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A graduation cap that has the word success written on it

On to the Next Chapter

The class of spring 2024 share their experiences as a student at UNC.

Meet nine of the University of Northern Colorado's (UNC) spring 2024 graduates who shared their story with us about their time at UNC, both challenging and exciting, what their plans are after commencement and advice they would give to current and future Bears.

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Leah Charette 

Westminster, Colorado
Early Childhood Education

profile image of lauren stuck

Lauren Stuck 

Aurora, Colorado
Theatre Studies

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Emily Vega 

Greeley, ColoradoBusiness Administration

Profile shot of Alyssa Rose
Alyssa Rose 

Colorado Springs, Colorado
Healthcare Administration

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Jennifer Wagner 

Oley, Pennsylvania
Vocal Performance

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Sam Parker 

Pueblo West, Colorado

Picture of Marissa Mitchell in a cap and gown
Marissa Mitchell 

Colorado Springs, Colorado
Jazz Studies

Karlee sitting on steps in her cap and gown
Karlee Hagan 

Thornton, Colorado
Sport Administration

Charlie sitting down outside smiling
Charlie Johnston 

Redmond, Washington
Health Sciences

Leah Charette

Hometown: Westminster, Colorado

Area of study: Bachelor of Arts — Early Childhood Education.

Reflection on your time at UNC: I attended UNC's Extended Campus; the Center for Urban Education in Denver. I chose the center because it allowed me to work in the field while pursuing my education. I also was able to gain a meaningful education learning how to support a variety of children, from English language learners to children with additional needs.

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Director Rosanne Fulton, Ph.D., helped immensely with my success as she supported my journey through finding financial assistance and job opportunities to help further my education.

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: I chose to fast-track my education and take on additional courses, which was difficult since I was also working full-time. However, with the center's support, I will graduate exactly as I hoped and have received honors for academic achievement in the process. 

What’s next: After graduation, I will be starting my career in education. Soon after, I hope to go back to school to pursue my master's in Special Education. 

Advice for future or current Bears: It is so important to take charge of your education — ask questions, dive deeper into topics you may not fully understand and set yourself up for success by creating a plan for courses when you begin college. 

Lauren Stuck

Hometown: Aurora, Colorado

Area of study: Bachelor of Arts — Theatre Arts: Theatre Studies concentration, certificate in Theatre Design and Technology, minors in American Sign Language and History.

Reflection on your time at UNC: I chose UNC because it was close to home and had the program I wanted. I stayed because I loved what I was learning and the people I was learning it with.

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The people at home — my parents and my sister — and the people I met here — friends past and present and my wonderful boyfriend — have made these four years so amazing. 

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: I discovered I didn’t know what I wanted to do and ended up finding my passion in Costume Design and Technology, which I had never considered before stepping onto campus. But now I am on a path to have a successful career in a field I love. 

What’s next: I will be moving to New England with my boyfriend to pursue employment in theater and will eventually be getting my M.F.A. in Costume Design. 

Advice for future or current Bears: Try everything! Now is the time to find out who you are. Don’t do yourself a disservice by not exploring everything you can. Take different classes, talk to new people and try a strange food — the only limit is the one you place on yourself. 

Emily Vega

Hometown: Greeley, Colorado

Area of study: Bachelor of Science — Business Administration: Marketing concentration.

Reflection on your time at UNC: My journey at UNC has truly been remarkable. It has given me the opportunity to connect with so many people. I chose UNC because I sensed a welcoming and supportive atmosphere, and my experience has proven that true.

Emily Vega sitting on a brick wall in a cap and gown

I've been fortunate to have an amazing support system throughout this journey, and I'm incredibly grateful to every single person who has been there for me. 

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: During my time at UNC, I faced numerous challenges, but each one helped me grow personally and succeed. One significant challenge was the academic environment as a first-gen college student, unsure of how to navigate college life. I had to figure it out and try many different things. I also learned the importance of reaching out for support from mentors and advisors. 

What’s next: After graduation, my plan is to work in the field of marketing where I can contribute to meaningful projects and make a positive impact. Additionally, I plan to continue empowering and assisting first-generation students in their educational journeys in any way possible. 

Advice for future or current Bears: Own your space, speak your truth and embrace your uniqueness. Being a first-gen college student is intimidating, but it's also empowering. 

Alyssa Rose

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Area of study: Master's in Business Administration — Healthcare Administration concentration.

Reflection on your time at UNC: The MBA program at UNC is perfect for busy working professionals like myself. I appreciated the flexibility of the program and that the classes offered practical information that I could apply to my work. My favorite class was Healthcare by the Numbers because it involved realistic case studies and enhanced my analytical skills.

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Overcoming challenges and achieving success: The biggest challenge was balancing my time as a mom of four, working professionally, volunteering as a TaeKwonDo instructor and being a student. My husband and children really pitched in with picking up the slack when I had to buckle down and study. 

What’s next: I hope to continue to advance in my career in healthcare administration. I have been inspired by my professors to think about a potential future including academia. 

Advice for future or current Bears: Study the things that scare you. I am not a finance person by nature but getting my MBA has given me confidence and skills. 

Jennifer Wagner

Hometown: Oley, Pennsylvania 

Area of study: Master of Music — Vocal Performance concentration.

Reflection on your time at UNC: I had a wonderful experience at UNC! I picked the school due to the excellent reputation of the classical voice program and the assistantships available. I enjoyed learning from my professors while also functioning as a leader in the department for the younger students.

