Sunday, December 17, 2017

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More than 10,000 SDSU students will graduate at the university’s commencement ceremonies this weekend. More than 10,000 SDSU students will graduate at the university’s commencement ceremonies this weekend.
 


Class of 2017 Standouts

The future is bright for SDSU's graduating class.
By Katie White
 

San Diego State University's graduating class of 2017 includes future scientists, researchers, communicators and academics.

With more than 10,000 degree candidates, these are just some of the students whose transformational time at SDSU has put them on the road to successful career paths.

Athletes
College of Arts and Letters
Fowler College of Business
Weber Honors College
College of Education
College of Engineering
College of Health and Human Services
College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts
College of Sciences
Veterans
Imperial Valley Campus

ATHLETES

Alyssa Diacono
, 22, B.S. public health

 Alyssa Diacono
Alyssa Diacono
Diacono is a four-time SDSU scholar-athlete and has earned a spot on the Dean's List each semester. The co-captain of the women’s water polo team is a recipient of the 2017 Malik Award and was recently named 2016 SDSU Female Student-Athlete of the Year. She has also garnered all-academic accolades from the Golden Coast Conference (GCC) on three occasions and has served as a representative on the SDSU Student-Athlete Advisory Council.

A two-time honorable mention All-American at the center position, Diacono helped the Aztecs to back-to-back GCC championships and a berth in the 2016 NCAA tournament.

In addition to her accomplishments in the pool and in the classroom, Diacono has been involved in numerous community service and charitable events, including an internship with the San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. She has also served as a site coordinator with the Bone Marrow Donor Drive and has participated in the Junior Seau Foundation's Shop With A Jock program and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Arthur Flores, 23, B.S. computer science

 Arthur Flores
Arthur Flores
Flores was named the 2016 SDSU Male Student-Athlete of the Year. He has received SDSU scholar-athlete recognition on five occasions and is a four-time member of the Dean's List. Flores is also a two-time Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award recipient and Mountain West (MW) scholar-athlete honoree. He was recently named to the 2017 Hampshire Honor Society by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

A mainstay on the Aztec offensive line, Flores, who started all 28 games over the last two seasons at center for the back-to-back MW football champions, set program records in rushing yards (3,680), rushing touchdowns (34), rushing yards per carry (5.8), points (493) and field goals (21) last year.

Flores recently interned at a local medical device company as a software engineer. During his time at SDSU, he participated in several community service events, including the San Diego ALS Walk and Shop With A Jock. In addition, he has tutored students in the SDSU computer science department and has served as a youth camp counselor during winter breaks.

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COLLEGE OF ARTS AND LETTERS

Courtney Dickson
, 21, B.A. political science and B.A. international security and conflict resolution

Courtney Dickson
Courtney Dickson
Dickson served in leadership roles for nine campus organizations during her time at SDSU. A double major in political science and international security and conflict resolution (ISCOR), she also was the membership vice president for Mortar Board, among the most prestigious national honor societies in the country.

Dickson studied abroad in Amsterdam and obtained three competitive internships in the last five years. She also received numerous scholarships, including the Washington Center's Ford Motor Company Global Scholarship, Henry L. Janssen Honors Council Scholarship, National Mortar Board Foundation Fellowship and the Charles Hostler Institute Internship Scholarship. This summer, she will work as an intern for the U.S. State Department before attending law school in Washington, D.C.

Nassim Moallem
, 21, B.A. women’s studies and B.A. political science with a double minor in honors interdisciplinary studies and television, film, and new media

Nassim Moallem
Nassim Moallem
Moallem has not confined her education to the classroom. Inspired by her freshman classes in women’s studies, she became active in campus politics at SDSU with the Association of Chicana Activists, Andrea O’Donnell Womyn’s Outreach Association and Students for Justice in Palestine. After studying abroad in Chile and completing a Panetta Institute Congressional Internship with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Moallem returned to SDSU to volunteer with Get Out The Vote and the International Rescue Committee. She has served the latter as an after-school tutor and tax preparer for low-income families.  

Among her awards and honors are the Betsy Nesvold Scholarship, an undergraduate research award, membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board, and becoming a Truman Scholar finalist in 2016. Moallem plans to attend the University of Southern California’s Gould Law School, specializing in public interest law and has ambitions to run for public office in California in the future. 

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FOWLER COLLEGE OF BUSINESS

Inzali Soe Han, 29, B.S. business administration with an emphasis in accounting

Inzali Soe Han
Inzali Soe Han
Han is graduating as the outstanding student in SDSU’s School of Accountancy. During her time at SDSU, she has received the Mark and Debbie Linder Business Leader Scholarship, the Considine Accounting Scholarship and the Accounting Associates Scholarship.

