This Sunday, May 19, approximately 2,000 Case Western Reserve University students will take part in commencement ceremonies, beginning with the university-wide convocation at 9:30 a.m. in the Veale Convocation, Recreation and Athletic Center and followed by diploma ceremonies throughout the day.
Before they leave campus, though, we caught up with one outstanding student from each school to discuss their experiences at Case Western Reserve—and how their time here has shaped their post-graduation paths.
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
A 27-month Peace Corps assignment halfway around the world led Jamie Bohunicky to her career path—and to Cleveland.
While teaching English in Indonesia, where she was chairperson for the gender equality committee for Peace Corps Indonesia, Bohunicky saw what agents for change people truly can be.
Researching some of the top social work schools—and, especially, one in a city where she could make a major impact—Bohunicky learned about Case Western Reserve. A service scholarship and selection as one of seven Mandel Leadership Fellows, a program that aims to develop social work leaders and hone their research skills, drew her to Cleveland that August.
The social work school and the city have proven ideal places to enact change: In less than two years, she’s served as director of social work for the Student Run Health Clinic, where she helped develop areas such as a Narcan training program.
“It was a great experience,” Bohunicky said of the interprofessional program that provides health services to the Cleveland community two weekends each month. “I got to learn more about the medical side and really figure out how to meet the community where they are.”
That involvement led Bohunicky and a classmate to begin the social work school’s Community Health Initiative, in which every Friday, Mandel School students team up with Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine students to provide resources and care to individuals at a homeless shelter downtown.
Next up: Bohunicky will pursue her passion of helping adults with mental health issues. In June, she expects to begin as an in-patient behavioral health social worker at Cleveland Clinic.
College of Arts and Sciences
Monica Chavan’s favorite thing about her time at Case Western Reserve has been the ability to have “a really diverse academic and extracurricular experience.”
That she has. The biology, cognitive science and Spanish major (with multiple minors) has managed to keep an impeccable GPA while also playing the tuba in the Case Symphonic Winds Ensemble, conducting research in the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences, and even playing in the racquetball club (where she sometimes partners with her twin brother, Neil, a chemical engineering student who also graduates this weekend).
“I like to stay busy,” she said with a laugh.
Chavan also likes to experience new opportunities, whether it’s finding the best tacos in Cleveland (Ohio City Burrito, she noted), studying abroad (in Santiago, Chile, as a sophomore), or simply taking classes outside one of her multiple areas of study.
Last summer, she earned a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates internship at the SETI Institute, a nonprofit research organization that partners with the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. There, she worked with a cohort of astrobiologists both in the lab and in the field (merging her biology major with a long-held interest in astronomy, and love of outdoor adventure).
And this spring, she received the Department of Biology’s Daniel Burke Prize for Excellence in Biology and Chemistry.
Though Chavan graduates Sunday, she’s not headed far: In the fall, she’ll begin as a medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
School of Medicine
When Max Feinstein was deciding which medical school to attend, his visit to Case Western Reserve sealed the deal. “When I went to interview, I just got the sense that the students were much happier here than at the other school [I was considering],” he remembered. “I realized that, at the end of the day, probably the most important factor in my decision would be represented in how happy the students are.”
Through his years at Case Western Reserve, Feinstein found the enjoyment and fulfillment that he’d seen in those medical students, through opportunities such as volunteering at Malachi House, a hospice for individuals with limited financial resources, or conducting research.
He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Colombia to study infectious disease between his second and third years—a somewhat unusual time to take a year off, but one that his adviser fully endorsed.
“That’s one of the other characteristics of Case Western [Reserve] that really appealed to me: Students said the administration was really supportive of whatever endeavors students wanted to pursue, and that was absolutely true.”
Feinstein again found that to be the case as he began his clinical rotations. Once he was introduced to anesthesiology, he wanted to pursue it further; however, that’s not an area to which medical students typically gain much exposure. Yet, with every rotation, Feinstein found that “pretty much across the board, faculty members were willing to work with me to help me get experiences in anesthesiology—to pursue what was meaningful to me.”
And at Case Western Reserve, Feinstein found his happily ever after, too, meeting his wife, Pooja Rambhia. The couple got married last weekend, then will attend commencement Sunday before departing for their honeymoon.
They’ll then move to New York, where Feinstein begins his residency in anesthesiology and Rambhia conducts her intern year at the Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, before she conducts her residency in dermatology at Northwell Health in Long Island, New York.
Case School of Engineering
Tyrel Hill came to Case Western Reserve as a third-year mathematics student, as part of the university’s 3/2 engineering program, in which you begin your undergraduate career with three years of study at a liberal arts college and then earn an engineering degree from Case Western Reserve in two.
The transition for Hill was at times difficult; by junior year, many students have formed tight-knit circles of friends or study groups. He was plunged into classes he wasn’t yet familiar with, such as Transport Phenomena, which Hill said is one of the hardest courses in the chemical engineering curriculum.
Yet the outpouring of support he received made him feel welcome—and helped him through that transition. “I’d see people in the library, but I was a little shy,” he remembered. “A group of five or six students—they saw me and recognized me from class, and they invited me to join them. It may not have seemed like much to them, but to me it went a long way. I studied with them the rest of the semester.”
The two years at Case Western Reserve have “felt like four” between the courses and extracurriculars Hill has packed in his schedule: He served as president of Kappa Alpha Psi, played intramural sports and was a member of the National Society of Black Engineers. He also completed two internships: the first at JP Morgan Chase in cybersecurity and the next at Chevron in petroleum engineering. His Chevron internship went so well that he lined up a post-graduation job: He’s moving to Midland, Texas, to work as a production engineer.
