Honoring the CLASS of 2020

Posted: August 8, 2020

In lieu of our Spring 2020 Honors Convocation and Commencement exercises, which were derailed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are highlighting and celebrating our remarkable 2020 graduates' achievements and honors. (See IMAGE GALLERY at the bottom of the page.)

STUDENT COMMENCEMENT ADDRESSES (click links to watch videos):

// View/download/print the Spring 2020 Commencement Program.



College of Arts & Sciences << click for PDF with student photos

  • Nia de la Pena (Social Science with a Concentration in History) GPA: 3.75, Magna/Pi Beta Sigma – “Nia de la Pena is an outstanding social science and history program graduate. She is always an engaged learner, intellectually curious, perceptive, and insightful. She readily comprehends information and ideas, and consistently demonstrates high level analytical and evaluative thinking. Nia has been a fine example of a true scholar-athlete and a great campus citizen. With her B.A. now in hand, she is pursuing graduate school in the social sciences. It has been an absolute pleasure to have Nia in several of my classes.”  – Dr. Steven D. Edgington, Ph.D. Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Benjamin Garcia (English) GPA: 3.98, Summa/Pi Beta Sigma – “Benjamin Garcia is a gifted fiction writer. The English department at HIU is proud to acknowledge Ben as one of our highest performing students. In the classroom, Ben inspired his peers and his instructors with his intellectual curiosity and critical insight. Always one to ask bold questions and to seek incisive answers, Ben shows great promise in his chosen field of graduate-level coursework.  We wish him the best as he accomplishes an MFA in Creative Writing at The New School.” - Dr. Natalie Hewitt, Ph.D. Professor of English
  • Brady Lange (Social Science with a Concentration in Criminal Justice) GPA: 4.00, Summa/Pi Beta Sigma  – “As his adviser, teacher, and conversation partner, I've had the privilege of knowing Brady Lange over the last four years. Brady demonstrates the best of what HIU attempts to cultivate in its students: virtues of humility, intellectual courage, discipline and imagination. I'm most impressed with his willingness to learn from his classmates and to have his viewpoints challenged by others. I could not be more proud of him as he gets ready to begin law school in the fall.” – Dr. Roberto Sirvent, Ph.D., J.D., Professor of Political and Social Ethics; Chair, Department of Social Sciences
  • Kristiana Lutz (English) GPA: 3.89, Magna/Pi Beta Sigma – “Kristiana Lutz is a remarkable literary scholar, undaunted by challenging subjects. Her essay on The Thousand and One Nights, “Tyranny Over All for the Sins of One: Scheherazade’s Subtle Reform of the Rule of King Shahryar” traced the subtlety of Scheherazade’s process in a narrative of extremes. And her work on Les Misérables, “Irreproachable: The True Nature of Inspector Javert in a World That Sees Him Only as a Villain” convincingly argues against vilifying Javert. At the same time, Kristi’s work and classroom observations were always enlivened with her unstoppable wit. Thank you for keeping us laughing and thinking, Kristi. Congratulations!” – Dr. Natalie Hewitt, Ph.D. Professor of English
  • Kelci Saruwatari (Liberal Arts/Communication) GPA:4.00, Summa/Pi Beta Sigma – “I have many favorite things about Kelci: she is a wonderful student, she is a hard worker, and she has intellectual curiosity. She is one of the most capable people I have ever met. But, my most favorite thing about Kelci is her tender heart. While she excelled in all her classes, oftentimes she would come to me worried about her classmates who were not doing as well. She was crushed when her Korean student group had to return to South Korea. She cares so deeply about other people. I truly admire her for that.” – Dr. Shannon Bates, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication

