Q & A with Spring 2011 Commencement Speaker Emily Donahue
May 3, 2010 -- Western State College of Colorado (WSC) will confer bachelor’s degrees to 293 students at its spring 2011 commencement on Saturday, May 7. Emily Donahue, of Idaho Springs, Colo., will present the student address.
Spring 2011 commencement student speaker Emily Donahue demonstrates her chemistry expertise by igniting lycopodium, a highly flammable powder.
When she was not playing with fire in the chemistry lab, Donahue kept busy with intramural sports, student clubs and community projects. A chemistry major, Donahue will attend pharmacy school at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in the fall. In the meantime, she plans to spend her summer in Gunnison working as a summer camp coordinator with Parks and Recreation.
In addition to graduating summa cum laude, Donahue has been honored with an Alumni Award for Excellence, Achievement in Organic Chemistry Award and Freshman Achievement in General Chemistry Award, in addition to receiving several scholarships. She has served as president of the Chemistry Club and vice president of the ALPS student leadership organization.
As the commencement speaker, Donahue wants her peers to reflect back on their time at Western and how their college experiences have shaped them. In the following Q&A, she looks back on her own memories from Western and the Gunnison Valley.
Q: What have you been involved with at Western?
A: I was the vice president of ALPS for two years. I have been the president of the Chemistry Club for the last two years. I play intramural sports including volleyball and softball. As a member of ALPS I have involved myself with community service projects like Relay for Life, Community Clean-Up and English as a Second Language.
Q: How did you find out about Western?
A: My senior year of high school, I received a letter inviting me to tour Western State College of Colorado. I was already pretty set on going to the University of Colorado Boulder, but, when I read about the school and found out that they had a science program, I decided to come for a Preview Day. I was instantly hooked and I haven't regretted attending Western.
Q: What do you love about Western and the Gunnison Valley community?
A: I love that Western provides students with so many ways to get out into the community and become involved. Gunnison supports the college so much and it's wonderful to have the opportunity to go to town events and to be involved in community service projects. I also love our beautiful surroundings! From fishing, to climbing, to snowboarding, there is always something fun to do outdoors. Gunnison is also a place enriched with culture. Events put on by the Gunnison Arts Center or by various groups at the college allow students with a variety of interests to find a way to become involved.
Q: Have there been professors that have really influenced your growth as a student?
A: There are too many to name just one. Gary Pierson (vice president for student affairs), although he is not a professor, had a huge impact on me my freshman year. The events that he organized as our ALPS coordinator helped me break out of my shell and explore all that Gunnison has to offer. Dale Orth (professor of chemistry), who acted as my advisor for the majority of my college career, taught me the joy of being challenged. When Dale told me that I had succeeded, I knew I had truly done something special. Jason Mullins (assistant professor of chemistry), who has been my advisor for this past year while Dale has been away on sabbatical, has done everything in his power to help me succeed. From writing letters of recommendation for me to sitting with me for hours talking about my future, he has always shown a desire to see me excel. Anne Ryter (professor of chemistry) has acted almost like a substitute mom! She listens to my struggles and cheers when I succeed. Last, but not least, Jarral Ryter (lecturer in chemistry) has done everything he can to ensure that science is fun. His child-like approach toward chemistry reminds us all to enjoy life. The beauty of Western is that I am surrounded by a community of professors who care about my success.
Q: Name a memorable WSC experience that will stay with you through time.
A: One of the first nights I came to Western, practically every kid in Ute Hall, including myself, went to college hill to go ice blocking. I had never even heard of ice blocking let alone seen it in action. As I skidded down that steep hill with nothing but ice and a towel between me and the ground, I realized that college was going to be an adventure!
Q: Why did you want to be the student commencement speaker?
A: I applied to be commencement speaker because I wanted the opportunity to reflect with my fellow students on all that we have accomplished. Before we move on to whatever life has in store, I think it's important to remember all of the milestones we've experienced while we've been at Western.
Q: What can we expect to hear in your address on Saturday?
A: Well, I don't want to give too much away, but students can expect my speech to be a general reflection on some events that I think almost every Western student experiences. I could tell you more, but to be honest I don't know too much more about it myself yet. I still have some writing to do!
Q: What do you hope your fellow graduates will take away from your speech?
A: I hope that my address on Saturday helps students reflect on all that they've accomplished and all the wonderful memories that they've built. Western has helped mold us all into the people we have become and we will use the experiences we've had here to help us face the challenges ahead. Hopefully, students will feel encouraged to face the challenges that await without fear.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I will be staying in Gunnison for the summer and then I plan to move to Illinois in the fall to attend pharmacy school at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.