Han was born in Yangon, Myanmar and is a U.S. citizen. She served in the U.S. Navy on active duty for five years and in the reserve for one year. Han has been offered a position with EY (formerly Ernst & Young), known as one of the Big Four accounting firms. She plans to sit for the certified public accountant (CPA) exams after graduation.

Jonathan Hitzhusen, 21, B.A. business management with an emphasis in entrepreneurship

Jonathan Hitzhusen
Jonathan Hitzhusen
Hitzhusen enrolled at SDSU in fall 2014 immediately after graduating high school, and was able to complete his bachelor’s degree in business in two and a half years. During that time, he worked 40 hours per week and completed multiple internships. He also married his middle school sweetheart and the couple recently welcomed a baby boy.
 
Hitzhusen is a devout Christian and credits his success at SDSU to his faith. With a 3.98 GPA, Hitzhusen was named the 2017 valedictorian of the Fowler College of Business.
 
Hitzhusen works at a marketing agency in San Diego where he helps with running the web department and manages the company’s relationship with its top-grossing client.

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WEBER HONORS COLLEGE

Seraphina Kay Solders
, 22, B.A. psychology and B.S. biology with an honors minor in interdisciplinary studies

Seraphina Kay Solders
Seraphina Kay Solders
Solders is a first-generation college student who grew up in a low-income family, but her socioeconomic circumstances did not hold her back. Once she arrived at SDSU, Solders joined the SDSU Brain Development Imaging Laboratory under the supervision of Ralph-Axel Mueller and Ruth Carper, where she has been studying anatomical connectivity in Autism Spectrum Disorders. She has presented her research at conferences around the country and co-authored three journal articles, including one first-authored publication. 

Solders is involved in numerous organizations on campus, including the Psi Chi Honors Society in psychology and the Andrea O’Donnell Womyn’s Outreach Association. She has acted as president for both the Weber Honors College and Mortar Board. Solders received several scholarships including the Mortar Board Scholarship and the Henry L. Janssen Honors Council Award.

“My years at SDSU have been the best of my life,” said Solders. “They have truly shaped me as a scientist, activist, and a participant in my various communities.”

Solders is headed to University of California, San Diego in the fall where she will enroll in the Ph.D. program in neuroscience and conduct neuroimaging research on brain development.

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COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

Svetlana Cvetkovic
, 36, M.A. reading education

Svetlana Cvetkovic
Svetlana Cvetkovic
At the time Cvetkovic decided to enroll in SDSU’s master’s program in reading education three years ago, she had been teaching at Pioneer Elementary School for 10 years and was ready to take her career to the next level. After completing the first year in the program and officially attaining her Reading Certificate, she was hired as the reading specialist at Pioneer Elementary School.

”I am a first-generation college student and was a second-language learner myself, so getting this job was a dream come true,” said Cvetkovic. "It gives me the opportunity to design a research-based intervention system and apply it in a school with a high population of struggling readers with little to no emerging literacy foundational skills.”

Cvetkovic plans to continue investigating the most effective intervention systems for students at-risk of reading failure. She is currently in the process of creating her own curriculum for close reading, a key component of the Common Core standards, and is researching the potential of using engaging technology platforms in the classroom.

Sarah Marie Jimenez
, 30, M.A. special education with an emphasis in autism

Sarah Marie Jimenez
Sarah Marie Jimenez
Prior to applying to SDSU, Jimenez studied music at the University of California, San Diego. After receiving her bachelor’s degree there, she attended California State Northridge (CSUN) to pursue music therapy, allowing her to combine her passions for music and working with children with autism. After one semester at CSUN, Jimenez decided to pursue a different route to achieve that goal and applied to the master's program in education with an emphasis on autism at SDSU.

Jimenez is the youngest of five children, raised by a single mother. She was the first in her family to attend college and the first to receive both an undergraduate and graduate degree.

Jimenez now works as a high school moderate/severe special education teacher in the Grossmont Union High School District, and hopes to take the behavior analyst certification board exam within the next year.

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COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

Anachristina Morino
, 23, B.S. aerospace engineering with a minor in business management

Anachristina Morino
Anachristina Morino

Morino chose to study aerospace engineering after attending a leadership camp when she was 16 years old. During her sophomore year at SDSU, she applied for numerous internships at NASA centers throughout the United States, and landed her first internship with NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center near Palmdale, California.

She spent the next two summers interning for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) working on the Mars 2020 Mission. Morino has accepted a full-time position as an avionic systems integration and test engineer at JPL and credits her family’s support for her success.

