By PLU Marketing & Communications staff
TACOMA, WASH. (May 20, 2016)- It's the season for awards, banquets, recognition and a whole lot of celebrating for Pacific Lutheran University students as they approach Commencement 2016.
The ceremony will mark the culmination of several years of hard work, community involvement and the pursuit of vocation. That pursuit doesn’t end after graduates walk across the stage at the Tacoma Dome on May 28. Alumni will look back on Commencement day fondly for many years to come. The event isn’t simply a ceremony. It marks the end of a transformative journey and the beginning of the next chapter.
Although many of those Lutes are closing the book on their time at PLU, many of them will take the university’s mission of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care along with them as they pursue new careers, volunteer opportunities and ventures abroad. Lutes will remain connected with the thread of community that was central to their time at PLU.
Below, four of PLU’s roughly 700 Commencement participants (Jonathan Adams, Sarah Henderson, Todd Hoagland and Priya McBride) look back on their experiences on campus and share their hopes for the future as they embark on their post-graduate journeys.
Jonathan Adams, sociology major
By Zach Powers ’10
Jonathan Adams, a sociology major from Tacoma, is passionate about people. His contributions to campus throughout the past four years are a testament to his love of collaboration and his penchant for connecting individuals with community resources.
“The core of my involvement at PLU is centered around social justice, diversity education and providing resources,” said Adams, this year’s student speaker for Commencement.
He’s served as a resident assistant, including resident assistant positions with the Social Action and Leadership and First in the Family communities. He says he’s proud to have worked with Residential Life to provide resources and programs that focus on “empowering residents to handle adversities and develop skills to navigate the university campus.”
Adams also has served as the youth engagement coordinator at PLU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service (CCES). This position, he says, has provided him with an opportunity to bring community members together.
Through his work with CCES, Adams has developed a youth late-night program that brings local middle school students to PLU for events, games and conversations about college.
Adams also recently completed an internship with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, where he helped social workers provide case management and crisis intervention services. He also worked with children and families in Tacoma to create action plans and goals.
Adding to his long list of community service and leadership endeavors, Adams also served as president and Rieke Fellow in the Diversity Center, led the PLU step team as captain, spoke at the state’s annual governor’s breakfast and served as a youth outreach coordinator at Fab Five, an urban arts youth center in Tacoma.
Adams also studied away in Trinidad and Tobago in 2014, is finishing up a teaching assistantship in the Department of Sociology and recently completed his capstone on “How consumer credit is another form of social regulation and segregation.”
Adams will soon begin work on a Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California, but the Mount Tahoma High School graduate decided to enroll in the online program so he can begin a career serving people in the Tacoma community he loves right away.
Sarah Henderson, art major
By Natalie DeFord ’16
Sarah Henderson is an art major who chose to attend PLU because she loved the atmosphere when she visited as a high school senior. “Everyone was just so nice and open, and it just felt like I was where I was meant to be,” she said. “I knew this is where I was going to find myself.”
She said her college experience has been valuable for many reasons, but was really defined by the relationships she built with students and professors.
“The professors in the art department were what made me stay when school was tough and life was stressful,” she said. “They cared so much and believed in me so hard that I couldn’t quit.”
Henderson was actively involved with Emerging Leaders, a program dedicated to developing student leadership skills. She was also a trip leader for Outdoor Recreation and the social justice director for Ordal Residence Hall Council. A perennial member of the Dean’s List, Henderson was also in the International Honors program (IHON) and an accomplished student artist.
Two of her essays were published in The Matrix last year and her photo served as the cover. Additionally, several of her art pieces were sold from the University Gallery and in the Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. She was a ceramics teaching assistant for two years and also won first place in the Student Juried Exhibition this past fall.
Extending her successes beyond the Lute Dome, Henderson studied away in Bali during the J-Term of her junior year. “It was amazing!” she said.
For her senior capstone, Henderson completed a project called “Dynamic Tension” – a series of four mixed media sculptures involving animals in strange or awkward positions, she said. “Dynamic Tension essentially explains itself; it’s the idea of change that is stressful or forced,” she said. “So these sculptures are about where I am in life right now, and how growing up is.”
Henderson’s work can be seen along with her artist statement in the University Gallery now until May 27, or at her website, sarahhendersonstudioarts.com.
After graduation, Henderson said she plans to take some time off and then pursue jobs in the arts industry. However, she said she may also look into animal or pet care. “Animals, very apparent in my artwork, are my second passion,” she said. “So a job in the pet-care industry would also suit me and also inform my art at the same time, which is awesome.”
