25 Notable Alumni

25 Notable Alumni

Since opening its doors in 1989, Washington State University Vancouver has graduated more than 12,000 students, many of whom continue to live and work in the area. WSU Vancouver asked the community to nominate alumni living remarkable lives. Meet 25 notable VanCougs who are doing great things.


Ron Wysaske

MBA, 1989

Ron WysaskePresident and COO, Riverview Community Bank
Resides: Washougal, Wash.

First in a family of die-hard Cougs. Bachelor’s degree from WSU Pullman (1974), service on the WSU Foundation Board of Trustees and WSU committees, former adjunct professor of business. Wife Karen, daughters Kelly Ritter and Holly Jones, and son Kevin are all Cougs. Every Wysaske vehicle sports a Cougar license plate.

“We think our education from Washington State University and the entire college experience is the best in the land. But we can never rest. We strive for universal and constant improvement. The Wysaskes love Washington State. Go Cougs!”


Kellie Henderson

B.S., Psychology, 1996; M.P.A., 2000

Kellie HendersonJuvenile probation counselor, Clark County Juvenile Court
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Champion for youth. Has worked with at-risk youth for 20 years; longtime community educator and advocate for YWCA (Vancouver) Sexual Assault Program; served on Council for the Homeless and Meals on Wheels; co-founded Safe Communities Task Force in 2008 with Mick Hoffman of Vancouver Public Schools; works tirelessly to provide community education on gang and youth violence.

“My years as a WSU Vancouver student truly helped me become an agent of change in my community. Our family firmly believes that we are not individuals to live solely for the purpose of self-gratification but rather we live as stewards of the community with an obligation to a greater cause.”


Jonathan DeHart

B.A., Business Administration, 1996

Jonathan DeHartPresident and CEO, NorthShore Bio, Seattle; and Director, Allegory Venture Partners, Portland
Resides: Camas, Wash.

Business and technology innovator. Began as a marketing intern in Germany with Mercedes Benz and went on to help start Mercedes Benz U.S. International, Inc., and several technology and services companies through Mercedes Benz Technology GmbH; managed startups and business development for Intel’s New Business Initiatives Group before founding NorthShore Bio, a disruptive genome sequencing platform.

“Each of the faculty members I attended classes with demonstrated a focus on individual engagement and mentoring, both in and out of class. Their interest in academic achievement is equally balanced with real-world applications.”


Donna Sinclair

B.A., General Studies and Social Sciences, 1996

Donna SinclairConsulting Historian
Resides: Washougal, Wash.

Public historian. Research and oral history for the Center for Columbia River History, Vancouver National Historic Reserve, the Confluence Project, Oregon Historical Society, Reed College and others; honors include Catherine Prelinger Award for a nontraditional scholar of excellence from the Coordinating Council for Women in History; adjunct instructor in history at WSU Vancouver and Portland State University; Ph.D. candidate at PSU.

“It is impossible to count all of the ways that WSU Vancouver has informed who I am and how I contribute to my community. … I got my true intellectual start and found my life’s work at WSU Vancouver.”


Jeff Olson

B.A., Criminal Justice, 1999; M.P.A., 2007

Jeff OlsonPolice Officer, Vancouver Police Department
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Brings a research perspective to hands-on police work. Helped shape criminal justice program at WSU Vancouver; executive board member of state and local Fraternal Order of Police; treasurer of Vancouver Police Officers Guild Executive Board; many honors, including Vancouver Police Department award for meritorious service; coaches Salmon Creek Little League baseball and youth football.

“WSU Vancouver has significantly shaped the person I am today and how I serve my community. … Working with my professors, conducting research and staying abreast of the most recent policing studies has allowed me to embrace new ideas and techniques.”


Alyson Galloway Rotter

M.P.A., Psychology, 2003

Alyson Galloway RotterProgram Manager, 21st Century Grant SUCCESS, Olympic Educational Service District 114
Resides: Bremerton, Wash.

Impassioned activist for youth and education. Director, Bremerton School District; former executive committee member of Kitsap County Youth Commission; active in College Goal Sunday; volunteer campaigner for YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties; worked in Student Affairs at WSU Vancouver; former Running Start advisor in Port Angeles, Wash.

“At WSU Vancouver, I gained so much additional insight beyond that of my own experiences. I began to recognize what collaboration, community building and an entrepreneurial spirit can provide in furthering one’s goals. I am honored and proud to have been a part of WSU Vancouver’s vision for a campus and a community in Southwest Washington.”


Paris Powell

B.A., Business Administration—Accounting & Finance, 2002

Paris PowellSenior Manager, Perkins & Co., Portland
Resides: Ridgefield, Wash.

