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    Goal Achieved, Fall Grads’ Path to Commencement

    Meet seven of the University of Northern Colorado's fall 2023 graduates who shared their story with us about their time at UNC, both challenging and exciting, what their plans are after commencement and advice they would give to future Bears.

    Meet seven of the University of Northern Colorado's fall 2023 graduates who shared their story with us about their time at UNC, both challenging and exciting, what their plans are after commencement and advice they would give to current and future Bears. 

    Headshot of Payton Pohlman

    Payton Pohlman
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    Master of Public Health

    Headshot of Angel Castillo

    Angel Castillo
    Kremmling, Colorado
    Graphic Design

    a student smiling with a graduation cap on and his hand holding up a thumbs up

    Zinsou Mathieu Houegbenou
    Greeley, Colorado
    General Business

    Headshot of Karyssa Cowen

    Karyssa Cowan
    Colorado Springs, Colorado
    Elementary Education

    Headshot of Jonathan Shaw

    Jonathan Shaw
    Glenwood Springs, Colorado
    Ph.D., Higher Education Student Affairs Leadership

    Headshot of Kristina Angelo

    Kristina Angelo
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Elementary Education and Art Education

    Headshot of Jered WABA

    Jered WABA
    Commerce City, Colorado
    Business Administration and Management

    Payton Pohlman

    Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Area of study: Master of Public Health in Global and Community Health Education 

    Reflection on your time at UNC: I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience at UNC. I chose to attend UNC because of its close-knit community, cultural and ethnic diversity and small class sizes. I was blessed to receive a graduate assistantship in my program which enabled me to go to school while significantly decreasing external financial stressors. 

    Headshot of Payton Pohlmer

    Overcoming challenges and achieving success: As a first-generation student, I never thought that pursuing a graduate degree was something that I could ever be capable of. Through my graduate assistantship and classes, I discovered that one of my greatest fears (public speaking) is also one of my greatest strengths. 

    What’s next: After graduation, I am excited to start a family. My husband and I are due with our first baby in April. 

    Advice for future or current Bears: Dig in, get connected and enjoy the ride! It's shorter than you think. 

    Angel Castillo

    Hometown: Kremmling, Colorado

    Area of study: Graphic Design 

    Reflection on your time at UNC: Attending UNC has been a lifelong goal of mine. Ever since I was a child, I looked up to this university as my dream school, because it has always been a place where individuals gather, connect and thrive, fostering growth and personal development.

    Headshot of Angel Castillo

    Now, here I am, living that dream! UNC has provided me with countless experiences and opportunities that have shaped me into the designer and person I am today.

    Overcoming challenges and achieving success: From engaging classes, thrilling exhibitions, to eye-opening internships, UNC has broadened my horizons and allowed me to discover my true passions. The campus community has become my second family, and the support and encouragement I've received here has been invaluable. 

    What’s next: I plan to work as a designer and artist for the next couple years, then open my own business.  

    Advice for future or current Bears: Live in the present and enjoy the time you have! 

    Zinsou Mathieu Houegbenou

    Hometown: Greeley, Colorado

    Area of study: General Business 

    Reflection on your time at UNC: I chose the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) for its esteemed Monfort College of Business that I love so much. Plus, I have always wanted to study at UNC since I moved to Greeley. Being part of the AIMS2UNC program at Aims Community College played a crucial role in facilitating my transition to UNC.

    student smiling with a graduation cap on holding a thumbs up

    This exceptional program, designed to ease students' integration, significantly contributed to my successful assimilation into the UNC community. Also, being part of a scholarship group and my active engagement with the advising staff greatly helped me in achieving my academic goals which were to get a unique education that belonged solely to me. Considering the enriching environment and resources available on campus, I am definitely going to consider UNC for my MBA in the future. Go Bears! 

    Overcoming challenges and achieving success: Transitioning from a smaller school to the larger academic environment presented difficulties for me during my first semester. I struggled to connect with people. It was hard for me to finally accept that I belong to this community. I failed several assignments due to being introverted. I always wanted to stay in my comfort zone, try to figure things out myself not knowing that using students' hours and building connections with other people will help me. I broke this barrier by the time I started to build trust in myself and started to talk to more people. 

    What’s next: My post-graduation plans involve using the skills and experiences acquired at UNC to contribute effectively within various business hierarchies. My internship in the finance and accounting department during my professional experience completion has equipped me with valuable insights, and I aspire to apply this knowledge to positively impact any company in the financial sector. However, I am not limiting myself. I am open to exploring opportunities beyond the finance department. We will see how life treats me.

    Advice for future or current Bears: Being an introverted person is a natural aspect of a personality and the goal is not to change who you are. However, in some areas, it will put you behind especially when you are trying to be successful. So, break through your status quo, get out of your comfort zone. Connect with as many people as you can as they may help you even after school. Lastly, create your LinkedIn account and stay active on it. Companies are using this site to look for candidates. 

    Karyssa Cowan

    Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado 

    Area of study: Elementary Education 

    Reflection on your time at UNC: Initially, I chose UNC because it was known for its education program, which I was certain I would go into, and it is what I am graduating in. Looking back, I definitely chose UNC because it was close enough but not too close to home and I knew it was a place I wanted to spend college as soon as I stepped on to the campus.

