WSUV Commencement: Sharing success

Mother-daughter teamwork exemplifies spirit of collaboration among 979 new WSUV graduates

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Did you know?

• Since its first graduating class of 38 in 1989, Washington State University Vancouver has produced more than 9,500 graduates; about 75 percent of them live and work in the Vancouver-Portland area.

• Mel Netzhammer will become chancellor of WSUV on July 2, replacing Hal Dengerink, who died Sept. 14. Netzhammer is finishing his duties as provost of Keene State College in New Hampshire.

photoCheryl Jones and her daughter Cori get ready to walk at Washington State University Vancouver’s commencement ceremony Saturday at the Sleep Country Amphitheater.

(/The Columbian)

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RIDGEFIELD -- Cheryl Jones was able to help her daughter Cori with homework this year.

And Cori Jones helped her mom with homework.

It worked out pretty well, since they took the same classes.

All the work paid off Saturday when Cheryl and Cori Jones graduated from Washington State University Vancouver.

“We did it together,” Cheryl Jones said.

The two Battle Ground women were among a record 979 students in WSUV’s Class of 2012. About 625 participated in commencement ceremonies at the Sleep Country Amphitheater.

Cori and Cheryl Jones both graduated with degrees in human development.

Cheryl said she got a two-year degree in 1995 from Troy State College in Alabama, and figured that was it. Then Cori got her mom back into school.

After getting her own two-year-degree at Clark College, “I was talking about transferring to WSU,” Cori said.

“Mom said she wished she could go back, but she was too old,” the 2007 Battle Ground graduate said. “I told her that WSUV has a lot of nontraditional students, with an average age of 27. I convinced her to go.”

They carpooled to college and took classes together.

“If one of us misses something, the other one’s got it,” Cori Jones said.

They studied at home together -- and did such a good job that their classmates joined them.

“All our study groups happened at our house, even though we live in Battle Ground and the others live in Vancouver,” Cori Jones said.

Now that they have their diplomas, the mother-daughter team won’t be together much longer. Cori Jones moves out Monday, heading for an assignment in a “Teach for America” program; she expects to be teaching in a low-income school in Seattle or Tacoma in the fall.

Cheryl Jones said she would like to do something in the field of higher education -- maybe advising, maybe something in the human-resource field.

There were, as Cori Jones had promised her mother, plenty of other nontraditional graduates. Karen Schmaling, vice chancellor for academic affairs, drew quite a show of hands with a series of questions for the graduates: Lots of grads had balanced their educations with jobs, families and military commitments.

Plenty of those in caps and gowns were the first members of their families to attend college. That included the two most prominent participants -- WSU President Elson Floyd, who conferred the degrees, and Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven C. González, who delivered the commencement address.

Special recognition:

Dora Hernandez received the Chancellor’s Award for Student Achievement. Hernandez is the founder and president of the Latin@ Student Association, which has provided leadership opportunities for Latina/Latino students on campus. She also helped to increase student awareness of financial aid and scholarship opportunities through a scholarship fair.

Christine Portfors, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, received the Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence. She works with mice and bats to understand how complex sounds are processed by the hearing system and to better understand age-related hearing loss.

Leslie Wykoff and the Clark County Community High Technology Council received Chancellor’s Awards for Service to WSUV. Wykoff served more than 16 years at WSU before retiring as library director in 2011. The High Technology Council encouraged state legislators and the business community to send stimulus funds to build the Engineering and Computer Science building at WSUV. Their leadership and support were noticed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, who chose the building to receive capital money. The building opened for classes in January.

Wei Xue, associate professor of mechanical engineering, will receive the Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence. Wei was chosen for his ability to inspire students and his dedication to research at WSUV.