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I am especially grateful to Assistant Professor of Voice Mary Kathryn Brewer, M.M., and Professor of Music Brian Luedloff, M.F.A., for their help with my vocal growth and professional development! 

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: I really struggled the first year of my master's program when I worked in a scientific laboratory along with completing my coursework and assistantship. It took me a few months to learn how to balance everything. However, with my additional pedagogy training from UNC, I was able to shift into a voice teaching position much more suited to my long-term goals. 

What’s next: I will be staying in Greeley and continuing my teaching job at Flourish Music Academy. I also hope to perform in various operas and musicals in the area. 

Advice for future or current Bears: If you enjoy what you are doing, the hard work becomes worth it!

Sam Parker

Hometown: Pueblo West, Colorado 

Area of study: Bachelor of Science — Earth Sciences, Meteorology concentration. 

Reflection on your time at UNC: I’ve had an enjoyable time at UNC. I came here originally for Early Childhood Education but changed majors to Meteorology as I transferred to UNC in the summer. What made it enjoyable were my classmates, club soccer teammates, Bear News team and campus recreation centers coworkers. 

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Overcoming challenges and achieving success: The biggest challenge I faced was when I changed majors, I had to take completely different classes such as calculus and physics. 

What’s next: After graduation I accepted a job to be a broadcast meteorologist for WXXV 25 in Gulfport, Mississippi. 

Advice for future or current Bears: Believe that you matter, regardless of what you do or don’t achieve. Whether you’ve been hurt or you’ve hurt somebody else. Believe that things can get better, believe that you will get better. To believe in yourself and one another, that’s the fundamental of being alive. If you can do that, and I mean truly do that, nobody is going to tear you down. 

Marissa Mitchell

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado 

Area of study: Bachelor of Music — Jazz Studies concentration, certificate in Music Technology. 

Reflection on your time at UNC: I came to UNC because I wanted to stay in Colorado and everyone I asked told me that UNC has the best jazz program in Colorado. I also just loved the campus when I toured in high school and could really see myself here.

Marissa Mitchell in a cap and gown

I've grown to love this school's overall community, and that it's a perfectly medium-sized school. I've been able to get to where I am today due to support from my family, friends and professors. Also just persevering when things get challenging, both in life and in academics makes me feel so blessed and grateful to be where I am today, especially as a first-generation student. 

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: I had some challenges, and still do, with overall motivation and procrastination. In my junior year, I found out that I have ADHD, which made a lot of sense but also came with a new set of challenges like figuring out what medication works best for me, and just what ADHD was. My academic performance that year wasn't my greatest, and I feel like I'm still climbing up from that sort of low point. But I will say that this year was FAR better than last year! There are hills and valleys for everything in life. 

What’s next: I'm sticking around Greeley for a year or so, and possibly taking more audio production classes at Aims Community College, since I've developed a strong interest in it over the past two years. After that, I'm considering moving to Nashville to get connected to a much wider group of musicians and people in the music industry. 

Advice for future or current Bears: Learn to appreciate the "cow smell," and communicate with your professors as far in advance as you can about anything and everything that is a challenge to you. They will often understand what you're going through because they went through it too. Keep your head up and GO BEARS! 

Karlee Hagan

Hometown: Thornton, Colorado

Area of study: Bachelor of Science — Sport and Exercise Science: Sport Administration concentration, minor in Business Administration.

Reflection on your time at UNC: I chose UNC because of how close it was to home, and what made me successful was the teachers and advisors who walked through the entire journey with me. 

Karlee hagan sitting on steps wearing a cap and gown

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: College life was not easy, lots of loss and hardships. Putting my faith in Jesus has been my rock and has gotten me through everything here at UNC. 

What’s next: Coming back and getting my master's degree and working in marketing and fan engagement. 

Advice for future or current Bears: Enjoy your time with the people you care about, it goes by so fast! 

Charlie Johnston

Hometown: Redmond, Washington 

Area of study: Bachelor of Science — Health Sciences: Public Health concentration, minor in Brewing Laboratory Science. 

Reflection on your time at UNC: My experience at UNC has been incredible, and I cannot begin to thank all the wonderful professors and staff I have had the pleasure of working with here.

Charlie sitting on stairs outside smiling

UNC's smaller class sizes mean I have been able to interact with my professors in every class I've had, and many if not all of them have offered some way to learn outside of the classroom or gain some valuable experience in their field. Being offered these unique and incredible opportunities has given me a new sense of confidence and appreciation for UNC and all it stands for. 

Overcoming challenges and achieving success: Moving 1,000 miles from home without knowing anyone in Greeley was a tough challenge, and being a non-traditional student made meeting people that much harder. I found that I was able to meet wonderful colleagues and friends by focusing on my academics and hobbies, and I started to be surrounded by other people as passionate and hard working as I hope to be. 

What’s next: I plan to apply to MD and DO programs within the next year and begin the final steps towards achieving my dream of becoming a doctor. UNC has undoubtedly proven to be instrumental in giving me the confidence I need to achieve this goal. 

Advice for future or current Bears: Never be afraid to ask for help, always communicate with your friends and professors and you will always find people who are willing to help you in your times of need. Surround yourself with people who want to do their best in whatever they do, and you'll be inspired to hold yourself to this higher standard too; good friends will always do this for you. 

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