The journey to graduation is often characterized by challenges as students balance work and social life while fulfilling the demanding academic requirements to earn a degree.
Meeting the challenge are nearly 3,400 Wayne State University graduates, who will celebrate their successful completion of studies during the fall commencement ceremonies December 17 at the fall commencement ceremonies at the WSU Fieldhouse.
The Class of 2022 includes graduates from all walks of life, who have demonstrated grit and undaunting drive to make it to the finish line. Their stories resonate with the phrase Warrior Strong, which has become synonymous with Wayne State’s students. All graduates are encouraged to share their graduation journey using #MyWSUStory.
Here are the stories of some of the December 2022 graduates:
Wayne State School of Information Sciences (SIS) student Selena Aguilera will graduate with a master of library and information science. She secured a full-time job as the youth and teen librarian for the Taylor Community Library prior to graduation and will leave a legacy for future SIS students due to her work as president of Future Librarians for Inclusivity and Diversity.
When someone finds a career path that so perfectly meets their passions and interests, it might seem like it was meant to be. For Aguilera, that path wasn’t always so obvious. Aguilera said a moment of inspiration came when she reflected on the people in her life who she really admired, and a theme began to emerge — librarians.
Haley Boccomino, who uses they/them pronouns, is a first-generation graduate school student who will being a neurologic physical therapy residency at the DMC’s Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan after earning a doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Before becoming a Warrior, they received their associate degree from Macomb Community College, where they also ran track and cross country. Boccomino then transferred to WSU after being offered an athletic scholarship, and competed on Wayne State's track team. Having graduated with their bachelor’s in kinesiology, Boccomino elected to stay at Wayne State in pursuit of their DPT. In a cohort of 40, Boccomino grew close with their classmates, whom they first came out to. Everything they have experienced since that brave moment has been nothing short of understanding, encouraging and inclusive. And it largely shaped their experience - at Wayne State and beyond.
Beth Charnock considers herself to be a “seasoned” student. At 55, Charnock is graduating with bachelor’s in communication studies, and is the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts’ commencement speaker.
Charnock’s first-ever college experience came immediately after high school — from 1985 until 1987 — when she attended Michigan State University to study communications. After two years of struggles, Charnock left. She continued to take classes at UM-Dearborn and Henry Ford College. But by then, she said, the light had gone out. Charnock found a job with Northwest Airlines and life continued. She married and had two children. Despite those successes, she said, it always bothered her that she had been unsuccessful in higher education.
Fast-forward to 2017, when she was hired in July 2017 at the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. It wasn’t long afterward that a coworker asked if Charnock was going to take classes and earn her degree through Wayne State’s Employee Tuition Assistance Benefit program.
Basic combat training is not easy. Negotiating obstacle courses and rappelling from 40-foot towers may be the toughest things a soldier will accomplish in their lifetime. For Casey Guevara, basic training – aka boot camp – was hellish. It was nine weeks of physical, mental and emotional stressors led by intimidating drill sergeants famous for yelling, “Drop and give me 20!”
“Basic training is hard,” she said. “It is the most demanding and taxing thing I have ever done in my life.” Guevara thought she had met her match in the U.S. Army. But that was before she enrolled in the Wayne State School of Nursing’s BSN for Veterans (VBSN) program. She says the accelerated program is far more grueling than boot camp at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. VBSN students are admitted once a year into an 18-month cohort and do their clinical rotations at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit. Six VBSN students — including Guevara — will graduate this semester. Guevara was selected by school officials to give the convocation speech at the College of Nursing Celebration of Graduates.
Syed Hussain came to Wayne State University with a dream of getting a degree in accounting — a dream some of his extended family thought was a bad idea.
“I’m from Pakistan and was raised there until I was 16,” Hussain said. “Accounting was never looked at as one of the most successful jobs by some of the people in my family. They consider the successful jobs to be like an engineer, lawyer or doctor, and accounting is considered like a mediocre job. A lot of people tried to convince me to change my major. I was a little heartbroken by that, but some people were pressuring me. But my parents and sisters were very supportive.”
Thanks to that support from his immediate family, some help from his learning community in the Mike Ilitch School of Business and a lot of hard work, Hussain will graduate with a double major in accounting and information systems management (ISM) from the MIke Ilitch School of Business.
Elijah McCoy has big dreams-and the confidence to turn them into reality. McCoy, who will earn a bachelors degree with a double major in sociology and global studies from Wayne State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, plans to apply to law school and focus on international human rights and labor.
While her studies helped identify that passion, she also learned a lot about herself along the way. After struggling as a first-year student, McCoy will graduate with a 3.56 GPA — and a clear vision for her future.
A lot has changed since Jennifer Oles first stepped foot on Wayne State’s campus in 2002. One of the biggest changes for Oles, is anything less than an A on her assignments is no longer acceptable.
That’s because Oles is now a mother to four children, who monitor her grades and won’t accept anything less.
