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In their own words

May 19, 2011

In their own words

By Chris Albert

Soon new PLU graduates will go out into the world. In the following, some Lutes share their stories of why they came to PLU, what their experiences have been and what’s the next chapter in their lives.

Students in commencement regaliaMore than 850 students will graduate from PLU for the 2010-2011 academic year. Spring Commencement takes place Sunday, May 29 in the Tacoma Dome.

Some will immediately enter the vocation of their choice, others will continue their academic pursuits. They all have found a passion for a vocation and are ready to engage the world.

The students who share their stories here will join more than 850 students who will graduate from PLU this academic year.

Bridgette Cooper – Bachelor of Arts in classical languages and political science


Bridgette CooperBridgette Cooper ’11 – Bachelor of Arts in classical languages and political science.


Why PLU? I originally came to PLU thinking I wanted to be an Egyptologist. I had come hoping to work with Dr. Donald Ryan, major in Classics, and then continue on to graduate school in Egyptology. I had an opportunity to visit Cairo and Luxor for J-Term in 2009. Visiting the tombs and pyramids, I realized that while I loved learning about ancient civilizations, I knew excavating in the dirt just wasn’t for me. That same year, my sophomore year, I had also taken my first political science class: political thought with Dr. Peter Grosvenor. After reading many of the classical political philosophers, I saw another path to apply my Classics degree.

That semester I declared a double major in Political Science, motivated to combine my Classics and Political Science degree by studying the affect Classical thought had, if any, on the political thought of our country’s founding fathers. I had the opportunity to write a paper on this topic for my Classics capstone in the fall of my senior year. This was one of the most challenging and rewarding classes I have taken at PLU.

My PLU experience: Academics has been the major focus of my time at PLU. The most important memories I’ve made here center on the relationships I’ve built with professors, and the times when I’ve been challenged to dig deeper into the material and to think in completely different ways. The experiences I cherish most are those when I’ve sat in the classroom, listening to a lecture, and that theory I’ve been studying so hard to really understand finally makes sense, all the pieces finally fit together.

Professors like Dr. Huelsbeck, Dr. Eric Nelson,  Dr. Snee, Dr. Grosvenor, Dr. Chavez, and Dr. Wilkin made my undergraduate experience an invaluable one. The faculty at PLU truly care about the success of students like me, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from such passionate individuals. Thank you.

What’s next? My immediate plans include a summer internship with Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell Governmental Affairs in Tacoma. In January 2012 I hope to return to Olympia as a session aide, completing the biennium I first experienced as a legislative intern in spring 2011. I also plan on taking classes in criminal justice at the University of Washington Tacoma. I’m fairly certain law school is in my future, but in the immediate future I will be working to gain more practical experience in the legal field before committing myself fully to that path. If I find that a career in law is not for me, I know some graduate work is: I would hope to continue my Classics capstone research in grad school, studying the interaction of Classics and early American political thought, especially through the writings of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

Carre Avary – Bachelor of Arts in education


Why PLU? I’ve wanted to go to PLU for as long as I can remember.  When I decided to go into education, PLU was the best fit for me and my family.

My PLU experience: The students in the education department have become an extended family. I have learned more here than I ever thought I would. I have built relationships that will last a lifetime. I will always look back on my time at PLU with a tremendous amount of gratitude.

Carre AvaryCarre Avary ’11 – Bachelor of Arts in education.

What’s next? I hope to begin my career as a middle school math teacher. Sometime in the next few years I plan to go back to school to obtain my masters in educational administration.

Elise Nesselquist – Bachelor of Arts in global studies (concentration in global health) and Norwegian

Elise NesselquistElise Nesselquist ’11 – Bachelor of Arts in global studies (concentration in global health) and Norwegian.

Why PLU? Both of my parents attended PLU, so initially it was out of the question. However, the summer before my senior year of high school, I spent some time in Norway where I met Dr. Anderson and MaryAnn. After many long conversations I was thoroughly impressed with what I heard. During my visit, I fell in love with the campus, as well as what seemed like such a tightly knit group of students – everyone seemed to know everyone. And EVERYONE was warm and welcoming. That sold me, as I am very people-oriented. I couldn’t be happier with my choice of attending PLU.

My PLU experience: As cliché as it may sound, I think it is impossible to sum up my experience in a paragraph. I have met an astounding number of people who have influenced and guided my growth as an individual through the last four years, be it friends, staff members or professors. PLU offers so many gateways to  discovering who you are and who you want to be, and that is what I have gained the most out of my time here.

