Student Stories

Sam Barnes

Sam Barnes may have another semester before graduating from Washington State University Tri-Cities, but he already achieved his dream of starting his own business.

While he completed his college education, Barnes worked first as a marketer beginning in Nov. 2013 and then as an office manager for American Family Insurance.

Sam Barnes - business administration student

Barnes uses what he learned in many of his business, finance and other related courses at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as the networking connections he made through the university, to excel with his own branch office for American Family Insurance in Kennewick, Wash.

“I think I always wanted to be a business owner,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be in management in some form. As I went through college, I realized that this was what I was meant to be doing. WSU Tri-Cities really helped me get there.”

“When I started, I had no intentions to have an agency, but as things worked out, it has turned into the perfect opportunity,” he said. “I love it and I’m really happy with how everything worked out.”

Barnes worked at an internship at another organization he secured through connections at WSU Tri-Cities this spring when he received the call asking if he would be interested in owning and operating his own branch office. He decided to make the leap and opened his office in one of the company’s fastest turnaround times on record– all while he completed his course final exams this month.

Barnes said if it wasn’t for some of the skills and theories he learned at WSU Tri-Cities, he doesn’t think he could have been as successful as he has been in the past month since opening the office.

“I used the concepts we learned about in a finance class to build out cash flows for my business, I’m using what I learned from my accounting class in meeting with my accountant and I’ve readily used what I’ve learned about business law and business ethics for the management of my business and the hiring process,” he said. “It’s been great to take what I learned from WSU and apply it to the real world.”

Barnes said his favorite part about his business education at WSU Tri-Cities was that it was intertwined with world-class organizations and industry standards.

“WSU Tri-Cities is really good at helping students get a job and getting them connected to real-world opportunities,” he said. “Everything about this campus is about plugging you in somewhere. They helped me get an internship before I came here to American Family. It’s a crucial part of the college experience, in my opinion, and something that they do better than most universities.”

Now, Barnes said he is excited to see where his business takes him in his next stages in life. He graduates this fall with his bachelor’s from WSU Tri-Cities.

“I think anyone can successfully open their own business if they are willing to put their mind to it and are willing to take the leap,” he said. “I think I’ve found what I want to do forever, which is be a business owner. The freedom you have and the pride in what you do is incredible. It’s the most rewarding experience.”

Adriana Guzman

Education is helping Adriana Guzman pursue her dream of becoming a doctor, so she chose a summer research project about educating the next generation of environmental scientists. The focus isn’t health science, but she still found common ground.

“For example, air quality could be a real damaging factor in the future,” said Guzman, a Washington State University Tri-Cities biological sciences student. “It could grow to be a major problem in the health care industry.

“That’s something that relates to my future career as a doctor,” she said. “I can help educate kids on that topic.”

Guzman was one of 13 students selected by the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), one of several summer undergraduate research experience programs offered through WSU. She created lesson plans for the McCall (Idaho) Outdoor Science School, an extension program of the University of Idaho.

“I don’t necessarily want to be an educator, as I have always been more focused on health care,” she said. “But I was given this opportunity, and I’ve learned to appreciate how everything comes together.

“Being out here, in the wild, learning how to put these lesson plans together, you realize just how much everything is connected,” she said. “I’m learning while teaching these kids. Everyone benefits.”

Because her education has allowed her to be successful, she wants other students’ educations to help them achieve their goals. The lesson plans she created will be used to teach middle school and high school students about a variety of ongoing scientific research.

And she has enjoyed interacting with the students.

“I do some evening programs,” she said. “I also have taken the kids on hikes and taught them the scientific method. It’s been a lot of fun.”

After graduating from WSU Tri-Cities, Guzman said, she hopes to attend the new WSU medical school before pursuing a career as an obstetrician.

student kylie Chiesa at a desk

Kylie Chiesa

Kylie Chiesa, this year’s Washington State University Tri-Cities valedictorian, has always felt she had a special connection to children with developmental and physical disabilities.

She began working as a life-skills helper in high school and with her school’s Buddy Club.

“They learn in unique ways that fit their individual personalities and needs,” she said. “It is incredibly rewarding to see these individuals grow at their own pace in order to make their distinctive mark on the world around them.”

Finding her passion

In college, Chiesa started on the nursing track, but soon realized that career path wasn’t for her. From there, she spent three summers working at a camp for children with disabilities at The Arc of Tri-Cities, and realized that working with disabled children was her true passion.

Chiesa spent three years as a paraeducator at Canyon View Elementary School in Kennewick before deciding to pursue a degree in education with an endorsement in special education from WSU Tri-Cities.

“I loved what I was doing and decided to take the next step to become a teacher,” she said.

Kylie ChiesaClassroom exposure

During her coursework at WSU Tri-Cities, Chiesa had the opportunity to complete several practicum experiences in the classroom. She served in a variety of elementary school classrooms around the Tri-Cities focused that focused on general education, autism, and life-skills. Currently, she serves as a long-term substitute teacher in a resource classroom at Lincoln Elementary School and Canyon View Elementary School.

