Issue 2012-05 (May 9, 2012)



Machine Guns to Nursing: Degree Completes Life Journey for Spokane Graduate

By Judith Van Dongen

With one hand clutching a grenade, Faye Mezengie dashed across the border of his war-torn home country of Eritrea into Sudan. It was a dangerous undertaking, and the young soldier hadn't known for sure whether he would make it. But he had decided that he'd rather die trying than be forced back into the senseless and deadly border conflict with Ethiopia.

Mezengie made it, and he has come far since then. Last Friday at the WSU Spokane Commencement ceremony he received his bachelor of science in nursing degree and served as the student speaker, sharing his story with fellow graduates and their families.

When Mezengie was about 16 years old, his father suddenly passed away. Devastated and depressed, he decided to join the military, who were recruiting in his hometown. He lied about his age and soon found himself on his way to a training camp hundreds of miles from home.

On the frontline: Mezengie (right) with his best
friend Hassan, who died in his arms during the war.

After arriving there, Mezengie realized he wasn't ready to be a soldier. The hunger, sleep deprivation, and rigorous military training were wearing on him, both physically and emotionally. He told army leaders that he had lied about his age and asked to go home.

"They said, 'No—once you get in, there is no way back,'" Mezengie said.

He went through nine months of intensive military training, endured a month-long foot march through the entire country, and spent another year training new recruits. Then, in 1998, the Eritrean-Ethiopian War broke out and Mezengie was put on the frontline. Though far outnumbered by the enemy, Eritrean soldiers fought with determination. Many lives were lost, including those of some of Mezengie's closest friends. After he completed a paramedic course with top marks, he was moved behind the frontline, where he led 12 other paramedics in a role that suited him well: healing.

Freedom through poetry

In 2001, a UN peacekeeping mission moved in, and both armies temporarily laid down their weapons. The Eritrean Army held a poetry contest for soldiers, and Mezengie wrote a poem about the emotional turmoil he had experienced. He compared his life to a rag he'd seen being blown around by the wind, getting caught and ripped on the thorny trees before continuing its journey, leaving behind pieces of itself on the trees. The poem included the names of fellow soldiers whose lives had been lost. He read the poem at a large celebration attended by thousands of soldiers.

"All the soldiers were crying, the boss, everybody," Mezengie said.

He won the contest and as a reward got three weeks off to visit his mother, whom he hadn't seen in four years. Once home he made his plans to flee to Sudan and make a better life for himself.

From Sudan, Mezengie went to Sweden, where he lived with family and continued his education. Next, he decided he would go to the United States to get a medical degree. When he found out his Swedish AS degree didn't transfer, he decided on nursing instead. Family in the Seattle area took him in, and Mezengie spent two years at North Seattle Community College getting his prerequisites in place while learning English, a language he did not speak prior to arriving in the U.S.

At home at WSU


When he arrived at the WSU College of Nursing two years ago, it immediately felt like home to him. Although he was still struggling with his English and found his first semester to be especially challenging, he found himself surrounded by help.

"Everybody was like, 'You're here, and you're going to be a nurse,'" said Mezengie. "They were dragging my hands forward, with the students behind me...because of the students and the instructors, I made it through."

In his free time, Mezengie became an advocate for diversity, driven by a desire to have people with different backgrounds open up, tell others about who they are, and be accepted. He was a leader in the Student Diversity Club and occasionally speaks in front of groups about his background and journey.

Now that he has graduated, Mezengie is moving back to the Seattle area, where he plans to work as a nurse for a few years. After that, he hopes to join the Red Cross as a volunteer to help out on humanitarian missions around the world.

"I would like to do that for a couple of years so I can feel that I've done something for the soldiers that I lost."

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SLIDESHOW: 2012 Commencement Ceremony

Photos by Judith Van Dongen, Cori Vaughn & Alli Benjamin

[Press "Play" button to start slideshow. Click "Expand" button on bottom right for a full-screen view of these images.]

The May 7 Commencement ceremony at the INB Performing Arts Center celebrated the graduation of nearly 440 students, who received baccalaureate, master's, professional, and doctoral degrees in 22 different degree categories.

