Nursing students are an adventurous group. At least that’s the impression you’ll get from reading this compendium of 2019 graduate features produced by the College of Nursing.
From the epic story of an ice climber to the idealistic goals of a non-traditional student to a student whose ambitions have been shaped by working in a girls’ home for sex-trafficking victims, get to know this group of fascinating graduates.
The CU Anschutz Spring 2018 Commencement was held May 25 at Boettcher Commons. Additional school and college graduation ceremonies took place across campus. Graduates from a wide range of health care disciplines received their degrees and celebrated their achievements with friends and family.
Congratulations to all graduates! Scroll down to see images and messages from the day.
Growing up with a pharmacist for a grandfather, Megan Wary always knew she wanted to work in the medical field. So, after earning her undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas, she had a crucial decision to make: Where would she call home for the next four years and continue her education?
Today, Wary will join her fellow graduates in the 2018 Spring Commencement Ceremonies. Looking back, she said she’s glad she chose the top-ranked veteran-friendly university and the outdoor-oriented state, both of which helped shape Wary’s future.
Ticket to outdoor paradise
“I knew I was ready to move out of Arkansas,” Wary said. “I wanted to be able to hike and snowboard, to spend time in the sunshine.
There’s no better place.”
In between studying for her challenging courses, Wary enjoyed all that Colorado has to offer, especially hiking fourteeners and snowboarding Peak 6 at Breckenridge.
“There is such a special vibe about Coloradans,” she said of meeting new friends. “Everyone that moves here has something in common, whether it be hitting the trails or the slopes.”
While taking full advantage of Colorado’s outdoor sports and recreation two years ago, Wary slipped during a kickball match and tore her ACL.
She didn’t let her serious injury hold her back. One year after the tear, Wary participated in a “Tough Mudder,” a grueling race that involved trudging through thick mud while tackling a challenging obstacle course.
“This was something that I was really proud of,” she said. “If soldiers can recover from traumatic injuries and live their everyday lives, then I can heal from this ACL injury and finish this race.”
The symbolic victory highlights Wary’s passion for working with veterans.
Service through pharmacy
“It has always been a sweet spot for me,” she said. “I have a lot of family members in different military branches. I just really love working with that population. I know that I want to be with these people and serve them as they have served us.”
Faced with leaving Colorado, she will miss the great outdoors and the people she’s met along her journey, said Wary, who intends to complete a pharmacy residency with the Veterans Administration, her top choice.
“It’s going to be tough to leave this wonderful place,” she said. “But, I know that my education and training will help me achieve my goals in the years to come,” said Wary, who advises incoming pharmacy students to keep their studies first. “But, enjoy Colorado. Denver and the surrounding areas have so much to offer. Keep the faith. You will make it.”
William Mundo called it a “miracle” that he graduated from high school in 2012. Now the aspiring physician is graduating with his master’s degree in public health from the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoSPH).
The son of Mexican immigrants, Mundo was born in Los Angeles and moved with his family to Leadville, Colo., when he was 6 years old.
“No one in my family had gone to college.”
He remembers, as a child, watching visitors arrive at his house to see his father. They came with sicknesses and injuries. They came to be healed.
Mundo thought his father was a doctor, and he wanted to follow in his footsteps.
“When I got older, I discovered that no one in my family had gone to college,” Mundo said. “My father didn’t have his medical doctorate. He’d dropped out of school in the sixth grade.”
But, Mundo learned, his father was a curandero, a community healer who provided traditional, indigenous forms of treatment. He decided he wanted to heal people, too.
A painful goodbye
When Mundo was 16, his father left the United States. He returned to his hometown in southern Mexico to take care of his own ailing father.
Mundo didn’t know if he would ever see his father again. He fell into despair and began getting into trouble. He was on the verge of dropping out of school when a mentor reached out to get him back on track – and took him to visit CU Denver.
The mentor knew of Mundo’s interest in health care and thought CU Denver would be a welcoming environment for him and – with its relationship to CU Anschutz – would help him on the path to med school.
