NMU Announces Outstanding Graduates

Northern Michigan University has announced its outstanding graduating seniors and graduate students from each academic department. Most honorees will receive their degrees at NMU’s spring commencement on May 5.

The outstanding graduating seniors and their departments are identified below (listed by hometowns in alphabetical order, with Michigan cities first):


Cheboygan: Kelsa Dykehouse, Art and Design. As an art education major, Dykehouse completed her student teaching in Fall 2017. She has worked as an art educator in Upper Peninsula schools.  

Davison: Raven Mitchell, Earth, Environmental and Geographical Science. She assisted with research at the Huron Mountain Club and interned with the Marquette Country Conservation District. During a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mitchell studied ways to increase conservation of Kirtland’s warbler through sustainable forestry. She will present her research at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers in New Orleans.

Escanaba: Steve Wood, Political Science. During his time at NMU, Wood served as the president of the Student Law Forum. He will attend the University of Minnesota Law School.

Felch: Sarah Naracon, Biology. During her time at NMU, Naracon made research contributions on neuromuscular disease to the Ottem Laboratory. Following graduation, she will attend Michigan State University to pursue a degree in the College of Human Medicine.

Gladstone: Abby Flaminio, Health and Human Performance. She was one of 20 students selected nationwide to participate in an athletic training study-abroad program at the National Taiwan Sport University. Flaminio also completed an NMU faculty-led study abroad to Belize, where she assisted in the provision of medical care to the underserved. She has completed more than 1,000 hours of clinical education by providing athletic training services to NMU student athletes. Following graduation, Flaminio will begin physical therapy school at Central Michigan University.

Holt: Chloe Lewis, Chemistry and Mathematics and Computer Science. She received a Harden Scholarship and participated in research as a Freshman Fellow. Lewis was selected for two competitive National Science Foundation Research Experiences, one in analytical chemistry at Notre Dame and the other in mathematics at the University of Texas at Tyler. She also served as the editor in chief of “Conspectus Borealis,” NMU’s undergraduate research journal.

Iron River: Ryan Peterson, Sociology and Anthropology. Peterson was the president of the NMU Anthropology Club and served as an office assistant for the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. In addition, he worked as a lab assistant in the Sociology and Anthropology Lab and participated in field work for the Forensic Research Outdoor Station (FROST) facility. As a McNair Scholar, he presented the findings of his research on Beaver Island. Following graduation, Peterson will attend graduate school in archaeology.

Ishpeming: Alyssa Gray, Philosophy. Her motivation and interests are in feminist and LGBTQ philosophy, which helped her construct her thinking about society and the nature of desirable social change. Following graduation, she plans to pursue opportunities related to both philosophy and gender studies.

Lewiston: Mckenzie Mathewson, Economics, 4.0 GPA. She was a double major in economics and public relations. As an honors student, her researched focused on the crisis communication strategy of the NFL. During her time at NMU, she served as the president of the Economics Student Association, the treasurer of the Public Relations Student Society of America and resident adviser in Hunt Hall. She also participated in a 16-day international service project in New Zealand. After graduation, she plans oto pursue her master’s degree in higher education and student affairs.


Aaron Lewkowicz, Clinical Sciences. As a McNair undergraduate researcher, Lewkowicz developed an equipment-free Colorimetric Look Mediated Isothermal Amplification based detection method to accurately detect S. aureus DNA in mock clinical samples. He also initiated independent research to develop an isothermal technique to detect HIV nucleic acid without the need for laboratory instrumentation. He was selected for a summer 2017 undergraduate internship at Mayo Clinic.

Jill Vermeulen, Communication and Performance Studies, 4.0 GPA. During her time at NMU, Vermeulen played various roles in NMU Theater and Dance productions, including Morticia in "The Addams Family" musical. She also completed a summer 2017 internship at the Adirondack Theatre Festival. Vermeulen worked as a student writer in NMU’s Marketing and Communications Office. Following graduation, she will spend the summer as a director for Superior Arts Youth Theatre in Marquette.

Munising: Jennie Baker, English. As a secondary education student, Baker is passionate about the power of literacy in her students. During her student teaching, she strived to motivate her students to write for meaningful roles in their community. She also spent time teaching English language learners in Sapporo, Japan.