    Headshot of Karyssa Cowen

    A variety of people, places and memories along the way have made me successful here. My faith has carried me through college, which means I wouldn’t be here without God. Additionally, my family has always been supportive, and I also wouldn’t be here without them. My parents have been my biggest cheerleaders since they’ve adopted me into their lives. As far as college people, a variety of mentors, friends and professors have made this experience as successful as they possibly could have. Dr. Jody Lawrence as well as other professors in my program made this experience so sweet. Outside of my program, Dr. Eryka Charley and Johana Flores have been such a huge support system all the way through my student teaching. My friends made college such a sweet experience, both new and old friends, who commiserated with me through the tough moments, encouraged me in the hard moments and celebrated with me in the mountaintop moments. Most of all, the memories along the way are what made it all worth it. I remember countless late-night excursions and laughing with peers in classes. It’s been a joy to look back to see how far the Lord has brought me and truly I can’t wait to see where he’s going to take me. Finally, I must give a shout out to my student teaching host teacher and host school in Colorado Springs. While Greeley gave me the education, the smells and many memorable moments, Trailblazer Elementary School, alongside my mentor teacher Kaylee, has given me the blessing of a lifetime that will launch me into my future and my career. 

    Overcoming challenges and achieving success: Challenges I overcame in college were things like wanting to quit every fall right before Thanksgiving break. I overcame the struggles with students and the professors – I had to learn how to effectively carry out their demands of me. In the same vein, I achieved so much with the assistance of so many, including my professors and advisers. Successfully, I had the privilege of hosting many Asian Pacific American Student Services (APASS) events alongside my colleagues. I felt like the little moments were successes as well like getting breakfast burritos every Friday with Eryka. Making time for my roommates was a success. For example, when we didn’t want to do work, we went to get a betta fish. Success looks different to different people, but ultimately, I think success means taking little or big steps forward that move you toward your goals and priorities. Moments in our cultural center meant just as much to my college experience as project completions and practicum completions in my degree. 

    What’s next: After graduation, I accepted an intervention position teaching in rural Alaska. 

    Advice for future or current Bears: Life is short, be intentional; life is long, stay intentional. While these aren't my words, I would love to pass them along to future Bears, and even current Bears at UNC. My only addition is, don’t forget to be present with those around you. Time flies so fast it’s okay to be intentional, knowing how short it is and to find encouragement in the moments around you all the same because yes, sometimes college feels like it’s forever. 

    Jonathan Shaw

    Hometown: Glenwood Springs, Colorado 

    Area of study: Ph.D., Higher Education Student Affairs Leadership 

    Reflection on your time at UNC: Graduating with three degrees from UNC must show that I believe in the university, staff, faculty and students. I have found a sense of place, been able to explore my academic goals and achieved a network of support with each opportunity at UNC.

    Headshot of Jonathan Shaw

    About 256 credit hours later, I have navigated UNC as an undergrad in Greeley, master's student in Denver and doctoral student online. Dr. Dan O'Connor, Dr. Bob Hess, Dr. Randy Larkins, Dr. Linda Vogel and Dr. Matthew Farber are a few of the mentors that have taught me how to thrive in higher education while having fun. 

    Overcoming challenges and achieving success: There were the usual life challenges that occur over a 33-year span, but that's life! 

    What’s next: Continue my career in higher education, enjoy time with my family, travel, cook, camp and hike all over Colorado. 

    Advice for future or current Bears: Find one thing you are passionate about and learn as much as you can about it. It may turn into a wonderful career, hobby or your expertise. 

    Kristina Angelo  

    Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts

    Area of study: Elementary Education and Art Education

    Reflection on your time at UNC: I am so grateful for my time at UNC. Out of the many institutions for educational licensure, UNC's program offered courses that got me excited to learn. From the moment I started taking art classes, I knew I was in the right place! My cohort quickly became a family and a support system throughout this experience.

    Headshot of Kristina Angelo

    My studio professors also served as incredible mentors, for both my roles as an artist and as an educator. UNC also offered so many opportunities to truly make the most out of my time on campus. UNC will forever hold a very special place in my heart.

    Overcoming challenges and achieving success: When I first began my journey at UNC, I did not view myself as an artist. I felt I missed my opportunity to pursue my own artmaking. Being put into the role of an artist was a liberating experience that has influenced my artmaking and my teaching as I prepare to put my own students into this role. Through my art, I have found new ways to use my voice and embrace my authentic identity. As I leave UNC, I confidently introduce myself as an artist and am honored to have been a winner of UNC's most prestigious art competition, the Southard Awards. 

    What’s next: I look forward to finding out what my future holds! In the meantime, I plan to continue building my body of artwork in preparation for grad school. 

    Advice for future or current Bears: While it may not feel like it now, your time here will be over before you know it. Make the most of this moment. Try new things, take risks and get comfortable being uncomfortable, that's when the really good stuff happens. 

    Jered WABA

    Hometown: Commerce City, Colorado

    Area of study: Business Administration and Management 

    Reflection on your time at UNC: I have had a great time at UNC during my two years of working on my bachelor's degree. UNC provides great teachings, which makes me ready to face the realities of the work environment.

    Headshot of Jered WABA

    I also chose UNC due to its location; it took me less than seven minutes to get to school from my apartment. At UNC I received scholarships, which helped me pay some of my tuition and made me focused on my studies and be successful. 

    Overcoming challenges and achieving success: I faced some challenges when I left with 20 credits. It became hard to find classes according to the schedule I wanted, and UNC isn’t an online campus so I couldn’t get my classes online. For two classes of three credits each I had to be on campus Tuesday through Thursday, four days a week. 

    What’s next: After my graduation, I’m planning to do my MBA and bring the knowledge I learned from UNC to make my community successful. 

    Advice for future or current Bears: For future or current Bears, UNC is a place to be to learn real knowledge which makes you ready to face real life problems in your society.

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