“It’s actually scary because in the past I could get a B and my parents didn’t really care, they let me do my own thing,” Oles said. “But now my children are checking my grades on a daily basis. So when they see an A-minus, it’s like, ‘Mom, you need 100%’ They are checking on me, like I check on them. It’s a challenge as a mom to set a good example.”
Earning a degree is something Oles wasn’t sure she would ever accomplish after her first stint at Wayne State was cut short. She was forced to move out of her parent’s house because she changed religions and had to work full-time to provide for herself. Oles was raised Catholic, but converted to Islam and began wearing a hijab. She's now earning a degree in communications from the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts.
Masrur Tajwar is graduating with a bachelor of science in computer science from the College of Engineering. An Irvin R. Kales Scholarship recipient, Tajwar has maintained a 3.74 GPA and made the dean’s list multiple times.
Wayne State has provided Tajwar with opportunities to connect with campus, representing WSU across Michigan and volunteering with many internal and external events — all while staying Warrior Strong.
Following graduation, Tajwar plans to continue his work at DTE as a full-time software developer while pursuing a master’s in business administration.
There have been two constants in Jessie Tomazic’s life: a connection to Germany and a love of soccer. Tomazic, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in German with minors in biological sciences and public health from the Wayne State University Irvin D. Reid Honors College, incorporated both into his college experience.
Tomazic participated in the Junior Year in Munich Program, the longest-running study abroad offering within the Office of International Programs. He is also a co-captain of WSU’s Men's Club Soccer program. While abroad, Tomazic focused on a thesis project exploring pathways for youth sport participation considering the global influence of competitive athletics.
Tony Truitt wasn’t always certain what path he wanted to take, but he knew he wanted a career that would help open doors. After one accounting class, he was hooked on the field. Truitt, who will earn a bachelor’s in accounting from the Mike Ilitch School of Business with a 3.5 GPA, has lined up a job at General Motors, where he hopes to help others open doors of their own.
With his new role, Truitt is about to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, who worked for GM, serving in the plant for 30 years after returning from WW2. His career is, in some regards, a full-circle moment as he enters the corporate arm of the company.
When Ericka Watson was a senior at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School, she wrote her goals in her memory book. They included having a family, doctorate and rewarding career. Four years later, Watson married, began studying vocal music education at Wayne State and started checking boxes off her list.
At the advice of an aunt, Watson changed her major to elementary education. In 2006, she became the first college graduate in her immediate family. Watson began teaching in the Highland Park Schools. Her first week, she noticed three students did not have individualized education programs, and there was no resource teacher. She returned to Wayne State to begin graduate studies in special education and served as a resource teacher for five years before becoming principal at Wolverine Academy in Detroit. After experiencing major disruptions to her plans and personal challenges, Watson will graduate from the doctoral program in educational leadership and policy studies from the Wayne State University College of Education.
For Wayne State University School of Information Sciences (SIS) students, practicum internships provide valuable hands-on experience and for some, including Stephanie Weis, they can also lead to full-time employment. Weis, who will graduate with a master of library and information science and a graduate certificate in information management, was recently hired as a business intelligence analyst for Henry Ford Health System.
“I am so excited to put the skills I’ve developed at SIS to use and thankful for the experiences I’ve had with SIS Tech,” Weis said. “The projects I worked on definitely strengthened my resume.”
The ultimate goal for Julius Wilkerson has always been to play in the NFL. But the Wayne State senior knew he had to respect the process before he could even think about his dream. Wilkerson can now look back and proudly declare that he mastered the process while keeping his childhood dream alive. The suburban Milwaukee native will graduate from the Wayne State College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor of arts in psychology and minors in sports psychology, sports management and coaching. The hard-earned accolades – on and off the field – have been bountiful for Wilkerson, who finished his classroom course load with a 3.85 grade point average.
Seeing him now, you would have no idea that Ala Sarsour was once told he didn’t have what it takes to earn a college degree. As a soon-to-be graduate of not one but two Wayne State University programs, Sarsour has defied the odds and proven to himself — and everyone else — that he’s more than capable. It wasn’t an easy road, but Sarsour will soon graduate from Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Master of Occupational Therapy Program.
Sarsour, one of six kids, is the first in his Palestinian-Muslim family to pursue a professional graduate degree. Growing up, he wasn’t the best student, which is why he was advised to not apply for college — but he didn’t let that deter him.
AeYanna Latise Yett
AeYanna Latise Yett is graduating with a community-focused, dual-title master of social work and infant mental health from the School of Social Work. As a Black woman scholar-activist, Yett centers liberation work to uplift the voices, lived experiences and healing practices employed by Black women that promote resilience when overcoming trauma. In her time at the School of Social Work, Yett learned the importance of applying her learning from the classroom into the community. Grounded in empowering change for social justice, she served as president of the Association of Black Social Workers and as a Student Senate representative of the School of Social Work on campus.