Muskegon: Summer Yeck, Technology and Occupational Sciences, 4.0 GPA. Yeck participated in the NMU Honors program and served as an on-campus tutor. In addition to her work at NMU, Yeck volunteered for community events with the hospitality program, including the inaugural Hospitality Gala and the OSF Heart of Gold dinner. Following graduation, Yeck will study in Bangkok, Thailand, and plans to pursue a master’s degree or complete accounting certification.

Negaunee: Chatrine-Irin Johannessen, Psychology. She was a McNair Scholar, working with professor Mounia Ziat on several laboratory projects presented at scientific conferences. She is a member of PSI CHI, the international honors society in psychology and Sigma Tau Delta, the honors society in English. While at NMU, Johannessen served as a volunteer, working with grieving children, young adults with drug abuse problems and adult hospital patients with pain management issues. She also provided household assistance to elderly people.

Rockford: Daniel Kase, International Studies. Kase will graduate from NMU with a 4.0 GPA. During his time as a student, he spent a semester abroad at Oldenburg University in Germany. He worked as a tutor for NMU German students and an English Language teacher in Taiwan over the summer of 2017. He also served as the president of the All Nations Club and co-president of the All About Korea club. Following graduation, he will enter the Peace Corps with an assignment in Ukraine.

Skandia: Shelby Talsma, Business. During her time at NMU, she was very involved within programs related to the College of Business. She was the president of Beta Alpha Psi, the international honor organization for accounting, finance and information systems students. She was also a member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Council, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and successfully completed an internship with Plante Moran in Traverse City. Talsma was also an NMU Honors Program member and Student Leadership Fellowship Program participant.

Traverse City: Austin Bannister, History. During his time at NMU, Bannister was the student president of the History Club and a member of the Reacting to the Past History Club. He also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department. Following graduation, he plans to attend graduate school for a degree in history and archival administration.

Williamston: Lindsey Tuggle, Marketing. During her time at NMU, Tuggle was active in many extracurricular activities, most notably the NMU women’s soccer team. She also served as the recruiting pfficer for NMU’s American Marketing Association chapter. In addition to her work on campus, Tuggle represented NMU and the College of Business on a recruiting trip to Grand Rapids, where she spoke to high school students about attending NMU. She also worked as a sales and marketing intern for Easy Ice and has since transitioned into a marketing specialist with the company.


Lake Forest: Alex Camarillo-Lugo, Criminal Justice. She was selected as the student commencement speaker. During her time at NMU, Camarillo-Lugo worked for NMU Housing as both a resident and community adviser. She also volunteered to talk with prospective criminal justice students at Wildcat Weekend events. Following graduation, Camarillo-Lugo plans to pursue a graduate degree in public administration.


Fergus Falls: Krystle Hanson, Social Work. Hanson became an NMU student after serving eight years in the U.S. Air Force. During her time at NMU, she maintained a 4.0 GPA. Hanson was completing her field placement at the Department of Health and Human Services in Marquette.

Minneapolis: Meghan Hohenstein, Nursing. She was involved in many on-campus organizations, including the Student Leadership Fellowship program, the Spanish Club, Student Nurses Association and the Honors Student Organization. In addition, she was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing in March. While at NMU, she participated in two international health care experiences, one in Cusco, Peru, and the other in San Ignacio, Belize.


Herriman: Rachel Hunter, Physics. She was a Freshman Fellow, who worked in the university observatory and lab and presented her work at the Celebration of Student Scholarship. Hunter was also awarded a summer research experience at Vanderbilt University and presented the results at the national meeting of the American Physical Society in New Orleans. In addition, she was the president of the Physics Club and a member of the Mortar Board honor society. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a career in health care data analysis and informatics.


De Pere: Paul LaPlant, Language, Literatures and International Studies, 4.0 GPA. He participated in a study abroad program with NMU in Salamanca, Spain. In addition, LaPlant presented his research in organic chemistry at the American Chemical Society Conference. He was a member of the honors program, co-president of the Spanish Club and competed on the NMU Quiz Bowl team.

Fontana: Zachary Ott, Music. While at NMU, Ott performed with many different ensembles, including the NMU Jazz Band, Jazz Combos, Symphonic Band, Percussion Ensemble and Marching Band. In Summer 2015, he was hired by WNMU-FM radio to host the Sunday Swing and Jazz Showcase program.

