20 Under 40

Success may be measured in many different ways. These 20 young alums, all under the age of 40, are recognized as innovators and trailblazers in their respective fields – business, education, literature, environmental stewardship, science and government. Our list of 20 are making things happen and finding success on their terms.

These up-and-coming leaders come from different backgrounds but they all have one thing in common – their road to success began at Eastern.

These alums were nominated by Eastern magazine readers and selected by the magazine’s editorial board and staff. They are but a sample of the many EWU alums of all ages who are making our world a better place to live.


’01 Tami Biery, 36
Degree:  MPT
Hometown:  Lewiston, Idaho
Job title: physical therapist
’01 David Biery, 37
Degree: MBA
Hometown: St. Maries, Idaho
Job title: business manager

What do you do at work? Tami and David own PEAK Performance, Physical Therapy in Lewiston, Idaho.

Tami works hands-on with patients, developing individualized therapy programs to achieve goals. She directs/supervises therapy aides in working with patients and assists in marketing efforts to local providers and business partners.

David runs the business side (marketing, billing, payroll, scheduling and accounting) and is active in the therapy gym, performing aide duties.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? EWU gave us a strong foundation of skillsets to begin our venture in the working world.  Eastern does a fabulous job providing a variety of courses within our degrees, allowing us the opportunity to gather many different tools to move down our career paths.

Outside of work we’ll find us…spending time with our two sons Cooper (8) and Sawyer (5).  We enjoy the outdoors, whatever it may be camping, skiing, running, four-wheeling and rafting.  Most importantly you will find us together as a family living life to the fullest.

Ten years from now we will be…hopefully God willing, healthy and happy, continuing to explore and grow in life!

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?  We’d spend much more time outside of work!  We have never really given that question much thought, as we have really spent our efforts  focusing on a consistent, hardworking path to a provide an enjoyable and  successful life.

Who is your role model? We continually have role models in our lives, our parents, friends, peers and many of our patients!

’03 David Michael Cleveland, 31
Degree: BS biology, (PhD, Baylor University)
Hometown: Spokane, currently lives in Houston, Texas
Job title: research geologist/technical team leader Exxon Mobil

What do you do at work? Fundamentally, I work with a team of scientists to try to characterize the rocks deep within the earth. Using knowledge of physical and geological processes, we try to predict the presence of oil/gas reservoirs in remote and underexplored parts of the world.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Eastern got me hooked on science and geology. As an undergrad, I didn’t know what I was going to do for a job after graduation; I just knew I liked science. Eastern gave me a solid foundation in my undergraduate degree and provided pathways (e.g., internship with the U.S. Geological Survey) for improving myself and my résumé. EWU opened the door to graduate school and more opportunities that I have been able to seize.

Best Eastern memory? Field trips – In geology you get to learn about the earth by getting out in it. The most memorable trips were to Arches and Canyonlands National parks, and to Montana’s fold and thrust belt.

Outside of work we’ll find you… traveling back to the northwest with my wife and two kids.

Ten years from now you’ll be? I don’t think there was any time in my life when I would have been able to tell you what I’d be doing 10 years in the future. I’ll still be a geologist but hopefully a better one than I am now. Eventually I’d like to be a professor.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? 1) pay bills for me and my family; 2) start trust funds and investment accounts for kids; 3) donate to and participate in a non-profit that will help children in third-world countries (I haven’t thought too much about which one) and 4) teach geology at a university in the Northwest.

Who is your role model? My parents, for their hard work, sacrifice and moral standards, also my children for their innocence and honesty

’99 Brent Combest, 36
Degree: BA marketing
Hometown: Bellevue, Wash.
Job title: director of Global Cloud Sales, Small & Midsize Business Segment, Microsoft

What do you do at work? I am responsible for driving sales of our Cloud business solutions (Office 365, Windows Intune, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online) to the over 250 million small and midsize businesses around the world.  This provides me the opportunity to work with partners and customers to improve their productivity through the use of the latest technologies.  In my current role I have the pleasure of evangelizing the future of Microsoft’s business, speaking at various events, coaching field team members from all corners of the globe, and helping to develop our strategy for how we will continue to lead the industry.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Eastern gave me a tremendous foundation.  I was able to enjoy the full college experience while in Cheney and I couldn’t imagine a better scenario. The educational elements provided from the university gave me a solid working knowledge of business that has benefited me throughout my career.  Whether it’s modeling methods learned in my statistics classes or thinking through customer buying scenarios based on the marketing basics first taught to me by my professors, I use pieces of my Eastern education on a daily basis.

