commencement

Class of 2019 Chapman awarded degrees to some 1,700 undergraduate and more than 900 graduate students during its 158th commencement weekend, with more than 2,200 people participating in total.

A Community of Achievers

A Rhodes Scholar heads to Oxford University. A Fulbright recipient embarks on innovative teaching and research projects in Taiwan. A 19-year-old is on track to become California’s youngest pharmacist. These are just a few of the high-achieving graduates celebrated during Chapman University’s 2019 Commencement ceremonies.

Panther Pride

Every year, Chapman University is pleased to honor outstanding achievements by those in the graduating class. Here are just a few of the distinguished award winners in 2019.

Daniel ChangRonald M. Huntington Award for Outstanding Scholarship

The Huntington Award is presented to the graduating senior judged to have exhibited the most distinguished record of scholarly accomplishments while a student at Chapman. Chemistry major and computational science minor Daniel Chang was this year’s recipient. As a freshman, two months after starting his first day at Chapman, Daniel began research in Professor Warren de Bruyn’s analytical chemistry research laboratory, which led him to serve as de Bruyn’s laboratory manager. In addition to working in the lab of de Bruyn, Ph.D., Chang has worked in five other research laboratories on campus and has one peer-reviewed publication published, with others in preparation. He was awarded four research grants and presented at a national American Chemical Society meeting.

Alejandra SolisPaul S. Delp Outstanding Service Award

The Delp Award recognizes a graduating senior who has made the greatest contribution of voluntary service to the Chapman community and the community at large. Alejandra Solis, a biochemistry and molecular biology major and economics minor, was this year’s winner. Solis is the first in her immediate family to graduate from college. During her time at Chapman, she has been a student researcher in molecular genetics and a member of the Schmid College Student Leadership Council. In addition, she was part of a Chapman Global Medical Brigades team that traveled to Nicaragua, where she translated for doctors working with clinic patients. She also served as a COPE Health Scholar at St. Joseph Hospital, where she performed more than 200 hours of service.

California’s Gold Scholarship

Established by the late TV legend Huell Howser before his death in 2013, the California’s Gold Scholarship recognizes select students who display a positive outlook and who are actively pursuing ways to improve society as altruistic change agents. This year’s recipients include:

  • Vidal Arroyo, biochemistry and molecular biology, Schmid College of Science and Technology
  • Erica Green, psychology, Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences
  • Melanie Rutledge, sociology, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
  • Morgan Thomas, psychology, Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences
  • Darliene Zepeda-Field, integrated educational studies, Attallah College of Educational Studies
  • Nathaniel Fernandez, sociology, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
  • Hannah Fozkos, dance and kinesiology, College of Performing Arts and Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences

A Commitment to the Future

If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that Chapman grads are going to make a lasting impact on the world. Here are just a few stories of new leaders ready to make a difference in their communities and beyond.

alexa dectisChild Actress to Entertainment Lawyer

Alexa Dectis, JD ’19

Alexa Dectis is not one to shy away from a challenge. Diagnosed as a toddler with type 2 spinal muscular atrophy, Alexa has pursued a law degree despite her personal health challenge.

“I became interested in law because I knew that I’d never be able to exercise my body, so I decided to exercise my brain,” Dectis says. “I thought that law would be a really exciting way to use my brain and to challenge myself. Being a child actress, I was always interested in what happened on the other side of the camera, which is what drew me to talent agreements and the regulations for minors in the entertainment industry. Kids in the entertainment industry need to be protected.”

It’s no coincidence that Dectis has found the intersection of law and entertainment so compelling. Because sports weren’t accommodating to her needs, she started acting “for fun” at a young age. This led to a string of acting gigs throughout her childhood and adolescence, including appearances in several television shows, movies and commercials, such as “Sesame Street,” “The Guiding Light” and the Tina Fey-Paul Rudd comedy, “Admission.”

