2020 Outstanding Seniors

Meet Our 2020 Global Campus Outstanding Seniors!

In recognition of outstanding academic performance and service to the university and/or their community, WSU Global Campus has recognized 12 outstanding seniors for the 2019-20 academic year. Below they share their stories in their own words, explaining what their Global Campus Experience was like and how it has changed their lives.

Adam Mackie

Photo: Adam Mackie and his two sons.
Adam Mackie and his two sons.

Management Information Systems Outstanding Senior

“The biggest challenges I overcame while earning my WSU degree online arose from my endeavor to balance my family, work, and school life. When I began pursuing my academic goals, I decided to switch to working the night shift at my job. This enabled me to have extra time for school and ensured that I was able to be home with my wife and two young boys for breakfast and bedtime. With help and understanding from my wife, we successfully balanced our lives through emotional highs and lows and mental and physical exhaustion. We are a stronger and closer family because of the experiences from overcoming these challenges.

The skills and knowledge I have acquired from earning my degree is moving me towards my goal of financial independence through self-employment. This year, I created an LLC to sell merchandise online. The knowledge I gained through a culmination of WSU classes have guided me through the tasks required to start an internet business. I am proud to be able to say that my business has had a monthly net profit of over $2,000 in its first three months. I am sure that I would not be close to achieving my goal without the skills and knowledge that have transformed me into a well-rounded business owner.

I want to express my sincere gratitude for the faculty who helped me along my path to graduation. Thank you for being experts in your fields and for pushing me past my self-imposed limitations. Thank you for entrusting me to help a fellow student stay on track during her time of need. Thank you for choosing a career that transforms so many lives for the better. I appreciate each and every one of you.”

Learn about MIS major—online

Amy Villalba

Photo: Amy Villalba, left, with her husband Andres Villalba.
Amy Villalba, left, with her husband Andres Villalba.

Integrated Strategic Communication Outstanding Senior

“After a lengthy marketing career, I made the decision to become a stay-at-home mom when my twins were born early, weighing 3 pounds each.  When they were 3, I started looking into options to return to school to finish the degree that I had started over 20 years ago.  Returning to school with students young enough to be my kids was a little intimidating.  But I feel that my life and real-world career experience have immensely helped me in my academic journey at WSU!

It’s been a lot of hard work, but I’m proud to say that I have been able to maintain a 4.0 GPA while raising 5-year-old twins, managing the marketing, communications and business operations for our two family businesses, and continuing my freelance work for multiple clients.  This final semester, I did 27+ hours per week of internship work in addition to the aforementioned work. I’ve also been able to participate in Big Brothers and Big Sisters and was named Washington State’s 2017 Big Sister of the Year. 

My degree in integrated strategic communications has allowed me to do work and participate in projects that are very similar to what I did in my career.  However, the communications field changes so quickly and I have been able to learn new skills, new programs, and new techniques.  I believe all of these skills will enhance my marketability, no matter where I choose to go in my career.”

More about integrated strategic communications degree—online

Bret Nicole Ford

Accounting Outstanding Senior

“I had a rough childhood growing up and had issues with alcoholism in early adulthood, so I started earning my degree already having already faced many challenges in my life. I’m proud to be able to say that I earned my degree as an adult and maintained a 4.0 GPA, having faced those earlier hardships and while raising two small children of my own.

Being able to earn my degree online gave me the opportunity to accomplish my goals, and I’m very grateful for that. It also gave me the ability to spend time volunteering for causes that are important to me. In recent years, I spent over 120 hours volunteering at a medical facility. I was able to help people and enrich my life at the same time, and it was very satisfying.

I have wanted to finish my degree for many years, and I look forward to starting a career in forensic accounting in which I can help prosecute white collar crimes.  Integrity and honesty are hugely important to me, and that is what drives me toward the forensic accounting profession. I’m very happy to be reaching this milestone in my life and excited to start a new chapter.”

More about accounting major—online

Chantel Hill

Photo: Chantel Hill.
Chantel Hill.

Social Science Outstanding Senior

“I started at the WSU Pullman campus during the summer of 2017 and switched to Global Campus. While working hard to keep my grades up, I’ve been able to enrich my life and that of others by supporting causes I believe in. I acted as the co-chair of Ku-Ah-Mah, the Native American Student organization, volunteered at the WSU Spokane campus pantry, and presented at WSU’s Globalization, Diversity, and Education conference regarding the project I am apart of through the College of Education called Ti’tooqan Cuukweneewit.

