Sunday, May 19, 2013 | 7:10 p.m.
As bright sunny skies beamed down on them, hundreds of UNLV's graduates lingered near the entryway of the Thomas & Mack Center around noon Sunday.
UNLV officials said there were nearly 3,000 undergraduate and professional students who were eligible to take part in the morning and afternoon ceremonies, including about 2,500 who were getting bachelor's degrees.
As they took photographs and chatted with friends and family, it seemed to be a happy time for most to be part of the the university's 50th commencement.
The Sun talked to several of them who were clad in their scarlet caps and gowns. Several said they have already landed jobs in the real world.
Some said they're going back to school. And one is is even thinking about starting his own business.
Jennifer Lutjens (shown with her mother, Karen, left, and her sister, Sarah, right), of Las Vegas, was surrounded by family and friends Sunday as she went to get her bachelor's degree in criminal justice at UNLV's commencement ceremonies. Lutjens plans to apply for graduate school and wants to start working toward a master's degree in public administration. She doesn't really know what she will do after that. "I'm putting off the real world for another two years," she said, laughing.
If all goes right, one of these days you might be taking to the beach a book written by Darrel Mally. Mally (shown with his girlfriend, Sarah Erskine), of Las Vegas, has received a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in creative writing. For this summer, he's planning to finish his final three months with the Army National Guard in Nevada. Then he'll move to Portland, Ore., and study for the Graduate Record Exam. He plans to attend graduate school in Oregon to try to get a master's degree in fine arts or in creative writing. Then he'll pursue a writing career. "Mostly I'll write anything I can. Most of what I write now is fiction," he said.
Anthony Stahl, of Watertown, Conn., received a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in film. What's next on the immediate horizon is he'll be moving back to Connecticut and will apply to graduate school to seek a master's degree in fine arts or creative writing. "I want to be able to make money someday," Stahl said.
Now that Jessica Ariza, of Las Vegas, has her multidisciplinary bachelor's degree, she's going for the green. Ariza is going to go from part time to full time as a sales rep in training with GigaCrete, a green building-product firm in Las Vegas. She had been working there as an executive assistant.
Carrying bright-colored flowers and wearing leis, it was easy to see Taylor Tokunaga was ready to celebrate after getting her bachelor's degree in biology. Tokunaga, who is from Oahu, Hawaii, was all smiles as she talked about her next big step — continuing with school in UNLV's School of Dental Medicine. Dental school has summer semesters, so she'll be heading right back to classes. "It's just a little break for the weekend," she said. "I'm halfway there."
Juan Carlo Pascua
Wearing a hat made of $1 bills, Juan Carlo Pascua was looking up at the sky through reflective sunglasses and hoping for a sunny future. The San Diego native received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering with a minor in solar environmental engineering. "I'm really excited," Pascua said. "We're going to go look for jobs and try to change the world." He said he hopes to get a job to make his family happy. "But there are other projects I want to get into," he said.
Kimberly Orf, of Las Vegas, is planning a career in public service to help the victims of some of society's most heinous crimes. "I want to work with sexually exploited youths," said Orf, who received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from UNLV. Orf currently works for the local Youth Advocate Program as a mentor for youths on probation. "It's part time right now, but we're hoping to make it full time by July," she said.
Cameron Bawden seems to be taking the right attitude at being a success in business. "The world is my oyster," said the Las Vegas native, who now has a bachelor's degree in business marketing. "I've got to look for a job now and find the pearl." But he's not in a big hurry. "I'll probably travel a little bit, then get focused on getting a job and a career going," he said.
Alexia Hsin Chen
Alexia Hsin Chen, Las Vegas, has received a master's degree in architecture. Chen plans to continue working part-time through October at UNLV as the project manager, communications lead and architecture designer for DesertSol, a solar-powered, energy-efficient home for the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon 2013, which will be held in October in Irvine, Calif. She also plans to continue working as an intern at LGA Inc. (formerly Lucchesi Galati), where she has helped to design the interior of the Lied Discovery Children's Museum in Symphony Park.
Nervik Roy, of Las Vegas, has received a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from UNLV's School of Life Sciences. Nervik, who intends to apply to medical schools, also plans to continue to work for UNLV professor Martin Shiller on bioinformatics research on HIV drug therapies. He also plans to work as an emergency room scribe at Sunrise Hospital, MountainView Hospital and Southern Hills Hospital.