“I am a proud female Colombian, soon to be engineer and I don’t think I would be where I am today if I didn’t learn at a young age how to overcome some of life’s hardest battles and obstacles,” Morino said. “I’ve had challenges both in school and at home, but at the end of the day, as long as I have my family by my side, those challenges are just small bumps in the road toward my journey to Mars.”

Victor Ortega
, 22, B.S. aerospace engineering

Victor Ortega
Victor Ortega
Ortega is the son of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college student. He is a native of Spring Valley, California and was the valedictorian of his class at Monte Vista High School.

He came to SDSU in fall 2013 and has been doing research with Satchi Venkataraman since last summer.

Ortega was named the valedictorian of the College of Engineering, as well as the outstanding graduate of the Department of Aerospace Engineering. He has accepted a position as an aerospace engineer at Naval Air Systems Command.

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COLLEGE OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Valeria Garcia
, 22, B.S. speech, language, and hearing sciences

Valeria Garcia
Valeria Garcia
Throughout her time at SDSU, Garcia found herself at home in the speech, language, and hearing sciences community, which she calls her second family. She has been involved with the Language and Neuroscience Group under the direction of Tracy Love, and the Cognition and Bilingualism lab, under the direction of Henrike Blumenfeld.

“My principal investigators have inspired me to pursue a career as a bilingual speech pathologist,” said Garcia. “Their encouragement, support, and mentorship are what make me proud to be an Aztec.”

Garcia studied abroad in Thailand and says that’s where she experienced how amazing and universal language is. Garcia is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society and Scholars Without Borders, and was named the outstanding graduate for the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences program. She plans to return to school in the future to earn her master’s degree.

Christopher James Walker, 29, B.A. social work with an emphasis on youth development and mentoring

Christopher Walker
Christopher Walker
After being honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps in 2012, Walker enrolled at Palomar College with an intent to major in civil engineering. He changed his major to social work soon after because he felt the field was more relevant to his own challenges and experiences.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Walker faced many challenges growing up. After serving his country, he struggled to adjust to the life of a college student.

“Transitioning from the Marine Corps back into civilian life turned out to be harder than I thought—mentally, physically and spiritually,” said Walker. “Going to school full-time, recovering from injuries to my neck, hip and back, as well as a surgery on my right shoulder, all while doing my best to raise the three children God has blessed me with, has given me my fair share of battles and taught me the true meaning of perseverance.”

Walker’s perseverance has paid off. He graduated from Palomar College with an associate’s degree in social sciences. Now, two years later he is graduating from SDSU with his bachelor’s degree. Walker will continue his education at California State University, San Marcos in the fall, as a student in the Master of Social Work program.

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COLLEGE OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES AND FINE ARTS

Anthony Berteaux
, 22, B.A. journalism with an emphasis in media studies

Anthony Berteaux
Anthony Berteaux
Berteaux spent most of his formative years in Tokyo, Japan and moved back to the United States in 2011. Soon after he came to SDSU in fall 2013, Berteaux became involved with KCR College Radio, where he started a weekly radio talk show, “18 and Not Pregnant.” In spring 2014, he worked as an opinion writer for The Daily Aztec. His second column went viral and was subsequently covered by national outlets including The Huffington Post.

In spring 2015, Berteaux was selected as a campus editor-at-large for The Huffington Post. In the role, he contributed to the publication as well as recruited other writers. He also participated in a two-day summit in New York learning about best practices from experts at The Huffington Post. He has written several columns that generated national attention, and has appeared on CNN International.

Berteaux interned with the Anti-Defamation League of San Diego, freelanced for various publications and recently completed an internship at the San Diego Union-Tribune as a recipient of the Carleton-Hunt Internship Scholarship. He is the 2017 recipient of the Zahn Spirit of Innovation Award.

Nhu Thuy Quynh Nguyen, 24, B.A. dance

Nhu Thuy Quynh Nguyen
Nhu Thuy Quynh Nguyen
Nguyen worked closely with national and international artists in her field during her education at SDSU, which strengthened her skills and confidence. She also engaged in several summer research sessions, which resulted in culminating performances in New York City and San Diego, as well as presentations at SDSU's annual Student Research Symposium in 2014, 2016, and 2017. 

After moving to the United States from Vietnam as a teen, Nguyen faced several challenges—from learning a new language and culture, to struggling with the dichotomy of pleasing her family versus pursuing her passion.

After graduation, Nguyen hopes to turn her SDSU experience into a career as an internationally acclaimed dance artist and designer.

