Several First-Cohort Students to Graduate in May
A number of UA programs will be sending off their first graduates during this spring's Commencement ceremony.

University Relations - Communications
April 4, 2016


The James E. Rogers College of Law, Department of Mexican American Studies and UA North Valley are among those at the UA that will be sending off some of their first graduates during the 152nd Commencement ceremony.
The James E. Rogers College of Law, Department of Mexican American Studies and UA North Valley are among those at the UA that will be sending off some of their first graduates during the 152nd Commencement ceremony. (Photo: John de Dios/UANews)

Alexander Rosenthal's future became clear to him last spring during an event honoring University of Arizona alumnus Sam Fox, CEO and founder of the Phoenix-based Fox Restaurant Concepts, as the Eller College of Management's Executive of the Year.

Rosenthal had reached out to Fox prior to the event, which resulted in being able to meet and speak with Fox and also participate in information sessions during the event.

"I have a deep appreciation for the restaurant. And after hearing him speak, I realized how personally I connected with his company's philosophy and direction and I wanted to become a part of it as quickly as I possibly could," said Rosenthal, who was living in Tucson at the time.

Rosenthal then decided to pursue a University of Arizona general studies degree with a social behavior and human understanding emphasis from UA North Valley, the University's Phoenix location offering degree programs and resources in partnership with Maricopa County Community College District, after having read about it in UANews.

With his move to Phoenix, Rosenthal also was offered work at Fox's Olive & Ivy in Scottsdale, starting his work and degree programs within two days of each other.

"While it was a bold move to make, I recognized that by moving to Phoenix to take part in this new program, I could both finish out my requirements for my degree and start the transition to my professional career simultaneously," he said.

In May, Rosenthal will become the first student to earn a degree from UA North Valley — and part of a number of UA students who are among the first in their academic programs to graduate during the UA's 152nd Commencement ceremony.

Other graduates include Katherine Medina, one of the first graduates of the Bachelor of Arts in Law, a program launched in 2014 that made the UA the first in the nation to offer such a degree. Medina, who also is studying Spanish, has been working as a translator at the Pima County Attorney's Office.

UA South is celebrating the first student to graduate from its Arizona Western College Learning Center in Yuma, Arizona. Diana Luna Velazquez is graduating with a degree in informatics. Velazquez, who previously earned her associate's degree in mathematics, physics and engineering from AWC and became a certified nursing assistant last year, plans to pursue a master's degree in nursing so that she can become an informatics nurse.

Also, Jerry Antone and Maria Escalante (Yaqui) are the first graduates of the UA's Bachelor of Arts degree in American Indian studies, which trains students about the experiences and particular needs of indigenous populations. The program specifically prepares graduates for work with federal and state governments addressing issues related to the sovereign rights of tribal nations and indigenous groups.

The Department of Mexican American Studies also is sending off first-cohort graduates, doctoral candidates Cecelia A. Lewis and Andrea Hernandez Holm.

Hernandez Holm, who previously earned her undergraduate degree in English and master's degrees in American Indian studies and Mexican American studies from the UA, plans to pursue a faculty position in a higher education institution, focusing on Mexican American studies or a related discipline.

"I am excited to join a faculty committed to producing innovative and relevant research and teaching practices that recognize community knowledge and promote equity and social justice," said Hernandez Holm, whose dissertation work centers on how Mexican American and Chicana community members preserve cultural knowledge throughout migration processes using oral and written traditions. Throughout her research, Hernandez Holm has developed a framework she termed "floating borderlands," which helps to explain living knowledge.

Lewis has investigated ways that women in Douglas, Ariz. resisted racial and gender discrimination while sustaining themselves and families – in a secular, spiritual and social sense.

"Their stories, which are powerful and indicative of strength, tenacity and social innovation, have been virtually absent from the historical annals of this border town," Lewis said. "For this reason, this research not only addresses the gap in Douglas history that has not included women of Mexican heritage, but it also speaks to the manifold ways in which the women in this study worked to provide themselves and their community a better place in which to live."

Lewis is currently a faculty member at Cochise College, where she is focused not only on teaching but on program development. "As a Hispanic-serving institution, Cochise College would greatly benefit from establishing a Mexican American studies program," she said.

For Rosenthal, who began his studies on the UA's main campus, transferring to UA North Valley and studying social behavior and human understanding was more in line with his career motivations.

"People don't necessarily know where they want to end up after college, and students may feel like, at a certain point because of credit and program requirements, they are locked into something they don't necessarily feel passionate about," said Rosenthal, who will continue his work with Fox Restaurant Concepts, aspiring to work toward management and perhaps a corporate position within the organization.

"The program really encourages personal growth, and it is very accepting of what you want your academic program to be," he said. "I saw that there was an opportunity in Phoenix after hearing about this program. And I realize that even though my route through school has been less than traditional, I could feel I was getting a head start in building my career."

Extra info


UA Commencement


Arizona Stadium


May 13 at 7:30 p.m.

UA South will host its spring Commencement ceremony May 12 at the Buena Center for the Performing Arts in Sierra Vista. More information is available online.