Beyond the classroom, I learned many life lessons and built a number of great long term friendships.  I’m still in contact with my former golf coach and good friend Marc Hughes as well as a number of Sigma Nu brothers with whom I have a long list of great memories.  One of the most important things I’ve learned in retrospect is that the relationships you carry with people can be one of the greatest assets and most meaningful possessions you’ll ever have.  For me, the process of understanding this began at Eastern and has proven to be true time and time again.

Best Eastern memory? Wow, there are so many.  I truly enjoyed my time with friends, especially my brothers at Sigma Nu.  I had a wonderful internship with the Spokane Chiefs, had a great time traveling with my teammates competing in golf tournaments, and learned a lot about time management trying to balance it all just to get through to graduation.  I have to say however, my favorite memory is meeting my wife Tonya in my last year at Eastern.  We’ve spent the last fourteen wonderful years together and I can still remember the night I met her like it was yesterday.

Outside of work we’ll find you… These days I am the proud father of two; Avery (6) and Hudson (1).  Hands down, spending time with the two of them along with my wife Tonya is my favorite thing to do. This typically involves chasing Hudson in every direction, frequent visits to the Seattle Aquarium, the Zoo, cheering Avery on in various sports, and time with our extended family.  Outside of that, I still enjoy playing golf from time to time and have taken full advantage of doing so on some of my business trips including playing in Malaysia with the Chocolate King of Southeast Asia, taking in some night golf at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai, and dodging elk on the fairways of the Royal Copenhagen Golf Club in Denmark.

Ten years from now you’ll be? I have a passion for what technology can do for businesses, particularly small businesses.  There is a fundamental shift happening today with Cloud Computing that enables organizations of all sizes to have access to the software normally reserved for only the largest, most wealthy companies in the world.  Ideally, I’d like to take the knowledge gained while at Microsoft to start a firm of my own that provides these types of solutions to small businesses.  So ten years from now, I’d say running a successful company that does just that.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? To me, education is the single most important investment any of us can make in ourselves and our community, so my first step would be to ensure my kids have access to whatever level of education fits their goals.  After that, I’d set aside enough to be comfortable and enjoy life with my family but not so much that I lost my desire to stay productive.  I’d give at minimum half of it away, mostly to a cause that I’d want to become involved with on a daily basis and spend my days doing whatever I could to support its mission.

Who is your role model? I have been blessed to have a number of amazing people in my life.  For that reason I don’t think I can narrow it to just one. I have admiration for each of them and aspire to live life in a way that is representative of what they’ve taught me.  In addition to an incredible foundation, my parents have given me perspective on how to manage the core elements of life including building a strong family. My grandfather, Tom Regan, was someone who personified good intention toward others by treating everyone he met as if they were his best friend.

In business, I’ve had a number of great mentors who have given me coaching along the way and helped to shape my career. These relationships have aided me in navigating difficult situations, created new job opportunities, and given me insight on how to think more strategically.  These folks have been instrumental in my path and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jonathan Ord, CEO of Dealersocket, George Brown, President of Salesworks, and Doug Kennedy, Vice President of Microsoft Dynamics Partners & Support Services.

 ’06 Marianne Duong, 33

Marianne Duong on the set of NBC’s “The Voice,” with country singer Blake Shelton

 Degree: MS communications
Hometown: Des Moines, Wash.
Job title: Global communications manager, Starbucks Coffee Company

What do you do at work?  I’m responsible for developing strategic external and internal communications programs to accelerate the company’s growth initiatives. This includes, working aggressively to secure global, national and local news stories as the company spokesperson, organizing robust consumer public relations events, and creating engagement programs for more than 200,000 employees.

In my role, I’ve launched several Starbucks business ventures and product brands, including Evolution Fresh® premium juices, Starbucks Evenings wine and beer locations, and Starbucks VIA® Ready Brew instant coffee. Recently, I was part of a team which developed the framework for managing, implementing and garnering media coverage for Starbucks first-ever primetime television presence and advertising integration with NBC’s The Voice program.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? My experience at Eastern has been instrumental in both my career and life outside of my career. Through interactions with classmates, professors, college staff, business leaders and former EWU alumni, I learned how to engage a diverse group of people, develop skills for effective teamwork, and critically analyze and solve complex issues.

Best Eastern memory: One of my most memorable moments at Eastern was a Monday night tradition my classmates and I started. I always looked forward to Mondays while I was at Eastern because we would meet after our evening class in downtown Spokane for a late-night snack and great conversation. We started this tradition the first quarter of our masters’ program and it continued for two years.

Outside of work, we’ll find you: Because we all work hard each day, I believe it is important to establish a work-life balance.  Outside of work my family and I are relentlessly uncovering new restaurants, discovering unique cuisines and traveling to lesser-known places.

