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The official hub for news and stories from Colorado Mesa University
  • Halanamaliemaikekuahiwiakekai Maika'i Bertelmann-Makanani

    Halanamaliemaikekuahiwiakekai Maika'i Bertelmann-Makanani.

  • Jason Buhr

    Jason Buhr.

  • Marcus Eliasson

    Marcus Eliasson.

  • Sara Garcia

    Sara Garcia.

  • Sara Gladding

    Sara Gladding.

  • Natalie Houston

    Natalie Houston.

  • Ryann Woody

    Ryann Woody.

Colorado Mesa University conferred 1,423 degrees and certificates to 1,343 graduates on May 18. Commencement was split into two ceremonies to accommodate the largest-ever graduating class. Seven graduates were recognized at the ceremonies for their outstanding academic, personal and professional achievements. 

Halanamaliemaikekuahiwiakekai Maika’I Bertelmann-Makanani

Halana didn’t know if she would be able to earn a college degree — let alone walk across the stage at commencement after sustaining a traumatic brain injury from riding in a rodeo. She had physical therapy to learn how to walk again, occupational therapy to work on fine motor skills and speech therapy, and just a few short years later she is earning a Bachelor of Science in Fitness and Health Promotion. Halana is the first member of her family to graduate from college and about 20 of her family members flew from Hawaii to attend the ceremony. She said she couldn’t have done it without her family’s support and support from CMU faculty and staff including Aparna Palmer, John Marshall, Liz Howell, Jody Diers, Jeremy Hawkins, Kristin Heumann and many others. After graduation, Halana wants to stay in Grand Junction to give back to the community that helped her achieve her degree.

Jason Buhr

To say Jason has been active during his time at CMU would be an understatement. He has been a varsity wrestler for the past five years, a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) for five years and is a coach for the Little Mavs Wrestling Club. He is also a coach for Special Olympics and helps train athletes once a week at Palisade High School and volunteers weekly as a “reading-buddy” at Orchard Avenue Elementary. During his wrestling career he stacked up accolades including 3x NCAA national qualifier, 2019 RMAC Academic Wrestler of the Year, 2015 RMAC Wrestler of the Year and from 2015-2019 was named to the RMAC Academic Team and the National Wrestling Coach Association Academic Team. As an exercise science major and biology minor, he completed three internships over the past year. Jason is also an active member of the CMU Graduate Education Medical Club and worked two jobs while at college including tutoring fellow students at the Tutorial Learning Center on campus. Last June, Jason married fellow Maverick Bailey Buhr, who also graduated on May 18 with her degree in biology and minor in chemistry.

Marcus Eliasson

Choosing to live and study nearly 5,000 miles away from your home country can be intimidating for some, but Swedish international student Marcus thrived at CMU. He was the team captain of the CMU Ice Hockey team and is a four-time American Collegiate Hockey Association All-American. He holds the record for most games played in the history of CMU hockey at 102 and holds the record for the most points scored in the history of CMU hockey at 130. He won the 2019 CMU student-athlete of the year award. Throughout his time at the university, Eliasson was a fierce competitor and put the same work ethic towards his studies. He maintained a 3.9 GPA while pursuing a bachelor’s in business administration all while working in the Admissions Outreach Office. He will be missed when he heads back to Sweden after graduation.

Sara Garcia

Sara is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with minors in both forensic investigation psychology and forensic investigation criminal justice. Sara has been a high achiever within her department, having been inducted into several honor societies and winning in her track at the 2018 student showcase with her project, “Using Infrared Light Photography to Visualize Tattoos on Desiccated Human Remains.” Presenting at the Student Showcase as well as at the 71st annual scientific meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences this spring were both big achievements for Sara as she has struggled with a stutter most of her life. She worked hard to overcome her subsequent fear of public speaking to be successful in both of these arenas. Recently, Sara interned at CMU’s Forensic Investigation Research Station which led to her current position as a student assistant.

Sara Gladding

Designing our world is a statement few can claim to do, but that is exactly what drew Sara to the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at CMU. The local Montrose student is already carving out her own path in the male-dominated field of engineering. She has conducted and presented research on the applications of Artificial Neural Networks on predicting mechanical properties on Fused Deposition Modeling using ABS plastic. For the past two years, she has been a leader for the CMU Society of Women Engineers Club, holding the titles of vice president and president. She has helped coordinate and lead the SWE’s most notable event Go Baby Go, where CMU student teams modify toy-ride-on cars for kids with disabilities. Her efforts for SWE earned her the 2019 Club Member of the Year award. She put her knowledge to the test with an internship with Walker Products, Inc. last summer and is graduating today with a 3.98 GPA. Sara said she will miss all of her fantastic engineering teachers and giving high-fives as she walks through the halls of Confluence Hall.   

Natalie Houston

Natalie, Bachelor of Music with Elective Studies in Music, is a talented tuba and sousaphone performer who is skilled in multiple genres of music. Her excellent leadership skills have afforded her several years as principal chair and in leadership roles with the Rowdy Brass Band, the Maverick Stampede and the Wind Symphony. Throughout her college career she worked early mornings as a CMU groundskeeper, kept up a full-time academic schedule and on most days, practiced or performed with ensembles well into the evening. She had the opportunity to complete her internship through Mountainside Production Services. The company often employs their interns after graduation and Natalie is no exception as she will be starting her professional career with them soon.

Ryann Woody

As an English writing major and studio art minor, Ryann is a prolific producer of art and literature. Ryann has published a short story and is currently working on a novel in the steampunk genre. She has been encouraged by Randy Phillis and TJ Gerlach in the English department and by Rebecca Woods and Eric Elliott in the art department to pursue her passions. In addition to completing a novel, Ryan is preparing her paintings to be sold as prints and is working with Wizards of the Coast to write pre-set campaigns for the world of gaming. One of her claims to fame at CMU was being named CMU Gay Straight Alliance’s first drag king in 2013. During her time at CMU, she commuted from Montrose and supported her father through his journey with Non-Hodgkin Mantle Cell Lymphoma.