Each year, thousands of students graduate from the University of Utah excited to begin the next chapter of their lives. Armed with a degree, knowledge, friendships, memories and enthusiasm, they embark on their journeys, which take them all over the world. University of Utah alumni are a passionate group of people dedicated to making the world a better place, and include among their ranks astronauts, senators, authors, artists, Pulitzer Prize winners, athletes and more. Over the next few weeks, as the next group of graduates prepare for graduation, we’ll meet a few of them. We hope you’ll enjoy getting know to know the class of 2016.


Taking time for loved ones

It was seven weeks from diagnosis to death. In January 2015, my mom went to American Fork Hospital’s emergency room and they discovered she had cancer. It was kind of all over — attached to her kidney, they found some attached to her bladder some attached to her ovary. The doctors decided there was really nothing they could do and sent her home on hospice. I moved in with my parents for four weeks to take care of her. My teachers were wonderful. They helped me get through. They said, ‘You need to be with your mom right now. Turn that assignment in later.’ I took a couple of incompletes that semester — and got my one and only B. But I’m so grateful for that time. My mom died March 4, and I was there with her when she passed. I would have missed so much. To make that journey with her — I’m so grateful I have that.

Emily Meidell, Washington, D.C.
Doctor of Nursing Practice
Certified Nurse Midwifery



Living the American dream

My story is that of a young kid from Mexico coming into the United States to pursue the American dream, only at that age I did not know what that meant or what to think of it. I’ve always considered myself a dreamer — one with no boundaries — a dreamer that can reach for the stars. At some point, this became my life contract — to live life as a dreamer and creative individual.

As a young adult, my only vision of the American dream was that of the opportunity to further my education as much as I could, and so I did. It is important to mention that as a young Latino, it was not easy to do this; I had all the odds against me and I had to overcome many obstacles and had to face many forked roads with tough choices. Those paths with many wrong turns eventually led to me to where I stand now: graduation.

I will be one of the few graduating men in my family — the only one from my generation in the paternal side of the family. It is essentially the biggest accomplishment of my life. And the dream, and the lifetime goal and the contract that I had set up for myself as a young kid has finally become reality.

It was my job as a young adult (and still is) to break stereotypes that Latinos like myself cannot become innovative, strong professionals in any career path they choose to pursue. I can only hope to serve as an inspiration to many other Latino generations that will choose to embark in the intense journey of education like I did and to keep dreaming like I will.

It is also important to mention the valuable support I have received from friends and family, and the School of Architecture. Without their help and support, I wouldn’t have gotten this far in my education. Thank you all for pushing me, inspiring me, for believing in me and for joining me along the incredible journey.


Christian Bueno, Jalisco, Mexico
Architectural studies

A career inspired by imagination

I grew up on a farm, so we had a lot of down time. My siblings and I would make forts all the time so we had to get creative on resources. We would use weeds or cereal boxes — anything we could find. As a result, I love exploring and I’ve always loved building things — just creating things from scratch. Once I took my materials class I fell in love with it. If you understand how materials work on the atomic level and the principles behind them, then you can really start to manipulate things and can create anything. The possibilities are endless. Whether its electronics or plastic, everything stems from materials science. No matter what I want to dream of, if I understand how materials work, then I can make it.


Colton Fox, Pleasant Grove, Utah
Master’s in materials science and engineering

Coding a better world

I realized that I don’t need to follow a certain, set path or have a specific certification to help people. I can use my skills and be a force in the world without looking at what I ‘should be.’ It’s not a certain career or line on your resume that makes you a real force for good; it’s who you are and the experiences you search for as you go. The best way I can effect change is to be in touch with my skills and make myself the strongest tool I can be.

Computer science fulfills what I enjoy most: I can use it to solve problems that I care about, by gaining a bird eye’s view of them and then attacking them with logic and creativity.

Programming allows me to engage my analytical, as well as my artistic side, in a world where I can go as far as I’m willing to stretch my thinking. I was a bit intimidated by coding at first, but now I see that computer science is just so much more than that. I like to think about coding kind of like writing. When you write, you don’t think about the letters and the lines; you think about bringing your ideas to life. That’s what coding is to me — a tool that I can use to realize my dreams for making the world a better place.


Kallie Bracken, Australia
Computer science

Seeing the forest through the trees

I think of my exercise and sports science major as the trees: through that major, I’ve learned the processes involved with the body, different diseases that affect it and how to implement programs to best treat those ailments. I view my second major as the forest that encompasses the many aspects of health, such as law, business, environment and sociology. If you want something or need help, just ask. The worst that can happen is you’ll be told ‘no,’ but the best is that you’ll get what you asked for or at least pointed toward the right direction. That’s been my motto all these years: Try everything at least once; say ‘yes’ to opportunities that are presented to you and see where they go. It’s important to get a breadth of experiences. Then, once you find something you like, get the depth.

Alexis Lee, Park City, Utah
Exercise and sports science
Health, society and policy


Grad Fair: March 31–April 2 at the Campus Store

Grad Fair begins this week at the Campus Store. If you are eligible to walk in May 2016, now is the time to order your cap, gown and graduation announcements, buy your diploma frame and start celebrating your achievement.

Grad Fair dates and times are below:

Thursday, March 31:        8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Friday, April 1:                    8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Saturday, April 2:              11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Go to to pre-order your regalia now and skip the lines. Make sure to sign the Block U before you leave the store.

About Commencement:

The University of Utah commencement and convocation ceremonies are held annually at the conclusion of spring semester. Candidates for graduation from the summer 2015, fall 2015, spring 2016 or summer 2016 terms may attend. Commencement will be held on Thursday, May 5, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. This year’s commencement speaker will be foreign policy expert and work-life balance thought leader Anne-Marie Slaughter. Honorary degrees will be awarded to Kem C. Gardner, Lynette Nielsen Gay, Kirk M. Ririe and George D. Smith. For more information, please visit the Commencement Ceremony page.