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Faces of Spring 2022 Graduates

April 25, 2022

Meet 10 of the University of Northern Colorado Spring 2022 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. 


Sierra Woodring

Sierra Woodring

Area of Study: Business Management, Digital Marketing and Human Resources

Reflection on time at UNC: I chose UNC because of the small class sizes and wide range of campus involvement offered. There are many people that made me successful here at UNC, though my advisor, Rosa Law, and my Human Resources professor, Milan Larson, PhD, are the two that went above and beyond. They helped me with academics, helped me get through some of the worst times in my life and helped me celebrate some of the best. I am so grateful that UNC provided me with a great education and awesome mentors that will help guide me through life!

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: College can be stressful for any student. I am definitely no exception. As a first-generation student, I often found myself navigating through college by myself. This in its own was challenging, but I also lost my aunt who I was very close to during my sophomore year. While mourning her, I met some great friends and professors who helped me through that difficult time. It was very evident that UNC was supportive of my education and the people here cared about me as a person. UNC has felt like family ever since then.

Future plans: After graduation, I will be running a fundraising campaign here at UNC for students who rely on scholarships to attend. I am so excited to see where life takes me from here!

Advice for current and/or future students: Major in something you love, join a lot of clubs and remember to have fun!


Miriam Gueck

Miriam Gueck

Area of Study: School Psychology Ed.S.

Reflection on time at UNC: I was terrified to start grad school in my 40s, with my own daughter starting college as well. My experiences with the Graduate Student Association and Asian Pacific American Student Services quickly dispersed my fears since the support I found greatly enriched my time at UNC. My former adviser (who is now in Kansas) was a tremendous source of support, as was our beloved (and now retired) Diane, and I'm grateful for the opportunities that were entrusted to me by my peers and faculty in our School Psychology program.

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: I was honored to serve as president of the School Psychology Student Organization in the 2020-2021 school year. The year of virtual everything! My biggest responsibility was to organize and host two symposia, and I chose to milk the pandemic instead of letting it get to me. Since it was virtual, I could invite anyone from anywhere as travel expenses were not a factor. After our fall symposium that year, I surveyed the students in our program to see what topic they would like to hear about at our next one in the spring. Their responses overwhelmingly surrounded social justice. So I asked one of the most renowned speakers on this subject in our profession, who also became president-elect of our national organization, and they said yes. This brought energy and excitement to our program during a time when spirits were low due to all the realities of the pandemic. Now, I've been appointed to serve on the local team in the national convention committee, which will be held in Denver in 2023.

Future plans: I just signed a contract to be a school psychologist practitioner with Widefield School District 3 in Colorado Springs!

Advice for current and/or future students: Be courageous in the midst of your fears. There's so much support for students at UNC, so you get to choose who your tribe will be. Get plugged in, get involved early on because it's the best way to find support, have lots of fun and pay it forward.


Sydney McCormick

Sydney McCormick

Area of Study: Criminology and Criminal Justice, with minors in Legal Studies, Political Science, and Leadership Studies

Reflection on time at UNC: My time at UNC has been one I will never forget! I chose UNC because I loved how tight-knit the community was. I come from a small town, so I felt like I was at home. I also loved how I could be independent, but still, be close to home whenever I needed to go back. Lastly, I chose UNC was because of the amazing Criminology and Criminal Justice program! The professors here genuinely care about my success and I have built friendships that will last a lifetime.

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: One of the biggest challenges I faced was working two part-time jobs while going to school full time. I never thought I would be in a position where in order to keep myself afloat, I would have to work so much. It was definitely stressful, but it was worth it in the end.

Future plans: After graduation, I plan on taking a year off to gain more experience in the criminal justice field, specifically in the legal field. Over the summer, I plan on taking the LSAT and applying to law schools. My dream law school is either CU Boulder or ASU. I hope to graduate from law school and become a criminal defense attorney.

Advice for current and/or future students: Do not settle! Keep your personal and professional standards high both as a person and as a student. Good things will come when the bar is set high.


