Dear Western Carolina University Graduate,
The Intercultural Affairs Department Graduation Celebration is a biannual event designed to recognize the diverse backgrounds of our university's student body. Even though we are physically apart, we are coming together thanks to the wonders of technology to celebrate the accomplishments of Western Carolina University students who are from underrepresented populations and who have made a positive impact on our campus community.
Today is a day for reflection and celebration. You have completed a rigorous journey that’s been shaped by each step you’ve taken across our campus. I am here to witness your success and to join in celebration with you and the Intercultural Affairs Department.
Whether you are Black or white, Asian or Latinx, Native American or multi-racial, you are an important member of the Western Carolina University family. Whether you are gay, straight, or transgender, you are valued at our university. It doesn't matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or of a different spiritual belief and it doesn't matter if you are liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between – we all are Catamounts!
I am proud of the work that the ICA department does to help foster a campus environment where all students – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and ideology – can feel not just welcomed (although being welcomed is very important) but can feel valued and respected. This is an important part of a university education – learning how to celebrate our differences while also recognizing that we have so much more in common than we have things that divide us.
The students we honor through this celebration are vital to this mission. Although this is not the sendoff that we expected at the beginning of this journey, there is no denying that each one of the students we recognize today has left an indelible mark on our university family.
Congratulations on your accomplishments here at Western Carolina University. Please do not remain a stranger after your graduation. Please stay engaged and involved with your university by being a mentor or role model to our future students. I look forward to hearing about your future endeavors in our increasingly diverse and interconnected global community.
Kelli R. Brown
As a proud alum of Western Carolina University, I find the depth of my pride has only continued to grow over these many years. I am proud to celebrate and recognize the diversity that represents our student body and in particular, the students who are graduating during this unprecedented time. Your dreams and hard work for the future of minority students have made a positive impact on all our students. It is diversity that makes us strong, contributes to our wisdom, and prepares our graduates to be engaged and passionate citizens of the globe. Congratulations on this significant milestone in your journey and thank you for your heart-felt contributions to the richness of our campus. You have made a difference.
Richard Starnes, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
To All ICA Graduation Program Student Honorees – Congratulations!!
On behalf of all my colleagues in the WCU Student Affairs Division, I want to congratulate each of you for earning your degree!
The ICA Graduation Program is a joyous occasion where we celebrate the graduates and their success. While I’m disappointed we couldn’t assemble together this year, I’m hopeful that you’ll take some time and reflect on this important moment in your life and feel a sense of accomplishment. With your degree in hand and your college experiences in your heart, you are well prepared to leave WCU and go make a difference in the world! My sincere wish for each of you is that the next chapter of your life surpasses all your hopes and dreams. Well Done Graduates!
H. Sam Miller, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Dear Graduating Students, soon-to-be Alumni:
It is my honor to have an opportunity to offer congratulations on your milestone of completing a degree from Western Carolina University and to wish you the very best in your next chapter. While this leg of your personal and professional journey is ending, a whole new world, wherever that may be, awaits you and we are excited to hear about your imprint on it!
For many of us who have chosen higher education as our raison d’etre (reason for being) or métier (life’s work), there is no greater reward than helping students to realize their dreams and desires; YOU are the reason we do what we do and speaking personally, I learn far more from you, our students, than from any other source of learning. You have inspired me with your passion, humbled me with your grace, and challenged me with your agency. My greatest reward is to see you succeed in your goals and make a difference in our world.
I am sorry that world events have prevented us from celebrating in person right now. I hope each one of you knows that I am with you in heart and spirit and encourage you to make WCU your second home; visit us often, and don’t forget your alma mater (your “adopted mother”).
Congratulations and best wishes, always!
Carol Burton, Ed. D.
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
’87 and ’89 WCU Alumna
My Congratulations to each and every one of you! May the friendships and memories of your time at Western Carolina University follow you wherever your journey takes you.
I hope you find the quote below as meaningful as I do:
“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own.
No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame.
The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey –
and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.
This is the day your life really begins.”
Best Wishes for much Happiness!
Kellie Angelo Monteith
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Congratulations WCU 2020 Graduates –
Graduation is a time of completion, of finishing, of an ending, and it is also a time of celebration. Congratulations, you have successfully navigated being a Catamount. It might be cloudy right now because of the pandemic but clouds don’t last forever – continue to be safe and let your special day be the rainbow during the storm.