College of Business & Management << click for PDF with student photos

  • Brandon Burke (Business) GPA: 3.58, Cum, Pi Beta Sigma - "Brandon is a quiet guy in class but opens up when you talk about basketball and get a chance to have individual conversations with him. I truly enjoyed those conversations before and after class and seeing him open up about his passions. He understands concepts well and I appreciate his helping attitude, both in the classroom, and seeing him around the basketball court. I look forward to hearing the great things he will do and places he will go in the future." - Andrew Paine, Chair, Online Undergraduate Program; Associate Business and Accounting Professor
  • Sunshine Crellin (Business) GPA: 3.58, Cum/Pi Beta Sigma – “Sunshine, you made an indelible mark in our hearts and minds with your dynamic personality and high and enjoyable engagement in the classroom. Your dedicated servant leadership to HIU at large and specifically as my intern in our College of Business and Management was genuine and exceptional. We greatly appreciate you for your service at Fullerton Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, Sigma Beta Delta Honors Society, and our College’s New Student Induction. I am particularly thankful for your significant and meaningful research in support of my lead on our College’s Faith Integration (F.I.) project too! Sunshine, your own words depict your undergraduate story well, “…I had so many great professors who challenged me and pushed me to better myself inside and outside the classroom. When I made the switch to business in my sophomore year, I was unsure that I had made the right decision by switching. It was not until I began an internship on campus with Dr. Knopf that I felt like all the puzzle pieces were finally fitting together. Being her intern allowed me to use what I was learning in the classroom and prove to myself that I could be successful in the business world. It also showed me the “business world” is not just one thing; there are different paths I can take. I will forever be grateful for this experience because I have now started the HIU MBA program and am more excited than ever to see what my future holds. I am also grateful for HIU because I was able to find lasting friendships, connections, and a home away from home. After all, Hope is Home. I truly know that God put me at HIU because he knew that was where I would thrive and find all my missing puzzle pieces.” Sunshine, may the Lord bless you in MBA graduate studies and beyond as you wholeheartedly minister to others in service to Him as an effective and efficient leader and manager in business.” – Dr. Lydia Knopf Chair, College of Business and Management; Associate Professor of Business and Management
  • Konner Dodge (Business) GPA: 3.77, Magna - “Konner is a selfless leader who has impacted many of HIU’s programs. In the classroom, he is a proactive thought leader that is always willing to help others with his time and even financial resources. As a member of the Royals Baseball team, he helped his teammates stay on track academically while also performing at a high level on the field. Konner is a shining example of servant leadership within his peer groups and will continue to be such as he enters the marketplace blessed with a successful career filled with meaningful work. On many occasions he was selected to represent HIU at community and business networking events-- a testament to the confidence and trust Hope faculty and administrators have in him.” - Jeremiah Smith, Professor of Business and Management
  • Jared Haymon (Business) GPA: 3.75, Magna – “Jared took on the intensive 3-Year Business Administration program with tenacity and gusto while running his own business. He gave each class his best and looks forward to what the future holds!” – Stefanie Banks, Academic Advisor
  • Katherine Martinez-Torres (Business) GPA: 3.55, Cum/Pi Beta Sigma –  “Katherine ended up in a number of my accounting classes and over time I got to hear how she was putting into practice some of the concepts we were talking about at the non-profit she was working for. I appreciated her desire to learn and how she interacted with all the other students. I have been able to watch her juggle work, academics, and interacting with her close knit family. I will miss her in class and will be excited to hear what she chooses to do moving forward.” - Andrew Paine, Chair, Online Undergraduate Program; Associate Business and Accounting Professor
  • Ryan McCarthy (Business) GPA: 3.71, Cum - "Ryan is one of the most determined and passionate individuals I have been blessed to walk alongside of. While in the Online Program, he took the maximum course load possible and achieved success with Honors, an achievement that indeed deserves respect and recognition. I am so excited to see what God has planned for Ryan as he heads into his bright future as a new graduate and new husband.” - Denise Castillo, Academic Coach