Allana Velasquez

Allana Velasquez

Area of Study: Business Economics with minors in Business Administration and Media Studies

Reflection on time at UNC: Before choosing UNC, I was hesitant about college. I am a first-generation student who didn’t know what to expect or if I could even survive college! As soon as I walked into my first class, I knew this is where I belonged. My department was incredibly supportive and guided me throughout this entire experience over the last three years. I even got an on-campus job that helped me immensely with being social and finding new friends here on campus!

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: The last three years have been a whirlwind here at UNC. With the COVID 19 pandemic, I struggled a lot in terms of being academically motivated. I have also overcome a lot of significant health problems over the years including multiple surgeries. Luckily, with the support of faculty and my support system, I was able to overcome those struggles and will graduate with high Latin honors. In terms of successes, I will have paid for my entire undergraduate education in May!

Future plans: After graduating, I plan to take a year to work and earn funds to go to graduate school!

Advice for current and/or future students: You are your biggest advocate, trust yourself and you will overcome obstacles. There are so many resources to help you on campus, so take advantage of them when possible!


Dakota Perez

Dakota Perez

Area of Study: Marketing

Reflection on time at UNC: I chose UNC initially for the music department and started as a Music Business major on french horn. I moved toward marketing with a music technology certificate to explore more of the logistical side of music marketing. Throughout my time at UNC, Stephen Loveless, Ashlee Edwards, Dan Maxey, Tobias Guzmán and others have supported me in achieving goals I would have never imagined at 18 when I was starting my degree.

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: Half of my time at UNC was filled with pandemic protocols and the need for flexibility and adaptability. I learned those skills quickly and managed to keep my grades up while staying as engaged as I could in the community. Before, I got the chance to study abroad in Madrid, which solidified my interest in learning about identities and cultures beyond my own.

Future plans: I will be attending Tufts University in the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership master's program.

Advice for current and/or future students: Be comfortable being uncomfortable! Go to events all around campus to learn and grow. Make friends and connections to support your journey!


Jasmine Rodriguez

Jasmine Rodriguez

Area of Study: Elementary Education with a concentration in Culturally, Linguistically Diverse

Reflection on time at UNC: Attending UNC has been one of the hardest and greatest decisions I have ever made. It allowed me to meet people who encouraged and supported me through every obstacle. Dr Falcon, Heidi Romero and Laura Hamman-Ortiz are people who kept me on my feet and saw more potential in me than I saw in myself. For that, I am extremely grateful. Because of them and my family, I will be the first in my family to be graduating from college.

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: College has been fun, but it has also been hard. I have numerous calls, texts, video chats to my mom on my phone bill to prove it, but I wouldn't change a single bit of it. My freshman year, I wanted to drop out. I went home every weekend, considered transferring schools, but my mom did not let me. She would say, 'you got this' and now I can say, 'I got this.' During my four years at UNC, I faced many challenges. There have been ups and downs with class assignments and projects, long nights of reading and the impact of COVID-19. Half of my college experience has been fully and partially online. The uncertainty of COVID-19 definitely had an impact on my educational experiences. Despite the ups and downs it is an experience that made me enhance my skills in online learning, computer technology and online social interaction.

Future plans: I plan to continue my education here at UNC for the master's program in Higher Education Student Affairs Leadership (HESAL) in the fall. I hope to one day become a superintendent and create a bigger change in the education field.

Advice for current and/or future students: College can feel lonely, but you are not alone. Lean on the professors who care about you, the bosses who support you and the family that wants to see you succeed.


Destiny Fay

Destiny Fay

Area of study: Psychology with a minor in Human Services

Reflection on time at UNC: I grew up in Greeley, so my first instinct was to go to college somewhere other than UNC. But then I remember my mom telling me how she used to walk around campus with me as a baby and wonder what it was like to go here. From then on she always hoped that one day, one of her kids could go to UNC, and that motivated me. Everyday I woke up to go to class annoyed, stressed and sometimes late, I would remember that one day I will graduate from UNC and tell my mom, "we did it."

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: As a first-generation student of color who lived at home, I struggled finding my place on campus. I refused to let that be the reason why I wouldn't graduate, so I went out and found where I belonged. I got an amazing job at the Center for Women's and Gender Equity, I attended Catalyst, I joined a multicultural Greek sorority called Kappa Delta Chi and got involved in many more amazing experiences. Every person that I met throughout my three years at UNC has supported me, believed in me and pushed me to be the person I am today. I am a proud Chingona con Diploma!!

