LAS VEGAS-May 12, 2007 - UNLV welcomed its largest-ever class of new graduates today, as more than 2,700 degrees were conferred during the university's 44th Commencement Ceremonies at the Thomas & Mack Center.
UNLV President David B. Ashley recognized Board of Regents member and former Clark County Commissioner Thalia Dondero during the ceremony with an honorary doctor of laws degree for her commitment to higher education and distinguished service to the community. Ashley also honored seven graduating students for their outstanding success in the classroom and contributions to the university.
Students from the William S. Boyd School of Law and colleges of Sciences, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts and Urban Affairs participated in the 9 a.m. ceremony; students from the School of Dental Medicine, University Studies, and the colleges of Engineering, Education, Business and Hotel Administration took part in the 2 p.m. ceremony.
Since 1964, UNLV has awarded approximately 78,000 degrees. The more than 2,700 degrees expected to be awarded this semester marks a 25 percent increase in the number of undergraduate recipients and a 14 percent increase in graduate and professional recipients over last spring.
Outstanding UNLV Graduates - A.M. Ceremony
Catherine Prato - M.S. Nursing
Catherine Prato is a prime example of how UNLV students actively address the critical need for nursing educators in Southern Nevada. Upon receiving undergraduate degrees in both psychology and nursing from UNLV, Catherine worked as a charge nurse at the North Las Vegas Detention Center. Her thirst for research brought her back to UNLV, where she will receive her M.S. in nursing after meeting requirements for both nurse educator and family nurse practitioner. Catherine's research on the effects of problem gambling in women has led to presentations at numerous conferences. Catherine is a recipient of the prestigious Nevada Stars Graduate Assistantship and will enter UNLV's Ph.D. nursing program this fall.
Daniel Brown - B.S. Architecture
Daniel Brown has literally put UNLV on the map. As part of a class project, Dan led a group of first-year students in Google's Design Your Campus in 3-D competition, the result of which placed UNLV among the growing number of higher education institutions located on Google Earth. Heavily involved in the UNLV chapter of the American Institute of Architecture, Dan was elected to serve on the organization's national board as director of the Western region. His commitment to both his university and profession led to a job offer from Google, where Dan is already training industry experts from all over the nation on Google SketchUp, the latest in design technology for the architecture field.
Thuri Seneviratne - B.A. Mathematical Sciences
Thuri Seneviratne is proof that family commitment and desire to achieve can overcome adversity. Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thuri and her family moved to the U.S. during her childhood to seek political asylum and a chance for a better life. Thuri is active in student government as a senator from the College of Sciences; in her college as a leader of the College of Sciences Undergraduate Council; and in research as a former participant in the prestigious McNair Scholars Institute. Thuri has been accepted into the biostatistics graduate program at UCLA and will continue her studies this fall.
Evelyn Flores Rangel - B.A. Political Science, B.A. English
Evelyn Flores Rangel's combination of academic excellence and advocacy for social justice has made her one of our community's most promising young leaders. Evelyn immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a child; and, in spite of adversity, will receive dual B.A. degrees in English and political science. She has presented at numerous academic conferences and is a graduate of NEW Leadership Nevada, an elite UNLV leadership program for outstanding female students. Evelyn is also an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights, founding numerous student and community groups, including the Alliance of Student Organizations of Color at UNLV and the United Coalition for Immigrant Rights. She will study this summer at the University of California, Berkeley as a public policy & international affairs fellow and plans to one day run for public office.
Outstanding UNLV Graduates - P.M. Ceremony
John Sia - B.U.S. University Studies
John Sia's journey to UNLV was anything but traditional. Born in Malaysia, John and his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was six. As an adult, John became a naturalized U.S. citizen and spent six honorable years in the United States Air Force. His rich life experiences sparked an interest in history, and John enrolled in UNLV's University Studies program in 2004 with a focus in gaming history. John became the International Gaming Institute's first-ever intern, received numerous university scholarships, and was selected to sit on UNLV's Academic Integrity Appeal Board. He will receive a bachelor of university studies degree with an ultimate goal of returning to the Air Force to develop educational opportunities for veterans.
Kristal Sauer - B.S. Electrical Engineering, B.A. Computer Science
Kristal Sauer has achieved remarkable academic success at UNLV. A dual major in electrical engineering and computer science, Kristal will graduate as a member of the Honors College with a 3.98 GPA. Kristal's commitment to research and outstanding service to the university earned her the Regents' Undergraduate Scholar Award and honors from the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers and NASA. Kristal was also a member of the fall 2006 UNLV Senior Design Competition grand prize-winning team for developing a parking lot space availability tool. Kristal will attend the University of California, Berkeley in the fall to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science, receiving a Chancellor's Scholarship from the institution to cover the full cost of tuition.
Sonya Horsford - Ed.D. Educational Leadership
Sonya Horsford has already made a national impact in the field of social justice research. Sonya's dissertation, "Vestiges of Desegregation: Black Superintendent Reflections on the Complex Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education," has been lauded as a groundbreaking historical account and is in the process of being nominated to receive the Dissertation-of-the-Year Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA). Sonya was selected as one of only four doctoral students nationwide to participate as an AERA Early Justice Scholar and will collaborate on a national research project focused on social justice issues. She has presented her research at academic conferences across the nation and served as managing editor for the University Council for Educational Administration Journal of Research on Leadership Education.