Maxine Hayes, state health officer for the Washington State Department of Health delivered the keynote address. Nursing graduate Faye Mezengie served as the student speaker, sharing with his fellow graduates the story of his journey from war-torn Eritrea to the United States (see above). He was one of five students highlighted during the ceremony. The others were husband and wife Ahmed and Safa al-Husban from Jordan, who completed their doctor of design degrees while raising four young boys; Obert Xu, at 19 years old the youngest ever graduate of the WSU College of Nursing; and nursing graduate Beth Sheeran, who was nominated for her academic success as well as her commitment to community service.  

The slideshow above provides a visual impression of the day. To see more Commencement photos, go to the 2012 Commencement photo album on Facebook at

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Cougs Stevens County

Third Time's a Charm—Nursing Graduate Ready to Serve Native Community

By Doug Nadvornick

When she walked across the stage during WSU Spokane's spring 2012 commencement ceremony, Danica Parkin knew it was time to put school behind her and start her career.

Parkin was collecting her third college degree. Her first bachelor's degree came from Evergreen State College. She earned a second bachelor's degree from the WSU College of Nursing, then passed her test to become a registered nurse and immediately launched into a master's degree program.

"I knew as I was becoming an RN that I wanted to be a family nurse practitioner," said Parkin. "So my thought was, 'Why wait?'"

Now with her master's degree in hand, Parkin is ready to take the test to get her nurse practitioner certification and move on with her career.

"I'm really interested in community health, and I like the role of the nurse practitioner as an educator and also as the person providing most of the care within the clinic," she said.

The Colville tribal member looks forward to a career serving Native people, perhaps in a clinic in Inchelium or her hometown of Chewelah, both in northeastern Washington. She served some of her student nursing rotations at the Native Health Clinic in Spokane.

"It's been so much fun," Parkin said. "You can have an elderly woman, her three children, and her 10 grandchildren all be your patients at the clinic. So you really have a greater sense of the family story, what's happening, stressors, strengths."

Parkin earned scholarships from the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board to help pay her way through school. In return, she agreed to work for four years in an underserved community, "which is what I wanted to do anyway, so it's a 'win-win' situation for me and the state."

Role model for younger students

In addition to her studies, Parkin has worked with College of Nursing faculty in programs that expose students from low-income families to health care careers.

Last year, she helped Janet Katz and Sandra Benavides-Vaello with their Saturday outreach programs for high school students in Spokane, Yakima, and the Tri-Cities. She has also worked at Robbie Paul's Na-ha-shnee Health Sciences Summer Institute for Native students. She says those opportunities allow her to serve as a role model.

"Some of these students have no family members who have pursued a four-year degree," Parkin said. "So I talk with them about how to prepare for college and what steps they need to take now in high school in order to get where they want to be."

Parkin praises Robbie Paul for her academic and social support at WSU Spokane. She also credits the support of her family, who helped her to care for her four-year-old daughter while she finished school. Parkin's mother and father were school teachers, and her brother and fiancé are also in the education profession. She's the only member of her family who's in health care.

"I get way too many phone calls for medical questions, and I've told them I'm going to start charging," she teases. "I think they (her parents) are very excited about the service aspect of health care and about helping communities, helping individuals, and being able to strengthen families."

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Jensen-Byrd Property Sale Expected to Close Next Year

By Barb Chamberlain

The sale of the property that includes the Jensen-Byrd structure to Campus Advantage is expected to close in 2013, according to the WSU Real Estate Office. The need for an extension of the original purchase agreement was created by the timeline for permitting, which affects the construction timetable.

If all necessary permits are obtained Campus Advantage plans to construct a student housing project that will take approximately a year to complete. The project would break ground in 2013 and be complete in time for move-in by fall 2014. Campus Advantage has said it plans to build a structure that will house 456 people and will provide several thousand square feet of retail space.

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New Spokane STEM Network Wins Grant To Coordinate Programs

By Doug Nadvornick

Spokane schools and businesses are working together to steer students toward math- and science-related careers. In fact, there is so much going on that it can be hard to keep track of it all.

Now, a new grant will help with that.

Washington STEM, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to advancing equity, excellence, and innovation in STEM education, has announced that it is giving $220,000 to launch the Spokane STEM Network. The grant will help the local group coordinate programs in Spokane County to revitalize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in alignment with local economic development.

At the Project Lead the Way Open House earlier this year, Rogers High School students Sean Politano and Taylor
Dewey-Buchanan conduct an experiment to measure the number of calories in a small marshmallow.
(Photo by Doug Nadvornick)

Washington STEM forecasts robust job growth in areas that require science and technology skills in Spokane County during the next several years. The test for local school districts and universities will be to provide enough qualified candidates to fill vacant jobs.