Advocate for foster children, financial literacy, and community and alumni engage-ment with WSU. Volunteers extensively in support of foster children; represents accounting and finance professions to schools; educates children and adults on budgeting and financial literacy; named one of Vancouver Business Journal’s Accomplished & Under 40 in 2009; Outstanding Service Award from WSU Foundation in 2011; professional credentials include Certified Public Accountant, Accredited in Business Valuation and Certified in Financial Forensics.

“WSU Vancouver’s incredibly engaged faculty invested in me and encouraged me to apply for scholarships and for positions in my career that blew doors wide open for me.”


Elson Strahan

M.P.A., 1999

Elson StrahanPresident and CEO, Fort Vancouver National Trust
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Oversees the Trust’s resource development, programs, education, and preservation efforts of staff and volunteers. Former president, Clark College Foundation; has served on state and national task forces and commissions; currently chair of Vancouver Public Schools’ Management Task Force and president of the Rotary Club of Vancouver; has been a member of numerous nonprofit and governmental boards and committees.

“My experience at WSU Vancouver has been tremendously significant in its value to my work and community service. And, while my graduate studies greatly enhanced my professional skills and perspective in myriad ways, my greatest reward was unquestionably a personal one.”


Tamara Roark Shoup

B.A., Human Development, 2007

Tamara Roark ShoupDirector of Family Engagement, Vancouver Public Schools
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Proponent of lifelong learning and community building. Excels at project development, including strategic initiatives, goals, funding, governance and operational structures; coordinated grant proposals for WSU Vancouver; served as budget and research project coordinator for a National Science Foundation grant; has written several successful proposals for early learning and family support programming; active in several community collaborations.Recently completed a master’s degree in research administration from the University of Central Florida College of Health and Public Affairs. Received several scholarships as a student and was the first recipient of the Gloria Hall Leadership Scholarship, which she now supports.

“I want to give someone else the same sense of encouragement that receiving a scholarship offered me. I never feel more proud than when I am giving a gift to another Coug.”


Caroline Heldman

B.A., Business Administration, 1993

Caroline HeldmanAssociate Professor of Politics, Occidental College
Resides: Los Angeles

Presidential scholar; social justice activist and expert on the objectification of women in society. Political observer and commentator; co-author of “Rethinking Madam President: Are We Ready for a Woman in the White House?”; co-founded Faculty Against Rape and End Rape on Campus; worked on post-Katrina recovery efforts in New Orleans; co-founded Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum and New Orleans Women’s Shelter; presented TEDxYouth talk, “The Sexy Lie,” viewed more than one million times on YouTube. Transferred to WSU from Clark College; M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers.

“WSU Vancouver altered my worldview and molded me into the scholar-activist I am today. My professional and activist life is modeled after the faculty I met at WSU Vancouver.”


Joe Winton

B.A., Digital Technology & Culture, 2004

Joe WintonWeb Developer, Office of Information Technology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Resides: Las Vegas

Marketing strategist and IT problem-solver. Formerly Web and new media manager at South Dakota State University; held Web communications positions at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and at WSU Vancouver; invited expert for W3C HTML Working Group that helped develop the HTML5 standard; many volunteer roles as mentor and educator on technology; volunteered to help Portland Beavers baseball team create their first website; named one of Vancouver Business Journal’s Accomplished & Under 40, 2006.

“As a first-generation college student, I had the opportunity at WSU Vancouver to work closely with several professors in class and on research projects. The small class sizes and close community made me feel like I mattered to WSU Vancouver as a person, not just a student they wanted to push through.”


Cynthia Ann Meyer

B.A., Humanities, 2013

Cynthia Ann MeyerProgram Manager, Chronic Disease Prevention, Clark County Public Health
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Local citizen who volunteers with a global perspective. Board secretary for Café Femenino Foundation; past board member for Families with Children from China; past president of Southwest Washington chapter of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; local responder with the Clark County Medical Reserve Corps; puppy raiser for Guide Dogs of America; advisory council member for local school districts; humane society volunteer; past editor-in-chief of the VanCougar and leader of the first two First Amendment events on campus.

“From the day I stepped on the WSU Vancouver campus, I felt energized, welcomed and challenged. Instead of being the ‘old lady on campus,’ I was embraced by students, faculty and staff. I cherish the years I spent there and feel it was the best investment I have ever made in myself.”


Sunrise O'Mahoney

B.A., Public Affairs, 2003

Sunrise O'MahoneyExecutive Director, Vancouver Watersheds Alliance
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Coalition builder. Co-founded Vancouver Food Co-op; helped start certificate program for Center for Social and Environmental Justice at WSU Vancouver; initiated a marketing/awareness campaign for Community Supported Agriculture; media contact for Urban Growers Market; co-founded Blanket Brigade for homeless people; active in many local governmental activities and campaigns, most recently Home Rule Charter for Clark County.

