As another semester and a full academic year unlike any other draw to a close, the College of Arts and Letters is taking a moment to recognize some of the amazing students who will receive their bachelor’s degree this week.
CAL Distinguished Senior
Luna Slater is this semester’s Distinguished Senior for the College of Arts and Letters. She is the Outstanding Graduating Senior for the Department of Global Languages and Cultures and is receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish with a minor in chemistry. She came to NAU from Fort Collins, Colorado and is a graduate of Poudre High School.
Luna’s choice to study Spanish was a natural extension of her pre-existing love of the language. “The Spanish program was a great balance of many of the things I love doing, such as reading, writing, and interacting with others, so the program was a perfect fit for me,” she said.
Her time in the Spanish program ended on a high note, as her favorite class was her senior capstone, which focused on the theory and practice of translation. “It was very different than all of the other Spanish classes I had taken prior, and it was a really interesting way to get to combine and utilize a lot of the knowledge I had acquired in other classes,” she said.
Luna said her expanded involvement in the Spanish program was due to Prof. Ed Hood, who encouraged her to get involved in activities, particularly the summer study abroad program. “The investment he puts into his students is admirable and I feel very fortunate that I have gotten the chance to have him as a teacher, as well as a mentor.”
The most important lesson Luna said she learned in her studies is to be open to all opportunities as they can facilitate personal and academic growth. It seems that she’s taking that lesson to heart in her post-undergraduate life. She will be back at NAU in the fall, though heading down a very different track. She will pursue a master’s degree in applied criminology, with hopes to attend law school upon completion of her second degree.
This semester’s Standard Bearer is Carly Arechiga. She is the Outstanding Graduating Senior for the School of Art and is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education, PK-12, art endorsement. Before attending NAU, Carly graduated from Ironwood Ridge High School in Tucson.
Carly hopes to use her degree to help provide students with a necessary creative outlet. “I chose to become an art teacher because I love to encourage young minds to think creatively and I believe that art is so important for anyone to have in their life,” she said.
Carly is thankful for the close-knit nature of the art education program, noting that she loves how close she became with the group of students who populated almost every course she took in the program, and the instructor who also was there for those courses. “Pam Stephens was one of the most influential teachers I have ever had – she taught me so much of what it means to not only be a good art teacher, but what it means to be a good person.”
Carly said the most important lesson she learned is about the level of humanity that comes with being a teacher. “Just like my students, I am human. And as much as I wish to be the best teacher ever, teaching isn’t easy and I should give myself grace.”
And Carly is ready to apply that and all the lessons she learned wherever she lands. Now that’s she’s finished her time at NAU, she plans to spend some time traveling this summer, and hopes to land a job teaching art, with no particular place in mind. “I’m not too concerned. I’ll let life take me where I am supposed to be.”
Outstanding Graduating Seniors
Hannah Anderson is this semester’s Outstanding Graduating Senior for the School of Music. They earned a Bachelors in Music Performance with an instrumental emphasis on flute with a Spanish minor. Before attending NAU, they graduated from Savannah Arts Academy in Savannah, Georgia.
The class that most stood out to Hannah was a part of their minor, Spanish 303. “One reason I loved this class is because of how much I learned about linguistics and the different conversational styles and accents in the Spanish language,” they said.
Hannah said they were particularly influenced by their flute professor, Dr. Emily Hoppe. “We’ve worked closely for four years and Dr. Hoppe has inspired me so much as a musician and helped me to curate my love of performing.”
Hannah said studying music taught them an important lesson, that any progress is good progress. That lesson came when they began to lose expectations about how much practice it took to perfect a piece of music. “I always felt like I wasn’t progressing fast enough, until I realized that the goal is always for progress, and any kind of progress in my playing is good progress.”
Hannah isn’t done with their time as a Lumberjack just yet. They’ll be staying in Flagstaff to pursue a graduate certificate in music performance at NAU.
Evan Cuillier is the Outstanding Graduating Senior for the Department of Philosophy. He graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and attended Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson before attending NAU.
Evan began his college years as a philosophy minor, but found himself gravitating towards the subject as he took more classes. “I’ve really enjoyed the logic classes I’ve taken with the wonderful Dr. Katie Tullmann. Trying to solve difficult proofs was a whole lot of fun and Dr. Tullmann was kind enough to hold an independent study class, where we got to dip our toes into more advanced logic.”
Along with Dr. Tullman, Evan says he was greatly impacted by Dr. Gregory Kirk, both personally and academically. “He’s taught me the kinds of questions to ask when investigating an idea, how to better critically examine my views, how to be charitable to views I disagree with, and so much more. Like Socrates, he has been the gadfly that has pestered me into becoming a better human!”
Evan said college taught him an important lesson about how much he actually knows and how much there is to learn, saying the important move is to learn to be less wrong about what is important to him. “Acknowledging my ignorance has shifted my attention from worrying about how intelligent I sound or whether I ‘won’ an argument, to focusing on what I’m actually saying. Seeing that even the brightest minds in human history have been frequently mistaken took a lot of the pressure off being right.”
Evan plans to attend graduate school in philosophy eventually. But for now, his plans are to take find a job and take a few years away from academic pursuits.
Jourdyn Riley was named the Outstanding Graduating Senior for the Department of English. She is receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis/certificate in rhetoric, writing and digital media studies.
Jourdyn came to NAU from Peoria and is a graduate of Ironwood High School, where one of her English teachers inspired her field of study. “She was so caring, fun and it was obvious that she cared about teaching students and making sure that they succeeded,” Jourdyn said.
Jourdyn found another caring faculty member upon arrival at NAU in Dr. Ira Allen. “I took a rhetoric course with him freshman year, and it was that class that made me realize my love for rhetoric. I was a TA for him at the beginning of sophomore year, and together we decided to do undergraduate research together, which actually led to me presenting my own research at a conference.”
Jourdyn struggles to pick a favorite course from among all of the English courses she took at NAU. “Each were impactful in their own ways and helped me learn many different concepts. Each class I took also allowed me to meet many different faculty members, and get to know them very well!”
Jourdyn may continue to get to know the Department of English faculty better. She’s been accepted into NAU’s Master Program for Rhetoric, Writing and Digital Media Studies, though she continues to look for, as she calls them, “real adult jobs. Everything else is rather uncertain, but that’s okay!”
Josie Teegardin is the Outstanding Graduating Senior for the Department of History. She earned a Bachelor of Science in education, secondary education history and social studies with a minor in Spanish. She came to NAU from Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek.
Josie’s choice to study history education came because, as she puts it, “I want to have a job that I like waking up to go to in the mornings.” She wants to be a teacher like the one she had in second grade, a year when she missed months of class time due to surgeries. “My teacher came over to my house almost every day after school to catch me up on activities that I missed. When I did go back to school, she made me feel safe and welcomed.”
Among the classes Josie found most interesting was The History of Race and Ethnicity in the United States because it gave her a deeper understanding of the development of present perceptions around culture, race, and ethnicity. “I was able to take what I learned and bring it with me into my student teaching experience and I will be able to use this knowledge in the future as I create a classroom community where everyone feels safe, seen, and included,” she said.
Josie credits Prof. Christi Carlson as being particularly impactful in her education at NAU. “She was always available to guide me through creating class schedules, making decisions about my future, helping me through a difficult lesson concept, giving me resources about unit topics, and pairing me with practicum/student teaching teachers who were amazing with helping me through my first experiences teaching in a classroom.”
Josie plans to stay in Flagstaff post-graduation and begin her journey as an educator.
Note: Outstanding Graduating Senior award winners from the departments of Theatre and Comparative Cultural Studies opted not to take part in this article.