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Commencement Profiles 2015

From science and engineering to the social sciences and humanities, UCSB’s 2015 graduates exemplify the university’s highest ideals. Their outstanding achievements in academics, research and service redefine the meaning of excellence. Here are a few of their stories.

Posted on June 14, 2015 - 4:28pm

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Adeyemi Adeleye

Adeyemi Adeleye (left) and Steven Gaines, dean of the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management

Photo Credit: 

George Foulsham

For Adeyemi Adeleye, the journey to a Ph.D. from UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management was a long one, both academically and geographically.

The Nigerian native completed a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife in Nigeria and then worked in industry for a couple of years before beginning Bren’s Master of Environmental Science & Management (MESM) program.

“I chose UCSB over other schools that admitted me because it is a perfect place to study the environment,” Adeleye said. “More so, the location is fantastic, and from my...

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Posted on June 14, 2015 - 4:13pm

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Mario Galicia, Jr.

Mario Galicia, Jr.

Photo Credit: 

George Foulsham

As Mario Galicia, Jr. sees it, education can be a transformative tool not only for individuals but also for entire communities, at the local and even global level. “Once we receive an education, then how we educate next generations is all part of the cycle,” he said. “Education is not just about the individual; it’s about everybody else on which it has an effect.”

Having just completed his Ph.D. — and in education, no less — Galicia knows from whence he speaks.

Galicia learned this particular lesson the hard way. “As a teenager I was picked on, bullied, beat up and it all pushed me into being...

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Posted on June 14, 2015 - 2:31pm

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Nabra Nelson

Nabra Nelson

Photo Credit: 

Sonia Fernandez

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

These words by T.S. Eliot could describe Nabra Nelson’s circuitous route from theater to science and back to theater again.

Nelson was only 9 years old when she was bitten by the acting bug, and 15 when she turned her attention to directing. Despite devoting much of her high school life to theater, when it was time to choose a university, she took a sharp turn and headed toward the hard sciences.

“I thought, maybe I can’t do this for the rest of...

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Posted on June 14, 2015 - 11:54am

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khadijah clark

Khadijah Clark (center) with her daughters Betyel Kahsai (left), a student at Emerson College in Boston, and Nate-Eya Kahsai, a UCLA alumna

Photo Credit: 

Sonia Fernandez

After joining UCSB’s Office of Admissions a decade or so ago and reviewing the transcripts of thousands of potential UCSB students, it didn’t take long for Khadijah Clark to realize she wanted to be one of them. If they could do it, the administrative assistant thought to herself, so could she.

And so it was that nearly 10 years later, Clark’s daughters looked on joyfully as their mother crossed the commencement stage, shook hands with Chancellor Henry T. Yang, and received her bachelor’s degree in sociology.

“It was a long haul but I got through it,” recalled Clark, who worked full time while...

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Posted on June 13, 2015 - 4:21pm

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Nadya Chavies

Nadya Chavies

Photo Credit: 

Courtesy photo

When Nadya Chavies came to UCSB from her hometown of Hesperia in San Bernardino County, she went global — literally. Entering as a political science major, she quickly realized she wanted a broader worldview so she changed her major to global studies.

“I am passionate about issues that go on globally and around the world,” Chavies said. “I wanted to be in a major that promoted that.”

When she leaves UCSB after graduation, she’ll head first to Washington, D.C. and the University of California’s UCDC program. From there, she hopes to live in China and work in the government sector or with a non-...

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Posted on June 13, 2015 - 4:16pm

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Carl Gutiérrez-Jones

Carl Gutiérrez-Jones

Photo Credit: 

George Foulsham

For Carl Gutiérrez-Jones this year’s commencement has a special meaning. As the campus’s acting dean of undergraduate education, he becomes the new “voice of commencement,” opening and closing four of the five undergraduate ceremonies that take place over commencement weekend. For the students in those ceremonies, his is the first — and last — official UCSB voice they’ll hear.

It is quite an honor.

“Our commencement ceremonies include many different voices, and I think that’s one of the striking things about them,” said Gutiérrez-Jones, who is also a professor and former chair of UCSB’s...

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Posted on June 13, 2015 - 4:13pm

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Waterwheel

Mechanical engineering professor Glenn Beltz (center) with mechanical engineering students who participated in the waterwheel rehabilitation project

Photo Credit: 

Courtesy photo

Amid the end of the school year rush, with Gauchos wrapping up finals, preparing for Commencement and packing for the next move, several students from the UC Santa Barbara College of Engineering took some time to leave their mark in the form of a new waterwheel in Anisq ‘Oyo Park in Isla Vista.