My favorite part of PLU is the vast opportunities to study abroad. In my four years, I was able to spend time in three other countries, and my time in Tobago, specifically, changed my life and paved the road to where I am now.  

What’s next? I am still working on this one, but at the moment I am in the process of applying with global health oriented organizations like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and PATH. However, I know I eventually would like to go back to school to obtain my masters.

Joe Natwick – Bachelor of Arts in religion and classics

Why PLU? Growing up a Lutheran in North Dakota, I wanted to go to a school that placed a great deal of importance on community. PLU was the perfect place for me to grow and flourish as a person and as a student. I knew that if I chose to go to school far from home I would want to be surrounded by the same support that I had at home.

MyPLU experience: My experience at PLU was more than just four years of school. It was everything that I ever thought four years could be: exciting, challenging, sad, joyous, and about every other range of emotion.

What’s next? Next year I will be heading off to Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., to earn a Masters of Divinity.

Joe Natwick

Joe Natwick ’11 – Bachelor of Arts in religion and classics.

Joshua Hammerling – Bachelor of Arts in German (languages and literatures) and English (writing emphasis)
Joshua Hammerling

Joshua Hammerling ’11 – Bachelor of Arts in German (languages and literatures) and English (writing emphasis)

Why PLU? My parents encouraged me to apply to PLU because they both studied here. I was initially interested in studying religion and philosophy, so PLU seemed like the perfect place for me. (I ended up getting “converted” to the English department at the end of the first semester.) But beyond that, I really just wanted to get a liberal arts education and the IHON program made PLU that much more appealing.

The smaller class sizes, the frequent interactions with professors, and the seemingly limitless opportunities to study abroad – all of those factors added to the university’s appeal for me.

My PLU experience: When I first started out at PLU I was overconfident and unabashedly idealistic. When asked on that first day what I hoped to get out of the IHON program, I responded, “I hope to emerge at the end of all this a full-fledged Renaissance man, ready to kill poverty and change the world for the better.”

Granted, I may have been trying to be a bit funny, but part of me honestly believed in that—as if I could find a straightforward, few-word answer to all the problems of the world. The IHON professors, as well as those of the English and German department, did a wonderful job of humbling me. Perhaps my favorite aspect of PLU was that although professors challenged me to look at issues from a fresh perspective on a daily basis, they did so in a way that encouraged my individual pursuit – and passionate engagement of – the issues at hand. The courses I took emphasized the process of working through difficult texts and engaging in meaningful dialogue in a way that didn’t simply lead to a definitive conclusion. Rather, they helped me develop a critical frame of reference to apply to situations outside the classroom. In the end, a standardized education produces standardized people – PLU offers a wonderful alternative.

What’s next? I will be studying media philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas Fee, Switzerland, for three years. I hope to continue on the academic track after I finish my MA work there. Beyond that, I would like to do some kind of non-fiction writing/literary journalism, but also photography and social documentary film.

Kajsa Swenson – Bachelor of Science in nursing
Why PLU? I transferred to PLU in the fall of my sophomore year. My fellow Lutes like to tell me that I made a good choice in reference to my old school (and PLU’s rival), and I must say that I agree with them. As soon as I figured out that pursuing nursing was what I wanted to do, I looked into transferring. I really didn’t look at any other nursing programs after taking a tour at PLU and meeting with a school of nursing representative. There was simply no reason to do so. PLU had a great nursing program with a liberal arts foundation, a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, many study away opportunities and was close to family. The elements that drew me to PLU have facilitated my educational, personal and professional growth by creating a comfortable, supportive, diverse and challenging learning environment.
Kajsa Swenson

Kajsa Swenson ’11 – Bachelor of Science in nursing

My PLU experience: I have done an extensive amount of reflecting lately – partially by choice in recognizing the imminent yet significant transition I am beginning, and partially because I have been diligently finishing up a nursing graduation requirement known as the digital media portfolio. This portfolio demonstrates the ways in which I have met the School of Nursing outcomes, developed myself professionally, recognized crucial liberal arts educational contributions and created a plan for future growth. In summing up my experience at PLU I have realized the strong impact this place has had on me not only as a student, but as a person of ethics, values and aspirations as well. I view PLU as a unique and comprehensive liberal arts entity that I have had the opportunity to take part in by completing a professional program, gaining a liberal arts foundation and leaving with a well-rounded educational experience.

