Graduates regaled at GCU Senior Dinner
Story by Paige Gruner
GCU Alumni Relations
Nine graduates in Grand Canyon University’s Class of 2015 and eight University faculty and staff members were honored Thursday at Senior Dinner in GCU Arena.
About 450 students, faculty and guests attended the inaugural event, sponsored by the Alumni Relations office. Seniors reminisced about their years on campus and listened as President/CEO Brian Mueller encouraged them to make their mark on the world.
“Don’t worry too much about where you are going to end up in your first job,” Mueller said. “It might be more or less than you imagined, but God is going to put you in an organization and if you ask God to be present for you at that organization, it will transform for the better.”
Guest speaker Jerry Colangelo wowed the audience with an inspirational talk about always believing in yourself. “You can never quit,” Colangelo said. “You will stumble often, but if you quickly rise again, there is a God high in His heaven who wants you to use what He has given you. Trust him and you will succeed.”
Finding her purpose in life, said Abbi Nguyen, an Associated Students of GCU senior senator, was not about putting into place her plan, but living according to God’s plan.
“My hope for us today, as soon-to-be-graduates, is that we go out into the world in tune with or in constant search for God’s purpose for us and to bring what we have learned here — in and outside of the classroom — to places where God calls us to serve Him, to help others, to fight a major issue that is near to our hearts,” Nguyen said.
The Senior Dinner student award recipients were selected by University leadership in the areas of academics, athletics and student affairs and for their service, faith and spirit. They are:
Outstanding senior awards
Aaron Arellano, College of Science, Engineering and Technology, has been the AzHOSA public service co-chair and a GCU Learning Lounge tutor. He was in the Thundering Heard Pep Band, and he exemplifies GCU’s mission of service by performing a significant amount of volunteer work each semester, including at the Hope for Hunger Food Bank. Arellano is graduating cum laude with a degree in biology with an emphasis in pre-medicine.
Caylah Baldwin, College of Fine Arts and Production, is one of the first graduates in the web design program. She is interning at Big Fish Creative, a Scottsdale brand and web design agency, and will start work there after graduation. Baldwin was active in GCU’s Design Club and volunteered for organizations such as Feed My Starving Children. She embodies the Christian values that are at the heart of GCU and will be a shining alumna.
Jordan Burnidge, College of Theology, is described by his professors as a man of God who exemplifies his college’s three pillars: commitment to living in light of the Gospel daily, service in his local church and engagement in seeking to share the Gospel. His commitment to learning and living God’s Word can be seen in the work he’s done on mission trips as well as in meetings with professors and peers to discuss God’s work and pray for each other.
Matthew Friesen, representing GCU Student Affairs, has demonstrated a high level of commitment to the University community through student leadership and lacrosse while pursuing academic excellence. Armed with a positive attitude, Friesen not only has excelled during his journey at GCU but also has prioritized giving back and serving the GCU community.
Charlotte Jaengkit, representing student athletes, has won five straight tournaments as a member of the women’s golf team. She was named the Western Athletic Conference Women’s Golfer of the Week three times and also was named to the Academic All-WAC Women’s Golf Team for her high cumulative GPA. Jaengkit is graduating from GCU with a degree in finance and economics.
Jared Monroe, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, turned a tragic accident that left him paralyzed and decided to do something valuable with his life and serve a greater purpose. Monroe, who will receive a degree in counseling with an emphasis in addiction, chemical dependency and substance abuse, was the first president of the GCU Counseling Club, growing it into an active club that was involved in many places in the community, including the Arizona State Hospital. It was there that patients felt so connected to Monroe that he was asked to volunteer on a regular basis.
Ashley Sanchez, College of Education, is an excellent student who is dedicated to learning at her practicum and student teaching sites and will be a tremendous educator. Sanchez is a membership coordinator for Alpha Epislon Gamma, GCU’s chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education, and treasurer for Educators Rising of GCU.
Austin Walker, Colangelo College of Business, demonstrates an enthusiasm and excitement for learning that is demonstrated in his high GPA. He was an exceptional intern with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the first president of the GCU Sports Business Club. Walker had the honor of speaking on behalf of GCU students at the CCOB dedication ceremony last year. He is a person of strong faith, character and integrity.
Vanessa Wawrzyniak,College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, was treasurer of the Student Nurses Association and a class representative throughout her course work in the nursing program. Wawrzyniak participates in community outreach projects and volunteers for service activities, which has not only contributed to her own personal growth but to those she has served.
Influential faculty/staff awards
The following GCU faculty and staff received awards Thursday for positively impacting students. They were nominated by the graduating senior class for their influence, enthusiasm and love for GCU:
Melissa Beddow, assistant professor in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, has impressed her students with her teaching practices, knowledge in the field of forensic science and dedication to their success. Beddow has inspired and motivated her students and given them valuable advice that will help them succeed.
Leanne Schmidt, adjunct faculty member in the College of Fine Arts and Production, has a contagious passion for dance and an inspiring drive to see her students succeed. Schmidt teaches students to become their best selves through dance and never lets them accept defeat. She is a mentor in both dance and life lessons.
Dr. Pete Charpentier, assistant professor in the College of Theology, has helped students grow closer to Christ and fuel their passion for their future in theology. He is available to speak with students and gives them the ability to grow spiritually and professionally. Charpentier’s students often say he has helped them realize their goals and direction after they leave GCU.
Joshua Danaher, assistant professor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, challenges his students’ thought processes in a way that fuels their passion for learning. His love of communications and speaking with intention has made his students more aware of how they would like to influence others intentionally with their words. Danaher also has served as a mentor to many.
Rebekah Dyer, assistant professor in the College of Education, has inspired many aspiring teachers to be the best they can be. Dyer has helped her students grow as educators and in their faith. She cares about her students and has a great passion for teaching, always letting her students know they are touching lives every day.
Dr. Moronke Oke, associate professor in the Colangelo College of Business, has taught her students the value of being accountable for their education. Her students say she challenges them throughout their coursework and has high expectations that she knows they can meet. Oke has influenced many to apply themselves and take ownership of their education and their professional lives.
Doris Lovata, assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, has a gentle spirit and passion for nursing that has inspired many aspiring nurses. Her willingness to get to know students on a personal level has created a trust between them. Lovato’s advice has helped students reach their goals academically and will continue to resonate with them after graduation.
Jacob Page, global and local outreach manager for Student Affairs, has exceptional dedication to GCU’s students. Page genuinely loves them and has made a great difference in their lives. He is always available for students when they need him.