Henderson’s advice to future college students is simple yet inspiring: “Try new things. Go on adventures. Be spontaneous. College is work, sure, but it’s four years of your life! Make the most of it!”
As she reflects on her time at PLU, Henderson said she is caught in a complicated mixture of emotions. “It’s weird to be graduating. I don’t think it will hit me until I’m walking across the stage,” she said. “It’s scary, but exciting. We’ll see where I go from here!”
Todd Hoagland, sociology major
By Genny Boots ’18
Juggling academics and athletics can be a tricky balance for student athletes. Todd Hoagland knows that life well, having worked hard on and off the field. He finishes his standout college soccer career and his undergraduate degree in sociology in a few weeks, and heads to a graduate program in the fall.
Hoagland will be attending Seattle University to earn a master’s in criminal justice in hopes of working in the FBI crime statistics division. “I grew up watching the ‘FBI’s Most Wanted,’ and by going to school I found that there is a mathematical connection to all that,” Hoagland said.
Hoagland’s senior capstone project focused on FBI crime statistics using information collected throughout the past 30 years. His project, titled “How Victim Offender Relationship Correlates with Weapon Use and Homicides,” examined trends in homicides and murder circumstances.
“I’m not going to be the guy on ‘FBI’s Most Wanted’ talking about the perpetrator, so I can at least be behind the scenes doing to the stats to help find that person,” Hoagland said.
Hoagland came into PLU with an interest in sociology and criminal justice. He started at PLU as a transfer student from Skagit Valley College. He was a longtime soccer player, who had committed to a NCAA Division II program right after high school before realizing that it was not the right fit. “I was looking around for something with my major, sociology, and PLU was a good program for that and then soccer was an added piece,” Hoagland said.
As senior captain of the men’s soccer team, Hoagland ended his years with Lute athletics helping his team tie the record for wins in a single season. “I really like the program, it’s great. I’ve got to meet all these great guys out of it,” Hoagland said.
Athletics and academics may seem at odds to some, but Hoagland said his goal is to eliminate that presumption. “A lot of the athletes get this label that you just play the sport. I have really made it my focus at PLU to get rid of that. I am truly committed to academics before sports,” Hoagland said.
Hoagland was one of two 2016 recipients of the George Fisher Scholar award, which highlights an athlete’s academic performance. “I feel like a lot of people just say that jock label, but I want to make it clear that there is more.”
Hoagland will spend the summer at home with his family before heading to Seattle for a busy two-year graduate program, during which time he will intern at either the U.S. Postal Inspector Office or the Social Security Administration.
Priya McBride, biology major
By Brooke Thames ’18
Priya McBride collected a long list of titles in her four years as a Lute. Her repertoire includes Dean’s List student, resident advisor, Reike Scholar and Mortar Board National Honor Society member. Come May 28, McBride will add “PLU graduate” to the list.
A native of Hoquiam, Washington, McBride graduates this year with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a heap of accomplishments under her belt. Her involvement on campus consists of a variety of leadership roles and academic opportunities, including induction into Pinnacle Society and participation in the International Honors program (IHON).
McBride says her involvement in IHON and the biology department opened the door to some of her best academic experiences at PLU.
“I have enjoyed a wide variety of biology courses, taught by dedicated faculty and staff,” McBride said. “I (also) have been challenged to think with a global perspective through the International Honors program.”
Through IHON, McBride spent a semester studying at Oxford University in England. She also traveled to Trinidad and Tobago as part of the J-Term study away program. McBride says her experiences abroad helped to broaden her knowledge of different cultures and expand her view of the world.
“I gained a better sense of independence (by studying in) Oxford and Trinidad and Tobago,” McBride said. “Through study away, I’ve been able to better understand how to value and appreciate the differences between two cultures.”
In addition to academic involvement, McBride served as both a resident assistant and a resident assistant with additional responsibilities. Working in the residence halls as a leader provided McBride ample opportunity to connect with other Lutes and make “some of the best and most supportive friends.”
McBride says that her time at PLU is defined by the people she has met in her four years here.
“From roommates, to hallmates, to classmates, I can say without a doubt that my PLU experience would not have been as educational, as fun, or as significant had I not met the people I did,” McBride said.
Following graduation, McBride will start work as an emergency room scribe at Gray’s Harbor Community Hospital. She plans to attend medical school in fall 2017.
Her advice to other Lutes with time left on campus includes getting involved, studying away, staying caught up and having a good time.
“I encourage other students to have fun,” McBride said. “Find a balance between your school work and your social life, be open-minded, try crazy new things, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone.”