Senior Profiles: Class of 2015 Already Has Made a Difference
By Taylor Lunka ’15
PLU Marketing & Communications Student Writer
TACOMA, Wash. (May 22, 2015)—With Commencement on May 23, Pacific Lutheran University sends its largest class ever out into the world—more than 800 Lutes are eligible to graduate, with 755 expected to participate in the Commencement ceremony.
Judging by the accomplishments of the Class of 2015, we’re guessing those Lutes will start making an immediate impact on the world—mostly because they already have done so much at PLU.
Here’s a look at just a few outstanding members of this year’s graduating class.
2015 Commencement student speaker: Amanda Seely
Major(s): Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies, minor in Global Studies, World Health emphasis.
Hometown: Liberty Lake, Washington.
Accomplishments: Graduating summa cum laude; 2015 Commencement student speaker; President’s Scholarship recipient; International Honors Program; Arete Society; Chi Alpha Sigma: National College Athlete Honor Society; three-year letter winner and 2014 captain of the PLU Women’s cross-country team; George Fisher Scholar-Athlete Award; three-year SAPET member; studied abroad in Gaborone, Botswana, Spring 2014; Vagina Monologues; Battle of the Band 2015; LollaPLUza; My Language My Choice; volunteer at Tacoma Neighborhood Clinic; intern at Scarleteen.
Favorite PLU memory: “My most cherished memories will be of my housemates at The Grange. As someone engaged with the world, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about everything that’s wrong with it. The Grange reminds me what I’m fighting for. We were a supportive community; we cooked communal meals; we laughed, cried, and unleashed our creativity. Being part of something so beautiful is my proudest accomplishment.”
Advice for incoming Lutes: “My first semester at PLU was so incredibly awful. I hope that isn’t the case for you, but if it is, I hope you can manage to find the sort of kind, inspiring people that helped me through. PLU has no shortage of them. Take the opportunity to find and build community; keep your heart open. Also, keep in mind that the party scene gets old really fast, and the more years you put in at PLU, the smaller it seems. Exercise discretion.”
Plans after graduation: “I plan to continue working as a CNA while I begin the medical-school application process. I’ll also continue my work with Scarleteen, which will include the opportunity to work with founder and director Heather Corinna on the second edition of her book S.E.X. In my spare time, I’ll continue to volunteer in activist causes and community service, and train for my next marathon.”
Majors: Geoscience and Economics.
Hometown: Olympia, Washington.
Accomplishments at PLU: NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipient, two-time Capital One First Team Academic All American (first male student-athlete in PLU’s history to receive this honor twice), 2014 Football Team Captain, football player all four years, George Fisher Scholar Athlete, Fellowship Christian Athletes Group.
Favorite PLU memory: “During my sophomore year, we went to California to play a night game for football, and the next day we went to Disneyland with 50 guys and our coaches. It was awesome to be with 50 of your best friends running around Disneyland.”
Advice to first-year Lutes: “For me, being a football player means I had 100 friends at a time. You have to do something outside of school to keep you sane. Involvement is always the biggest thing.”
Plans after graduation: “Attending the University of Washington’s Law School. I’ve had the idea of law school since I was a kid.”
Major: Social Work.
Hometown: Tacoma, Washington.
Accomplishments at PLU: “My greatest accomplishment was falling in love with myself and finding a community at PLU who cared for me. I really struggled as an incoming first-year. I wasn’t sure how I would pay for college, and I felt very lost and unprepared and I wanted to give up, but with dedication, support and persistence, I was able to finish with a 3.9 GPA. Though I won’t be graduating with academic honors, I will be graduating with entire communities of loving friends and gifts. The mentors and friendships I have with my peers, faculty and staff all across campus are ones I will carry for many years to come.
“I have worked as a Multicultural Recruitment Specialist in the Office of Admission, Habitat for Humanity Coordinator in the Center for Community Engagement and Service, a sustainability technician with the Sustainability Department, a Women’s Center Intern, Rieke Scholar & Diversity Advocate in the Diversity Center, and a Resident and Community Assistant with Residential Life for three years. I have remained engaged with the Hilltop, Tacoma, community from which I was born and raised. I continue to be supported by the care and support of Peace Community Center and New Direction Church of God by Faith, the Campus Action Project Grant from the American Association of University Women, sponsored by Pantene to implement the My Language My Choice: Gender Edition Campaign at PLU and Keithley Middle School as well as bringing poet-activists collective DARKMATTER to PLU.