“He was 100 percent right,” Mundo said. “From the moment I stepped foot on campus, I knew this was where I wanted to go.”
With his mentor’s support, Mundo applied to CU Denver and was accepted. He called his father in Mexico to share the good news. His father was proud of him and said he was making plans to come back to the United States and see him succeed in college.
But during Mundo’s very first week of college, his father passed away in Mexico.
“My father couldn’t come back to support me in my journey,” he said. “That solidified my motivation to honor his legacy as a healer.”
“Being a first-gen student, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” he said. “I started as a pre-med biology major, but as I took more public health classes, I saw how it applied to my life and what I’d seen growing up in an underserved town.”
“As I studied public health, I saw applications to my own identity and cultural heritage and opportunities to promote health equity and social justice,” he said. He graduates May 25 at the CU Anschutz Spring Commencement 2018.
And his pathway through the university won’t end there. Though he received offers from med schools across the country, Mundo chose the CU School of Medicine.
“It’s an excellent school,” he said. “I bleed black and gold.”
He has big dreams for helping not just his own but communities around the world.
“After I get my MD, I hope to be able to work with rural and Indigenous people around the world to preserve their culture and their health,” he said. “Then, I want to open my own clinic. I want to focus on health policy and social justice advocacy. I want to promote a narrative of creating healing spaces, incorporating restorative justice and pushing the United States to lead the world in health outcomes.
And then there’s his ultimate goal: to be the first Mexican-American U.S. president.
“I want to challenge the status quo and make a difference for others,” he said. “And I’m so thankful for everyone at the university who’s helped me out and allowed me to make something out of my life.”
More than 1,300 graduates from a wide range of health care disciplines celebrated their achievement with friends and family at CU Anschutz Commencement on May 26. The ceremonies included the graduation of the 10,000th student from the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in its current location, reflecting the campus’s tremendous growth since relocating from the location at 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard.
MaLaura Creager has experienced quite a lot in her life. She and her brother are the first in their family to obtain bachelors’ degrees. And, MaLaura will be the first to attain her doctor of pharmacy degree from CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy. “My family is so, so proud,” says Creager, who will have her own cheering section at Commencement when 20 family members descend on Colorado to share her excitement. “They are so impressed that I will be a pharmacist.”
For Creager, the mantra “it’s not if you go to college, but when” that many families embrace was not reality.
Even though her family valued education, they just didn’t know how to get there. “I didn’t understand applications or the process. There was no one to work through it with, so I thought I couldn’t go because I couldn’t afford it,” Creager says.
Growing up in Utah and one generation removed from the farm, college was not as encouraged for women. In this day and age, that seems like a pretty foreign concept. But for Creager, “It was considered an unnecessary expense to fulfill my dream of going to school.” So, years passed. “It took a long time to overcome the barriers and discover financial aid,” says Creager. By the time she started her undergraduate program in Biology at Utah State she was already 27 and a single mother of a four-year-old daughter.
“I applied and got some scholarships and took a leap of faith.” She quit her job and lived off her scholarships. “It was terrifying. There was no one to fall back on,” Creager recalls.
In 2008, the economy bottomed out and she thought, “Oh, great. We’ll be homeless.” But her tenacity pulled her through. “I never thought about dropping out or skipping a year. I knew I just had to keep on going.”
For Creager, the challenges were real.
It wasn’t just simply that Creager was a single mother going to school. She was a single mother with a special needs child.
“In some ways having a high functioning autistic child has really provided me with an entirely different perspective. It’s helped tremendously with patient care,” says Creager who looks at her daughter’s condition as an issue of diversity versus disability. Her daughter, Evelyn, is 16 years old now and an autism advocate. “She’s taught me a lot — especially to accept the diversity of different types of brains,” says Creager. The two will be on their next adventure together when Creager goes to her PGY-1 residency at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque.
This year’s ceremony was marked by several milestones, including the first group of nurses graduating from the new CU South Denver location and the largest graduating class ever from the Colorado School of Public Health.
Congratulations to all CU Anschutz graduates. View our favorite photos from the festivities below.