“While studying at WSU Vancouver, I thought I was simply working on a degree as a means to find a job/career. What I found while in school was that, yes, there is the ‘simple’ degree, but what I did not expect to learn were all the personal growth aspects and the broad skill set I acquired outside of actual class time. These are the intangibles that 11 years after graduating I still carry with me.”


Sam Freshner

B.A. in General Studies and Social Sciences, 2002

Sam FreshnerPolice Officer, North Plains, Ore. Law Enforcement Instructor, Sabin Schellenberg Center, Milwaukie, Ore.
Resides: Portland, Ore.

Volunteer par excellence. Received President Obama’s Volunteer Service to America Award for giving more than 500 hours in one calendar year; extensive community service work includes Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), SkillsUSA criminal justice program, Taekwondo School for Children in Haiti, breast cancer and other fundraisers; worked in Baghdad with Iraqi national police force; police officer in Oregon for 27 years.

“I have always tried to provide my students and the public with the best customer service possible. I always try to focus on all that was done for me at WSU Vancouver by people who I am sure went above and beyond their job.”


Kelly Love

B.A., Humanities, 2003

Kelly LovePresident and CEO, Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Community leader with extensive nonprofit board service. Former TV reporter at KGW; served as district director for Congressman Brian Baird; board chair, Children’s Center; board member, Southwest Washington Workforce Development, Association of Washington Business, Washington Chambers Council; volunteer service with several nonprofits, including Meals on Wheels and Clark County Development Disability Board; regional Emmy for news coverage in 2013 covering wildfires in Central Oregon.

“At WSU Vancouver I earned confidence in my ability to learn. I continue to test my limits in learning new skills and applying them in new ways in my professional work. … I learned that if I am willing to work, I will succeed.”


Cheryl Snodgrass

B.S. in Nursing, 1999; M.N., 2009

Cheryl SnodgrassClinical Educator, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Seeks to build cultural awareness among healthcare professionals. Preceptor and mentor for WSU Vancouver nursing students; coordinates placements for nursing students; received Robert Wood Johnson and Washington State Workforce Training grants; former president of Oregon Council of Healthcare Educators; chair of Clark College Nursing Advisory Committee; Outstanding WSU graduate student in 2009.

“I give WSU Vancouver the credit for the influence I have in my organization and my community. … I was prepared well by WSU Vancouver to do qualitative and quantitative research, develop curriculum and bring evidence-based practice to the bedside.”


Kim Abegglen

M.I.T., 2006

Kim AbegglenScience Teacher, Hockinson Middle School, Brush Prairie, Wash.
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Science ambassador. One of 24 educators selected by NASA in 2014 as part of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program. Paired with professional astronomers, the teachers observed Jupiter, black holes, nebulas and other celestial objects from an infrared telescope mounted in a plane flying at 40,000 feet, then brought the experience back to their communities to promote scientific literacy. Received additional honors from NASA and others.

“My intensely rich learning experience was a positive beginning to a rewarding career that has been marked with amazing, once-in-a-lifetime personal and professional experiences, including a NASA fellowship and ambassadorship.”


Christina Reyes

B.A. Human Development, 2006

Christina ReyesProject Manager, U.S. Bank, Portland
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Champion of children’s causes. Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), YWCA of Clark County; Chemo Pal for Children’s Cancer Association; board member, U.S. Bank Development Network, Children’s Cancer Association Joy Squad, Educational Opportunities for Children and Families; Vancouver Business Journal Accomplished & Under 40, 2013.

“In my current profession, I help others hone their leadership skills and advance their careers. As a volunteer, I have spent the last several years advocating for the basic human rights of abused and neglected children and for better educational outcomes for low-income children. Having faced similar challenges growing up, I find great personal fulfillment in doing this work. I am grateful to WSU Vancouver for investing in me—for equipping me with invaluable skills, building my confidence to dream bigger and challenging my beliefs to be more inclusive of broader viewpoints.”


Jennifer Cullisan

Ed.M., 2004

Jennifer CullisonAP Biology and Medical Science Teacher, Woodland (Wash.) High School
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Outstanding science educator. Member of the Science Assessment Leadership Team, Washington Department of Public Instruction; Washington State Career and Technical Education grants for STEM education; helped create and advise Woodland’s Academic Scholars program for college-bound students; president of Woodland Education Association; overcame congenital heart disease to become an accomplished competitive triathlete and urban adventure racer.

“I thank WSU Vancouver for helping me to find my true passion, teaching science. Every day I get to go into work and talk about something I love and watch students make connections and learn life lessons that will help them be successful and in turn help the world be successful.”