  • Evan McElrath (Business) GPA: 3.68, Cum - "I had the pleasure to work with Evan towards the end of his program and I could tell that Evan was a ball of energy. He showed so much excitement and determination to accomplish his educational goal and I am excited to see where his next chapter takes him.” - Denise Castillo, Academic Coach
  • Sarah Nunes (Business) GPA: 3.52, Cum - "When I think of my encounters with Sarah, I think of joyful, hard-working, and passionate. In class, she would work hard to understand the material but also brought joy to the classroom. On the basketball court, she was passionate and hard-working. The few times that I brought my daughter to campus Sarah greeted her with lots of joy and love. Keep working hard, be passionate for the things in life that are holy, and may joy surround you as you step into life after college." – Andrew Paine, Chair, Online Undergraduate Program; Associate Business and Accounting Professor
  • Gabriel Quintero (Business) GPA: 3.89, Magna, Pi Beta Sigma – “I greatly appreciated getting to know Gabriel in my classes. Sometimes he would show up to class early and we would get a chance to talk about business and other topics. He is a very humble and hard-working guy who is willing to process through new material with others and make sure everyone around him understands. It was a pleasure to have him in class and as an advisee. I wish him many blessings in his next step in life." - Andrew Paine, Chair, Online Undergraduate Program; Associate Business and Accounting Professor
  • David Raynor (Business) GPA: 3.98, Summa – “David returned to HIU after time away and quickly finished his final classes to obtain his degree in Business Administration while juggling full-time work and time with family.  He is very dedicated and diligent, and he is looking forward to having more upward mobility in his career now he is a graduate!” – Stefanie Banks, Academic Advisor
  • Alexza Sanchez (Business) GPA: 3.66, Cum/Pi Beta Sigma - "Alexza is a go-getter and leader. She works extremely hard on the softball field and brings that same work effort into the classroom. I appreciated the times I got to have her in class but also the academic advising times and other times that she would just drop into my office to hang out and talk for a while. Her plan is to move on to get her MBA and finish out her collegiate playing career next spring. I am looking forward to watching her passion on the softball field for another year and seeing what she will choose to do with her Masters when she is done." - Andrew Paine, Chair, Online Undergraduate Program; Associate Business and Accounting Professor
  • Anna Stevenson (Business) GPA: 3.75, Magna/Pi Beta Sigma – "Anna has grown in so many ways during her time at HIU and I have just greatly enjoyed watching her confidence grow around business and volleyball. She asks good questions and deeply understands business concepts. Out of the classroom, she has helped out the business department with some projects and made an impact in helping organize things for the faculty. It is fun to see her bring joy into many situations. As she walks out of HIU, with her degree, she is ready to take on the next steps and I am excited for her to fulfill what God has in store next." – Andrew Paine, Chair, Online Undergraduate Program; Associate Business and Accounting Professor
  • Leigha Williams (Business) GPA: 3.82, Magna/Pi Beta Sigma - "Leigha, I have so enjoyed having you in multiple classes and watching you on the soccer field. I have seen you grow in leadership and confidence during your time here at HIU. You have put in the hard work to become a recognized soccer player in the conference and to set yourself up for a great internship and now starting your job. I encourage you to be yourself and see the great things that you can accomplish with God's help." – Andrew Paine, Chair, Online Undergraduate Program; Associate Business and Accounting Professor
  • Arturo Yero (Business) GPA: 3.66, Cum – “Arturo completed the rigorous 3-Year Business Administration program with great commitment and focus while working full-time and raising his family.  Being in the program allowed him to earn a job promotion and he is excited to see how his career advances now that he has earned his degree!” – Stefanie Banks, Academic Advisor
  • Michelle Young (Business) GPA: 3.74, Cum - "Michelle reminds me how much I love being an Academic Coach at Hope International University! She is such a fun-loving spirit and she never fails to put a smile on my face. I have developed a deep respect for her and all of her accomplishments. She has encouraged, motivated and inspired me with her generous heart and her spirit to serve. I know that her gifts and her talents will be used in His kingdom to impact the lives of many, many people.” - Denise Castillo, Academic Coach

