The ritual is a familiar one: caps and gowns, pomp and circumstance, tears and smiles. Scores of cameras click incessantly, capturing this crowning moment when years of hard work are recognized — at last! — with a firm handshake, a deeply-felt “congratulations” and a suitably ornate diploma.
Yes, there will be hard work and challenges ahead, no matter the major, whatever the field. Carefully laid plans get changed, and life is filled with surprises. But whatever is to come, one thing is certain: The accomplishments represented by each one of this year’s USD graduates are already most extraordinary.
Please join us in congratulating all of those whose efforts we celebrate at this time of year, and read on to learn what some stellar representatives of the Class of 2011 — and one up-and-comer from the Class of 2014 — have to say for themselves.
JUSTINE DARLING has found her mission in life
“The year after I graduated from USD was the hardest, most important year of my life.
Working with homeless youth in Newark, N.J., I was spit on, hit, pushed … basically, everything they did to each other, they did to me too, because they were so angry. These kids were from the streets of one of the harshest cities in our country. I was in court with them every day as their legal advocate.
I believe in justice. I thought the most powerful way I could create justice would be as a lawyer, and I wanted to try out the system. After that year, I realized that the juvenile justice system is broken and I needed to find an alternative way to help our youth.
The master’s program in peace and justice here was perfect. Within the first week or two, I stumbled upon restorative justice. I get so excited when I talk about it. It brings victims and offenders together in a face-to-face conference so everyone has a voice and together we can address the needs of all parties.
We mend the harm caused to the victim. We address what led to the offender’s actions. It’s a beautiful process.
Right now, I’m putting together a student-led restorative justice program at USD through the student conduct system, and we are working on setting up its home in the Center for Conflict Resolution at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice.
I have a lot to do. I’ll be in Northern Ireland soon for an internship with their youth justice agency, which is converting to a system based on restorative justice. I’m working with a mediation program in San Diego that is studying the effects of restorative justice on our youth and advocating for restorative justice in the juvenile justice system. And for my thesis, I’ll be surveying all of the U.S. universities using restorative justice to figure out best practices so we can have the best program in the country.
It’s important to start at universities. If our educated youth — who are ultimately going to be our country’s leaders and policymakers — understand the power of restorative justice as a way to resolve conflict, then our country’s culture will slowly start to change. That’s how we’ll eventually be able to transform the juvenile justice system in San Diego, the U.S. and hopefully, in time, around the world.
There are so many people here at USD who are making this possible. It’s almost like we all have had the same vision and now are finally coming together and saying, ‘Yeah, I think it’s time.’
I came into USD my freshman year as a very shy, unsure, anxiety-filled person. But I knew I had the passion and the drive to do something really wonderful and that God would put me on the path to find my mission in life. I really believe that USD helped me find it. I’ve been met with nothing but encouragement to do the right thing and to do what I love.
Now that I know how I will create justice in the world, I have peace in my heart.”
— Justine Darling, BA, Psychology ’08, MA,
Peace and Justice Studies, ’11
[AS TOLD TO TRISHA J. RATLEDGE]
JASON MCGUIRE wants to do the right thing
“I’m from Colorado Springs. Actually, I’m kind of from everywhere. My father is retired Navy so we moved around quite a bit. I was born in the Philippines (U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay) right at the end of the Vietnam War. Then we lived in San Francisco (Naval Station Treasure Island), Vallejo, Calif. (Mare Island Naval Shipyard) and Zion, Ill. (Great Lakes Naval Station) before my dad became a recruiter in Colorado.
I never wanted to join the service myself. I wanted to go to college but the problem was how to pay for it. The main reason I joined the Navy — other than to serve my country, don’t get me wrong — was for the educational opportunities. So there I was, 17 years old, heading to boot camp right here in San Diego.
I started out as a hospital corpsman and then became a medical technologist for a short time. I worked in a cell bank counting red blood cells, white blood cells and sperm. I knew that I liked the medical field but I quickly realized there had to be something better. Turns out, it was anesthesia.