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COLLEGE OF SCIENCES

Grant Varnau
, 23, B.S. physics with a minor in honors interdisciplinary studies

Grant Varnau
Grant Varnau
Varnau grew up in Oceanside, always fixing things around his house or working on cars with his father. He said these childhood experiences developed his passion for science and engineering. During his senior year of high school, he took his first physics class and fell in love with the subject.

He discovered his desire to do scientific research after learning about research and graduate school opportunities through Martha Enciso in the Weber Honors College. He credits her mentorship as a driving force for learning about different graduate programs.

Varnau spent summer 2015 at Texas A&M University for a research internship in the nuclear engineering department and summer 2016 at Vanderbilt University in the physics department. Here at SDSU, Varnau worked in William Tong’s Analytical Laser Spectroscopy group in the chemistry department.

The National Institute of Health awarded Varnau the prestigious Maximizing Access to Research Careers scholarship. In addition, Varnau was named a 2017 Quest for the Best award winner and the valedictorian of the College of Sciences. He is headed to the University of Arizona where he will start an early summer research opportunity before beginning the Ph.D. program in chemical physics in the fall.

Shannon Yandall DeJesus, 30, B.A. psychology with a minor in honors interdisciplinary studies

Shannon Yandall DeJesus
Shannon Yandall DeJesus
From a young age, Yandall DeJesus was fascinated with the interaction between brain and behavior. After transferring to SDSU from Mesa College, she was accepted into the Weber Honors College and worked with two psychology department researcher professors—Paul Gilbert and Axel Mueller. Her undergraduate research deals with how cognition changes as people age, research she will continue as a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Arizona’s clinical psychology program.

Among her many awards and honors are a Mortar Board San Diego Alumni Chapter Scholarship, the 2016 Quest for the Best Award and a Conrad Prebys Biomedical Scholarship. She was accepted into the National Institutes of Health’s Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity and the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. She has also served as the College of Sciences Associated Students representative and a psychology department undergraduate peer adviser.

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VETERANS

Anna Conkey
, 29, B.A. English and B.A. journalism

Anna Conkey
Anna Conkey
After six years in the Navy as a mass communication specialist, Conkey decided to pursue a degree in journalism to back up her military experience. When Conkey first transferred to SDSU from a community college, she minored in English, but enjoyed her classes so much she decided to complete a double-major in journalism and English. For her thesis, Conkey has been interviewing women who have been exploited through the sex trafficking industry. She is using the materials from her interviews to write creative non-fiction poetry and hopes to publish a book of her stories soon.

Conkey and her husband, who is an active duty sailor, have a three-year-old daughter. As a result, she juggles five to six classes each semester with internships and family responsibilities. Despite her busy schedule, Conkey is involved in several campus organizations. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society and Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society, and has received a number of scholarships, including the Dan Gomes Veterans Alumni Organization Endowed Scholarship and the John F. Reeves Memorial Scholarship.

Conkey is currently interning with NBC 7 San Diego and hopes to find a job as a multimedia journalist or editor. Until she finds her career job, Conkey will be volunteering with Generate Hope, a safe house for sex trafficking survivors.

George Pens, 49, B.A. communication with a minor in social and digital media studies

George Pens
George Pens
Pens retired from the U.S. Navy after 23 years of service. During his time in the military, Pens served as a Navy diver and with the Naval Special Warfare Command. He completed nine deployments, spanning 24 countries and four continents.

He was admitted to SDSU under the Presidential Military Special Admit program and is a member of the Student Veteran Organization, Lambda Pi Eta Honor Society and Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society. Pens is passionate about animal rights and writes articles in an effort to end extinction. In his spare time, he participates in beach cleanup events, and adopts homeless dogs with his family.

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IMPERIAL VALLEY CAMPUS

Hector Teran Jr.
, 21, B.A. psychology

Hector Teran Jr.
Hector Teran Jr.
During his time at SDSU-Imperial Valley, Teran not only maintained a high GPA, but was also heavily involved on campus. Teran joined the Associated Students Council of Imperial Valley during his freshman year and has held positions as ambassador, senator and treasurer.

Teran received the Imperial Valley University Partnership Scholarship and several awards from Associated Students, including the A.S. Outstanding Leadership Award and A.S. Honor Grant Scholarship. He studied abroad twice, once in Milan, Italy and once in Valencia, Spain and was named the outstanding graduate for SDSU-Imperial Valley.

Teran currently works as an instructional assistant for the special education program at Margaret Hedrick Elementary School in El Centro, California. After graduation, he will pursue a master’s degree in school counseling at California State University, Los Angeles.

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