College of Education << click for PDF with student photos

  • Lauren Castellanos (Liberal Studies) GPA: 3.59, Cum – “Lauren demonstrated diligence and effective communication skills throughout her time at HIU. Her passion on the sports field and in the classroom will take you far as a future educator.  I look forward to seeing how the Lord works in her future!” – Lindsay Blume, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Education
  • Kyla Kincaid (Liberal Studies) GPA: 3.52, Cum/Pi Beta Sigma – “Kyla was an excellent student and committed athlete. She was always ready with a plan and did a great job making it work out! I know that her drive and enthusiasm will continue to open doors for her to new and exciting challenges.” - Karen Clark, Chair, Liberal Studies Department; Chair, Associate Professor of Education and Liberal Studies
  • Faith Lucas (Liberal Studies) GPA: 3.67, Cum – “Faith Lucas came to HIU for her senior year.  She was committed to the process, worked diligently and with integrity.  Faith, you finished well! Congratulations!” – Cori DeWitt, Assistant Professor of Education and Credential Analyst
  • Katy McGuire (Liberal Studies) GPA: 3.87, Magna/Pi Beta Sigma – “Katy McGuire is a bright, motivated person.  She studied Math and Science with the goal of teaching Middle School students.  She is a very effective tutor and communicates difficult concepts with simplicity and clarity.  She challenged herself at HIU to overcome uncertainties in her effective pursuit of knowledge and distinction. We are proud of you, Katy, and will watch your career with pride and pleasure.” – Sandy Kavanaugh, Associate Professor of Mathematics
  • Karina Oddo (Liberal Studies) GPA: 4.00 – “Karina is a conscientious student and in turn is a conscientious teacher. She is interested in learning new ways to engage with students and improve herself as a teacher. She is an asset to the teaching profession and her students are lucky to have a teacher that takes her own learning seriously.” – Nancy Stichter, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Education
  • Jenny Rodriguez (Liberal Studies) GPA: 4.00, Summa/Pi Beta Sigma – “Jenny Rodriguez is a delightful scholar who skillfully, masterfully accomplishes course requirements but also goes above and beyond to contribute valuable insight to class discussion. Many times, Jenny would offer a unique and intellectually mature perspective to the topics brought about by the assigned literature. I did my best to convince her to change majors, just so she could participate in more of my classes! She is most worthy of high honors for her academic success.” - Dr. Natalie Hewitt, Ph.D. Professor of English

Pacific Christian College of Ministry & Biblical Studies << click for PDF with student photos

  • Carlos Austin (Worship Arts) GPA: 3.5, Cum/Pi Beta Sigma – “Carlos Austin was a great example of a servant leader within our department. He was quick to choose harmony and sacrifice, without resentment, as a leader on our campus. Through many ups and downs, Carlos remained humble and patient, and was always learning from his experiences. We are so proud of him and we pray that God blesses his journey as a graduate of HIU.” – Dr. Joseph Cho, D.M.A., Professor of Music
  • Amanda May (Church Ministry) GPA: 3.88, Magna/ Pi Beta Sigma – “The first time Amanda came in my office she had a four year plan!  It was well constructed and charted. Through her years at Hope she stayed with her plan and completed it. Amanda has a vision for the future and is hardworking in the present.” - Dr. Joe Grana, Academic Advisor
  • Mattie Miller (Intercultural Studies) GPA: 3.61, Cum – “Mattie is both a student who is stellar in the classroom and has an endless curiosity to learn.  Mattie was often seen dropping by professor’s offices unannounced just to ask further questions and learn.  During her time here at Hope she participated on campus and travelled globally as part of her degree.  She has a heart for both the local and global mission of God, and seeks to minister to her own community through a variety of creative endeavors.  Mattie was a joy to have as a student and is a well-deserving student of the Intercultural Studies award.” – Dr. Phil Towne, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Ministry & Intercultural Studies; Chair of Intercultural Studies

College of Psychology & Counseling << click for PDF with student photos

  • Paige Daniels (Human Development) GPA: 3.94, Summa - "I had the pleasure of being Paige's Academic Coach towards the end of her program and am in awe of her determination and commitment to completing her degree with excellence. She is a young and bright student and I cannot wait to see where her journey leads her as she serves the world for Christ.” - Denise Castillo, Academic Coach
  • Mikayla (Cynthia) Suarez (Psychology) GPA: 3.68, Cum/Pi Beta Sigma – “Mikayla is a quiet force for excellence. During her years at HIU, she has faithfully completed her coursework at a very high level, demonstrating care and critical thought about the subject at hand. She has not merely taken in information or completed assignments, but has developed a deep sense of commitment to her own growth and to bettering the world around her. She has done all this difficult work with maturity and a quiet self-possession. It has been my privilege to learn from her, and to share in her journey. As she prepares for graduate training, I gleefully anticipate the reaction of her future professors, colleagues and all those she will meet and impact along the way. Like me, they will be glad and grateful once they realize what a richly thoughtful and deeply formed person they have the privilege to know when they meet Mikayla. I expect and hope that, after graduation, she will continue to challenge herself and to use her great abilities to serve others.” – Dr. Denise Wallace, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Psychology and Counseling
  • Ellie Turner (Psychology) GPA: 3.79, Magna/Pi Beta Sigma – “Ellie is a good student but, like many honors students, she brings more to her education than her coursework alone demonstrates. Ellie has sought God in her education, wrestling with her course material and the world around her such that she would be ever more obedient to the Spirit's direction. This approach has required depth and immediacy, and she has allowed her time at Hope to grow her as a person, scholar, and someday professional. She brings her unique style and enthusiasm to the classroom and to her peers and professors, and is a joy to know. She has been generous with fellow students on campus, serving in leadership capacities that require her to reach out to others, welcome them in, and to provide comfort and connection. As she prepared to move into a profession in Education, I am confident that she will bring a caring thoughtfulness to her work with young people that will allow them to grow and learn in a lasting and life-altering way.” – Dr. Denise Wallace, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Psychology and Counseling