I was accepted into an ROTC unit at the University of Colorado (earning my bachelor’s in nursing) in 1992 and then served as a general practitioner nurse before getting my master’s in anesthesia at Georgetown University and, now, my PhD from USD — both through the Navy’s “Duty Under Instruction” scholarship program.
USD has been awesome. It really has. First and foremost, it was the faculty — their passion and scientific background — that brought me here. And USD’s flexibility in allowing me to do my research at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton was huge. I can’t even imagine a better scenario for me.
I was recently hired as the newest faculty member in the graduate nursing program at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md. I’m very excited. I get to do anesthesia, I get to teach my trade and I get to do research. It’s the ultimate combination for me.
Nothing really drew me to anesthesia other than it’s fun. It’s this strange combination of 98 percent pure boredom and two percent terror because either things are just perfect or somebody is dying. There’s no in-between. I’m also a nerd — I love the chemistry and biology of it —so for me it’s that perfect marriage between the art and science of nursing.
Something I noticed in my practice — both in Navy hospitals and combat zones — was the number of young, active-duty service members who would wake up from anesthesia confused, combative, agitated and even belligerent. It’s called emergence delirium.
The phenomenon is fairly common in children but very rare in the normal adult population. However, my own experience suggested young combat veterans exhibit this condition at a significantly higher rate. We’ve been aware of it for a long time but nobody has really studied it in this specific population. So that became the focus of my dissertation.
My research sample showed an incidence rate of 20 percent, one in five, far above the 5 percent rate of the normal adult population. Up to this point, these episodes are essentially treated as isolated incidents. We give the patients medication to calm them down and then move on. But if an individual has multiple surgeries, those instances just stack on top of each other and that could have long-term consequences for brain function.
That’s where this research becomes important. In my opinion, these are some of the greatest Americans and we’re not doing them justice if we don’t try to solve this issue.
I wrote an article published in the Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing this last December titled ‘Risk Factors for Emergence Delirium in U.S. Military Members,’ and, to my knowledge, it was the first time this phenomenon has ever been written about regarding a military population.
It’s a start. This is all about doing whatever we can to bring that incident rate down and decrease the chance these service members have cognitive problems later in life. It’s an amazing group of people who’ve sacrificed so much and they deserve to have those questions answered. So this is my service to them.”
— Lt. Cmdr. Jason McGuire ’11, PhD,
[AS TOLD TO NATHAN DINSDALE]
ALEX OKELLO OUMA will change Uganda
“I come from the small town of Gulu. It’s in the northern part of Uganda. The district is popularly known for insurgency because that region of the country experienced war for a very long time.
During my years in Gulu University, I was interested in bringing about change in our community because so many children were being abducted by the rebels. When they escaped from the rebels and returned back home, some of them were stigmatized by people. When I was in the university, one of my commitments was that I needed to participate in changing people’s attitudes toward these children. I was affected directly because my elder sister was abducted by the rebels. She spent close to nine years with the rebels, and she came back home. So you know, when you have been affected directly, your attitude toward the formerly abducted children also changes.
We came together — some university folks and I and some community youth members — and formed a coalition that we called the Youth Coalition for Peace. Our main goal was to go out there to the community and tell people that, ‘Hey, these are our children. They were abducted against their will. They were forced by the rebels to commit atrocities that they did not want to, so there is no need to stigmatize them. There’s every need to welcome them back home and make them feel like part of the family and let them find a way of getting back their life.’
My sister escaped from the rebels in 2004. She returned back from captivity with two kids out of forced rape, and my mother is keeping the kids right now. My sister is back in school studying nursing. She wants to become a doctor. We are so proud of her. The fact that she was able to return back home and start studying, it’s really something amazing.
I like it in Uganda because that’s where I will be able to effect any change. But I also like the opportunity to study here because I know I’m getting the best education to cause change back in my country.