Your semester was framed with precaution, virtual opportunities, and physical distancing. Distancing did not mean we were not with you – we were with you in spirit, in hope, and now in celebration. Yesterday is behind you; let your experience and knowledge pave the way to the future. The world needs your positive energy and your courageous spirit. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the Catamount family and for leaving Western better than you found it.
As you embark on the next phase of your journey – remember to take control of your experience, your skills, your voice, and your time. The world awaits all that you have to offer. Never lose your sense of purpose, let it become your compass moving forward. Be strategically fearless and always remember - You Are Enough!
From one Catamount to another – may your dreams become your reality. Best wishes in all you do!
”Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others
to join you.”
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs
The time that you spent at Western Carolina University (WCU) will be one of the most memorable events in your life. Although the semester ended in a way that none of us could have expected, you still have your memories. Remember meeting the Intercultural Affairs staff for the first time, remember meeting your now best friend for the first time, and remember your path to graduation. You have earned this moment, and COVID-19 cannot take that away from you. Celebrate all your accomplishments at WCU and be excited about your future. We thank you for choosing WCU many years ago and we look forward to you coming back soon.
ICA Advisory Board
WCU Print Shop
Stephanie Arellano is a first-generation Latina graduating Cum Laude with a BS in Recreation Therapy and minor in Psychology. Stephanie is a proud member of Mujeres con un Propósito. She enjoys working with people with disabilities and will continue to advocate for people with disabilities.
Major/Minor: Anthropology major with a concentration in Forensic Anthropology and a minor in Cherokee Studies
She received the 2020 Outstanding Senior Award in Forensic Anthropology, and is a member of the Lambda Alpha National Anthropology Honor Society. She will be graduating magna cum laude, and is currently applying to graduate schools hoping to attend Texas State University Fall 2021 to further her career in Forensic Anthropology.
Masters in Project Management
Osbelia Castillo was born in Chicago and relocated to attend Western Carolina University to attain her Masters in Project Management. Osbe will return to her family and friends who have supported her journey. Osbe is excited to return to her daughter, Ebonee, and son, Keenan.
Pinned by Roger Kent Lane, Jr.
Major: Social Work & Spanish major with a minor in U.S. Latinx Studies
Yuli Yáñez, born of migrant parents from Guerrero, Mexico, is the first in her family to attend and graduate college. During her college experience, Yuli has been a part of many organizations on campus including: Women's Club Rugby, RISA, MCP, LASO, and is a founder of the Western Carolina University Provisional Chapter of Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/ Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc.
Pinned by Rebecca Lasher
As a first-generation college student, Rene will be graduating Cum Laude with a degree in History. During his time at WCU, he presented research at the National Conferences of Undergraduate Research in 2018. Rene also received the History Department Award scholarship in 2019.
Ashleigh Cseh is graduating Magna Cum Laude - BS in Nursing. Ashleigh is a member of the Brinson Honors College Board of Directors, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, and a student ambassador for the School of Nursing. Ashleigh is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and plans on working for the Indian Health Service after graduation.
I am 45 years old and I have lived in Sylva NC for the last 28 years. I am a transfer student from blue ridge community college with an associate degree in environmental science. I was in three honor societies and the vice president of the environmental conservation club. I am receiving my Bachelor's degree from Western Carolina University where there I was Treasurer and Vice President for the National Society for Leadership and Success Honor society in the year of 2017 to 2018. I would love to receive your ICA graduation pin. I believe it will help me further my future career opportunities.
Thank you for this honor.
Minor: Business Administration
Brittney Driver is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a first-generation college student. She a member of the Digali’i native student Organization. She is also a member of WCU’s Chapter for the National Society of Leadership and Success.
Pinned by Velma Bark
Donte' Goldston is a first-generation college student from Ramseur, NC. During his time here at Western Carolina University, Donte' has been involved in programs such as Black Male Achievement, The Tunnel of Oppression, a member of the Inspirational Gospel Choir, and is a proud brother of his beloved Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.
Pinned by Christine and Chris Goldston
Minor: Computer Information Systems
I am a member of most cultural organizations on campus: BSU, LASO, etc. I joined my fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi back in 2017 and shifted my focus on raising up my community. Being the first of my siblings to graduate a university, I came to Western in 2016.