“My education at WSU Tri-Cities prepared me for a career as a teacher in many ways,” she said. “Going to different placements allowed for me to see many different teaching methods, strategies and approaches. The courses I took prepared me for teaching various subjects.”

In each class, she and her fellow students were given tools that they could use to stock a figurative tool bag.

“When we step into our first classroom, we will have a tool bag full of various tools to use with our students,” she said. But the learning won’t stop there, Chiesa added, as WSU Tri-Cities also taught her to be a lifelong learner.

First position in Kennewick

Chiesa has accepted her first teaching position as a primary autism teacher at Washington Elementary School in the Kennewick School District.

“Far too often, children with special needs are told what they can’t do,” she said. “Instead of focusing on everything these children can do. I repeatedly hear them described by their limitations. It is my goal to discover what those children with special needs can do well and assist them in reaching their full potential. There is no greater joy than seeing a student meet a milestone that they have been working so hard to achieve.”

Student Demi Galindo

Demi Galindo

Demi Galindo, a master’s student at Washington State University Tri-Cities, recently received a call that would change the course of her life.

She had been accepted to medical school. Better yet, she had received a tuition waiver for her four years of medical education, with the exception of two semesters during her third and fourth years – an acceptance package that is incredibly rare.

“Most people will tell you to not expect to get these, so I feel incredibly grateful to have received this package,” she said.

At WSU Tri-Cities, Galindo maintained a 3.8 grade-point average as a pre-medical student. After graduating last spring, she took on the incredibly difficult task of earning a master’s degree from WSU Tri-Cities in biological sciences in a single year, which she plans to have completed by the end of this spring semester. But it was the research opportunity and mentorship from a WSU Tri-Cities professor that she said truly set her apart from other applicants.

In her junior year as an undergraduate, Elly Sweet, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of biology, approached Galindo about a research opportunity that not only would give her a leg up on her competition for medical school, but also had ties back to medicine.

Mentorship leads to opportunity

Sweet is one of many mentors participating in WSU Tri-Cities’ Million Women Mentors program. Through the program, female students are paired up with female mentors who are successful in related fields. Sweet currently mentors approximately 80 students in the general biological sciences, both male and female, of which many are pre-health students.

“Dr. Sweet has done a lot for me in my undergraduate years, from being an excellent teacher for medical school prerequisite classes, which is how we met in my human physiology class,” Galindo said. “Throughout the semester, I could come to her for questions regarding class materials. During one of our meetings, she mentioned the chance to do research in Dr. Jim Cooper’s lab, which I was not even aware of prior to this.”

Through the research opportunity, Galindo worked under the direction of Cooper and Sweet studying the effect that the over and under abundance of thyroid hormone has on zebrafish jaw formation, of which they hope to use for advancements in human health in the future.

“We’re trying to determine what is causing these changes in the development of the fish, which may be translated to learning more about human skull deformities in humans,” Galindo said.

Using own mentorship experience to lead students to greatness

Sweet said she had a mentor while she completed her schooling, and that it served as a tremendous asset. Her mentor, Diana Darnell, mentored her while she was an undergraduate.

“She was an amazing biology professor,” Sweet said. “I worked as an undergraduate researcher in her lab where I had my first exposure to the world of developmental biology research. Dr. Darnell was not only an excellent professor; she was always there for her students outside the classroom.

“I valued her presence and guidance throughout my undergraduate years. Ultimately, she led me to my first job and graduate school in developmental biology,” she said.

Sweet said what is most rewarding about serving as a mentor, herself, for the biological sciences is that she can help students pursue their passions. She said she is relatively new to the role, and that her first main group of students she’s mentoring is graduating and getting accepting into medical schools this year.

“Students first come to my intro to biology classes as shy freshmen trying to find their place,” she said. “They are hard-working students from a variety of backgrounds. By their senior year, they are eager and ready for their next steps beyond WSU Tri-Cities. I enjoy helping them pursue their dreams.”

Looking toward the future

In addition to directing her toward her research experience, Galindo said Sweet helped her with academic planning, gave her advice in the application process for medical school and was overall a great person to talk to when she was feeling stressed.

“Overall, she has just been a great person to turn to and I can be straightforward with her since she knows me so well,” she said.

Galindo said she encourages students to start conversations with their professors because, especially at a smaller campus like WSU Tri-Cities, the one-on-one connection and support is immensely valuable.

“Students may not know where to turn to for advice on this whole process, so I advocate for getting involved in extracurriculars and don’t be afraid to talk to your professors,” she said. “I think some of my success came from the fact that I just went and talked to my professors and was noticed for this with such small class sizes. The opportunities just started to expose themselves.”

Galindo will start medical school this August. From there, she said she is thinking about a career in family medicine or neurology.

“I think because of the diverse cases and schedule of family med, this is where I will most-likely end up,” she said. “I would like to have a joint practice with several other physicians as this will give me the flexibility to have a family, too.”

Galindo said she hopes to stay humble with her aspirations, while providing the best quality of care possible.