I am one person who believes that however hard I work, I should also have fun. Fun is part and parcel of my life. Fun is part and parcel of my motivation. That’s what re-energizes me. If I work very hard on campus, and I feel like my morale is low, I just go downtown and dance and listen to music, get together with friends and basically have fun. I’ve been having a lot of fun. I have also been doing a lot of hard work. Even in Uganda, that is my lifestyle — work hard but have fun.
I am being sponsored as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. When I was coming here, it was members of Rotary who were there to receive me at the airport. I am very grateful to them. It’s like another home away from home. You feel you have everything that you need.
I have a very strong feeling to get back to my community and help. I believe that the only way to transform any community is through education.”
— Alex Ouma ’11, MA,
Peace and Justice Studies
[AS TOLD TO KELLY KNUFKEN]
CAMILLE LUCIDI’s adventure is just beginning
“In life, the biggest challenge is to overcome people who tell you that what you want to do is impossible. My family always pushed me to achieve my dreams and my parents are the living example that for every dream, there is a path to success.
My path to San Diego and law school was shaped by my desire to learn English. Born in a French family with no American connection, since childhood, I had the inner desire to learn English and travel the world. Raised in Paris and Brussels, I had the chance to enter an International School in ninth grade offering the opportunity for a native French speaker to master English within a year.
As a high school student, I participated in The Hague International Model United Nations, the world’s largest United Nations simulation for high school students. This experience started my passion for world politics and international relations. Being surrounded by children my age coming from all around the world was an amazing opportunity. I left high school with the hope of one day becoming a diplomat and working at the European Commission.
My journey continued at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. After graduating from its philosophy, politics and economics program, I realized that I wanted to pursue my studies. My mother, who had always been an incredible support to me, pushed me to go to law school in the United States, because she knew that living in this country was the reason I learned English in the first place. I am eternally grateful for her help, because she allowed me to fall in love with a profession and find what I wanted to do with my life.
I toured many law schools before visiting San Diego but none of them convinced me that I was making the right decision. When I first came to USD’s School of Law, I was invited to attend a torts class. Within 10 minutes, I was being asked by the professor to read a case to present it to the class. I knew where I was going to spend the next three years of my life.
Thinking about the last three years, I wonder how time passed by so fast. I was taught by brilliant professors and the school gifted me with a sense of legacy. One professor in particular helped me on this path to the law: Professor Roy Brooks. I spent countless hours in his office debating the underlying principles of seminal civil procedure cases, comparing the American legal system to the European legal systems and discussing international human rights law. He influences the life of each of his students by his unique teaching style and faith in the legal profession. I hope that one day I will be able to give to students what I received from him.
Next, my journey will take me to New York City where I will prepare for the New York and the Massachusetts bar. In my baggage, there will be amazing memories from my time at USD and the confidence that I have been well-prepared to become a successful attorney.
I now depart with new dreams: to have an impact on the world, be passionate about my job, build a family, teach future generations, write books, discover new people and new cultures, and continue to learn every day.”
— Camille Lucidi ’12, JD
[AS TOLD TO KAREN GROSS]
CORY NORRIS knows all about life’s highs and lows
“I’ve heard it said that, in every one of our lives, there are a handful of defining moments that make us who we are. Even though I’m only 24 years old, I feel like I’ve had my share of those already.
More than my share, come to think of it.
Like the time just after I graduated from high school and realized that I had no interest in going to college. I went through the motions and tried to make it work at a university near my hometown in Scottsdale, Ariz., but all I really wanted to be was a mechanic.
My parents were really supportive, and I quickly realized that I needed more than just a high school diploma to get to where I wanted to go in life. I also wanted to be the first member of my family to graduate from college, and those aspirations are what eventually led me to USD, where I’m about to graduate with both a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in taxation.
Then there was the time that I knocked on the office door of Men’s Soccer Coach Seamus McFadden, heart pounding in my chest, and told him that I wanted a shot at starting on the team that fall. Not just making the team; starting on the team.