"Inspiring and preparing K-20 students to pursue challenging careers in the STEM fields is critical for our community," said WSU Spokane chancellor Brian Pitcher, one of the leaders of the Spokane STEM Network Leadership Team. "Our economy relies on citizen workers who learn, innovate, discover, and create. Spokane as a community is ready to align its education, business, and non-profit assets expanding regional capacity for local students to be competitive."

The Spokane STEM Network is one of three STEM Networks to launch this month with support from Washington STEM. The others are based in south central Washington and south King County.

"Too often we hang the banner of student success solely on our schools' shoulders," says Carolyn Landel, chief program officer at Washington STEM. "These STEM Network investments will rally entire communities around a common vision for student success aligned with local economic opportunities."

Spokane programs already underway or ready to go

The Mead School District is building its new Riverpoint Academy in the Innovate Washington Building on the Riverpoint Campus. The program is preparing to open in the fall of 2012. The school takes a problem-solving approach to help qualified high school students build their academic and leadership skills, especially in science and technology.

"At these times in a student's life, the students are thinking about their next steps, whether it is going directly into the workforce or onto college," said Dr. Lisa Shaffer, a member of the academy's advisory board. She's also a mother with three children in the Mead School District and chief scientific officer for molecular diagnostics for PerkinElmer's Signature Genomic Laboratories.

"It is our job as business owners, educators, and parents to prepare our students the best that we can, and STEM education will give them the background that they need even if they do not choose a STEM career path," said Shaffer.

One STEM program already underway is taught in 14 Spokane area high schools. Project Lead The Way, a national nonprofit, provides curricula in biomedicine and engineering, though nearly all of the Spokane schools have only adopted the biomedical track for now.

One of those is Rogers High School, which partnered with Jubilant HollisterStier to outfit a laboratory with scientific equipment.

"Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education and initiatives drive required skill sets for many Jubilant HollisterStier positions," said company CEO Marcelo Morales. "Having access to local candidates with these skills is critical to our long-term success. Jubilant HollisterStier is fortunate to be able to partner with STEM-based education initiatives, give back to our community, and subsequently benefit our organization with the expectation of hiring future skilled employees from our own back yard."

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Pharmacy Students, Faculty Participate in Disaster Training Exercise

By Lorraine Nelson; photos by Cori Medeiros

Washington State University pharmacy students and faculty recently participated in a disaster training exercise with Spokane firefighters, paramedics, and search and rescue personnel.

The mass casualty exercise gave students an opportunity to see the region's first-responder agencies in a coordinated response. The Spokane city and valley fire departments; Fire Districts 3, 8 and 9; Coeur d'Alene Fire Department; Kootenai County Fire District; Spokane Metropolitan Medical Response System; and urban search and rescue teams participated.

Referred to as "Rumble in the Rubble," the exercise simulated a hospital wing collapse due to heavy snow on the roof, with multiple injuries.

Pharmacy students acted as trauma victims or other bystanders, after being assigned with an injury or severity by clinical associate professor Colleen Terriff, Terriff and colleague Brenda Bray teach emergency preparedness and response to third-year pharmacy students and emphasize the importance for pharmacists to be involved in community-wide disaster planning and exercise efforts.

In addition to the collapsed building exercise, Bray and Megan Willson, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy, also ran a blast injury simulation scenario with a 3-G human patient simulator-a sophisticated high-tech manikin. Teams of paramedics and emergency medical personnel were asked to triage and treat "Sim-Man," who suffered from a variety of blast injuries.

Bray said the exercise offered the opportunity to collaborate with local agencies to integrate use of high fidelity simulation manikins into disaster training drills.

Since 2007, Bray and Terriff have led a faculty-student team in the WSU College of Pharmacy that, through a written memorandum of understanding, provides emergency assistance to the Spokane Regional Health District if services are needed for public emergencies in the eastern Washington counties served by the health district. Teaching with simulation at the WSU College of Pharmacy has been spearheaded by Willson and Bray and has been incorporated into the doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) curriculum since 2006. 

