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Who's Your Three?

2023 Grads Share About the People Who Made an Impact

At Whitworth, we're all about building meaningful relationships. We hope that when our alumni look back at their Whitworth experience, what stands out is the people – faculty, staff members and friends – who had an impact on their growth and made Whitworth a place unlike any other. We asked members of the graduating Class of 2023 to share about their plans and three people who made a difference during their time at Whitworth.

Genevieve Symons '23

Mathematics major; Spanish and computer science double minor

Outdoor photo portrait of Genevieve Symons

Whitworth activities: Three years on the women's basketball team, volunteer leader for AWAKE campus ministry, math/Spanish tutor

Future plans: Starting the Master's in Teaching program at Whitworth with plans to become a high school math teacher!

My three: 1. Anne Trefry (mathematics) – Anne cares so deeply for her students in and out of the classroom, and I was a huge beneficiary of this. Her excitement and enthusiasm towards her students and teaching embodies the way that I want to engage with my students as a teacher. Getting to learn about math, life and faith from her in class, conversation and Life Group has been super impactful. 
2. Martha Gady (mathematics) – Martha has supported me as a student, athlete and individual throughout my time at Whitworth. It was fun to have her cheering me on at my basketball games. She was so patient and helpful in the classroom and eagerly provided me opportunities and mentorship as I work towards becoming a teacher. 
3. Krisi Sonneland (campus ministry) – The opportunity to be in a Bible study led by Krisi the last three years has been super meaningful. I have grown a lot in faith and as an individual through her mentorship, investment in my life, love and support.

Michelle Villanueva '22, M.A. in MFT '26

Undergraduate degree: B.A. in human services (completed in fall 2022)

Outdoor photo portrait of Michelle Villanueva

Future plans: I plan on continuing my education in the marriage & family therapy program at Whitworth this June.

My three: 1. Deidra Kelly (continuing studies) – I got the wonderful opportunity to experience this woman in her many capacities – as an advisor, teacher and director! Deidra not only helped me get through the toughest of moments in pursuit of my degree, but she provided valuable information about our society and its views on gender during her instruction. Deidra, with her authentic kindness and intelligence, is an essential asset to the success of Whitworth programs!
2. Dr. Ken Brown (continuing studies) – Ken is a wonderful instructor with passion for teaching! Ken's Worldview & Human Nature class was very eye-opening for me. Ken's instruction, including his genuine desire for others to gain understanding, is unmatched!
3. Cullen Grow (continuing studies) – Cullen's common-sense style combined with his patience and kindness made math concepts much easier to learn. As someone who is terrified by math courses, I highly recommend being taught by Mr. Grow.

Elysee Kazadi '23

Political science major; theology minor

Outdoor photo portrait of Elysee Kazadi

Whitworth activities: Black Student Union (BSU) president, Emmaus ambassador, Belonging Retreat coordinator, Umoja club member

Future plans: I recently was offered Whitworth's Graduate Assistant Ministry Intern (GAMI) position for DEI and will be pursuing a master of arts in administrative & nonprofit leadership. I'm currently an AmeriCorps volunteer working with the International Rescue Committee in Spokane and am hoping to continue with the IRC after my contract ends.

My three: I prefer more than three: Dr. Megan Hershey (political science), Dr. Derek Taylor (Emmaus program), Aurore Kamarashavu '24 (friend), and DEI director Ayaka Dohi. These people have always lent me their ears and believed in my potential even when I was clearly being stubborn, lazy, complacent and self-sabotaging. To be honest, I have been insecure about my academics especially in a competitive environment where everyone is smart. They have been consistent with me and have seen my vulnerable side and did not judge me. They simply let me grow.

Kyle Evers '23

History and political science double major

Outdoor photo portrait of Kyle Evers

Whitworth activities: The Whitworthian (currently editor-in-chief emeritus), History Club (president), Whitworth chapter of Phi Alpha Theta (national history honor society), National Society of Leadership and Success

Future plans: Pursue an advanced degree in history or political science

My three: 1. Elise Leal (history): Dr. Leal has been my history advisor, and she has been both a mentor and a friend. She not only gave me a greater appreciation for why history matters while keeping me on the straight and narrow with my history degree, but she also emphasized the solemn responsibility that rests upon scholars of history to give voice to the voiceless and to be the standard bearers of those that have been left behind.
2. Erica Salkin (communication studies): Dr. Salkin has been the advisor for The Whitworthian these past three years, and she has been instrumental in helping guide both me and the members of our campus newspaper in not only reviving The Whitworthian, but also promoting excellent student journalism across campus. Without her, there is no newspaper, and I certainly would not have been able to succeed as EIC, let alone be able to lead all of the amazing student editors that have been a part of The Whitworthian these past three years.
3. Megan Hershey (political science): Dr. Hershey was my first political science professor at Whitworth and in being so, she forever altered my view of politics and more importantly, what it means to do politics well. By reorienting me as a student and as a political participant, Dr. Hershey gave me a greater understanding of why people do what they do and how we as members of the next generation hold such an important role in the future discourse of our democracy.