Although the majority of my classes here at PLU have been nursing-related, the interdisciplinary, global and service-related foci of the university have enriched my world view and presented me with many opportunities for service, leadership, involvement and academic exploration. I had the opportunity to study away during two of my J-terms at PLU. I spent J-Term 2009 studying philosophy in England, Germany and Greece, and J-Term 2011 in the People’s Republic of China studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. Being immersed in different cultures enabled me to question, reflect upon and draw conclusions about myself, my perspectives, the ways in which the world impacts me and my impact on the world. The liberal arts educational foundation I have gained from PLU has fostered growth in my holistic view of nursing, people, environment and health. My education along with my PLU involvements have provided me with the ability to express myself in a clear and professional manner both verbally and in writing. I worked in the Office of Admission throughout my time at PLU as a Voice of PLU caller and program coordinator, volunteered at the Women’s Center, joined the Sexual Assault Peer Education Team (SAPET), and have been an active member of Delta Iota Chi (nursing service club). My incredibly positive experience at PLU has been a result of my interactions with the diverse students and faculty members, the opportunities and support the university has given me and my enthusiasm for nursing, learning, travel, leadership and service.

What’s next? Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from PLU does not enable me to begin working as a nurse right away. The first part of my Summer will be spent studying for the NCLEX (the State Boards for nursing). Once I pass this exam I will have a registered nurse (RN) license and can begin working as an RN. I will be beginning a perinatal (high-risk antepartum, labor and delivery, and postpartum nursing) registered nurse (RN) residency program this Summer at the University of Washington Medical Center. This program combines didactic and clinical learning with a one-on-one preceptorship experience with an experienced RN on the unit to ease the transition from nursing student to professional nurse. I look forward to the challenging learning experiences this position will undoubtedly present me with and the future educational direction it will lead me toward.

Kari Rochelle Plog – Bachelor of Arts in communication (emphasis journalism) with a minor in conflict resolution
Kari Plog '11

Kari Plog ’11 – Bachelor of Arts in communication (emphasis journalism) with a minor in conflict resolution

Why PLU? I never thought I would come to PLU, but I toured here six months before graduation and fell in love with the people and the campus. One visit and I was hooked. It was the small class size and the community that sealed the deal, and I never looked back.

My PLU experience: My experience at PLU has challenged the way I see myself in relation to the rest of the world. I have changed so much as a person, as a global citizen and as a human being. Before coming to PLU, there were avenues of life I hadn’t even thought to explore. PLU has not only challenged me to constantly re-examine the values I currently hold, but challenged me to look beyond my own values and understand the broader implications of my values in relation to others’ values. I am prepared to head into the next chapter of my life and seek fulfillment vocationally, and I credit much of my success to the opportunities PLU has provided me.

What’s next? I am currently seeking weekly and daily newspaper jobs in the greater Pacific Northwest region. I have a passion for community journalism, and hope to connect with people by telling their stories through whatever outlet I am given the opportunity to use. I hope to eventually go back to school after gaining some practical experience and get a masters in education and teach media literacy and journalism in local public schools.

Lauren Frerichs – Bachelor of Arts psychology and religion with a minor in Hispanic studies
Why PLU? After my oldest brother, Noah, graduated in 2004 and my sister, Bethany, graduated in 2006, I was determined not to go to PLU in a quest to be “different.” However, after looking at lots of other schools up and down the West Coast, I knew that PLU was the best choice for me, and I have loved it ever since! PLU offered a strong academic foundation, an outstanding sense of community, and tons of opportunities that I didn’t see at other schools. I was super excited to study away, to participate in the music program, and feel at home at a Lutheran university.
Lauren Frerichs '11

Lauren Frerichs ’11 – Bachelor of Arts psychology and religion with a minor in Hispanic studies

Now my little brother, Daniel, is also a student here (c/o 2013) and Bethany teaches Spanish and writing classes for ESL students at PLU. It’s fun seeing two of my siblings on campus, and even playing against them in intramural volleyball.

My PLU experience: My experience at PLU has been unforgettable. I have been blessed with opportunities to get involved in many parts of campus, participating in Red Carpet Club, Campus Ministry, choir, intramural sports, and Psi Chi, the psychology honors society. I also studied away for J-Term of my sophomore year in Quito, Ecuador. It’s hard to sum up my experience, because I feel like in each of my four years I have learned new life lessons with new people and in new places. My favorite parts of PLU have been excellent professors, great leadership opportunities, and wonderful classmates who will be lifelong friends. The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had have taught me to dream big and stay humble in whatever I do.

What’s next? June 15th I will be starting a position as director of Youth and Family Ministry at Mt. Si Lutheran Church in North Bend, Wash. working with Pastor Mark Griffith, another PLU graduate! Eventually I see myself going into school counseling, but we’ll see where life takes me!