“I want to be a physician that people in my community know for having excellent care, as well as a physician that will listen to them and be on their team when it comes to their health,” she said.

For more information about WSU Tri-Cities’ role with Million Women Mentors and how to get involved, visit https://tricities.wsu.edu/mwm/. For more information about the organization, itself, visit https://www.millionwomenmentors.org.

Alumni Jamie Silva

Jamie Silva

Jamie Silva hadn’t considered a career in the medical profession until he saw directly how he could use research and patient interaction to better medical care for all citizens, regardless of demographic.

The recent nursing graduate of Washington State University Tri-Cities said it was through the research experiences he observed through both as a community college student, as well as in his undergraduate experience through WSU Tri-Cities, that opened his eyes to the possibilities of medicine.

As a community college student in Wenatchee, Silva participated in a research experience where he completed research on algae that they used to replicate the behavior of cancer cells and observe treatment effectiveness. The effort tied directly in with what friends and family had experienced in their battles with cancer. It propelled Silva’s interest in the medical field.

“I’ve seen family and friends pressured into certain types of treatments and this made me realize that I could have an impact on how patients are consulted about treatment,” he said. “My aunt, for example, was pressured into chemotherapy right away. Since she didn’t really understand English, so she assumed that was the best route for her. I want patients to be able to better understand their options.”

Silva began focusing on how he could take his newfound passion for medical research and patient care to the next level and applied to WSU Tri-Cities’ competitive nursing program. The school, he said, provided a perfect blend of medical research and implementation of innovative patient medical care that he had sought for a future in the profession.

This year, he was named the undergraduate nursing student of the year for WSU Tri-Cities.

“I feel that the nursing program is really impactful,” he said. “I didn’t want to be in a lab all day. I wanted that patient interaction. I wanted to see how the research applies directly to and affects the patient. WSU Tri-Cities ended up being a perfect fit for that.”

Real-world experiences

Through his hands-on courses at WSU Tri-Cities, Silva learned about how cancer and other diseases impacted the human body, how to treat those ailments, about different medicines, as well as how to approach patients about possible treatment options.

Silva said his courses utilized innovative tools such as advanced medical mannequins that mimicked individuals with various ailments and allowed students to practice their medical procedures. Additionally, he learned from world-class nursing faculty that tied what the students were learning in the classroom to extracurricular opportunities outside the classroom.

“Some of my biggest highlights were actually the professors,” he said. “They really care about us and really want to make sure that we succeed, and in turn, that our patients succeed.”

Silva’s professors at WSU Tri-Cities helped pair him up with a practicum experience at the Kadlec Regional Medical Center where his work focused specifically in research and administration. Through the experience, Silva attended meetings with physicians, nurse navigators and dietitians where they discussed cases, what worked best for individual patient cases, as well as what needed some changes. They then applied those strategies directly to their patient care.

Through the practicum, Silva also completed a research project that detailed how the hospital could reduce the time that patients suffer from neutropenia — a condition where the patient has an abnormally low count of a type of white blood cell, causing their immune system to be weak and creating a higher risk of infection. Neutropenia occurs in about half of people who receive chemotherapy. It is also a common side effect for people with leukemia.

“We compiled data on the time from when the patient walked in, to when they received antibiotics, the type of antibiotics they used and when those particular antibiotics were administered,” he said. “I compiled all of that data and showed it to the chief of nursing. It was a pretty informative experience and I hope it helps to make a difference in the lives of future patients.”

During his time at WSU Tri-Cities, Silva also gained admittance into a highly competitive summer internship through the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C. Through the experience, Silva studied the latest and greatest methods for combatting cancer using the patient’s immune system.

“I would get to the laboratory and would have a research experiment in mind and I would write a protocol and conduct that experiment,” he said. “Some of those experiments involved observing how certain treatments would impact rats with cancer. I would also examine all the organs within the rat and see how effective the treatment was.”

Silva said he didn’t really realize it at the time, but he got the opportunity to work with some of the nation’s leading scientists and medical researchers.

“It was a pretty extraordinary experience,” he said.

Silva’s future in medical care

Silva said he hopes to take the experience he has had through WSU Tri-Cities, his experience at Kadlec, as well as his experience through the National Institute of Health to further improve the standard for patient care, as well as create and improve upon current and future cancer treatments.

“My friends and family who have had cancer have been the driving force with where I want to go and the influence I hope to have in the medical field,” he said. “It’s why I went into nursing.”

His end goal, he said, is to one-day become a physician focusing on cancer immunology. Because of his experience at WSU Tri-Cities, the WSU medical school is on his list of potential medical schools he hopes to gain acceptance to into the future.

“The nursing program at WSU Tri-Cities was more than impactful,” he said. “I learned how I could advocate for people with these diseases, the research behind those diseases, as well as how to combat those diseases through research into different treatment options.”

“I want to take a little bit of time working as a nurse and then apply what I’ve learned through my undergraduate courses, my experience as a nurse, as well as what I am going to learn through medical school in my future as a physician,” he said.