Alvaro Campos Ontiveros '23

Health science major; Spanish minor

Outdoor photo portrait of Alvaro Campos OntiverosWhitworth activities: Football (2019-23), Whitworth Catholic Club

Future plans: Attend optometry school at Pacific University

My three: 1. Matt Silvers (health sciences): Having the opportunity to be around Dr. Silvers was incredible. Over my time as his student and later TA, I came to understand the passion for what he teaches. Pairing this with an incredible care for people results in a deadly combo that one needs to experience to comprehend. Dr. Silvers challenged me as a student in many ways, but never left my side throughout the journey. I am thankful for the person he is and the many things he does for all his students.
2. Kim Hernández (Spanish): I met Professor Hernández my freshman year, and we have developed a great relationship over time. She became like my "mom" away from home and has provided a lot of advice over my years here. I would like to credit some of my personal development and academic success to her guidance early on in college and am thankful for her. Professor Hernández is a person with a tremendous heart, and I am blessed to have her in my life.
3. The Whitworth football team: I know this is a bit of a copout answer, but too many great things came from the opportunity to play. Being part of this team was one of the best experiences as a student here at Whitworth. A lot of memories with incredible people and a lifetime brotherhood are just some of the highlights. Much love to each one of those guys and the coaches.

Sarah Immel '23

Human-computer interaction and English (writing studies track) double major

Outdoor photo portrait of Sara HimmelWhitworth activities: Member of Forest Treble Choir and the Rock & Sling fiction team, member of Whitworth's chapters of Sigma Xi and Sigma Tau Delta, ACM peer mentor, math/CS grader, CS teaching assistant, Whitworth Honors Program student and Honors Blog editor-in-chief, Script fiction editor

Future plans: I plan to pursue an interdisciplinary master's degree at the University of Edinburgh. My program is Narrative Futures: Art, Data, Society, which looks at how we can use storytelling to envision and transform futures in our rapidly changing world.

My three: 1. Dr. Jake Andrews (English) encouraged me to take myself seriously as a student and as a writer – and his classes helped me become a writer and student worth taking seriously. His talks on faith and fiction are engaging and inspiring, and I always walk away with new and important questions to explore in my own work and life. 
2. Dr. Bert Emerson (English) absolutely decimated my boring, practical freshman four-year plan. Talking through vocation and life design with him in the honors seminars made a big difference in the way I thought about my future, and his unfailing enthusiasm for and encouragement of my interests helped me find the courage to pursue the work I care about most. 
3. Meagan Kaloostian '23 was my roommate through COVID and has been my housemate since. She's absolutely my best listener and my most patient critic, and we've learned and laughed and pulled panicked all-nighters together. Her work ethic inspires me, and her impeccable taste in memes keeps me sane.

Savanna Spradley '23

Elementary education major; theology minor

Outdoor photo portrait of Savanna SpradleyWhitworth activities: I was involved in campus ministry as a campus ministry coordinator my sophomore year.

Future plans: I hope to be teaching in a Title I low-income school is Spokane!

My three: Three people who have made a difference for me at Whitworth are Lisa Laurier (education), Lauren Taylor (campus pastor) and Samantha Miller (theology). All three of these people have shown me immeasurable care and grace, and I am endlessly grateful for the impact they have had on me. I will miss them all very much!
1. Lisa has been someone who not only knows me, but has supported me personally, academically and professionally. She does so much, and I would not have been able to make it through college without her support and guidance.
2. Lauren has been someone who has walked with me in my faith and in my life. She is so kind and patient and has become someone I look up to, and I want to be just like her when I grow up. She embodies grace so well, and I am always learning from her.
3. Samantha Miller has taught me that it's OK to be human and to make mistakes. She has shown me grace in new ways, and has been, hands down, one the most influential professors I have had. She not only is an incredible theologian and professor, but a great mentor. I am so thankful to know her!

Cola Boyer MBL '23

Completed Master of Business Leadership at Whitworth in early 2023

Outdoor photo portrait of Cola BoyerCurrent work: I am the Kalispel Leadership Academy administrator for the Kalispel Tribe. What I love about my position since earning my degree is that I have new ideas for how different leadership roles work together collectively. I love the concept of "second chair leadership" and what seeing from the balcony and being on the dance floor can bring to an organization. I am trying to use these concepts for my development and growth in my position to see other perspectives.