Ten years from now you’ll be: What I’m passionate about is mentorship and giving back to the community. I’ve been fortunate to be able to take these passions and infuse them into my professional and personal life. Professionally, I’ve been able to take my experiences and insights to help mentor individuals in the communications field and, outside of work, I volunteer as assistant teacher in an English-as-a-second-language classroom. I hope to continue to find ways to integrate both mentorship and philanthropy into my life – and influence others to do the same – for years to come.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money:  Once getting charitable contributions in order, I’d seek the help of Tina Fey to craft all my responses to questions like this one so people would understand how funny I truly am.

Who is your role model?  I’ve been fortunate to meet and know extremely engaging and inspiring individuals. However, the two individuals who have made the greatest impact on my life are my grandparents. As immigrants to the United States, they rebuilt their lives one day at a time through overcoming challenges and cherishing each success.  Along the way they focused on instilling solid family values, sought opportunities to help others and gave their best at all times.  My grandparents led by example and used storytelling to share their inspiration, experience and perspective to those around them.  Their love and experiences has provided me with many valuable life lessons and perspectives which continue to guide me today.

Christina and Martin Garcia

’01 Christina Torres García, 34
Degree: BA finance, (MBA, PhD, Washington State University)
Hometown: Colima, Mexico and the Tri-Cities, Wash., currently lives in Cheney
Job title: Director of the TRiO, Ronald E. McNair Program and faculty at EWU

What do you do at work? I prepare low-income, first-generation and/or underrepresented minority undergraduates for success in doctoral programs by proving scholarly activities and community engagements that empower participants to become agents of positive change in a culturally diverse world.  My life dedication is to raise critical consciousness among students by unveiling social inequalities and empowering marginalized groups to engage them in civic responsibilities and create a positive future for coming generations.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Eastern has provided me with not only my Baccalaureates degree certificate but also with a strong foundation of academic excellence, including study skill, time management, communication skill, leadership opportunities, and research & presentation experiences.  Eastern enriched my life with lifelong learning in and outside the classroom, including the opportunity to participate in a study of abroad. I also received guidance and preparation to continue graduate school until I obtain my PhD. I literally own my accomplishments to Eastern.

Best Eastern memory? The “Atole” at the Chicano Education Program, the guidance of TRiO McNair Program and our time shared in the MEChA student organization program. The mentorship of my McNair mentor, Dr. David Eagle from business administration and the Cinco De Mayo events organized by the Chicano Education Program.  I have so many precious moments to choose from, one that I always love to share is when I met economics professor Tom Trulove.  As a student taking macro-economy with him, I had lots of questions regarding the assignment.  I went to his office and discuss my questions. Finally, he asked for my book. I blushed with embarrassment and shared that due to lack of resources, I was unable to afford the book. He reached out to grab a book from the top shelve and said to me, now you have a book and no excuse for not getting a 4.0 in my class. I felt the enormous responsibility to performing well in his class, and yes, I was able to obtain a 4.0.  The moral of the story is when professors demonstrate that they care about students’ education; students will rise to the expectations.

Outside of work we’ll find you… playing with Paloma, my six-month-old puppy (a Labrador/German shepherd mix).

Ten years from now you’ll be? Working!  I do not see myself doing anything else, but working.  Even if I win the lottery, I will still work. Of course, I hope to continue working on a community like Eastern.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? Martin and I have created the Dreamer Foundation Funds to assist low-income, first-generation students with their tuition.  I will support this foundation with an institution’s endowment to increase the number of students we are currently assisting. I will also increase the number of McNair Scholars through the Ronald E. McNair Program; pay off my mother’s home and build an elderly-friendly home for my mother-in-law.  If there are funds left, I will pay off my own student loans.

Who is your role model? There are several qualities that I admire, which are exemplified in two wonderful women, Mother Teresa and Dolores Huerta.  Mother Teresa was gracious, humble and honest women whose legacy of compassion has been disseminated around the globe. Dolores Huerta’s ability to persuade and organize people without intimidation but by personal example and dedication to others, are qualities I respect.  Dolores Huerta as well as Mother Teresa had the courage to defend issues that not only affected them but to entire communities such as human rights and dignity for people. These qualities are what I strive for. I work diligently to provide a more equitable future for Eastern students and hope to have the courage, as these two women, to stand for what it is right in times of injustice and despair.