“I was only able to implement and manage this program with a diverse team, mentors and supervisors. Shout out to Angie Hambrick, Lace Smith and Jen Smith—without each of you this wouldn’t be possible.
These experiences have shaped me to be a stronger, more loving, vulnerable and passionate version of me, confident enough to take my father’s advice: ‘Apply your abilities to opportunities and leave the rest to God.’”
Favorite memory: “The students of color retreat the fall of my sophomore year, when I discovered a space where I knew that I could be myself, fully, unapologetically, raw, uncensored, and I would still be loved, valued and respected. After that the Diversity Center truly became my home.”
Advice to first-year Lutes: “Be open to self-discovery and redefining yourself. Success is going to take self-awareness, self-advocacy and self-care. Learn how to find your space; find where you feel comfortable and where you are challenged to grow.”
Plans after graduation: “I will be presenting the My Language My Choice: Gender Edition Campaign at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in Washington, D.C. I will also be seeking employment opportunities to work in youth development programs with an emphasis on empowerment programs for girls of color.”
Anthony (AJ) Konopaski
Major: Business Administration with a concentration in Finance.
Hometown: Port Angeles, Washington.
Accomplishments at PLU: PLU single-season record holder in saves and ERA, PLU career record holder in saves and ERA; Northwest Conference record holder in single-season saves and career saves; three-time First Team All Northwest Conference relief pitcher; 2014 d3baseball.com First Team All-American relief pitcher; 2014 ABCA Second Team All West Region pitcher; 2015 d3baseball.com Preseason First Team All-American relief pitcher, 2014 PLU Male Athlete of the Year, 2015 Career Lute Achievement Award winner, first First Team All-American in PLU Baseball history, sixth pitcher in Division III Baseball history to achieve 30 career saves, tied for 2014 Division III Baseball lead in total saves, 2015 Capital One Academic All-American District 8 First Team.
Favorite PLU memory: “This year when I got my 22nd career save against Linfield. Not only did it make me PLU’s all-time leader in saves, but it was also Coach Loomis’ 300th career win.”
Advice to first-year Lutes: “Believe in your abilities! You were recruited here for a reason, and if you truly dedicate yourself to being the best athlete you can be, anything is possible.”
Plans after graduation: “I have accepted a job to work for US Bank at their corporate office in downtown Seattle. I hope to someday get my Masters of Science in Finance degree from PLU and hopefully become the chief financial officer of a company.”
Majors: Anthropology and Religion, minor in Political Science.
Hometown: Helena, Montana.
PLU Accomplishments: Peace Scholar, Pinnacle Society member, ASPLU Programs Director, Montana Club President, Campus Ministry Steward, Brian C. Olson Alumni Award, Lute Talks Presenter, Gonyea Fellow, Leadership Board and Tour Guide for Admissions, and Religion Tutor.
Favorite PLU memory: “Earlier this spring, the award-winning director Jehane Noujaim came and spoke about her film The Square and the role media play in conflict. She is an inspiring speaker that examined intersectionality of issues, the action we all can take to make a difference, and the power of uplifting marginalized voices. One of the best parts of PLU is that there are always great speakers and events going on! While I was sitting in KHP listening to Ms. Noujaim, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I am so incredibly lucky to be at a school that brings amazing people to this campus.’ I love that feeling and the numerous opportunities!”
Advice for first-year Lutes: Go out and see something outside of campus! This can be here in the Parkland community, exploring Tacoma and the Washington wilderness, or taking advantage of PLU’s great Study Away opportunities. The more we engage and learn about those around us, the better we can create relationships and make a meaningful difference in our world.”
Post-graduation plans: “I am working in the great outdoors of Montana as a director at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp.”
Major: Sociology, minor in Global Studies.
Hometown: Rancho Santa Margarita, California.