New mechanical engineering graduates Grant Draper, Greg Allinson, Talia Barth, Megan Chang, Nathan Nakamura, Sione Song, Camille Sasaki, Garret Smally and Matthew Martineau have lent their considerable expertise to replace the wooden wheel, built to aerate the pond at the southwest corner of the park and...

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Posted on June 13, 2015 - 3:24pm

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Storke Award winner Daniel Chu

Daniel Chu with his family (from left) uncle Yuda Pan; father, Genjian Gao; mother Lily Gao; and aunt Hong Gao

Photo Credit: 

George Foulsham

“We are so happy for our son,” said Lily Gao of Daniel Chu, recipient of the 2015 Thomas More Storke Award. “I am so proud of him.”

Graduating with highest honors, Chu received his a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. His next stop will be a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. His long-term goal: a medical degree and a Ph.D.

“It is far beyond our expectations,” said Chu’s father Genjian Gao. “It’s all because UCSB gave him the resources to grow as an individual and become a great student.”

Posted on June 13, 2015 - 2:46pm

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Stephanie LeBouve

Stephanie LeBouve (right) with her “very excited and very proud” mother

Photo Credit: 

Julie Cohen

Stephanie LeBouve, who received her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry, can boast achievement in both academics and research.

LeBouve studied age-related macular degeneration with Pete Coffey, a research biologist lab in UCBS’s Neuroscience Research Institute. Her work involved producing retinal pigment epithelium cells by converting fetal cells to induced pluripotent stem cells and then back to fetal cells.

“I got my results done on Monday and we had a 98 percent correlation between the beginning and the end, which is very promising,” said LeBouve, who will attend Georgetown University...

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Posted on June 13, 2015 - 2:28pm

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Stephanie Cuevas

Stephanie Cuevas

Photo Credit: 

Sonia Fernandez

Earning a university degree is difficult proposition for anyone; Stephanie Cuevas had the added challenge of being the first in her family to do it.

“My mom stressed the importance of getting my education from when I was really little,” said Cuevas, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Rising to the challenge meant leaving home in the Los Angeles area, her mom — with whom she has very close relationship — and a tight-knit community. But even as a transfer student with a couple of years of community college under her belt, the shift to a four-year institution was a bit of a...

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Posted on June 13, 2015 - 1:59pm

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Frankie Puerzer

Francesca “Frankie” Puerzer with her parents, Joe and Agnes

Photo Credit: 

Sonia Fernandez

Water drew Francesca “Frankie” Puerzer to UC Santa Barbara. Of course, the beachside location was unbeatable, but she also was attracted by the chance to play water polo on a Division 1 team and to study marine biology, two of her lifelong dreams.

Eight family members, mostly from the Bay Area, traveled to UCSB to watch her cross the commencement stage on Saturday. Her aunt traveled across the continent to cheer for Puerzer, who is the first in her immediate family to receive a university degree.

“College has just been the best experience ever, but it feels bittersweet to be graduating,” Puerzer...

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Posted on June 13, 2015 - 9:13am

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Bren graduate Dustin Pierce

Bren School Dean Steven Gaines (left) and Dustin Pearce

Photo Credit: 

George Foulsham

Growing up in a small farming community near Corcoran, California, Dustin Pearce always knew his pursuit of education would take him to new places. He never expected his studies would also lead him back home.

A newly minted holder of a master’s degree in environmental science and management from UCSB’s Bren School, Pearce devoted his graduate work to a project centered on solar energy and conservation in the San Joaquin Valley — the very valley where he was born and raised.

“The further I try to get away from my hometown, the more I keep coming back,” Pearce joked before Bren’s 2015 commencement...

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Posted on June 13, 2015 - 9:07am

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CCS graduate Alexandra Phillips

Alexandra Phillips

Photo Credit: 

George Foulsham

Alexandra Phillips was two weeks from stepping up to the podium in Campbell Hall as one of three students chosen to speak during the College of Creative Studies (CCS) Commencement when she received an urgent request.

Her professor asked her and other students in his lab to join him on a boat. There’s been an oil spill, he said.

The assignment came from David Valentine, Phillips’ faculty advisor and mentor for the past three years, and one of UCSB’s experts on oil spills. Even though oil is no longer the primary focus of Phillips’ research, she found herself out on a small boat, riding choppy...

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