Leah Kaplan (front, with red pompon) let her school spirit show at UA football games. (Photo: UA Alumni Association)
Leah Kaplan (front, with red pompon) let her school spirit show at UA football games. (Photo: UA Alumni Association)

Four Questions With the Class of 2018 (Part 2)

Four graduating students talk about their experiences at the UA, from their funniest stories to their favorite professors and campus hangouts.
May 1, 2018
Extra Info: 

Commencement is the university-wide celebration all colleges attend, where the students' degrees are conferred by UA President Robert C. Robbins. At Commencement, students' names are not read aloud and they do not walk across the stage. That occurs at most convocations, which are the ceremonies each individual college and/or department organizes to honor their graduates. Contact information for college convocation ceremonies may be found here.

Ray Mabus, former secretary of the Navy, governor of Mississippi and U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will be the keynote speaker at the University of Arizona's 154th Commencement. Read more about Mabus.

For more information on the UA's Commencement, including admission and parking information, visit commencement.arizona.edu/.

Click here for the first part of "Four Questions With the Class of 2018."

What: 
154th UA Commencement
When: 
7:30 p.m., Friday, May 11
Where: 
Arizona Stadium
Leah Kaplan
Leah Kaplan
Kahlin Leuzinger
Kahlin Leuzinger
Tjasa Oder
Tjasa Oder
Alyssa Lyn Fortier
Alyssa Lyn Fortier

Leah Kaplan, College of Engineering

Leah Kaplan is a chemical engineering major and Flinn Scholar who is graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Kaplan studied in Guatemala in the summer between her sophomore and junior years, and she was the only undergraduate selected to attend a 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science conference on science diplomacy in Washington, D.C. At Commencement, she will be receiving the Merrill P. Freeman Medal, given annually to two UA seniors for "outstanding moral force of character."

Which UA professor will you miss the most, and why?
I am very grateful to have had a number of amazing mentors during my time at the University of Arizona, so I can't choose just one. I will absolutely miss Armin Sorooshian, from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, who has been both a professor and personal mentor of mine. I will also miss the principal investigators from my neuroscience research laboratory, Lynne Oland and Leslie Tolbert, who have been constant sources of support and encouragement for me and are two of the kindest and most intelligent people I know.

What is your favorite funny story from your time at the UA?
My freshman year, a few of my friends and I decided to put on body paint for the one of the home football games. I love school spirit and decided to go all out with the body paint, decking myself out from head to toe. We were invited to sit in the special ZonaZoo section in the front row at the 50-yard line. The view was incredible! That winter break, I went back to my high school to visit some of my old teachers. One of them told me he was surprised to see me on the cover of UA Alumni Magazine. I was surprised, too! He showed me the magazine and there I was, decked out at the football game. I guess the ZonaZoo spirit can rouse even us tame engineering majors.

What has been your favorite place on campus, and why?
My favorite place on campus is the olive grove on the west side of campus. Especially when I was a resident assistant in Gila Hall my sophomore year, I loved to hang up my hammock and read under the shade of the trees. It's the perfect place to take a break from studying in the library and spend some time outside.

In five years, where will you be living and what will you be doing?
In five years, I hope to be in the midst of a doctorate in chemical engineering. I also plan to work in the field of science policy and diplomacy while completing my doctorate.

Kahlin Leuzinger, College of Medicine – Tucson

Mobile disc jockey and janitor are not jobs commonly seen on the career path of a doctor, but that's exactly the journey Kahlin Leuzinger took to get to the UA's College of Medicine – Tucson. Leuzinger, who supported his family and three children while in medical school, is headed to Mayo Clinic with the goal of becoming an anesthesiologist.

Which UA professor will you miss the most, and why?
Dr. Ryan Matika. He took hard concepts and made them easy to understand. He taught me many important things about life after medical school, both at UA and beyond. He is a great physician and mentor.

What is your favorite funny story from your time at the UA?
When we were split into groups and were to do a presentation to the class and faculty, one of my classmates, Aamir Ahmad, did his entire presentation while doing an impersonation of the infection and immunity block director, who also happened to be his dad, Dr. Nafees Ahmad.  

What has been your favorite place on campus, and why?
Upstairs on the third floor of the Health and Sciences Library in the recliners that overlook the Catalina foothills. Staring at that sunset and horizon those nights when I stayed in Tucson brought me closer to my family, who lived in Mesa. 

In five years, where will you be living and what will you be doing?
Living in Arizona or California being a father, husband and anesthesiologist, and getting back into my old interests of music and art.

Tjasa Oder, Eller College of Management and UA Online

Tjasa Oder, originally from Slovenia, is a swimmer who competed for the UA for more than two years and represented Slovenia in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Oder transitioned into the online undergraduate program in the Eller College of Management so that she could return home and begin training for the 2020 Games.

Which UA professor will you miss the most, and why?
While I was in Tucson, I really enjoyed professor Jeff Katz's classes. His class was interesting, and he really made me enjoy accounting.

What is your favorite funny story from your time at the UA?
Almost all of my friends were foreigners from different countries. We did not have cars, so we went everywhere on our bikes. It was really hard for me to bike with them when they would decide to go somewhere a long distance away, as I had a really rusty bike. One time, we decided to go to Sushi Garden (I almost didn't make it). We ordered all you can eat and ate 10 rolls each. We were so full it was even harder to get back home. We all got really sick! Even though that happened, sushi is still my favorite food and we went several times after that.

What has been your favorite place on campus, and why?
My favorite place on campus was the Mall, where my friends and I would study or play games. Sometimes we would lie on the grass for hours.

In five years, where will you be living and what will you be doing?
I see myself living in Slovenia. I want to finish my master's degree in business administration or accounting.  I do not know yet if I will work at my father's company or if I will open something on my own. I think that with such good degrees I will have a lot of good opportunities, and I am looking forward for a bright future.

Alyssa Lyn Fortier, College of Science

Alyssa Lyn Fortier is completing a double major in math and molecular and cellular biology with a 4.0 GPA, and also minored in biochemistry and computer science. Fortier revitalized the UA’s MathCats club, which has done extensive community outreach including math tutoring at a Tucson nonprofit center for refugees. She also created a "systems of equations" bingo game for a local middle school's math and science night. Fortier has been awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship by the National Science Foundation.

Which UA professor will you miss the most, and why?
I will greatly miss my honors thesis adviser, Ryan Gutenkunst. He is not only an amazing scientific researcher, but also a great life mentor. Before working with Ryan, I never expected I would aim for a Ph.D., but he built my self-confidence and encouraged me to apply. I'll also miss our engaging conversations around the lab. Over the years, I've really enjoyed getting to know Ryan and his passion for all things science, cycling and family. Such stellar mentors are hard to come by.

What is your favorite funny story from your time at the UA?
When I lived in the dorms, the fire alarm went off while I was in the shower. Not once, but TWICE.

What has been your favorite place on campus, and why?
My favorite place on campus is the top floor of Gould-Simpson. The hallway wraps all around the outside of the building, providing each window with a different view. From 10 floors up, I feel removed from the bustle of people passing between classes, making even the busiest part of day feel peaceful. I'll always remember seeing the bright brick buildings and lightly swaying palm trees from up above on a sunny Arizona day.

In five years, where will you be living and what will you be doing?
In five years, I will be in the last year of my Ph.D. at Stanford University. I will be living in Palo Alto, California, but preparing to move across the country for a postdoctoral position or an industry job, depending on my interests at the time.