I have grown as a leader serving not only my community but creating events to share with the local community and students. Through this time though, I’ve also faced some significant challenges in my life. My mother had a stroke, and I lost a best friend who was as close to me as a sister. I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that required chemo and immunotherapy. I contemplated taking a break from school, my mentors and professors at WSU where amazing and helped me to make it work. Despite all my hardships, I continued to heal and work hard in my classes.

This degree has taught me so much, not only about myself, but it has also taught me critical thinking skills. I have gained knowledge on how to work on a deeper level with young learners and will continue to work through my teacher certification.”

More about social science degree—online

Danielle Vincent

Photo: Danielle Vincent.
Danielle Vincent.

Human Development Outstanding Senior

“When I made the decision to go back to school, it was with the intent to become an educator. Academically, the Human Development program at WSU has given me a better understanding of children, which will help me greatly as I work toward earning a Post-Bac in Elementary Education. With my current degree and future education, I hope to work with at-risk youth in some capacity and will likely add a mental health component to my degree at some point. 

Looking back, making the decision to go back to school was the best thing that I could have done for myself and for my family. The instructors in my program were so helpful and an incredible resource to my education. I learned so much academically, and it helped me to grow personally as well.

I consider the last two years to be the most uncomfortable growth years for me, not only because I worked hard for my degree, but also because it challenged my long-held viewpoints, opinions, and worldview. Learning is uncomfortable because it challenges what we think we know, but discomfort equates to growth. During my time at WSU, I grew, and I am so grateful.”

More about human development degree—online

Daniel Menne

Photo: Daniel Menne, right, and his father.
Daniel Menne, right, and his father.

History Outstanding Senior

“I decided to get a history degree for two reasons. First, I knew that getting a degree is very important for career advancement and getting ahead in life. You learn things like critical thinking and research skills that you can use in virtually any career field, and it helps you stand out and show employers you have what it takes to succeed. I also just love history. I greatly enjoy soaking up knowledge about the past. With WSU’s online history degree, I was able to check both boxes. I got to explore a subject I was passionate about while securing my future.

I chose WSU Global Campus mainly because of its great reputation and the flexibility that online learning offers. I work as a fire and EMS dispatcher and I also spent time in the Marine Corps both active and in the reserves, so being able to work around a busy schedule is important to me. I’ve done online learning with other schools before, but WSU is above and beyond what I’ve experienced before. The classes are so functional and easy to learn in, and the professors are great.

It’s been challenging at times balancing school, work, and life, so I’m very happy to graduate and be able to focus solely on work for a while. I’m also thinking about shifting gears in my career soon and becoming a firefighter. Having my degree will help me stand out in the competitive job market. Overall, I had a great experience at WSU and I encourage everyone looking for flexible higher education to look into Global Campus.”

More about history degree—online

Kendra Ooms

Photo: Kendra Ooms and a child.
Kendra Ooms.

Criminal Justice Outstanding Senior

“I decided to attend WSU because of the great reputation this school has. I was looking around the country at other online programs, but ultimately settled on something close to home. WSU offered a good ‘customizable’ online program for my undergraduate degree based on classes I was able to transfer over, and that is what really sold me. 

Earning my degree hasn’t been without its challenges. As a busy mom, it took a lot of hard work. However, while going to school, I was still able to volunteer for the Sheriff Community Oriented Policing Effort or S.C.O.P.E. This was important to me, because I’ve learned that criminal justice is not just about the police or putting criminals in jail. It is also how the community responds to injustices they feel and what we can do to make society work better.

Ultimately, I’d like to use my criminal justice degree to become a probation officer. I’ve participated in an internship over the past year, and I was able to see what the day-to-day was like in this career. As I work toward getting a job in this field, I am looking at starting within our local judicial system, getting my footing, and working my way up. I am only 30, so I still have a long way to go. But earning my degree is the first step, and I’m excited to see where my career leads me!”

More about criminal justice degree—online

Laura Dobbs

Photo: Laura Dobbs.
Laura Dobbs.

Marketing Outstanding Senior

“Getting my degree has been a long and challenging road, but I am so happy to be reaching the end of my college journey. I got married and started college at 18, planning to be a nurse. But a little bit later my plans changed when we had our first child. A lot happened after that—three more kids, eight moves, and 30 plus years of life. I had various jobs, raised our kids, and even ran my own business for a time. But getting my degree was always a goal for me.