He looked at me like I was crazy, and, well, maybe I was … but you never know unless you try, right? Practices were really tough, and the competition was intense, but I never lost sight of my goal, and eventually not only earned a starting spot on defense, but also received WCC All-Academic honors my senior season in 2010.
I was on top of the world, but all it took was a plane flight from Amsterdam to Barcelona during a study abroad trip to bring me quickly back to earth
When we landed, I woke up and realized that the right side of my body from my chest down was completely numb. I tried to shake it off, but it wasn’t going away.
When I returned to the States, I went through a battery of tests and received a variety of diagnoses. It was eventually determined that I had Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Needless to say, the news was devastating. But I’m a numbers guy, and, after a lot of soul-searching and even more research, I realized I had a fighting chance at keeping the disease in check, and still living as normal a life as possible.
One of my main goals during my time at the University of San Diego has been to put myself in a position to get the most out of my academic experience, and while it hasn’t been easy to deal with the effects of my condition and still stay on task in the classroom, my professors have been super supportive. Not only did I stay on track to earn my diploma; I’ve also got a job lined up with PricewaterhouseCoopers, who also have been really great to me in the days and weeks since I was diagnosed with MS.
Yep, life can throw some real curveballs at you, but the past is the past, and I’m really psyched about moving forward and experiencing my share of amazing moments after I leave USD.
More than my share, come to think of it.”
— Cory Norris ’11,
[AS TOLD TO MIKE SAUER]
Freshman SHANTELL STEVE has found her voice
“In foster care, there are families that genuinely want to take care of you. And then there are families whose only intention is to get money. I was placed in various environments where people did not show me any love. I did not have a great experience at all growing up in Chicago. But all that’s past, right? It’s about the present and the future.
I’ve always said that God won’t put more on me than I can bear. Yes, I’ve had a rough background. But feeling sorry for myself didn’t get me here. My fulfillment comes from helping others. Various people took the time to help me over the years and why can’t I be that person for someone else?
I’ve been involved in activism since I was little. I participated in high school and even met with the CEO of Chicago Public Schools a few times to discuss issues. If I see something that’s wrong, I’m not going to be silent about it. I guess that’s why President Obama mentioned me in his speech on education in September 2009. It was exciting but there are other students who’ve gone through the same thing and they’ve probably done a lot more — they just haven’t been singled out yet.
Most of the schools I applied to were larger universities. When I visited USD, I felt like it was a close- knit community. I also liked the fact that it’s far away from Chicago.
I’m a freshman, I’m a human and I’m still a child at heart so I definitely miss some things. It’s been an adjustment but there are a lot of people here who keep me grounded. The Center for Inclusion and Diversity, the Office of Admissions and Student Support Services — the people there have been like my community, my family.
I am pretty involved here already. I work with the Center for Awareness, Service and Action and I’m in a dance group called Infamous. I started an organization in January called SOAR — Student Outreach and Recruitment — focusing on improving and retaining multi-culturalism at USD. I do campus tours, which I like. I also volunteer at a museum and the Toussaint Academy group home for homeless teens.
If you see me in the classroom, I’m the most serious person in there. Get me outside the classroom and I’m one of the goofiest. I like to watch movies. I like to hang out. I like to dance and sing. And I like to give back — I get joy out of that.
I am interested in pre-medicine — specifically oncology within osteopathic medicine — but I’m also thinking about majoring in sociology. What I’m looking for is to help underrepresented, underserved communities where you find people who can’t speak up for themselves or don’t have the resources to succeed.
For now, my passion and my aim is to make USD more inclusive and diverse for all students. I want to see this university live out its mission statement. I want all students to feel comfortable on this campus because there are so many people who slip through the cracks and they’re not strong enough to say anything. They’d rather be silent.
But I’m somebody who isn’t afraid to speak up.”
— Shantell Steve, ’14, Undeclared
[AS TOLD TO NATHAN DINSDALE]