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In the News

  • Professor of psychology and vice chancellor for research Dennis Dyck was a featured panelist on a Health Matters: Television for Life show on men's health. As part of the show, he addressed questions related to depression and other mental health issues. The show was broadcast live on KSPS and is available online. Watch it here.
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  • The recipient of the 2012 WSU Spokane Faculty Excellence Award is Nancy Potter (right), associate professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences. Potter was honored for her significant contributions to the research in her field; her leadership in promoting interprofessional collaboration at the Riverpoint Campus; and her dedication to providing innovative and meaningful learning experiences to students. She received the award during the May 6 commencement ceremony.
  • Chancellor's Awards for Excellence were given to the following 2012 Spokane students and graduates: Alyssa Anderson (BA in Speech & Hearing Sciences), Holly Burke (Master of Health Policy & Administration), Albert Cifelli (Doctor of Pharmacy), Jonathon Dillow (BA in Interior Design), Trevor McLay (BS in Nursing), Mehran Medani (Doctor of Design), Faye Mezengie (BS in Nursing), Bryan Orthel (Doctor of Design), Beth Sheeran (BS in Nursing), Diana Singh (Master of Health Policy & Administration), Matt Wu (BA in Interior Design)
  • The 2012 WSU Spokane Student Choice Award for Excellence in Teaching went to Sterling McPherson (right), an assistant research professor in the College of Nursing who specializes in quantitative methods applied to health and medical data. McPherson taught biostats in the health policy and administration program as an adjunct professor and was nominated by five students in that program for his multidisciplinary approach to teaching. They also cited him for his enthusiasm and his accessibility and responsiveness to students. Nominees for the award also included Jae Kennedy (health policy & administration), Sue Perkins (nursing), Dawn Rondeau (nursing), David Sclar (pharmacy), Gary Smith (health policy & administration), and Laura Wintersteen (nursing).
  • College of Nursing communications manager Alli Benjamin recently earned her accreditation in public relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America. Benjamin successfully passed a readiness interview and computer-based exam this spring, after having completed a series of accreditation preparation classes last spring.
  • Regents professor of neuroscience Jim Krueger (right) was one of six faculty members who were recognized by the WSU Honors College as faculty thesis advisors of the year. Krueger was nominated by his mentee Omar Bayomy, an undergraduate neuroscience and pre-med student.
  • Parking supervisor Teresa Kruger has been selected as Spokane County's All Star Coach for the first quarter of 2012. Kruger was honored for her achievement an employee transportation coordinator and  her continued commitment to commute trip reduction. County officials noted  her enthusiasm and willingness to get personally involved in encouraging employees to use commute alternatives; her active participation in countywide events and promotional campaigns; and her persistent work to enhance the Riverpoint Campus commute trip reduction program. Read more at the Web site.
  • Clinical associate professor of speech and hearing sciences Amy Meredith was one of three recipients of the WSU Distinguished Teaching Award presented by the WSU Teaching Academy. Meredith received the award during the fifth annual awards ceremony hosted by the University College on April 17 at WSU Pullman.
  • Gene Sharratt
    (right), a clinical associate professor in the College of Education, was selected by the Association of Washington School Principals to manage the Leadership Framework Project, a statewide effort to improve evaluations of public school principals. The two-year, half-time assignment will be funded by the Gates Foundation. Sharratt's responsibilities will include adding more resources and developing training materials for school districts to use when evaluating their principals. Evaluations focus on eight key responsibilities, including building a culture conducive to learning, ensuring school safety and engaging communities.
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Community Connections

  • May 10, Public Service Recognition Week Celebration
    Join colleagues from other state agencies to help celebrate the achievements of public employees as a part of Public Service Recognition Week, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Department of Transportation, 2714 N Mayfair St, Spokane. Attendees will get a free hot dog, chips, and drink. The event features an award presentation, and secretary of state Sam Reed will be making an appearance. For more information, visit
  • May 20-26, Fifth Annual Bike to Work Week
    Riverpoint Riders, Get Ready to Roll! The Commute Challenge is back in this year's Bike to Work Week celebration, the fifth since the event was re-established in 2008, and we hope to have a campus team rack up some mileage. Individuals can register with Spokane Bikes and update vehicle miles avoided (VMA) daily or weekly. VMA includes any miles you would have driven if you hadn't ridden your bike, whether you bike to work, school, grocery shopping, the library, a yoga class, or your Saturday coffee date with a friend. Results will be tallied for both individuals and teams. Use the team name Riverpoint Riders when you register and report miles to add to the tally of Cougars, Eagles, and Huskies all getting to work with a healthy, fun transportation choice. And while you're at it, make sure you're signed up for Commute Trip Reduction. Every time you avoid using a single-occupancy vehicle to get to campus you increase your chance of winning some of the great prizes they give away. Check out the Spokane Bikes calendar page for a list of classes and fun rides to help you get rolling, Riverpoint!
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Personnel and Staffing Changes    


