The Class of 2008 Remembers the Journey

By:
Jeffrey Javier and Katy Smith, Chris Richards and Ron Wurzer and David Poller photos

University of Arizona alumni are full of stories. Some of them bring laughter, like cramming for tests in a malodorous basement. Some memories go deeper: A child’s life saved, a chance to provide scholarships in honor of a family member who passed away.

Meet 10 graduates who have 10 years of perspective as UA alumni. They are full not only of stories but also of determination to support the university and give today’s students a chance to develop their own UA memories.

Stephanie Barnes and Rigel Woida-O’Brien

Both: Optical Sciences and Engineering, B.S.; Optical Sciences, M.S. | Stephanie: Systems Engineer, Raytheon | Rigel: Chief Engineer, Raytheon | Tucson

Never a Doubt: We’re both native Tucsonans, and the UA was always where we were going to be. 

Stephanie’s Study Spot: A group of us studied outside in line for basketball games. Optical Sciences is next to McKale Memorial Center, so one of us would run all the backpacks inside just before we went in.

Helping Engineering Students: We try to get involved in senior capstone design projects every year. We work with Raytheon to get funding for sponsorship and mentor the students. 

Rigel’s Gratitude: If people at the UA like Peter Smith, professor emeritus, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, hadn’t helped me grasp the difference between academia and application, I wouldn’t be where I am. Now I need to help others do the same.

Expanding Industry Collaboration: We’re seeing this revolution of tiny cube satellites that each do just one thing in a cluster. The UA is uniquely positioned for that field, and so is Raytheon.

Matt Hesketh

Political Science and History, B.A.; J.D. | Attorney, Sherman & Howard | Phoenix 

In Memoriam: The summer before his sophomore year at the UA, my brother Ben was killed in a car accident. In his memory, my wife, Lindsay Hesketh ’09 ’11 ’14, and I established a scholarship in the history department. 

Gifts with Meaning: Lindsay and I married on Ben’s birthday and asked guests to donate to the scholarship fund in Ben’s name instead of giving us gifts. Our family and friends really came together. 

A Humbling Experience: Lindsay and I met a scholarship recipient who aspires to become a high school teacher, which is awesome because it really hits on our values for promoting the liberal arts and supporting public education. 

A Proud Alumnus: The UA offers an affordable world-class education, and I’m very proud of that. The UA put me in a position to succeed for the rest of my life. 

Christina Noz

J.D. | Vice President, Mission Management & Trust Co. | Tucson

Ah, the Memories: My study partner and I liked the basement of the law library, which no longer exists. It was a dark and smelly dungeon, but it was our favorite place because it was so quiet.

On Arizona Assurance: My husband, Abraham Wu, and I went to a reception and met two students who are directly impacted by our gifts. I received scholarships during my undergraduate and law school years, and I’m grateful to those who laid the path for me to get a degree and go to law school. I want to do the same for others.

A Continuance: Professor of Practice Greg Gadarian was my instructor, and he was also a practitioner who brought real examples into the classroom. He’s a colleague and mentor now; I still ask him for advice.

Supporting Arizona Public Media: It’s unbiased news that’s accessible to all. Supporting education in our community is important to us.

David Hahs 

Aerospace Engineering, B.S.; Mechanical Engineering, B.S. | Operations Manager, Boeing | Seattle 

Why the UA? I grew up in Oregon, and Arizona was one of the few universities in the West that offered an aerospace degree program and the opportunity to do undergraduate research. 

Morning Commute: There was an active flying club in the early 2000s, and I was able to get my pilot’s license when I was a freshman. I would fly around Tucson before I had class at 10 a.m.

A Dream Connection: Aerospace and mechanical engineering professor Erdogan Madenci introduced me to people at Boeing, which put me on a path to interning there and eventually to a career at Boeing. My knowledge of composites was the springboard for me to work on the 787 Dreamliner. 

On Giving Back: I had a full scholarship, so I feel an obligation and desire to give back to the school that set me on my career path. 

Amanda Kraus

Higher Education, M.A. and Ph.D. | Director, UA Disability Resources and Assistant Professor of Practice | Tucson

The Photo: Michelle Espino Lira ’08, Judy Kiyama ’00 ’01 ’08 and I supported each other through the Ph.D. dissertation process and kind of created a little cohort for ourselves.

Investing Personally and Professionally: The UA has the most comprehensive wheelchair and adaptive sports program in the country. Scholarships are a big need, as well as resources for travel and competition. Every time I can, I try to give a little bit more.