Future plans: I either want to get my master's in School Counseling or take a year off to work at a school and gain more experience. To be continued!

Advice for current and/or future students: I know it's scary but trust me, put yourself out there. You will find friends that last a lifetime and some that only last a semester, but at the end of the day you can say you tried!


Leah Werblun

Leah Werblun

Area of study: Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Pre-health and minor in Chemistry Liberal Arts

Reflection on time at UNC: I had no clue what I was getting myself into when I came to UNC, but I am very glad I did. I have not only received an education at UNC but also a family. My class and my professors were able to stick together and get through the toughest times. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the understanding and willingness to adapt, which we all have shown through this stressful time. The flexibility I experienced from my professors helped transform me to be better prepared for any situation.

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: I knew absolutely no one when coming to Colorado. Fortunately, UNC made it easy for me to meet new people and form connections that have since helped me succeed in many ways. I was shocked to see how easy the university made it for me to connect with other students in the same situation I was, coming from Hawaii. I am now part of both the Hawaii club and the Hula club and I am so thankful that I am able to continute to experience the culture of Hawaii while being here. This is just one of the many things that makes UNC feel more like home.

Future plans: I plan on continuing my current job as a certified nursing assistant in a hospital setting while I prepare to go to graduate school and obtain my master’s degree in physician assistant studies. My goal is to become an emergency medicine physician assistant.

Advice for current and/or future students: No matter what happened in the past, be proud of yourself for making it this far because not many do. This is not a competition, you don’t have to push others down in order to boost yourself up, it’s better to thrive together. Don’t spend too much time stressing over the future, instead, focus on the present and enjoy what you’re doing now, the future is yet to come.


Crystal Martinez

Crystal Acosta-Martinez

Area of study: Journalism: Public Relations with a minor in Leadership Studies

Reflection on time at UNC: My time as a UNC student was a blessing and unique. I am a transfer student from Aims Community College  — class of 2020 — and have worked hard to be where I am today. The choice of going to UNC was influenced by my sisters for being alumni and part of the Journalism department since 2012. I would not have been able to do anything without my professors and family guiding and supporting me during a difficult time for all of us. I have dreamt of this moment since I was 12 years old and now I finally have the opportunity to walk across the stage as a UNC graduate.

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: The pandemic hit while I was transferring to UNC, so it was difficult to learn through Zoom without the in-person university experience.

Future plans: I would like to use my leadership and public relations skills to help businesses. I would also like to continue my education in the future to complete my master's.

Advice for current and/or future students: Always know you're doing your best. Life is hard and things come up, but it is up to you how you want things to turn out.


Robin Gross

Robin Gross

Area of Study:  Journalism with an emphasis in News and Multimedia, and minors in Music and Sociology

Reflection on time at UNC: I don't want to lie — my time in college was difficult in many ways. I spent over a year doing exclusively online classes and living off-campus because of the pandemic. There were many times during this year when I considered dropping out. However, through the support of friends, family and faculty members, I decided to stick through it. Now, after spending my last year back on campus, I am so glad I did. Being at UNC has allowed me to thrive, both as a student and as an adult. I of course still wish the pandemic never happened, but I don't know if I would've been able to stay enrolled in school throughout that year if I had been going anywhere but UNC.

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: Dealing with the pandemic was a massive hurdle for me and many others. On top of that, I had a series of significant life events happen around the same time that made staying on top of my classes feel impossible. I'm honestly not entirely sure how I did it, but I was still able to keep my grades up, live my life as a student and make great friends along the way.

Future plans: I want to put my writing to work as soon as possible. I'm already looking at jobs in newspaper, magazine and online outlets, and I also want to continue writing additional work in my free time that I would be able to submit to professional publications. I want to be able to immerse myself in the world, write about my passions and continue to grow and come into my own as a person.

Advice for current and/or future students: If you think you aren't doing good enough, you most definitely are. Being critical of yourself can be good sometimes, but don't let it go too far. Try your best to give yourself the space to enjoy your life while you're here, and don't stress about that C you got on a test.

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