Soon-to-be grads reflect on their time at Western
Graduating with: Bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and Psychology.
Plans: Join Teach for America or teach English in Spain, then graduate school to earn a doctorate in clinical psychology.
She found her niche by bringing people together
Her years working as a camp counselor taught Nikki Desgrosellier that she loves to work with people, but her classes in Psychology taught her she loves learning how people work.
A double-major nearing the end of her fifth year, Desgrosellier is helping a graduate student conduct laboratory experiments for his research on jury trials.
But she hopes eventually to put her psychology degree to work helping mentally ill people get treatment and improve their lives. Working as a psychologist in the criminal justice field also interests her, she says. She plans to work for a couple of years to help make a decision before she goes to graduate school.
“Working in the mental health profession is a great way to get involved and to help out,” she says.
Degrosellier already knows what it’s like to get involved and help out. As a member of a Lifestyle Advisers group devoted to ally building, she drew upon her knowledge of social justice issues and her public speaking skills to put on a forum exploring diversity in religion, drawing more than 80 students with a variety of beliefs.
She was proud of the discussion that ensued.
“I loved having an open forum where people could share their views and realize they weren’t as different as they originally thought,” she says.
Hometown: Surrey, B.C.
Graduating with: A Master of Professional Accounting. Also a 2008 bachelor's degree in Accounting.
Plans: Earn a CPA and obtain a job with an accounting firm in the Seattle area.
Angela Wahlroth has already tasted an accountant’s life: She just completed a tax-season internship with a respected Bellevue accounting firm.
It was a grueling schedule. More than 55 hours a week of work, plus an online class for her master’s program at Western, all while planning the regional meeting of student chapters of Beta Alpha Psi, the professional organization of accountants.
It was a challenging, humbling experience, Wahlroth says, but it gave her a chance to draw upon her five years of study at Western.
“The faculty in the Accounting Department want you to succeed,” she says. “They all are willing to do anything to help you. They believe in you and your power to make good decisions.”
But it was her outside-of-class work that helped her launch her career. Independent at heart, she had resisted joining Beta Alpha Psi until her senior year. But then she found the organization to be a valuable resource for networking and research on the accounting industry.
Now vice president of the club, she’s organized events from bocce ball tournaments to banquets, all while getting to know professional accountants from throughout the region.
She knows all those contacts will help in her job search during a difficult economy.
“People know me and what I’ve done,” she says.
Graduating with: Bachelor's degree in Finance
Plans: Attend graduate school to study student affairs.
It all came together for Ben Wurtz when he learned he could combine his academic interest in finance and his love of residence hall living.
Wurtz, who graduates this spring with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a minor in Economics, loved living in University Housing, with all its late-night conversations and packed weekend schedules.
“Living in a high-density living space like that, with constant interaction with people who value education, was just incredible for me,” he says.
Wurtz’s time at Western helped change his outlook, he says.
“I’m much more open-minded,” he says. “We have that experiential learning aspect here at Western that’s incredible, that makes students go out there on a limb.”
Wurtz found himself out on his own limb during his first assignment as a resident adviser. A mid-year replacement for another RA, Wurtz had to learn how to be the guy in charge all while being the new guy on the floor – and in the middle of mid-terms.
“It was probably one of the most stressful times of my life,” he remembers.
But Wurtz survived that beginning and worked as an RA for two years and is now finishing his term as Associated Students Vice President for Student Life. The experience has taught him he wants to take his training in finance to a career in student affairs.
So in addition to faculty members, Wurtz has sought the advice of WWU staff members who have financial expertise and work with students.
“I hope to work in higher education the rest of my life,” Wurtz says.
Graduating with: A bachelor's degree in Sociology.
Plans: Become certified to teach English overseas, travel in South America, then attend graduate school at the University of Oslo to study social work, education or public administration, and get to know her Norwegian relatives and heritage.
Estes became a Lifestyle Adviser her sophomore year and has flourished in the peer group that promotes healthy living.
She’s honed her confidence and leadership skills by facilitating groups such as Women’s Empowerment in Violence Education, speaking at a crowded Take Back the Night rally and serving as a teaching assistant in the health education class for other Lifestyle Advisers.
Her proudest moment came when she organized a well-attended lecture about HPV, a very common sexually transmitted disease linked to cervical cancer.
Estes says when she was faced with HPV and was trying to decide about her own health, information was confusing, contradictory and scary. She wanted to make the experience easier for her peers, so she organized an information lecture by a nurse practitioner from the Student Health Center.
Estes also found her academic home in the Sociology Department. She loves the academic challenge of the class work and the experience of getting to know her peers and professors.
“I know all my professors,” she says. “I go to them all the time and they give me advice.”