SERVANT LEADER AWARD << click for PDF with student photos

The Medford Jones Servant Leader Award is presented to graduating students who best exemplify the characteristics of the "Priesthood of All Believers" through exceptional service to the Church and community. Selection is made by the Dean of the respective school from recommendatios made by campus personnel.

2020 Awardees:

  • Jenny Rodriguez - Jenny Rodriguez has been the consummate servant leader during her time at HIU.  She was employed in multiple job positions that included information desk worker, library tutor, and phone-a-thon caller. In all of these positions, she has been willing to help with whatever needs to be done. Her peers shared that they could count on her to be available to serve and support them.  Her role as a tutor has been a fulfilling from for her. She stated that in her role a tutor, "There is nothing better than knowing that I helped students understand a concept that they previously believed was confusing." Furthermore, she also volunteered in the program Hope Mates mentoring elementary students.  In this role she was able to come along side elementary students offering advice and support. While outside of school, her focus is on spreading the Gospel through her interactions with others. She stated, “I take risks and start up conversations with strangers and treat them in the way that is Christ like. In most cases, these people are intrigued by my kindness and ask me what motivates me.  In those moments I share the Gospel with them.” - Dr. Doug Domene, Dean of the College of Education
  • Leigha Williams - Leigha has earned All GSAC Honors for both the 2018 and 2019 season, earned GSAC Scholar-Athlete for both 2018 and 2019, earned NAIA All American Honorable Mention in 2018, and earned Daktronics NAIA Scholar-Athlete in 2018.  Leigha helped lead her team to their first ever GSAC Tournament Championship in 2018. Leigha exemplifies the pillar of Servant Leadership in the NAIA Champion of Character core values. At her alma mater Fountain Valley High School Leigha was a member of the human-to-human club where they made sandwiches for the homeless and a member of Fellowship for Christian Athletes. Leigha also volunteered at NHB Academy Nights at Hope View School where she facilitated a 7-week soccer training for 8-9 year old boys to teach and demonstrate skills, drills, and sportsmanship. Leigha volunteered as a teacher's assistant at Carrillo Elementary where she worked with Special Disabled Classes and assisted with their work, teaching math, and making crafts with t the children. Leigha also participated in Tim Tebow Foundation's, Night to Shine, while during this experience she made friendships and gave special needs children a true prom experience. Leigha also excels in the classroom as she maintains a 3.78 overall GPA. She is majoring in Business Management with a concentration in Accounting and aspires to become a Certified Personal Accountant and do Forensic Accounting or Compliance after graduation this May. She currently is working at an accounting firm where she works as an assistant account executive/bookkeeper. She was the VP for the Student Government Association, has been a business and accounting tutor for the past two years, and captain for the women's soccer team. – Andrew Paine, Chair, Online Undergraduate Program; Associate Business and Accounting Professor
  • Michelle Young - Michelle "Shelli" Young is an adult learner. She is an amazing student. Coming into the program after being away from school for so long, she was anxious and nervous. She is a single parent and her daughter is simultaneously attending CSUF and she joked around about going to school with her daughter. She has been in a professional environment for quite some time and she wanted a degree to back her up. She actually was the FIRST student I had ever recruited in my position and its great to see her finish strong. She is a perfectionist by nature. Her schedule included a full-time job, putting her daughter through college, and also going to school full-time herself. She completed Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsay and was able to pay for her schooling out of pocket as well as put her daughter through school without any debt. I would get communication from her regularly and she was always a delight to talk to. She had a positive attitude and used her professional experience in her threaded discussions. She said that students had learned a lot from her and she too, was able to learn from them. - Denise Castillo, Academic Coach