NW Cougar Quarterly

Spring 2021 Issue

Table of contents


Alumni Spotlight

Billy Henry, ’17, B.A. in public affairs

How did you become a VanCoug?

Billy Henry

My family moved to Washington from Montana when I was in in my early teens. After graduating from Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, I completed general education requirements at Clark College. Then I transferred to WSU Vancouver and completed my bachelor’s degree in 2017.

What are you doing now?

While I was in high school, I founded the Northwest Association for Blind Athletes. I have been legally blind since birth, and I was inspired to found NWABA because I wanted to participate in powerlifting with my friends. My family, our early volunteers, and many community members lent their support and expertise. The organization provides life-changing opportunities through sports and physical activity to people who are blind or visually impaired. I currently work as president and CEO, and I work alongside our team, board members and volunteers to spread NWABA’s mission and programming throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The skills and tools I learned at WSU Vancouver helped me become a better leader. We have grown by 20% or more since our inception and are on pace to deliver nearly 600 events to more than 2,000 people this year. Despite the impacts of COVID-19, our participants were more engaged than ever, and because of our team’s amazing efforts, we are seeing record impact and growth. 

My fiancée, Ashlyn Salzman, who is also a Coug (’15, B.A. in public affairs), and I spend most of our weekends traveling, planning our 2022 wedding and exploring with our two dogs. 

Where is the strangest place you've met another Coug?

The Coug network is massive, so I'm never surprised when I meet others out and about! I've come across a few during business travel to Idaho and Montana.

What did you enjoy about WSU Vancouver?

Our professors in the public affairs program often had experience outside of teaching that made the lessons super-applicable to real life. For someone who was already in the professional workforce while I was seeking a degree, this made my education relevant. 

How has WSU Vancouver changed since you were a student?

It has grown a lot! There are new educational tracks, additional internship opportunities and a continued focus on getting students workforce-ready.

How do you support WSU Vancouver as an alumnus?

Ashlyn and I support WSU Vancouver's food pantry and Second Chance Scholarship. These two programs give students critically needed support to complete their education. 

How Coug are you?

We love to attend events, especially where we can connect with other alumni. We look forward to attending the first day of school "Wave the Flag," alumni get-togethers and sporting events again soon.

What advice do you have for current students or future Cougs?

Look for opportunities to get into the Vancouver community as soon as possible—whether it's through interning, volunteering or in a professional capacity. There are literally thousands of people who are either Cougs themselves or recognize the value that having the university in our community brings. They are eager to share their knowledge and connections with you. 

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Cougar Business Alliance

Mel and Zack Durham

Evergreen Key Group

Mel Durham, ’12 (Pullman), B.A. in communications

Zack Durham, ’13 (Pullman), B.A. in social sciences

The Durhams started their real estate company together less than a year ago. As new parents, the husband-and-wife team wanted a flexible schedule in order to spend time at home with their baby daughter. And both had been passionate about working for themselves and controlling their own earnings and future.

The company’s mission is to help clients achieve their housing goals. The Durhams strive to go above and beyond to make the buying and selling process as stress-free and enjoyable as possible. “Real estate has always been known as somewhat of a cut-throat environment,” Mel said, “and it’s our goal to change those perspectives and have all agents work together to make it a seamless process for the clients.”

Their extended family is a die-hard Coug family, with seven family members who attended WSU. “On Cougar football Saturdays we are either at Tom’s Pizza in Portland or at the home of our uncle Dave. He has a decked-out Cougar room, and we watch the game with friends and family.” The most recent Cougar graduate is Merissa, Zack’s cousin, who graduated in 2018.

They say their favorite thing about being Cougs is the Cougar community—which is worldwide. On their honeymoon in Costa Rica, they saw another couple on the beach wearing Coug shirts and felt an instant kinship. “We love being able to yell ‘Go Cougs’ to a stranger and have them say it back,” Mel said. “We also have met so many amazing people just by being Cougs, and we think it truly speaks to the value of people who graduate from the school that we’re all willing to help each other.”

One time, they pulled up in their car with Cougar license plates to show a new client a house. They hadn’t met the client before. The couple got out of the car—one wearing an Arizona State University shirt and the other a University of Washington shirt. “Well, this should be fun working with a Sun Devil, a Cougar and a Husky!” the husband observed. “We instantly knew we would get along,” Mel said.

Mel and Zack love WSU Vancouver’s role in the community. “The campus is gorgeous and it’s so great that there are multiple WSU campuses around,” Mel said. “It keeps the Coug family growing.”

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Congratulations, Graduates!

Drive Through Graduation

You did it! After conquering a challenging period of distance education, 1,018 VanCougs have become new alumni, graduating in fall 2020 and spring and summer 2021. To honor the new graduates, WSU held a systemwide virtual graduation celebration on May 8, and WSU Vancouver held a Drive-Through Graduation Celebration that day. Watch the WSU Vancouver Drive-Through Commencement video and check out the photo album on Flickr to re-live the excitement of becoming WSU alumni!

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Celebrate Your Achievements with a Legacy Square

You graduated—so celebrate! Leave your prints on campus forever. Order a Legacy Square today to commemorate your achievements and permanently make your mark at WSU Vancouver. Take advantage of the New Grad Special: one stone with your custom engraving and a Cougar head logo for $225. This offer is available for fall 2020 and spring and summer 2021 grads only until July 15.

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Cougs Give

On April 14, WSU Vancouver participated in #CougsGive—WSU’s 24-hour online day of giving. Thanks to generous alumni, family and friends of WSU Vancouver, more than $19,000 was raised to help build a supportive and inclusive campus for all WSU Vancouver students. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Watch a thank you video from Armando Antonino.

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Scholarship Donors Make a Difference

For many WSU Vancouver students, receiving scholarships is the only way higher education is affordable. More than 82% of students require some sort of financial assistance. The majority of those students qualify for Pell Grants, which is federal financial aid given to students who demonstrate the highest need. Even with this assistance, typical unmet student need at WSU Vancouver is between $3,000 and $4,000 each year.

In 2020, WSU Vancouver awarded more than $267,000 in scholarships to help 149 students achieve their goals. Donations to support scholarships enable the next generation of Cougars to earn their college degrees and achieve their dreams. Learn more about their stories by watching this video.

To make a donation to support scholarships at WSU Vancouver, click here. To learn how to create an annual or endowed scholarship, contact Melissa Bassett at 360.546.9281 or melissa.bassett@wsu.edu.

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Save the Date to Wave the Flag

One of WSU Vancouver’s favorite traditions is coming back! Save the date for Wave the Flag on Aug. 23. Get ready to welcome students back to the WSU Vancouver campus for the first day of classes by waving the Cougar flag and wearing your favorite Coug gear. Stay tuned for updates and registration information through social media and email. Go Cougs!

Don't miss out on our next event, update your contact info today.

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Join the Alumni Association today.