Toreros' Mid-Year Graduation is Extra Special

Graduation is a time to celebrate, reflect on all that's been learned and accomplished and to record the successful completion of a significant chapter in one's book of life. Annually at the University of San Diego that feeling is expressed fully in late May with family and friends basking in this joyful occasion.

Mid-Year Graduation 12/16/2016

But on Dec. 16, last Friday, USD's Mid-Year Graduation Mass inside Founders Chapel drew an overflow audience. It wasn't in the Jenny Craig Pavilion, site of May Commencement exercises, and there weren't nearly as many bushels of balloons, congratulatory signs or noisemakers. Instead, it was a beautiful Mass, complete with music and congratulatory words of encouragement from Monsignor Daniel Dillabough, USD President James T. Harris III and Senior Director of Alumni Relations Charles Bass on becoming the newest Torero Changemaker alumni.

Students and their families followed Mass with a reception in Founders Hall and professional graduation pictures taken in cap and gown. For some students, completing their time at USD here meant their journey came full circle. 

Good Memories: Krista Pinyan

"It's kind of sad for me," said Krista Pinyan, a Communication Studies and Spanish double major. "I've had such a great experience at USD. When I was in Founders Chapel for today's Mass, I remembered back to when I was waiting to find out if I'd get into USD. I came to Founders Chapel to pray, hoping I'd get in."

The San Diego Cathedral Catholic High School graduate, who also had her graduation ceremony at USD, transferred to USD two and a half years ago and is now an alumna. She cherishes diversity, inclusion and different cultures. She connected with the International Student Organization (ISO) and its buddy program to help international students acclimate to the United States and to San Diego. She participated on University Ministry's Search Retreat, helped with Sunday night Mass student duties, was in the USD Pi Beta Phi sorority and went on multiple Torero Treks, including the first one to the Bay Area, through the Career Development Center. She did an internship with Pottery Barn, a company owned by the Williams-Sonoma brand.

Pinyan’s next adventure will be teaching English to students in China for a year.

Settling In: Austin Galy

Austin Galy, 26, is a four-year U.S. Air Force veteran. He's passionate about education, social justice, global sustainability and helping his community. The combination of military commitments and education interests led him to rack up college credits and change his major a few times. When he started at USD in Fall 2014 he went into academic overdrive. He's taken 21 units each semester and earned a sociology degree with a concentration in social justice.

“It's not hit me yet that I'm graduating," Galy said. "There have been a lot of twists and turns. I changed my major four times, but most rewarding for me is that I want to do the work. I don't care about the money as long as what I'm doing reflects my ideals and values."

In an evening sociology class, he impressed USD Assistant Provost for Community Engagement and the Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action Director Chris Nayve enough for him to ask if Galy wanted to work at the center. He’s been a site coordinator at nearby Kearny Mesa's Juvenile Hall since January 2015. He's developed and grown the curriculum for a reading-and-writing-based community engagement program for incarcerated juvenile inmates. He's also facilitated and organized a mentorship program that has more than 100 USD students working with imprisoned teens.

Earning a BA isn’t the end of Galy’s own educational journey, either. He’ll take a month off and he has applied for the peace and justice master's program in the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, which starts in August. He also has his sights on earning a PhD and maybe become a college professor.

Busy Torero: Isabelle Mabbutt

Isabelle Mabbutt’s ultimate dream job is to work for CNN or become White House Press Secretary. After four and a half years at USD and completing a political science degree, she’s certainly a step closer.

She only had two classes this fall semester, but it eased her schedule, enabling her to fit in other pursuits which resulted in constantly hectic weeks. Classes were Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Monday, Wednesday and Friday she’d be working in the Los Angeles office of Red Light Management, a major independent music management company. At USD, she worked for student-run USD Radio and plays USD club soccer on weekends.

"It was rough, crazy, busy and exciting," said Mabbutt when describing her college experience. "There's always something popping up, always something going on."

But she found her way to the finish line.

"I lived on campus every year I've been here and my roommates have been awesome," said Mabbutt, who also praised two of her favorite instructors, Visiting Professor of Political Science Pete Peterson and Visiting Professor of Communication Studies Mary Brinson. "I loved all my courses. I will take all the information I learned and apply it. I'm so happy I went here and to have made it. Graduating from USD is the biggest accomplishment in my life."

Complete Engineer: Ecuador’s Kiefer Grindle

Kiefer Grindle agreed that his time at USD helped him accomplish a lot and the experiences will shape his career path. Grindle, born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, is completing a BS/BA dual degree in mechanical engineering through the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering.

In choosing USD, Grindle grew as the engineering program itself evolved. He entered USD in 2012 as the engineering program first became its own school. The dual degree gave him the "soft skills" to complement his technical skills. He did a senior design project with classmates, creating a reverse-engineered computer model of a trophy truck for Vildosola Racing. He did internships with United Technologies Corporation's Aerospace Systems and with Microwave Specialty Company, a division of Rantec Microwave Systems.

Grindle kept busy on campus through participation in the Society of Automotive Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Engineers Without Borders, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, USD's International Student Organization and working for USD's Office of Professional and Continuing Education.

"Everything from the accessibility of the school, which has grown since I got here, to its small class size, has allowed me to thrive," Grindle said.

The internships and the capstone project are great examples of hands-on experiences and problem-solving opportunities to benefit his overall development. Asked what he'd tell a prospective student considering USD and the nation's 13th-ranked undergraduate engineering program, his advice was simple, but direct.

"It's what you make of it," he said. "If you make it worth your while, it's a great place to come to school."

Attending the mid-year graduation event, indeed, was worth everything to these Toreros.

— Ryan T. Blystone