Christopher Nye

B.S. Psychology, 2003

Christopher NyeAssistant Professor, Organizational Psychology, Michigan State University
Resides: Dewitt, Mich.

Rising star in his field. Conducts research on how organizations can more effectively hire new employees; has applied his research in both public and private organizations; volunteer for mental health, family and child services, and others. Earned Ph.D. at University of Illinois in 2011; taught at Bowling Green State University.

“WSU Vancouver was my first step toward starting a career that has allowed me to serve my community on a daily basis. … I had never heard of industrial/organizational psychology before. I may not have found a profession that met my interests so perfectly if it weren’t for the faculty who took the time to introduce me to the topic.”


Cynthia Myers

B.S., Nursing, 2004; M.S.N., 2007

Director of Nursing, Clark College
Resides: Vancouver, Wash.

Cynthia MyersEngaging nursing instructor. Researched why non-native-speaking students struggle with nursing school and implemented strategies to improve retention in her own classroom; promotes collaboration and networking among nurse educators from different schools in the area; co-chairs leadership subcommittee for the Council of Nurse Educators of Washington State; board member of Washington Center for Nursing; one of 20 nursing leaders nationally selected for National League for Nursing’s LEAD program in 2011.

“The nursing professors at WSU Vancouver inspired me to change my career path. I have past hospital and clinic experience, and I began to pursue a master’s degree in nursing education. Now, as director of nursing at Clark College, I have learned a great deal about nursing administration and once again have the professors at WSU Vancouver to thank for their ongoing support and guidance.”


Mike Bomar

M.P.A., 2005

Mike BomarPresident, Columbia River Economic Development Council
Resides: Ridgefield, Wash.

Effective advocate for business development. Board member, Greater Portland, Inc.; STEM Network Governance Board; Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council Board; Clark County Skills Center General Advisory Council; Washington Economic Development Association Board; WSU Vancouver Campus Advisory Council, among others; Vancouver Business Journal Accomplished & Under 40 Award, 2009; turned internship into a job at Building Industries Association of Clark County; volunteer for several children’s, neighborhood and Cougar organizations.

“What began as a brief internship has now become an exciting and rewarding career in managing one of the region’s most prominent economic development organizations. I am thankful to have the opportunity to continue working with WSU Vancouver in connecting businesses to this great institution.”


Alex Dondanville

B.S., Manufacturing Engineering, 2004

Alex DondanvilleFounder and Project Engineer, Desert Scanning, Phoenix
Resides: Laveen, Ariz.

Expert and innovator in 3D scanning, CAD, reverse engineering, prototyping and volumetric inspection for Desert Scanning. Worked as senior test engineer and later development engineer for Daimler Trucks North America; co-founder and lead engineer at Global Inspection Solutions; docent at Evergreen Aviation Museum, providing education and information about the science of flight; volunteer at Oregon Commission for the Blind, creating guidance paths for visually impaired employees to negotiate a busy warehouse.

“WSU rewarded me with the competitive edge needed to partake in extraordinary opportunities and industries: aerospace, automotive, medical, marine and manufacturing, to name a few. Another quality I gained was making connections, broadening my network and maintaining communication.”


Bryn Murdock Browning

M.Ed., 2003

Bryn Murdock BrowningAssistant Superintendent, Hermiston Public Schools
Resides: Hermiston, Ore.

Directs the district’s federal programs and all teaching and learning. Formerly superintendent at Ione School District; fundraiser for Hermiston and Ione Education Foundations to support local schools; president of Hermiston Rotary Club; extensive volunteer activities for youth, low-income, environmental and health causes. Professional honors include Vancouver School District VIP, 2004; Hermiston Rotarian of the Year, 2008/09, and Hermiston School District Administrator of the Year, 2012/13.

“The program was thorough, the requirements tough, but as I have watched and worked with other administrators, I am grateful for the value and experiences I had through WSU Vancouver.”


D'Alene White

B.A., Public Affairs, 2004

D'Alene WhiteProbation Officer, Clark County Juvenile Court, Vancouver
Resides: Portland, Ore.

Juvenile justice leader. Volunteered on issues related to juvenile crime and gangs in Clark County; returned to school in 2002 to become a juvenile probation officer; instructor for Clark County Juvenile Court; appointed to several law enforcement commissions and councils, including Washington State Law & Justice Council and Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Committee; co-chaired Clark County Law & Justice Council and helped form the Inter-agency Gang Solutions Task Force.

“I was 50 years old when I decided to see if it was possible to complete my four-year degree. If it weren’t for WSU Vancouver, I wouldn’t have my current position, a juvenile court probation counselor. Now I have a career that feeds my passion to help kids turn their lives around, which also helps make our community better on many levels.”