Lauren Thiele – Bachelor of Science in biology and minors in chemistry and music
Loren Theile '11

Lauren Thiele ’11 – Bachelor of Science in biology and minors in chemistry and music

Why PLU? I wanted to go to a school that had a good science department and would be a good fit for me and my personality. I had a great admissions counselor who would call and talk to me about my application. No other schools to which I applied had the same level of personal contact. I really felt like PLU treated me like a person, not just an applicant. I think the personal connection I first felt really drew me in and there was an added benefit that the science department has a very good reputation for preparing students for med school.

My PLU experience: The effort for a personal communication with applicants by the admissions counselor is not just a front. In fact I felt connected throughout my years at PLU in whatever field I was studying at the time. I had a great experience in working with the Wang Center to find the perfect study abroad program for me. My advisors were great and gave me advice for the correct classes to take and at what time.  They were sincerely concerned with each student’s progress. This goes for every professor and every employee of PLU. For example, I had cut my hair really short over the summer. When I was on campus in the fall, the custodian for my former hall recognized me and asked, “did you just get a hair cut? It looks really cute.” It is that kind of personal connection that PLU gave me. This connection nurtured me and allowed me to find my passion. I eventually changed what I wanted to do with my life and I can thank everyone at PLU for helping me realize what I wanted to do.

What’s next? Next year I am going to be attending the University of British Columbia where I will be pursuing my Ph.D. in molecular biology.  The particular lab that I will be in focuses on how a cell can get what it needs from the environment and get rid of waste.  When this process goes wrong it causes disease. One of the big diseases that we will focus on will be Huntington’s. After I get my Ph.D., I want to be a professor at a small personal institution like PLU because it has left its mark and the professors I have encountered have inspired me to be like them. But if there is anything that I have learned from PLU, it is to keep an open mind and follow your passion wherever it leads.

Lynsey Tveit – Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with an English language learners endorsement

Why PLU? I am a legacy Lute, my Dad went to PLU in the late ’70s and suggested that I apply. I did it to make him happy, as there was no way that I was going to be moving from sunny, southern California to rainy, Washington state. I was starting to receive my Financial Aid package and PLU students kept calling me to ask me about the application process, checking in to see if I had questions or wanted to talk about PLU.

Slowly the other options that I had been looking at were fading away and I was becoming more attached the fact that PLU seemed as if they wanted me to be apart of their community. I waited until the last minute on deciding to come to PLU, yet once I stepped foot on campus for the first time for first year orientation, I felt at home.

Lynsey Tveit '11

Lynsey Tveit ’11 – Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with an English language learners endorsement

My PLU experience: PLU is more than just a university that I have received my education from, it is where I have felt most at home. I have been able to explore countless opportunities and unveil who I am and what my role is in the world. What my vocation is and what it means to me.

What’s next? I will be teaching fifth grade at the International School of Myanmar in Yangon, Myanmar, for the next two years, starting August 1.

Mary Wuest – Bachelor of Science in nursing
Mary Wuest '11

Mary Wuest ’11 – Bachelor of Science in nursing

Why PLU? Both my parents are alumni. So I really didn’t want to be cliché, and I really tried to avoid coming to PLU. However, I knew that I really wanted to pursue nursing. All it took was one visit. The beautiful campus and the welcoming people, as well as PLU’s devotion to vocation and liberal arts made this university a perfect fit.

My PLU experience: At PLU I have grown into the multifaceted woman that I always imagined when I was younger.

I enjoyed three years of competing for the Women’s Cross-Country team, and one year of Women’s Rowing. I was lucky enough to be the captain of the Cross-Country team for one year, a job I loved and poured myself into. I was accepted to Nursing School and am proud to complete three very challenging and demanding years of work.

I have adored working for PLU Catering because it combines my passion for culinary arts with my biggest passion: caring for people. My work with Campus Ministry has also been rewarding as I got to participate in several service projects. I love that service is a large part of being a student at PLU. I got to participate in Sign-me drive, the American Heart Association’s annual Heart Ball, Diabetes Walk, Breast Cancer Walks, making blankets for the fallen policemen, and several dinners for the homeless in Tacoma. I didn’t think I would get the chance to travel while attending PLU. I guess the stars aligned just perfectly enough for me to get the opportunity to travel to Chengdu, China, to study Traditional Chinese Medicine this J-Term 2011.

Most of all, I have been blessed to make some of the most amazing, smart, talented, and kind friends that I know will be friends for life.