Dectis’ internship with the Discovery Channel and experience in the Chapman Entertainment Law Clinic has allowed her to pursue her interests. After she graduates, Dectis plans to take the bar exam and work on talent agreements for a television network or production company.

There are still challenges, but Dectis is made of tough stuff. She reflects: “Law school is way harder than you can ever imagine, but if you put your mind to it and don’t ever allow quitting to be an option, you can really get through anything. Anything imaginable, it’s true.”

gonzalezWorking for the People

Flor Gonzalez, JD ’19

While growing up, Fowler School of Law’s 2019 Dean’s Award recipient Flor Gonzalez would spend her summers visiting her hometown in Mexico in an off-the-grid, rural community that didn’t seem like a priority for its government. There, she witnessed a community devastated through violence.

“That’s why I want to work for the district attorney’s office,” Gonzalez says. “Because I know how much destruction can happen, and I want other communities to have their kids be out past 7 p.m. and not have to worry about them.”

At age 5, Gonzalez and her family emigrated to Orange County. Growing up, she saw firsthand the challenges her parents faced after coming to the United States. Law and equitable access to legal representation have very personal roots for her.

“My experience is very different from what my parents had. They weren’t aware of what rights they have,” she says. “For me, it’s my job to help spread the message that people are important and their rights matter. I want to give people a voice through the legal system.”

A first-generation college student, Gonzalez graduated from UCLA with a double major in political science and international development studies and a minor in Latin American studies. She interned for a sole practitioner who specialized in employment law, which reaffirmed her interest in law and put her on the path to specifically “working for the people.”

By working in various departments at the Orange County District Attorney’s office, Gonzalez gained vital practical experience – and she already has a law clerk position at the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office lined up for when she passes the California bar exam.

“For me, criminal law is public interest law,” she says. “I see it as an opportunity to create change within a community and have a positive impact on the lives of others.”

ansley wongA Fulbright Future

Ansley Wong, IES ’18, MACI ’19

Ansley Wong, graduating from Chapman’s Attallah College of Educational Studies, was recently named a Fulbright Scholar and awarded an English Teaching Assistantship grant in Taiwan.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering research, study and teaching opportunities in more than 140 countries to students and young professionals. The pool of Fulbright alumni boasts ambassadors, members of Congress, judges, CEOs, university presidents, journalists and artists.

Wong will be assisting in English development at both a junior high school in Taipei and at an elementary school in Taiwan. Wong will also collaborate with local teachers and provide English instruction, while incorporating cultural perspectives to expand student learning.

“I am excited for this new experience,” Wong says. “I have always been interested in working with emergent bilinguals, so this will be a great opportunity for me to work with this population for the whole year in a different country.”

Chapman Community Leaders

Katelyn Dykhuis, B.S. in health science, pre-physician assistant emphasis, with a minor in dance.

Dykhuis was named Scholar of the Year by her sorority and has appeared on every Provost List during her Chapman Career. The Phoenix native is the first in her immediate family to earn a university degree. Fascinated with education, she has served as a supplemental instructor for an upper division physiology course. Dykhuis’ passionate belief in Chapman’s values resulted in a cherished honor: the Spirit of Chapman Award, which she received in Fall 2018.

Mitchell Rosenberg, B.A. in political science, BFA in television writing and production.

For two terms, Rosenberg served as president of the Student Government Association, advocating for stronger mental health services and aid for students who are struggling economically. Inspired by his father’s experience with cancer, he founded a Chapman chapter of Camp Kesem, which provides free summer camp for children whose parents are battling the disease. Also while at Chapman, he interned with the U.S. Senate, the California State Assembly and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

Alejandra Cortes, B.S. in mathematics.

A strong believer in social justice and community service, Cortes has been a major volunteer for The Nicholas Academic Centers in Santa Ana, helping first-generation students from underprivileged backgrounds to graduate from high school. Cortes also interns for Girls Inc. of Orange County, and she is president of the Chapman Feminist club. In addition, Cortes volunteers for the Summer Bridge Program, helping students transition into their first semester at Chapman.