Ariadnne Alatriste Pena is WWU's honorary 100,000th degree recipient
Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard
with Western graduate Ariadnne Alatriste Pena,
the honorary recipient of Western's 100,000th degree,
and Dennis Madsen, chair of Western's Board of Trustees
Cultural Anthropology major Ariadnne Alatriste Peña was recognized at Commencement Dec. 11 as Western Washington University’s honorary 100,000th degree recipient.
Western officials knew the 100,000th degree would be awarded at Fall Commencement, and selected a student at random to represent the recipient of the landmark degree. Alatriste, of Laguna Hills, Calif., had entered the drawing to be considered, but did not know she had been selected until it was her turn to walk across the stage at the Commencement ceremony. She received a gift basket filled with Western Washington University memorabilia, including a blanket, clock, coffee cup, keychain and “Western at 100” book.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Alatriste said about being selected to represent the 100,000th degree recipient. Just days before graduating, Alatriste had experienced jitters about her finals and term papers and worried she wouldn’t graduate on time. “Next thing I knew, I was winning the 100,000th degree. Everyone got up and applauded. Western works in incredible ways.”
In addition to the celebration at Fall Commencement, Western is honoring the entire 2010-11 graduating class with a commemorative brick paver installed in the sidewalk in front of Old Main. Western began awarding degrees in 1933 and this recognition does not include certificates and other diplomas awarded prior to 1933.
During her time at Western, Alatriste was involved with the Ethnic Student Center and was an officer in Western’s MEChA club. She helped found Western’s Student Coalition for Immigration Rights to rally support for the DREAM Act. She studied at Hawaii Pacific University for a quarter on a student exchange, completing an internship in Hawaii with the grassroots prison reform group Community Alliance for Prisoners. And she showcased her academic talents during Western’s Scholars Week, when she presented “Epicenters of MDR-Tuberculosis: Russian Prisons,” a study of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in Russian prisons.
Alatriste, who first heard about Western from a family friend, says her experience at the university helped her bring an academic focus to her interest in human rights. “I like helping the oppressed and helping those who don’t have a voice,” she said. “I got to Western and the next thing I knew, I was studying with Associate Professor Kathleen Young about war and human rights, sex and gender issues, and I was thinking, ‘This is it.’ My major is Cultural Anthropology. It’s all about reaching out and mingling with people.”
Alatriste plans to attend graduate school at University of California, Santa Cruz or at University of Colorado, Boulder, to study colonization, war, human rights and sovereignty. But first, she plans to move to Mexico and work with youth in a drug rehabilitation center.
Western is also celebrating the milestone with a redesigned diploma. The new diploma certificate incorporates Western’s blue and marks the first redesign of the document in more than a decade. Fall 2010 graduates were the first to receive the new diploma. Alumni may also order a replacement diploma in the new design for $40 by contacting the Registrar’s Office at (360) 650-3701 or emailing Jana.Schueler@wwu.edu.