Cherokee McAdoo is from Pleasant Garden, North Carolina and is the oldest of three. She will be graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice. During her time here at Western she has been a member of several organizations such as Black Student Union, Inspirational Gospel Choir, Trials of the Rib, Criminal Justice club, the American Association of University Women, and her beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Cherokee plans on attending graduate school in the Summer of 2021 for Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
Pinned by Pamela Smith
Michaela Frances Moody
(Mi-kay-la Fran-sis Moo-dee)
Master of Health Science (MHS)
Focus: Health Management
Michaela Moody lives in Charlotte, NC and has been working full time at Victory Junction while pursuing her Master's at Western Carolina. She graduated from ECU in 2018 with her Bachelor's in Public Health and hopes to pursue an administrative position in a hospital setting, after graduation.
Annalisa Rose Orefice is graduating Cum Laude with a B.S in Parks and Recreations Management and a minor in Religion. Annalisa is currently the Parks and Rec. Club President, a Brother of the Music Fraternity: Kappa Kappa Psi and has served as a Peer Minister at the Catholic Campus Ministry for 6 semesters now. During her junior year of college, she went abroad for nine months to Ireland where she received her B.A in Outdoor Education. She is also the recipient of the Ralph J. Andrews Award- Outstanding Parks & Recreation Management Major. Lastly, Annalisa takes pride in her friends and family who have inspired her to finish her college journey and pursue a Master's degree.
Major: Communication Science and Disorders
Alexana Osorio was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina and adopted by both her parents. She is the second of 6 kids to go to college and graduate. She did four years in the Pride of The Mountains Marching band and is now teaching SMHS colorguard. Her future plans are to move to Johnson City, Tennessee and attend ETSU for her Master’s in Speech Language Pathology.
Pinned by Cesar Ramos
Julla Panneh was born in Njawara ( IN-Jah- wah-ruh) Village Gambia west Africa. She immigrated to USA in August of 2002 and is the first of 9 children to attend a four-year university. Julla received her associate degree in nursing at Gambia College West Africa. Julla earned a BSN at FSU and she will be graduating this fall at WCU with an MSN in Clinical Nurse Leadership.
Paige Robinson is graduating Magna Cum Laude- B.S. in Chemistry and B.S. in Biology. Paige was the Secretary then President of the Chemistry Club. She is also a part of the Alpha Lambda Delta and the National Society of Leadership and Success honor societies. She has presented her research at RASC, MAMCA, and NCUR, and just received Lily Community Engagement Award for her volunteer activities.
Pinned by Emily Suchonic
Donnavan Spencer but better known as Donnie PERIOD. While at Western he studied in criminal justice. One of his biggest accomplishments at western was leading the “Whee United March" back in August to stop racial injustice on campus. Donnie is a brother of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity INC, he served as Vice President and Chaplin for his chapter (Theta Lambda). Donnie plans to pursue football professionally after college but also plans to work for the Federal Government.
Major: Criminal Justice
Desiree Sudsbury is a first-generation student to attend college. Desiree is looking forward to starting the BLET program at the Southwestern Community College in Fall 2021 to further her career in becoming a detective. She credits her late father for inspiring her to work in law enforcement.
Pinned by Owen Edwards
Ariana Weaver is enrolled in the Accelerated BSN program based at the Biltmore Park Campus. She is a mother to her daughter, Aliyah Gilliland, and has successfully juggled motherhood while completing nursing school. She is a proud member of the Student Nursing Association and had the opportunity to organize a needle-exchange, service-learning opportunity with WNCAP during her time in the ABSN program that future cohorts can continue to take part in. Ariana is expected to graduate with the Latin honor, Magna Cum Laude. Ariana strives to be a minority leader in healthcare. She has recently been invited to join Sigma Theta Tau.
Pinned by Shawn Gilliland
BS in Elementary Education (Summa Cum Laude)
Luke Webb, of Bryson City, is excited to begin a career as a professional educator. Though it has been a challenging path, Luke has made great progress toward his professional objective: to make a positive impact on diverse communities of learners and teachers. "Endless thanks to everyone who supported me!"
Pinned by Jessica Webb
Melanie Yang is graduating Summa Cum Laude - BS in Recreational Therapy. She is a first-generation college student and the first of five children to attend a four-year university. Melanie is a part of Sigma Alpha Pi (National Society of Leadership and Success), Ballroom Club, First Gen Club, and RTA (Recreational Therapy Association).
Pinned by Timothy Lee
Master of Science in Technology
Raymond Kangni G. Assiongbon-Foly was born in Lomé Togo and moved to United States in 2002. After an Associate of Science in Electronics Technology in 2007, a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 2011 he is working on his Master of Science in Technology at the Western Carolina University.