vista, Calif.)

Read more about Ellese Carmona.

Lauren Petersen
Lauren Petersen

Lauren Petersen, B.S., Chemistry

Lauren Petersen, who will receive her degree in Chemistry, has been selected for a prestigious nine-week STAR internship with NASA Ames and the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence Institute this summer. During this time, she will work in the NASA Ames Laboratories under a renowned science mentor. Her project will include analyzing a piece of equipment that is one of the primary soil analyzers that previously voyaged into space on the Mars Rover.

The internship will also provide her and other selected students with weekly half-day teaching seminars to further their experience in teaching science.

“I’m really looking forward to this internship because I didn’t have a chance to get such in-depth training and research with my very specific Chemistry Single-Subject Teaching major,” said Petersen, a member of Kappa Delta
Sorority. “I’m excited to become a more well-rounded teacher through this incredible opportunity.”

The internship is offered through California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo’s STAR program, that provides professional experience for future science and math teachers. Petersen will graduate cum laude and plans to return to SDSU next year for graduate school and to obtain her credentials. (Hometown: Riverside, Calif.)

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David Torres Barba
David Torres Barba

David Torres Barba, Ph.D., Computational Sciences

David Torres Barba came to the Imperial Valley as an 11 year-old child when his family came to the U.S. in search of a better life; but he never lost ties with his family in Mexico, particularly his uncle who is a doctor and role model.

Torres Barba got his undergraduate degree at SDSU's Imperial Valley campus in computational sciences with a focus on biology and then came to SDSU's main campus to pursue his Ph.D. in computational sciences, which he will receive at commencement.

In the fall, he will begin his studies at UCLA to become a doctor of medicine.  When he graduates from UCLA, he will be David Torres Barba, MD/Ph.D. - a rare combination. But the number of underrepresented students who go on to achieve this is even more rare.

While being knee-deep in research, he continued to reach out to students both at SDSU and back in Imperial Valley via the Bridges to Baccalaureate program, often traveling home to talk to students and encourage them to set high standards, work as hard as necessary to earn their undergraduate degrees, and to consider going on to pursue graduate education. (Hometown: Imperial Valley, Calif.)

Annette Marie Rea
Annette Marie Rea

Annette Marie Rea, 44, B.A., Liberal Studies 

Annette Marie Rea knows it’s never too late to get your education. The mother of eight put aside her education to raise her six daughters and two sons but when one of those daughters began her studies at SDSU’s Imperial Valley campus, she asked her mother to join her. The two will receive their diplomas together on Thursday, May 17.

Forty-four year old Rea’s return to education won’t end here; she plans to pursue a master’s degree in education as well. (Hometown: Imperial Valley, Calif.)

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Mina Azim
Mina Azim

Mina Azim, 23, B.S. Business Management, Minor in Leadership Development 

Commencement has been a long time coming for Mina Azim, who started taking high school and Advanced Placement courses while she was still in middle school. Raised by a single mother, Azim will receive her bachelor’s degree thanks to financial aid and grants.

During her SDSU career, she participated in a variety of leadership activities, including Rotaract, a Rotary-sponsored service club, and Aztec P.R.I.D.E., a student organization that supports philanthropy at SDSU. Starting her freshman year on campus, Azim became involved in Associated Students and served as events commissioner for two years. This past year, she served as vice president of university affairs where she enhanced the voice of students on campus and planned this year’s GreenFest.

Azim plans to pursue a career in planning large-scale events and festivals, before furthering her education with a graduate degree. (Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif.)


Krista Parker
Krista Parker

Krista Parker, 22, B.A., Political Science

Krista Parker didn't just study political science during her four years at San Diego State, she lived it. As vice president of external affairs for Associated Students of SDSU, Parker was the brains behind the California State University systemwide "The Buck Starts Here" student advocacy effort to tell Gov. Jerry Brown about the importance of funding higher education.

Launched at SDSU in November 2011, thousands of CSU students across the state wrote their stories on the back of fake $750 million bills that were eventually delivered to Sacramento. Her efforts earned her the California State Student Association Student Advocate of the Year Award.

Because of her success, it's hard to believe that the outspoken student leader was once an introvert.

"Coming into SDSU, I was extremely shy and didn't have a lot of confidence, but breaking through my shell and getting involved helped me get over a lot of my fears, including public speaking," she said.

In addition to Associated Students, Parker has been involved with the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity and SDSU Rotaract, a Rotary-sponsored service club.

After graduation, Parker will move to Dallas, Texas, to pursue a career in political consulting. (Hometown: Temecula, Calif.)

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