VANCOUVER, Wash. – Washington State University Vancouver will graduate 917 students at its 2011 commencement ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 14, at the Sleep Country Amphitheater.
Karen Schmaling, vice chancellor for academic affairs, will preside over the ceremony.


Connie Niva, alumna, WSU regent and retired Port of Everett commissioner, will be the keynote speaker. She will challenge graduates to consider important issues facing our country, such as lack of support for higher education, a polarized government and energy.
Parking and gates will open at 11 a.m. and seating at 11:30 a.m. Commencement is free to the public; tickets are not required. Concessions will be available.
Background on the class of 2011
The graduating class of 2011 is represented by eight doctoral candidates in the areas of education, philosophy, American studies, psychology and sociology.
The 141 master’s candidates will receive degrees in accounting, business administration, computer science, education, environmental science, history, mechanical engineering, nursing, public affairs, psychology and teaching.
The 768 bachelor’s candidates will receive degrees in anthropology, biology, business administration, communication, computer science, criminal justice, English, digital technology and culture, education, environmental science, history, human development, humanities, mechanical engineering, nursing, political science, psychology, public affairs, science, social sciences, social studies and sociology.
Awards and honors
Jerry Gowen will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement. He graduated in fall 2010 with a master’s in business administration and a 3.93 grade point average.
One year into the MBA program, Gowen suffered a stroke. Despite his disability, he excelled in his studies and worked as a statistics lab instructor. He regularly met with undergraduate students on weekends and evenings to help them prepare for exams.
Gowen is employed as a public relations manager for Symantec, a Fortune 500 company with 16,000 employees. As a result of his success at WSU Vancouver, he mentors colleagues on how to maximize internal and external opportunities for continuing education.
Steven B. Kucer will receive the Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence. Kucer is an associate professor of language and literacy education in the College of Education.
His research focuses on the nature of multiliteracies, the relationship between how texts are processed and how they are comprehended, and the impact of text structure and text content on comprehension.
Kucer works with area school districts helping teachers improve the literacy skills of their students. His impact on the educational community has enhanced WSU Vancouver’s reputation for cutting-edge research and coursework in the field of literacy.
In 2009, Kucer was invited to Washington, D.C., by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-Rhode Island, to give a congressional briefing on literacy instruction.
The Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence will be given to María Lee-Lopez, instructor of Spanish language and culture in the College of Liberal Arts. 
A native of Cuba, Lee-Lopez uses her Latin American and Spanish culture research and first-hand experiences to enhance her classroom instruction. She is known to use songs, stories, poetry and food to bring the language to life. She advises students to speak the language and make mistakes in an effort to learn.
Besides being a Spanish instructor, Lee-Lopez takes an active role in the Spanish Club. She encourages students to join the club and immerse themselves in the culture by going to restaurants, attending plays and organizing on-campus events.
The President’s Award for Leadership and Service to Washington State University Vancouver will be given to Jong-Seok (John) Won. Won will be receiving his undergraduate degrees in both accounting and finance.
While working at an internship in the WSU Vancouver Office of Student Involvement in summer 2010, Won developed and implemented a new inventory system. The system went far beyond expectations and produced cost-savings for the university.
Won leads the financial and budget committees as a chair senator of the Associated Students of Washington State University Vancouver, serves as vice president of the Student Alumni Group and mentors local children as a Big Brother. As a member of the DECA student business club, Won has built awareness of ethical issues in business by organizing film viewings and inviting faculty and business professionals to discuss the impact of the films with students.
More information about WSU Vancouver’s 2011 commencement ceremony can be found at: