What’s the common theme among some of Eastern Oregon University’s seniors who are donning their caps and gowns this weekend? They were extremely involved on campus, and kept their cumulative grade point average above a 3.0.
The members of the class of 2018 came from different walks of life and a variety of cultures. They are teaching assistants, ambassadors, student athletes, members and presidents of clubs, and mentors. They serve on the Board of Trustees and on student government. One was named the 2018 President’s Scholar.
Nicole Almanza, 23, from Beaverton, majored in physical activity and health, maintaining a 3.0 GPA while shouldering heavy extracurricular responsibilities. Since enrolling at EOU in the fall of 2013, she has been an officer for Speel-Ya –– a club that raises awareness, educates and promotes the cultures of Native American people as well as assists new Native American students on campus –– served as an ambassador promoting the university to prospective students, was the student representative on the university’s Board of Trustees, was a member of the Pre-Professional Health Club and was a TRiO student. She also served as the Director for Diversity and Equality for EOU’s student government, played a large part in the development of the Multicultural Student Union and was the president of the Latino Impact Club.
She said her biggest challenge in college was managing everything on her own.
“I’m the first person in my family to go to college, and I had to learn it all on my own,” Almanza said. “I didn’t even learn how to read my financial aid package until my sophomore, maybe junior year.”
Almanza, who plans on moving back to her hometown and finding a job in the community health field, said she would advise new college students to get involved.
“I met most of my friends (in clubs),” she said. “They helped me navigate, or knew people who could help me navigate, through college.”
Cassidy Watkins, 22, who also majored in physical activity and health, shares a desk with Almanza in the student government office, where she is the Director of Campus Affairs. Watkins also maintained a 3.0 GPA. The transfer from Minot State University in North Dakota is from Saratoga Springs, Utah. She attended Eastern to be closer to home and to play on the women’s soccer team. Watkins said college taught her to stand up for herself.
“In my role on campus, and just other (life) situations, I’ve learned to have a voice,” Watkins said.
The former goalkeeper, who will be moving to Maryland as soon as graduation festivities are over, hopes to work as a physical trainer for athletes in a few years.
Another transfer student, Tyana Musrasrik, 21, came from Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, and majored in Eastern’s anthropology and sociology program.
“I chose this major mainly because I was interested and curious in wanting to know why society is the way that it is,” Musrasrik said. “I have a passion for social justice. I want to help give a voice to the underrepresented whether it be the minorities, low-income, disabled, immigrants or the LGBTQ+ community.”
Musrasrik will have that opportunity in her new role as Eastern’s Privileged Campus Advocate.
“This new program, which is a collaboration between EOU and Shelter From the Storm, will open up an advocacy office on campus in hopes of removing barriers for students and staff to seek help and support for domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking,” Musrasrik said. “This job opportunity came about during my practicum/internship that I did this spring term. I’m glad that I get to continue working with Shelter From the Storm to help survivors.”
Musrasrik, who maintained a 3.7 GPA, served as the Coordinator for the Student Council for Multicultural Affairs, was a Diversity mentor at the Multicultural Center and was a teaching assistant for a sociology course. She was also a TRiO student and a member of the Navigator’s Club, Latino Impact Club and Mission for Environmental and Social Awareness Club. She will be inducted into the National Society for Leadership and Success before graduation.
Musrasrik said her biggest challenge may have been adapting to Eastern Oregon from a small island.
“Last winter, the really bad one? That was my first time in the snow,” Musrasrik said.
The 2018 President’s Scholar, Charlette Burghard, is a fourth-generation Mountaineer. Majoring in biochemistry with a minor in psychology. Burghard worked as a resident assistant in the dorms on campus and was in the Chemistry Club and
Pre-Professional Health Club, according to a press release from EOU. She obtained a research internship at Portland State University in 2016 and worked with organic chemistry professor Ronald Kelley to conduct research, displaying her finding for the last three consecutive years at the American Chemical Society National Conference. Burghard has worked at Wildflower Lodge Assisted Living & Memory Care in La Grande and said the high-impact, experiential learning environment guided her career aspirations.
“I plan on (attending) medical school, and I’ve started to get interested in geriatric care,” Burghard said in the release.
Burghard will speak at EOU’s commencement ceremony on June 16 in Quinn Coliseum.