My three: 1. Sinead Voorhees (director, Graduate Studies in Business): Sinead was my number one cheerleader throughout this journey at Whitworth. Her excitement, drive, passion and all-around positivity spoke to my soul. I am so thankful for her.
2. My "Queen Team" (classmates Stacee, Terri, Emily and Leslie): These ladies are outstanding, and I am so blessed that the Creator put them in my path during this journey. Lifelong friendships were made in Dan Mahoney's class, and I am forever grateful for them all.
3. Kristin Bertsch (associate director, Graduate Studies in Business): Words can never describe the countless emails that she got from me, but she answered each one of them with positivity, motivation and encouragement. I can never say thank you enough for guiding me through this process!

Abdallah Abualkheir '23

Computer science major

Outdoor photo portrait of Abdullah AbuilkheirFuture plans: I am currently juggling the ideas of either going into the MBA program at Whitworth or sticking with my job search.

My three: I am indebted to the "Holy Trifecta" in the computer science department for their significant impact on my college experience. Scott Griffith, my advisor, provided invaluable advice and had wonderful conversations with me that helped alleviate my fears of not being enough for college. Pete Tucker played a crucial role in helping me discover my passion and shaping my post-graduation plans. He also introduced me to the joys of a perfectly cooked brisket. Matthew Bell impressed me with his curiosity and respect during discussions on faith and different cultures, which greatly contributed to my personal growth. I am grateful for the profound influence these individuals had on shaping who I am today.

Monica Kaylor '23

Political science major

Outdoor photo portrait of Monica TaylorWhitworth activities: Track & field, teaching assistant, research assistant, Spokane Intercollegiate Research Conference

Future plans: I am joining the Jesuit Volunteer Corps to do a year of service in Syracuse, N.Y. I will be serving with the nonprofit A Tiny Home for Good.

My three: 1. Dr. Julia Stronks (political science): for always listening, empowering me to be confident in myself, and encouraging me to ask questions. She inspires me to get out of my comfort zone academically, socially and spiritually. Julia is a model for the type of woman I hope to be one day. She deeply cares for God and others while having a spicy, quick-witted side. I admire how she holds a balance of grace and assertiveness. 
2. Dr. Kathy Lee (political science): I admire Dr. Lee for her bravery in the face of adversity and her ability to respond to my boldness with good humor. Dr. Lee was the first to teach me that being LGBTQ+ is consistent with Christianity. Her existence proximally to me and conversations with her deeply impacted my journey toward self-acceptance of my identities. 
3. Brandon Howell (track & field coach): for being there with words of encouragement and walking alongside me while life was really hard. Brandon's competitive and compassionate spirit inspire me to be a better TEAMmate and human.

Drew Bair '23

Music major (ministry, piano pedagogy, composition)

Outdoor photo portrait of Drew BairWhitworth activities: Whitworth Honors Program, BMac, Emmaus, campus worship, unofficial campus ministry, Summer Fellowship Program

Future plans: Step 1: Slow down to let my body catch up with my mind and recover my energy. Step 2: Probably seminary. Likely outcome: Some mixture of ministry work and music work that includes worship ministry.

My three: 1. Ben Brody (music): My advisor and one of my professors, Ben introduced me to The Hymn Society, which has been a gateway into the world of creative worship design and leadership where I expect to continue to learn and build relationships. He has supported my exploration, enabled valuable self-direction, and trusted me with opportunities to lead and write for worship inside and outside the department. Thank you to Ben and all the professors who have introduced me to new people and ideas!
2. Lauren Hunter (Office of Church Engagement): Both as a leader in the Summer Fellowship Program – which is possibly the most impactful part of my Whitworth experience – and as a personal pastor/mentor, Lauren has facilitated my introduction to Ignatian spirituality, tended a program that provided me two summers of full-time worship ministry experience, and been a big sister who helps me walk well through hard times. Thank you to Lauren and all the staff who keep valuable programs and departments running!
3. Sabine Uhler '24 (fellow Emmaus program scholar): Sabine is one of those fellow students who make my growth at Whitworth truly holistic. For example, she's helped reverse the corrosion of overwrought pragmatism in my life (i.e., recovering my childhood delight in the clouds and beginning to spice my food). Partnering in ministry, I've discovered my gift for hospitality. Engaging in theological dialogue, my eyes have been opened in helpful and exciting ways. I've come to read Scripture in new (and often better!) ways, better recognizing my giftings and blind spots as a thinker, and receiving inspiration from the thoughts and experiences of her life and the lives of the theologians she studies. Thank you to Sabine and all the students who have led me into fuller creaturehood, wisdom and love through shared life and shared education, often letting me vicariously taste the riches of their departments.