Waunakee: Megan McCormick, Education, Leadership and Public Service. During her time at NMU, McCormick participated in a variety of educational projects, notably co-authoring a publication titled “A Novel Method to Factor Cubic Polynomials: The ad-Method.” She also led the Education Math Club, a student group that had a positive impact on her peers and school-aged children.

The outstanding graduate students, with their respective departments, are:


Bark River: Justina Liss, Business. For the last two years, she has served as a graduate assistant in the College of Business. Following graduation, Liss will pursue a career in management or marketing.

Brimley: Miranda Johnson, Psychology. During her involvement in NMU’s Applied Behavior Analysis lab, Johnson learned to implement behavior change procedures and instruct language skills for children with autism. She also received a graduate assistantship for working in the NMU Behavioral Education Assessment and Research (BEAR) Center and Northpointe Behavioral Health Systems. After successfully defending her thesis, “Peer-Meditated Self-Monitoring to Increase Procedural Integrity of Natural Environment Trainings in the Clinic Settings,” Johnson has helped families across the Upper Peninsula by working as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with Hiawatha Behavioral Health.

Dearborn: Anne Okonowski, English/MA. She has spent two years at NMU working as a teaching assistant. Okonowski also served on the Graduate Writers’ Association as a graduate representative for the composition committee. In 2016, she gave a panel presentation at the Michigan College Teachers of English Association conference. She plans to return to her hometown to resume work as a historical presenter at Greenfield Village, while continuing her teaching and writing career.

Ishpeming: Mallory McCormack, Learning Disabilities. McCormack is currently an elementary school teacher with Negaunee Public Schools. Her education in learning disabilities will help her to meet the needs of students in her classroom.

Joe Routhier, Education Specialist. He is currently an instructor of Engineering Technology at NMU. In his thesis, “The Work Ethic Gap: Comparing Perceptions of Students, Teachers, and Employers,” Routhier created videos of workplace situations that were rated by various participant groups in order to determine if they perceived work ethic differently.

Marquette: Jessica Bruning, Postsecondary Biology Education. During her time at NMU, Bruning was active in research examining plant-microbe interactions and the isolation of endophytic bacteria for use as biocontrol agents of plant diseases. She also served as a lab technician, preparing upper-level teaching labs. She has taught human physiology labs in the Biology Department.

Rachel Pomeroy, Mathematics and Computer Science. She worked as an adjunct instructor in NMU’s Physics Department in 2011, teaching physics lab sections. Pomeroy currently teaches geometry, physics, AP physics and astronomy at Marquette Area Public Schools, where she also served as the director of the Shiras Planetarium for five years.

Edward Raack, Clinical Sciences. Raack’s thesis, “Development of Rapid, Colorimetric Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification Assay for Determination of Mutational Status in Glioblostoma,” provides a guide to neurosurgeons during resection in glioblastoma. He currently works for Second Genome, a biotechnology company that uses nucleic-acid-based technologies to evaluate microbiomes.

Sara Ryan, English/MFA. During her time as a graduate student, Ryan taught a variety of English courses at NMU, including Good Books and Intro to Creative Writing. Her written work has been published in Slice Magazine, Fairy Tale Review and the Sonora Review. Her chapbook, “Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned,” is in the process of being published by Porkbelly Press. She was also the associate poetry editor for “Passages North,” a literary journal sponsored by NMU. Ryan will pursue her doctorate in creative writing and continue teaching at the post-secondary level.


Kimball: Ashlyn Jendro, Health and Human Performance, 4.0 GPA. Her thesis project, “Performance Characteristics of Adult One Dog Canicross Runners,” merges her interests of sled dog racing and exercise science. She received a Spooner Research Award in Fall 2017 to support her research and plans to present her findings at the International Society of Biomechanics in Sport Conference in New Zealand in 2018.


Madison: Amanda Vanderplow, Biology. While at NMU, she was granted research support through the Excellence in Education and the Biology Department Developmental Fund. In her thesis, she characterized the anatomical expression of novel neuropeptide in the hamster brain. Following her graduation in 2017, Vanderplow was awarded a two-year fellowship with Team Science and is now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison working toward her doctorate in the endocrinology and reproductive physiology program.

Prepared By

Doug Lindblom
Student Writer

Categories: Alumni, Around NMU