Accomplishments at PLU: Club Keithley; Women’s Lacrosse; For the King; Relay for Life committee for two years; Study Away in Kolkata, India, through a Service Learning Program; received Van Beek Service Scholarship; 2015 Partner in Education Award from the FPSD; Pinnacle Society; Mortar Board Society; International Sociology Honor Society; Orientation Guide as well as a Student Orientation Coordinator for PLU’s New Student Orientation; working in the PLU Bakery as a student baker; PLU’s Office of Admission as a Voice of PLU Supervisor; and the Center for Community Engagement and Service Club Keithley Coordinator.
My favorite PLU memory: “One of my favorite memories was in the summer between my junior and senior year when I lived right off campus—we had barbecues in my front yard with PLU friends, had a blast exploring Tacoma and getting to know the incredible people I was with. That summer, I backpacked the Wonderland Trail (10-day, 94-mile hike around the base of Mount Rainier) with three other PLU girls and had one of the best times of my life with wonderful friends.”
Advice to incoming first-year Lutes: “Don’t be compliant and expect PLU to be an easy ride. Give PLU a shot knowing that you will struggle but it will be worth it. You are so fortunate to be educated, so do your best to have the college experience that you want to have while understanding that only you can make it your experience. Your first year at PLU will not determine all four years: Everything will change throughout each semester, so be willing to branch out academically and socially because you will find your place eventually. PLU has a wealth of resources as well as an irreplaceable group of faculty and staff members who are here to help you succeed. I almost gave up on PLU three times, but I ended up staying because of the people around me and soon realized that I would never have a community of people like I do at PLU; if you put in the effort and allow them to invest in you, it will be reciprocated. Be bold and get involved in something that you are passionate about,and take that leap out of your comfort zone to see what brings you joy. Take hold of the opportunities that PLU has, such as Study Away, volunteering directly in your community or organizations on campus that will challenge your perspective and encourage you to grow.”
Plans after graduation: “I will be moving to Washington, D.C., to work as the Circulation Assistant Intern for a year at Sojourners, a national Christian organization committed to faith in action for social justice.”
Major: Communication, concentration in Public Relations/Advertising, minor in Business Marketing.
Hometown: Gresham, Oregon.
Accomplishments at PLU: 2015 Career Lute Achievement Award winner; president of PLU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) for two years; received national recognition for SAAC’s inclusion initiative in 2013-14; SAAC organization of the year award last year; four-year letter volleyball player; 2015 volleyball team captain; nominated for the 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year; Most Inspirational Award in Volleyball for the past three years; Leader of Distinction award recipient; acceptance to the NCAA Career and Sports Forum; recently inducted into the Pinnacle Society; 2015 Board of Regents student speaker; 2015 Spring Break experience in Nicaragua and two J-Term Study Away experiences, to Italy and to Bali. Favorite PLU memory: “Last year for the You Can Play project (a social-activism campaign dedicated to eliminating homophobia in sports), we made a video and put out inclusion posters saying, “If you can play, you can play.’ The Queer Ally Student Union (QASU) invited me to one of their meetings to listen while they discussed hyper-masculinity in sports and to be a part of the conversation. At the end when I told them about the You Can Play Project, everyone gave me a standing ovation. I had tears of happiness. For me, it’s common sense to make a video like that, and I didn’t realize there was a bigger impact on the PLU community. That was also my first time in the Diversity Center, which led to me applying as a D-Center Advocate. That’s what helped bridge new paths in the PLU community.
“Another one is my first volleyball practice as a Lute. We all just screamed and yelled everyone’s name in such high energy. It’s something you don’t expect as a first-year. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh; this is exactly where I want to be.’”
Advice for first-year Lutes: “My best advice to any incoming first-year is to get involved; that’ll make your time at PLU much more meaningful. Find purpose in everyday life, whether it is a random act of kindness for someone in your dorm or singing up to be a volunteer for Relay for Life, get involved! The four years go fast, and you want to be like, ‘I lived my four years of college up.’ Try and wear as many hats as you possibly can. PLU builds leaders for life through different opportunities to get involved. You can be a Lute leader for life!”
Plans after graduation: “I will be going to the University of Washington to get my Master’s in Education with an emphasis in Sports Administration in the Intercollegiate Athletics Leadership Program. My career aspiration is to be Director of Player Development for a NFL team. There needs to be more women in sports.”