Asking Why: I enjoyed classes with Gary Rhoades, department head and professor, education policy studies and practice, because of his emphasis on critical thinking. Graduate school is about asking why and doing research to contribute to the scholarship so it improves practice. 

A Proactive Approach: The UA community considers disability a part of the social justice conversation and designs campus environments so that disabled people have similar, if not identical, experiences to their nondisabled peers.

David Henz

Optical Sciences, M.S.; MBA | Finance Manager, Raytheon | Tucson 

A Game-Day Tradition: Since college, I have always sported a pair of red underwear for every basketball and football game. 

Gift of Expertise: I helped teach the College of Engineering’s capstone course as a mentor and guided about 35 engineering seniors through their capstone course. For the students, I wanted to be somebody they could connect with and seek career advice from. I am also drawn toward teaching and education, so it was a great opportunity for me. 

Most Memorable Experience: Lining up at 4 p.m. on a Sunday and waiting until the next morning for a chance at ZonaZoo tickets for Arizona Basketball. 

A Dual Threat: The ability to switch between finance and engineering is a huge leg up for me. Doing both helps me translate my work with the finance team and the operations and engineering teams. 

Alex Manuel

Accounting, B.S. | Senior Manager, Rivers & Moorehead PLLC, and Owner, GWIN Wine and Beer | Phoenix

An Inspiration to Eller Students: I think anyone you talk to would bring up Katie Maxwell, senior lecturer and director of the undergraduate accounting program.

Real-World Stakes: As part of student government, I was the executive director of Spring Fling, and I negotiated our contracts with the carnival company. It was a huge professional development opportunity. 

Learning Philanthropy: Student government gave me a fundraising mentality that has stayed with me. I sit on the board for Support My Club, a nonprofit that helps high school students raise money for clubs and teams.

Lasting Appreciation: My wife, Alexandra Manuel ’08 ’09, and I donate as much as we’re able. Eller prepared us very well for the CPA exams and the rigors of the working world.

A Beautiful Campus: I didn’t always appreciate it when I was a student running around, so I always make sure to hang out at Old Main and take a look at campus when we visit.

Vanessa (Schatzberg) Chiaradonna

Health Sciences, B.S.; MBA and Master of Accounting | Physician Network Operations Manager, UC San Diego Health System | San Diego

Growing Up Red and Blue: My dad is accounting department head Jeff Schatzberg, so I kind of grew up at the UA. I remember going to every Take Your Daughter to Work Day and coloring in the back of his classes while he taught. 

A Powerful Network: If I wake up tomorrow and say I don’t like where I am now, I know my first stop is the UA. I have the relationships with professors who can help me find my way. 

Hi, Dad: I took my dad’s managerial accounting class while in the MBA program and I really enjoyed it. I even became a teaching assistant for a class he taught outside the UA. 

In This Together: It’s important for all alumni to give back, because any loss in quality or reputation is a reflection on all of us. People should recognize the UA as a school that provides a top-tier education. 

Devin Sreecharana 

International Studies, B.A.; Psychology, B.S. | Attorney, May, Potenza, Baran & Gillespie | Phoenix 

Loyal Wildcats: The majority in our office are UA alumni, and every March Madness our brackets have the UA winning it all. It may not always be realistic, but that’s just how loyal and dedicated we are. 

A Social Education: I was involved in several clubs and organizations. It was a great opportunity to meet people with different backgrounds who shared an affinity for the UA. 

Paying It Forward: It’s important for alumni to give back because it helps sustain the legacy and the longevity of the university. It’s also a way to ingrain the next generation of alumni with the same values so that the cycle of giving continues. 

An Old Red Brick: I have an original brick from Old Main that a friend gave me when I graduated. It sits on my desk, and it has a plaque on it that says “Old Main 1887.” 

Amber Breton

Psychology, B.S. | Stay-at-Home Mom and Kids of Steele Executive Board Member | Tucson

Learning Together: My experiences as a nontraditional student and single mom made the UA special. I appreciated the opportunity to take my oldest daughter with me to classes on occasion.

Founding Kids of Steele: We started in 2010 with five people and $500. We now have 100 member families, and this year we passed the $500,000 mark for donations to the Steele Children’s Research Center.

The Arts at UA: We love taking our kids to Premium Blend and UA Presents. This quality of performance would be difficult to experience without the university. 

A Steele Center Family: In 2012 our middle daughter, who was 9 months old, started losing weight despite being introduced to food. Dr. Fayez Ghishan, the UA Steele Children’s Research Center director, diagnosed her with severe celiac disease. Now her condition is well controlled and she is thriving. We are grateful to Dr. Ghishan and will continue to support the Steele Center and its mission.