I finally became a Coug when we moved to Vancouver to be closer to my kids. I started on the Vancouver Campus and loved it there! I got involved as much as I could and even became the VP of the Finance Management Association student club. However, life threw us a curveball again when my husband was laid off from his job. We had to sell our house in Vancouver. I wouldn’t let it stop me from reaching my academic goals though, and my amazing WSU advisor helped me transfer to Global Campus. I’m so glad I could stay with WSU wherever we lived. I’m a Coug all the way!

 At the end of the day, I’ve finished my degree after years of hard work, and I’m excited for the future. I plan to use my degree to get a well-paying job and eventually move into a house where we can retire close to our kids. I know God has a plan for me, and I plan on taking it one day at a time and making every day count. Go Cougs!”

More about marketing major—online

Mary Hilker

Photo: Mary Hilker.
Mary Hilker.

Management Outstanding Senior

“I originally chose to get a degree in business management because I felt that it was a versatile option that could be useful in a variety of career settings. I have never been quite sure of what I wanted to do, and I knew that I wanted to get a degree in something that I could use in all industries, whether I worked for a large corporation, a government organization or nonprofit, or had my own small business.

My academic career has given me an opportunity to learn a lot more about myself and what my passions are. I know that I will not be truly satisfied with my work unless I feel that what I am doing is making a difference for someone else. I am particularly passionate about mental health, creating opportunities for people to succeed, and helping people get through difficulties. A goal of mine is to be able to fulfill at least one of these passions in a career setting. I know that this degree will help me to accomplish this goal.

My business classes, non-business electives, honor societies, volunteer work, work, and school and work social interactions have given me invaluable experience that has helped me develop personally. After graduation, I hope to do new types of volunteering, gain experience doing new and different types of work, and perhaps even continue learning through some type of continuing education.”

More about management major—online

Natalie Leinbach

Photo: Natalie Leinbach.
Natalie Leinbach.

Hospitality Business Management Outstanding Senior

“During my time at WSU I had the incredible opportunity to do a hospitality study abroad program in Lyon, France, and Florence, Italy, where I made incredible memories and gained extremely valuable skills in my field. During the summer of 2017 I also had the opportunity to intern at a hospitality company and help to open a home for adult cancer patients and transplant recipients in San Francisco. My internship allowed me to see the process of a hospitality home being opened from start finish all the way from construction to opening day. Now I use what I have learned from my degree every day.

Thanks to the education that I have received from Washington State University in the HBM program, I have been able to help create a training program for my company. Throughout my time at WSU I have learned many new leadership skills and have been able to take on the role of a lead at the catering company that I work for, which allows me to help mentor and teach other servers and produce and manage events and galas up to 2,000 people.

This degree in hospitality business management correlates directly to my goal to become an operations manager for a midsized catering company. I’m lucky to work for such an incredible catering company that has allowed me to use what I have been taught throughout my time at WSU which has propelled my career. I’m proud to say that I am the youngest event lead that has ever worked at the company. This degree has also allowed me to reach some of my personal goals of traveling the world with my hospitality study abroad trip. I would not trade my education at Washington State University for anything.”

More about HBM degree—online

Robert Riutta

Photo: Robert Riutta, right, his wife Maddy, left, and their son Ladd.
Robert Riutta, right, his wife Maddy, left, and their son Ladd.

Economic Sciences Outstanding Senior

“My career goal is to go into commercial banking, so I started by looking for a degree program from a good university that could help me get there. My wife was in nursing school at the time, so I had to be able to work full time while earning my degree. Then our first child was born right before I started classes, so we also had a newborn to take care of.  It was challenging at times, but working online gave me the flexibility I needed to work around my busy life. It was the perfect choice for our family.

My wife Maddy did so much to help throughout, I owe so much to her. I’m very proud that we got through everything together, and I’m so happy to have my degree. I’m already looking to start the next phase of my career, and I’m excited for what the future will bring.

I’m completely happy with my time at WSU. Everything was great and the professors were all fantastic. The culture’s great. For anyone who is working, has a family and a busy life, being able to earn your degree online with Global Campus is as good as it gets.”

More about Economic Sciences degree—online

Want to read more outstanding senior stories? Check out our 2019 outstanding seniors page!