For Hill, the sometimes-difficult course load and long nights staying in, studying, all are for a greater cause. “I lost my twin brother when I was 11, and ever since then, he’s been the main motivation of my life,” Hill said. “Nights when I’m up late, and I don’t want to work anymore—that pops in my head, and I buckle down and take care of whatever I have to. I’m living life for the both of us.”
Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
The day before Magdelana Larson started the Master of Nursing program, she almost quit. She had a 3-month-old baby at home and was struggling to find child care. But a conversation with an alumna made her realize she could finish the program—and do it well.
That willingness to persevere—and succeed—isn’t surprising, given Larson’s previous career. An engineer by training, Larson served in the Air Force for eight years as a helicopter pilot. Though she liked the analytical thinking required as a pilot, she felt she was “missing the personal care component.”
So Larson sought to begin a second career—one that would allow her to use her technical skills but also would “incorporate a human touch.” She realized nursing met those needs and, after finding Case Western Reserve, she and her husband moved from Seattle to Cleveland for her to begin her education.
“After having such a stable, outwardly successful career, it’s been hard to redefine the next phase,” Larson said. “I’ve had to really learn that it’s OK to not look successful, not have it all figured out. The humility of that is tough. Everything was set and squared away and I chose to change paths, and I knew it would be hard.”
Her efforts have paid off: Larson earned a job as a nurse in Cleveland Clinic’s Medical Intensive Care Unit, where she conducted her clinicals. She hopes to eventually complete the nursing school’s midwifery program.
But first: Larson is preparing for her pinning ceremony today (May 19); she’s forgoing the commencement ceremonies, as she’s due any day to welcome her second child.
Weatherhead School of Management
Rob Relief bills himself as an “innovative young hustler.”
“I’m always trying to figure out a new monetization strategy,” he said, “and I love doing it in the digital sector.”
Fittingly, Relief’s post-Master of Business Administration degree job is doing just that: He’s moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, to work at Lowe’s as a digital product manager.
In today’s retail environment, Relief noted, consumers have far more information available at their fingertips than store employees do. So how can you reimagine a better customer experience for them?
That’s what Relief will endeavor to discover. And it’s an ideal start for an individual who came to Case Western Reserve thanks to his innovative ideas.
Prior to his enrollment, Weatherhead School of Management hosted a “Create Change” case competition, in which groups were tasked with realistic business challenges and given less than a day to not only come up with a solution but also pitch it. Relief and his team won the event—and he ended up also winning a large scholarship.
Since then, case competitions have held increasing appeal for Relief—and made him well-known throughout the school. He’s competed in six and placed in four, and also was part of the record-breaking event in which Weatherhead School students swept the ACG Cup Competition awards.
But for Relief, the Case Western Reserve experience has been impacted especially by committed and caring faculty, such as Scott Fine, Youngjin Yoo and Casey Newmayer.
“Weatherhead has some really great professors here who go above and beyond the line of duty, which I really appreciate,” he said. “They don’t teach you the book and what you’re ‘supposed’ to know about [their areas]—they teach you what it really means in the real world.”
School of Dental Medicine
From a young age, Lizzeth Rodriguez knew she wanted to be a dentist. The problem was, she didn’t know how to get there. After graduating from Baylor University, she applied to dental programs but was denied. “I didn’t know the process, or what I needed to do,” Rodriguez noted.
She enrolled in a post-baccalaureate program in San Francisco and, after assistance, applied—and was accepted—to Case Western Reserve, where her impact has been exceptional.
Over the years, Rodriguez has served as secretary and president of Psi Omega Epsilon, the dental fraternity, as well as being an active member and community chair of the American Student Dental Association. And if there was a volunteer activity throughout her career—outfitting mouth guards for local football teams, taking a dental mission trip to Jamaica, providing care in the annual Give Kids a Smile Day—Rodriguez likely was involved.
She also made an active effort in mentoring and tutoring younger students, including as a waxing tutor and a tour guide leader for prospective students.
But for Rodriguez, one of the most rewarding parts of dental school was guiding a patient through the at-times trying and stressful predicament of a difficult dental procedure. As a third-year dental student—young in her clinician career, Rodriguez noted—she was introduced to a patient who was fearful of the dentist, but had a lot of necessary work ahead.
“I wasn’t confident in what I needed to do, but I had someone who was dependent on me to provide this care—to make them feel comfortable again.” With a preceptor’s support, Rodriguez guided the patient through a nearly two-year dental procedure process—something that has prepared her for her next step in a general practice residency in Akron at Summa Health.
“Through all of it, the encouragement and mentorship was exceptional,” Rodriguez remembered. “If something went wrong, I had to take full ownership and fix it. But even when it was a struggle, the people around me supported me.”
School of Law
When Garo Yaghsezian graduates on Sunday, he’ll have completed two law degrees in three years—on two continents.
As part of the School of Law’s concurrent degree program, Yaghsezian took all of his American Bar Association-required courses in his first two years of law school, allowing him to spend his third year studying in France at Paris-Dauphine University, where he completed the “2M” degree (similar to an LLM).
And, after taking the bar exam this summer, he’ll return to Paris to begin his first job as an attorney—and receive his diploma from the French university.
Yaghsezian has long been interested in France, having studied abroad there as an undergraduate student at Loyola Marymount University and then returning for an internship at Paris’ city hall as a law student. So when he was looking to launch his career, he knew he wanted to return.
He pounded the pavement during his third year of law school in France, and landed a position at Kramer Levin, a law firm with offices in New York City, Silicon Valley and Paris. There, Yaghsezian plans to practice international arbitration, competitive law and EU General Data Protection Regulation compliance.
“I certainly wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’m having now without Case [Western Reserve] and the concurrent degree program,” Yaghsezian said.