Special recognition for graduating veterans

UW Bothell 2018 graduating veterans / Marc Studer photos

About 40 veterans or their dependents are graduating from the University of Washington Bothell, marking a big transition in their lives. They received special recognition at a veterans challenge coin and stole ceremony May 21 in the North Creek Events Center.

Chancellor Wolf Yeigh, a Navy veteran, handed out his custom UW Bothell coin. A challenge coin is a traditional military symbol of unit spirit and pride. Bob Lewis, a veterans student assistant, placed a stole around each graduate’s neck. The stole is a ceremonial scarf bearing the name of the veteran’s military branch. Veterans will drape them over their robe at the June 10 commencement ceremony at Safeco Field.

Veterans make up about 5 percent of the UW Bothell student body, which is not as large as at some other institutions, Yeigh noted. “But I feel our student veterans here are more engaged,” he told the audience. “It’s a real community. There’s a special connection among our student veterans. I’m really excited you are graduating. I am really proud of what you have accomplished.”

Yeigh thanked veterans’ family members who were at the ceremony.

“I know from personal experience our journeys could not be complete without our family members,” he said.

There were approximately 200 veterans on campus this school year, plus about 70 others who are spouses or children of veterans, who were eligible for benefits. UW Bothell Student Affairs coordinates Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and campus programs under the direction of Veterans Services Manager Rosa Liu, who distributed certificates and hugs at the coin and stole event.

Several veterans at the event have distinguished themselves as students. They include Clinton Foriska, this year’s Chancellor’s Medal recipient. He’s an Army veteran who received a Biology degree at UW Bothell on his way to medical school.

May Azcarraga, an Air Force veteran, was a student veterans assistant and served as treasurer and vice president of the UW Bothell Student Veterans Association. Graduating with a degree in Management Information Systems from the School of Business, Azcarraga has a full-time job lined up with T-Mobile where she has been a cybersecurity intern.

Azcarraga found her community among other veterans at UW Bothell. “It was good helping out other people, networking, just seeing and hearing other people’s stories,” she said.

Haliehana Stepetin is a Navy veteran graduating with a Master of Arts in Cultural Studies. A Native from the Aleutian Islands, Stepetin won a competitive grant at the UW Bothell Equity & Inclusion Conference to promote a performance group of indigenous artists that she assembled.

Recognition of her military service felt good, she said, “especially as a Native woman veteran. It’s a complex situation, right? But it feels good.”

In the fall, veterans who are students can look forward to the opening of a new resource center. The space in UW1 will be the place to congregate and to connect veterans to services.

Lewis, the veterans student assistant who handed out the stoles, said it’s a tight-knit community.

“Any veteran you meet, whether it’s on the street or in school, they’re all motivated,” said Lewis, a former Marine working to be a business graduate in a couple of years. “They all want to do their best. “

Clinton Foriska and Chancellor Yeigh
Chancellor Yeigh congratulates Clinton Foriska as Bob Lewis looks on.

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