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Approximately 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students will have degrees conferred during Arizona State University's spring commencement on May 9. Some of them have escaped war-torn countries, some are using their research to change the world, and others have waited 40 years to finally pursue their dreams. Here's a look at just a few of the outstanding students coming out of the class of 2016.
Finding their own path
At the age of 12, twins Robert and Alexi Choueiri came to the U.S. with their family, fleeing Lebanon after it had erupted into civil war. The brothers struggled at first but eventually learned to thrive. Now, with graduation approaching, the two will take separate paths after an extraordinary journey together.
A passion for peering into the past
Nathan Shelley likes to imagine the first people who came to the Americas looking at the Grand Canyon and other pristine places — an experience he admits he envies. He leaves ASU with the honor of the Cynthia Lakin Award for graduating seniors who have majored in anthropology and made sustained contributions to the field while at ASU.
Helping the health of his hometown
Andres “Andy” Meza’s goal in life is lofty but achievable: to leave a mark on the Hispanic community. If the 22-year-old Yuma native continues to follow his educational path, that goal will be attainable in just a few short years.
College success is all in the family
Nine years ago, Christine Besaw found herself the sole provider for her two young children, working for minimum wage and scraping by with help from state assistance. So she began taking courses at ASU while her daughter Courtney looked on. Now, both are graduating from ASU.
Cleared for takeoff
David Hutchens is out of here on a wing and a degree. Graduating with honors from the ASU's Aviation Programs with a degree in aviation management technology/professional flight, he has his sights set on big jets and faraway places.
Finding a connection
Ulises Aragon feels a kinship with the students he has been student-teaching at Central High School in Phoenix for the past year. Aragon, a native Spanish speaker, learned to speak English while he was in elementary school, and now he’s teaching refugee students who are learning English in his environmental science class.
An advocate for the displaced
Bandak Lul came to Arizona in 2006 at the age of 15, having lived 14 years of his live in an Ethiopian refugee camp after his family fled South Sudan. All but his older sister are still in that camp today. Rather than dwell on that fact, Lul focused on his education with the hope of one day returning to help his family as refugee advocate.
Making a difference in journalism
Miguel Otárola, who is graduating this spring with a master’s in mass communication and a bachelor’s in journalism, said his freshman experiences interning at The Arizona Republic and reporting for the student-run Downtown Devil helped launch his passion for journalism.
ASU grad pursues passion for astronomy
Miranda Herman, a graduating senior from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics, will be receiving the Dean’s Medal and Moeur Award at commencement ceremonies this spring.
The final word
Erica Lang, who recently received the ASU Faculty Women’s Association Distinguished Graduate Student award, plans to channel her experiences at the Cronkite School as a professional borderlands journalist.
The joke's on him
Michael Longfellow, who is graduating from ASU this spring with a bachelor of arts in English literature, is banking on a career in stand-up comedy. The Scottsdale native trades in the vaudevillian quip, much like Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo, with a Millennial twist.
Oh, the places you'll go!
Online English major Beth Bockes will graduate from ASU this spring after a 40-year hiatus from higher education. “When I think back on all that I pushed through on my way to this day, I realize that I'm stronger than I ever knew,” she said.
Sarah Malik, the 2016 New College Outstanding Graduate, initially chose her field of psychology on a whim. But upon being introduced to social psychology she found her passion, and she is still researching it to this day.
'Hiding' in plain sight
Michael Montpetit has an autism spectrum disorder. Though much research has been done about children with autism, he says there is a dearth of information about adults on the autism spectrum. He has focused his research on correcting that imbalance.
With justice — and basic human needs — for all
Sarah Moser is an ASU honors student who is graduating with bachelor of science degrees in justice studies and sociology. She was selected as a Bidstrup Undergraduate Fellow for the 2015-2016 academic year in recognition of her commitment to academic excellence.
Saving the world with engineering
Kristen Brown is among ASU’s 2016 spring graduates to receive the Distinguished Service Award from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering for her contributions to the university community.