Spotlight Newsletter

Issue 4

Stories in this Edition

Ambition and Small Town Roots by Andrew Nguyen
The Accomplished Justin Nygaard, Sharing his Past and Looking Forward


Reaching Out for a Cause by Marlene Manzo
Promoting Camp Promise on the "Ellen" Show


Rolling with the Punches by Nate Stout
Perseverance and Risk in the Pursuit for Higher Education


Ambition and Small Town Roots

The Accomplished Justin Nygaard, Sharing his Past and Looking Forward

By Andrew Nguyen

Justin Nygaard

Justin Nygaard brings a certain presence when entering a room. It isn’t a matter of intimidation or a need for attention. He just isn’t afraid to show his genuine character.

Nygaard is an ambitious undergraduate with roots in a small agricultural town. He remembers being competitive growing up, saying, “It’s a good thing I’m wearing this today.” He shows a large belt buckle won at a state fair. It shines but it’s slightly worn like antique silverware. Growing up on a dairy farm, Nygaard raised and showed award-winning pigs and cows at local and national competitions. In middle school he helped neighbors train and care for their pigs and was president of his local 4-H group.

Nygaard was class president in high school, so it was only natural that as a UW Bothell freshman, he told student government executives he wanted to be in their position and asked them how to get there.

Taking inspiration from his Introduction to Law class, Nygaard dedicated time to help establish a youth court, a partnership program between the campus and the City of Bothell. This is only one item on his crowded plate. He started learning Mandarin because he heard it was extremely challenging. He is a Zumba instructor, full time student, and coordinator at the Northwest Chocolate Festival, to name a few. But Nygaard still makes time to work at his family owned butcher shop. He was 17 when he began working there. His mother began at 17 years old, and so too did his grandfather. When asked if his children will begin at the same age, he says with a laugh, “Probably.”

Nygaard makes a long commute from “the middle of nowhere” to school and work. It’s brutal if he has UW Seattle courses. “It takes an hour one way, I only go to the farm to sleep,” he says smiling.

Now a junior, Nygaard is interning in Olympia for Senator Barbara Bailey of his home district. He plans to go to law school after graduating from UW Bothell.

With a firm handshake I let him return to his Mandarin flash cards.

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Reaching Out for a Cause

Promoting Camp Promise on the "Ellen" Show

By Marlene Manzo

Yomara Bedolla is a fighter. Behind her sweet and gentle appearance, Bedolla is passionate about helping others. She is a junior at UW Bothell and is diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 2. SMA Type 2 is a genetic condition that forms in the early stages of development. It affects the ability to walk, and weakens body muscles. Despite her disability, Bedolla has not stopped pursuing her educational goals, nor has it stopped her from living life with a positive outlook.

Camp Promise

This summer, Bedolla stepped outside of her comfort zone and attended Camp Promise in Vaughn, Wash. This summer camp is for people of all ages diagnosed with neuromuscular diseases. Bedolla attended Camp Promise-West where she engaged in activities such as dancing, kayaking and art. She wants to give back to Camp Promise for giving her the experience of a lifetime. To promote the camp and their ongoing fundraiser Bedolla aims to be on the Ellen show. Yes, the Ellen show.

Bedolla has been watching the Ellen show for several years and says Ellen DeGeneres uses laughter as a form of empowerment, which is what Bedolla experienced at Camp Promise. “Camp promise was about friendships, bonding, happy and fun times, smiling, laughing, secrets, giggling; basically the best!”

Her camp experience made Bedolla feel appreciated. Ellen has a reputation for supporting worthy causes and Bedolla believes that Camp Promise would greatly benefit from Ellen’s support. She says, “Camp Promise is all about laughing, dancing, friendships, pranks, and fun. All qualities of the Ellen show!”

Click on the video to meet Yomara and learn about Camp Promise.


To help Yomara get on the Ellen Show, click here for further instructions.
To visit and “like” her Facebook page, click here.

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Rolling with the Punches

Perseverance and Risk in the Pursuit for Higher Education

By Nate Stout

Megan Wiebelhaus has a warm disposition and is quick to smile. Paired with her sharp wit and academic enthusiasm, it is clear Wiebelhaus is going places.

Megan Wiebelhaus

Currently studying in the community psychology program, Wiebelhaus is taking advantage of the undergraduate research opportunities at UW Bothell to synthesize her experiences across sociological, psychological and religious disciplines. She loosely refers to this interdisciplinary study as “Abnormal Sociology,” which pairs psychological models with broader cultural structures.

“I want to investigate the social structures that set the scene for individual maladaptive behaviors that psychology frequently encounters,” she explains. “A project like this is challenging because it could easily tip into cultural imperialism; suggesting that certain social structures or groupings are right or wrong. I wouldn’t be comfortable with the risks that come with this line of inquiry by myself, but I am confident the faculty will provide guidance in order to produce something relevant without oversimplifying the issues or erasing people.”

While thriving academically at UW Bothell, it was not where Wiebelhaus expected to earn her degree. Starting her undergraduate career in the Intercultural Religious Studies program at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, she started to experience the symptoms of what turned out to be an autoimmune disorder. Rather than let the diagnosis discourage her, Wiebelhaus responded to it with her characteristic wit and easy laugh.

“I started calling my condition “Hal” because it was easier for friends to ask “How is Hal doing?” than “How is that autoimmune disorder thing going?”

As the persistent fatigue caused by her condition began to affect her studies at TWU, Wiebelhaus decided to return home and strategize a new approach to completing her education. She found the interdisciplinary ethic of UW Bothell appealing and the possibility of a block schedule practical.

“While it was a somewhat pragmatic decision to come here, I feel it’s been a fortuitous. I couldn’t be happier with the course offerings, and the faculty and student body have been fantastic.”

Looking ahead, Wiebelhaus intends to move on to graduate school but has found choosing a specific field pleasantly difficult. “It’s the blessing and the curse of interdisciplinary education,” she smiles. “You can go into just about anything; the hard part is deciding which direction to point yourself.”

To learn more about undergraduate research opportunities, go to

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