What’s next? I hope to find a nursing job in an emergency department either in Washington or Montana – I love the fast pace. It’s challenging and makes me want to learn more, and that is exactly what I was looking for in a career. After getting some experience, I really hope to travel around the country or to other countries. The world has so much to teach. I love learning, so I eventually intend to return to school.

Maurice Eckstein – Bachelor of Arts in communication studies (emphasis conflict management) with a minor in legal studies

Why PLU? A wonderful initiative of cross-cultural exchange between PLU and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, all spearheaded by the wonderful Professor Barbara Temple-Thurston, to whom I will be forever indebted. She has changed my world forever.

My PLU experience: It has been a process of rediscovering myself by engaging “big enough questions” in and outside of the classroom. I have come closer to who I want me to be and I have a closer idea of where I would eventually see myself making the most impact in the world.

What’s next? I have been accepted to the Masters of Public Administration program at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Maurice Eckstein '11

Maurice Eckstein ’11 – Bachelor of Arts in communication studies (emphasis conflict management) with a minor in legal studies

Signe Johnson – Bachelor of Arts in French with a minor in printing and publishing arts
Signe Johnson '11

Signe Johnson ’11 – Bachelor of Arts in French with a minor in printing and publishing arts

Why PLU? I came to PLU because I knew I wanted to study away again after taking a gap year in France after graduating from high school. I also wanted to live in a new part of the country as opposed to staying home in Iowa for college.

My PLU experience: My experience at PLU has been wonderful, mostly due to the relationships I have made with dear friends who I know will be a significant part of my life long after I leave this school.

I was able to study away in Trinidad and Tobago for a semester which was life changing. Recently I’ve enjoyed being able to work more at the Elliott Press. Overall, I’ve met great people, taken many fascinating classes, and tried to make the most of my time here.

What’s next? I’m wandering off into the great unknown, looking for a career. At this point I’m excited about the prospect of many future adventures, whether they be in Seattle or in a location with more sun and warmer temperatures. I feel confident in my ability to go out in the world and succeed.

Tiffany Brown- Bachelor of Business Administration (concentration in marketing)

Why PLU? After looking at several private schools in the greater Washington area I chose PLU because of its well known name and reputation for the School of Business. The biggest thing that attracted me to PLU was the beautiful campus and the Morken Center, which was built only a year before I graduated high school. The brand new building and excellent academic recognition are what first brought me to PLU, but once I was here I got so much more out of my education than I ever expected.

My PLU experience: My experience at PLU has been far more than I ever expected. The people at PLU are what truly make this school amazing. The friends I have made and the academic support and challenges I have had from faculty, professors and staff has helped shape me into the person I am today. I am so thankful for the wonderful community, challenging academics, leadership and global perspectives PLU has to offer students.

Tiffany Brown '11

Tiffany Brown’11 – Bachelor of Business Administration (concentration in marketing)

What’s next? Currently I am pursuing a career in the medical industry within marketing and business development.

Timothy Hekili Guy – Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and political science

Why PLU? The Library. I mean, aside from having grown up in the community south of the Lutedome, specifically the Spanaway and Graham area, I have been a frequent visitor to PLU since before NPCC had a stage. Yes, since junior high and high school, during Running Start, and well into my community college years, I had frequently used the PLU library for research and personal enrichment. As a result, I began to wonder what a it would be like to be a student of the university that this library belonged to and, as such, I have come to enjoy knowing what it means to be a student such as that.

My PLU experience: My experience at PLU is two-fold; for one who majors in both the Humanities and the Social Sciences must learn to live in two very different worlds, but perhaps less because of the professors and more because of the students who are the primary residents in these worlds. As such, the experience of trying to understand what it is professional philosophers do and what makes a person a political scientist has oft defined my relationship with PLU, where I find myself alone in, yet surrounded by, the chaos of conflicting doxa and praxis of fellow classmates that I seek to no more order and understand, then to embrace and transcend. But, in the end, my experience at PLU can be summed up by the immortal words of Nietzsche, taken from his Joyful Wisdom, “There is still another world to discover – and more than one! Aboard ship! Ye Philosophers!” and to that end, I leave PLU, to set sail…

What’s next? My intentions are to pursue an MA, and Ph.D., in Philosophy (I am currently eyeing the University of Guelph for this), as well as, potentially, an MA in Thanatology (whereupon Hood College will be my destination) and a J.D. (I have not decided on a law school as of yet for this); However, it would be misguided of me to assume that my pursuit of education would end even with the attainment of these degrees. However, I do hope to, eventually, write on and teach philosophy, to experience what it means to be a Public Defender that does their job, and to have also tried my hand at being a professional Thanatologist as well.