VANCOUVER, Wash. – Washington State University Vancouver will graduate a record 979 students at its 2012 commencement ceremony at 1 p.m. May 12 at the Sleep Country Amphitheater.
Karen Schmaling, vice chancellor for academic affairs, will preside over the ceremony. Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven C. González will give the keynote address. WSU Vancouver will present five special awards during the ceremony.
The graduates
The graduating class of 2012 is represented by nine doctoral candidates in the areas of education, American studies and psychology.
The 121 master’s candidates will receive degrees in accounting, business administration, computer science, education, environmental science, history, mechanical engineering, nursing, public affairs and teaching.
The remaining 849 bachelor’s candidates will receive degrees in anthropology, biology, business administration, computer science, criminal justice, digital technology and culture, education, electrical engineering, English, environmental science, history, human development, humanities, mechanical engineering, nursing, political science, psychology, public affairs, science, social sciences or sociology.
This is the first graduating class to include electrical engineering bachelor’s candidates. This marks a significant milestone in the growth of WSU Vancouver and the School of Engineering and Computer Science. Of the 11 electrical engineering graduates, some will go on to graduate school and several have already secured jobs at local technology companies.
Awards and honors
Dora Hernandez, a transfer student from Clark College and the mother of two, was awarded the 2012 Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement. After a Clark College staff member encouraged her to, Hernandez transferred to WSU Vancouver and has taken an active role in on-campus involvement and community outreach, and as an advocate for both minority empowerment and academic excellence.
Hernandez is the founder and president of the Latin@ Student Association, a student organization that has provided leadership opportunities for Latina/Latino students on campus. She also has worked to increase student awareness of financial aid and scholarship opportunities through helping plan the FAFSA Feed and Scholarship Fair and by co-leading the College Goal Sunday Washington event.
Christine Portfors, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, was awarded the 2012 Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence. Each year this award is bestowed upon a WSU Vancouver faculty member whose research quality and quantity is exemplary and whose work has had a positive influence on the community.
Portfors works with mice and bats to understand how complex sounds are processed by the auditory system and to determine how age-related hearing loss impacts this processing. Portfors’ scholarly record and international reputation is outstanding. She has published 36 articles in leading, scientific journals and has given more than 40 presentations at national and international scientific conferences. In 2011, Portfors was an invited speaker at the International Bioacoustics Congress in La Rochelle, France and the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Her impact on the educational community has enhanced WSU Vancouver’s reputation as a research institution in the fields of neuroscience and biology.
Honored for service to WSU Vancouver
The 2012 Chancellor’s Award for Service to WSU Vancouver has two recipients this year. Leslie Wykoff, the WSU Vancouver library director for more than 16 years, and the Clark County Community High Technology Council.
Wykoff retired from the library director position in in 2011. She was selected to receive this award for her outstanding service, demonstrated leadership and gifts of time, talent and resources toward advancing the university’s mission.
About six months after Wykoff joined WSU Vancouver, she was asked by Chancellor Emeritus Hal Dengerink to manage information technology and the Washington High Educations Telecommunications System in addition to the library. Wykoff also worked diligently to procure world-class access to scholarly databases for faculty, students and everyone else who used the library. She collaborated with WSU libraries, the Portland area library system and Orbis Cascade library consortia to build the database.
Wykoff’s legacy will continue to advance the mission of the WSU Vancouver Library and the campus as a whole.
The Clark County Community High Technology Council was selected for its heavy influence on the growth of the School of Engineering and Computer Science at WSU Vancouver. The CCCHTC encouraged state legislators and the business community to allocate stimulus funds to build the Engineering and Computer Science building at WSU Vancouver. Their leadership in voicing their support was heard by Governor Chris Gregoire, who selected the building to receive capital funding. This facility, which opened for classes in January, was one of only two WSU projects to receive such funding in 2009.
The CCCHTC continues to take a leadership role in strengthening WSU Vancouver’s engineering degree program. The council recently made a lead gift of $25,000 to underwrite an electrical engineering computer laboratory in the Engineering and Computer Science building.  The council’s contribution will help provide quality training for WSU Vancouver engineering students and, in turn, provide a larger, stronger pool of local, skilled workers from which high-tech companies may hire.
Student nomination, selection
Lastly, the 2012 Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence was award to Wei Xue, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Xue, who was nominated by his students and selected by a committee of students for the award, was chosen for his ability to inspire students, exceeding educational expectations and his dedication to furthering research at WSU Vancouver.
Working in the area of micro/nano electromechanical systems, biosensors and semiconductor microfabrication, Xue motivates his students to reach beyond the requirements of the classroom. His students describe his classes as challenging courses that produce valuable academic returns for those willing to devote their time and energy. Thanks to his ability to take motivated individuals and guide them in their research, Xue’s students leave his classes with invaluable firsthand experience. He believes in allowing students to build a reputation at WSU Vancouver before their graduate studies begin, as reflected by the handful of scholarly articles co-authored by Xue and his students.
Commencement details
Commencement will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Sleep Country Amphitheater. The amphitheater is located at 17200 NE Delfel Road, Ridgefield. Parking and gates open at 11 a.m. on commencement day and the seating area opens at 11:30 a.m. Concessions will be available. Commencement is free and open to the public.
The Sleep Country Amphitheater is a covered outdoor venue. Please be aware that umbrellas are not allowed in the venue. Golf cart and wheelchair service will be provided to guests who need assistance. Accommodations for deaf and hearing-impaired guests will be available. Sign language interpreters will be on hand in a designated area and amplification devices will be available at the information booth.
More information about WSU Vancouver’s 2012 commencement ceremony can be found at:
Brenda Alling, Office of Marketing and Communications, 360-546-9601,