Matt Heuton's goal is to help shape America's public health care policy. "I'm really looking forward to it," he said. A 4.0-GPA biology graduate, Heuton was one of nine graduates who were honored by UNLV President Neal Smatresk at Sunday's ceremonies. "UNLV really helps prepare you for the future," Heuton said. The Sioux City, Iowa, native has been accepted to Harvard Medical School. After getting a medical degree, he wants to get a master's degree in public health or public policy at John F. Kennedy School of Government, then begin working on federal health care policy.
While others talk about what needs to be done with nuclear waste, Ed Mausolf, of Las Vegas, is planning to spend his next two years coming up with better ideas for what to do with it. Mausolf, who received a doctoral degree in radiochemistry from UNLV on Sunday, plans to do post-doctoral research for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. His work is twofold: He deals with using radioactive waste to create additional energy and figuring out ways to safely store it. He is working with a team of scientists whose research on nuclear fuel corrosion helps the Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the National Nuclear Security Administration and other government agencies. Mausolf was one of nine outstanding graduates who were honored by UNLV President Neal Smatresk during commencement activities Sunday.
Luisiana Paula has already landed that one big catch that many fresh graduates are nervous about getting — an internship. Paula, a Las Vegas native, just got a bachelor's degree in integrated marketing and communication with a minor in business marketing. She's going to be an intern this summer at Wicked Creative, a Las Vegas public relations agency. "We'll see how it goes," Paula said, laughing. "I hope I get hired there. Hopefully that's where I can move up."
Not every UNLV graduate is ready to jump into the 9-to-5 routine immediately after commencement. Albert Mora, of Victorville, Calif., plans to unwind a little after getting his bachelor's degree in management information systems. "I have a job offer lined up," Mora said. "But I'm going to head home for two weeks before starting. It's just a transition. I want to spend a little time with the family before heading into the real world." When he comes back to the real world, he'll be taking a job in Las Vegas at Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco.
Vesna Boskovic is probably a familiar face to a lot of tourists who come to Las Vegas. She works as a concierge at the Mirage. Now that she has a bachelor's degree from UNLV in hotel management administration, Boskovic is planning to take a short break from her studies. But not for long. Boskovic, who is from Belgrade, Serbia, plans to begin studying this summer for the entrance exam to get into UNLV's law school, where she wants to study hotel law.
Now that she has her bachelor's degree in hospitality management from UNLV, Kimberly Parker is ready for that first big job. Parker, from Los Angeles, is hoping to get an event coordination job at a Sheraton Hotel in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. "I find out tomorrow, actually," she said, laughing nervously.
Unlike a lot of UNLV graduates, Melanie Wulforst won't have to worry about sending out multiple resumes and cover letters this summer. "I am a lucky graduate who has a job," Wulforst said. She's been working in the operations department in one of the most recognized resort complexes on the Strip — the Wynn/Encore. Now that Wulforst has a bachelor's degree in hotel management, she's ready to move up in the company. "Hopefully the next step is to move into sales ... and just moving forward with the company. I really love them," she said.
Christina Rivera admits she was a little nervous about what she was going to do after getting her bachelor's degree in hotel administration from UNLV. But then it happened. "I just got a new job last week," Rivera said, explaining it will be in the catering industry. She didn't want to reveal the name of the company. Rivera, who has lived in Las Vegas for 13 years, said she was pleased about the new position, which involves setting up tents and customer service. "I feel really good about this. But I have to say I was worried here for a minute," she said.
Jia Shan is ready to start progressing up the corporate ladder at one of the biggest resort-casino companies in the world. Shan works as a business analyst at MGM Resorts International's corporate office in Las Vegas. He was smiling broadly about getting a master's degree in management information systems from UNLV. "I probably will look for more higher-level positions, such as manager within the company, probably," he said.
After earning two master's degrees, Eric Horbinski is setting his sights on possibly launching a new company. Horbinski, originally from Milwaukee, has been living in Las Vegas for seven years and has just earned dual master's degrees — one in business administration and a one in management information systems. "At this point, I've been going to school full time and I'm working full time," he said. "I'm going to take a breath and see where I want to go." In getting the dual degree, he didn't get a chance to take very many elective classes. But he did take one in the entrepreneurship program, which sparked his thinking about starting his own e-commerce business. "It would be an online service for gift-giving, to help people give the perfect gift," he said.