  • Sarah Campo, Website Writer, College of Nursing, effective March 16, 2012
  • Keith Meadowcroft, International Trade Specialist, SBCD, effective April 23, 2012
  • Larissa Weeks, Research Study Coordinator 1, College of Pharmacy, effective May 14, 2012
  • Theresa Boyer, Development Director, College of Nursing, effective May 23, 2012
  • Megan Fadeley, Transfer and RN to BSN Counselor, College of Nursing, effective May 23, 2012 


  • Katerina Korish, International Trade Specialist, SBCD, effective April 20, 2012
  • Wallace Williams, Student Services Specialist-50% (Director of Outreach), Enrollment Management, retirement effective April 29, 2012
  • Pat Aamodt, Senior Instructor, College of Nursing, retirement effective May 15, 2012
  • Kerry McGinn, Instructor, College of Nursing, retirement effective May 15, 2012
  • Freddi Vangemert, Instructor, College of Nursing, retirement effective May 15, 2012
  • Mary Webster, Instructor, College of Nursing, retirement effective May 15, 2012
  • Saren Kennedy, Secretary Senior, Nutrition & Exercise Physiology/College of Pharmacy, effective May 31, 2012
Recruitments & Searches:
  • Assistant or Associate Professor, College of Nursing, open until filled, offers pending
  • Associate Professor/Director for Nursing Program, College of Nursing-Vancouver, open until filled, interviews in process
  • Clinical Assistant/Clinical Associate/Clinical Professor, WWAMI, open until filled, apply at
  • Custodial 1, Facilities Operations, position closed April 12, 2012, interviews pending
  • Student Services Specialist (MESA Middle School Coordinator) 10-months (September-June), 50%, MESA, position closed March 27, 2012, interviews pending
  • Associate Dean for Academic Programs, College of Nursing, open until filled, interviews in progress

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Way to Go!

First, we would like to thank the staff in the departments that made room for us on the Academic Center 4th and 5th floors and for welcoming us into their midst. Thank you to all the Facilities Operations and Information Technology staff that assisted with our move in March. We would like to especially thank Bob Scharff and Wes Kemper for moving furniture and rebuilding cubicles. Jon Schad did a great job fabricating privacy panels for Cris's desk in the reception area. Thanks to Brian DeLong for stepping up and moving our boxes on such short notice. Thank you to Angie Earley, Rick Clapp, and Tim McGarry for setting up phones, computers, and printers. And a shout out to the custodial crew who provided boxes and cleaned up after us.
(from Linda Garrelts MacLean, Joyce Harbison, Cris Mudd, Luke Rice, Kim Mickey, and Peggy Peterson-Johnson)

I want to thank the following employees and students from the Diversity Club who helped with Stand Against Racism  on Friday, April 27, 2012. Employees and students placed orange ribbons around trees and/or signs for Stand Against Racism in the morning and removed the ribbons and stands in the afternoon. Employees: Gretchen Eaker, Megan Jarrad, Jane Kinkel, Amy Meredith, Joanna Moznette, Liz West, Martha West, and Diane Wick. Students: Lauren Burrows, Jihye Yoon Johnson, Hung Le, Tin-Yan Lee, Jen-Wei Liu, and Erin Sebring.
(from Yvonne Montoya-Zamora, Riverpoint Diversity Events Subcommittee)

Here's where you make someone's day a little brighter by extending your thanks for a job well done. Send your "Way to Go!" comments to Judith Van Dongen and watch for your thanks to be published in an upcoming issue of the Campus Bulletin!
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The Bulletin is a monthly publication that is usually published on the second Wednesday of each month. The exact publication date may shift due to holidays. If you have an item that you'd like us to include, send it to us by Friday in the week before publication.

The Bulletin covers news of interest to the faculty, staff, and friends of Washington State University Spokane, and associates on other WSU campuses and on the Riverpoint Campus.

Regular columns cover professional accomplishments, opportunities for involvement in the campus community and the Spokane community, notices of new developments on campus, upcoming events, personnel changes, and other news.

The Bulletin also serves as a source of information for external communications directed to alumni, future and current students, and friends of Washington State University Spokane. You'll read it here first!

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Editorial staff