Christina and Martin Garcia

’99 Martín Meráz García, 37
Degree: BA government (MA, PhD, Washington State University)
Hometown: Pasco, Wash., currently lives in Cheney
Job title: Assistant professor of Chicana/o studies and political science

What do you do at work? Teach, advise students, research, publish articles and books on topics ranging from immigration, U.S. foreign policy with respect to drug policies and revolutionary movements in Latin America.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Easter provided the foundation both academically and socially that prepared me to be successful in graduate school.

Best Eastern memory? Best Eastern memories include my work with the Chicano Education Program (CEP) as an undergraduate folkloric dance instructor, the Cinco de Mayo gala celebration CEP organized every year where we got to enjoy Mariachi and Grupero music in the company of our families and friends who came from our hometowns. During these celebrations we got to perform plays written by Chicano/Latinos playwright and our well-rehearsed traditional Mexican dances; finally, my memories playing intramural sports, which included soccer and volleyball.  I got to meet students from different parts of the world including two Japanese students that I still remember with fondness their names Yoshi and Tomo.

Outside of work we’ll find you… doing research, protesting an unjust law, having karaoke nights with Chicana/o Latino students, going for a run, doing some type of work in our property (cutting down brush, etc.) practicing my new hobby (archery), and playing Frisbee and ball with our dog Paloma.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? Set up an endowment for EWU undocumented students, build my mother the home she has always wanted, pay our students loans, help other needed members of the family and if there is money left use it to travel throughout the world.

Who is your role model? My mother Gregoria Meráz Sanchez is my role model. She sacrificed her life raising all of her 14 children, especially after my father Eleno Garcia Saucedo passed away in 1981. She was left with 10 children to raise on her own. Her perseverance, faith, work ethic and overall determination to see her children succeed gave her the courage to embark on the journey that would bring the youngest of our siblings to the United States where we could have a better chance in life. Even though she never attended grade school, she strongly believed an education would be the ticket to success for me and my siblings. Her advice and real life scenarios gave me and my siblings invaluable lessons of what life would be like without an education. I am and will always be thankful to her for these lessons.  Gracias Madre!

’03 Marty Gonzales, 32
Degree: BS communications
Hometown: Walla Walla, Wash., currently lives in Spokane
Job title: Executive director, Mobius Spokane (Children’s Museum and Science Center)

What do you do at work? I always say that I am the “bus driver.” My job is to make sure that the bus is heading in the right direction strategically and that the seats on the bus are filled with the right people.  My daily goal is to look at both near and long-term strategies that will allow my institution to grow while make sure that I have the best and most motivated team-members possible, to execute my vision.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Eastern gave me a sense of community and opportunities that were outside of the scope of what I saw growing up, as a child.  Not only did I have an opportunity to learn in the classroom but I was also fortunate enough to develop relationships with mentors who taught me about business and life.

Best Eastern memory? My favorite memories were of times spent with friends at the PUB and at EWU football games (of course, before the red turf and national championship!)

Outside of work we’ll find you… enjoying every second with my beautiful bride Jennifer and our lovely daughters, Gianna and Ava.

Ten years from now you’ll be? That’s hard to say, as I am not short on ambition.  10 years from now, I hope to be in executive management role and still have the opportunity to contribute and impact that community on a daily basis.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?  Bless people with it! This might sound a bit cliché but I have been, daily, surrounded by the generosity of the Spokane community and would look to effectively support institutions and individuals who inspire me to be better.  Of course, there might be a few vacations and splurges too, for myself!

Who is your role model? Throughout my young career, I have had the great fortune of being surrounded and mentored by many great minds and business leaders in the Spokane community.  It’s nearly impossible for me to identify a single role model, so instead I will say that from each of these people I have learned a tremendous amount about business, work ethic and a work/life balance.


’08 Tom Hanrahan, 26
Degree: BA marketing
Hometown: Everett, Wash., currently lives in New York City
Job title: sales manager, LivingSocial New Business Initiatives

What do you do at work? Manage a team of inside sales specialists for LivingSocial’s new vertical division. Over the past year we have launched several different products in more than 26 cities. Including “Takeout & Delivery,” “Instant Deals” and “At Home.”

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? As an undergraduate at EWU I was a part of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Being surrounded by a bunch of diligent, driven and like-minded individuals helped me to remain on track when things got tough, personally or scholastically. Without Eastern that opportunity would not have presented itself. Eastern provided me with the real life experience and professional network I needed to be successful in my career.

Best Eastern memory? Being selected as a New Student Orientation leader. Having the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of new students and be the first person they met at EWU was a truly magical experience. For the two years I was a part of the program, I definitely grew as an individual. Being a first generation college student myself, I always enjoyed interacting and lending an ear to students who shared similar obstacles. The different backgrounds, experiences and cultures of the Eastern students is what makes Eastern such a great place to be.

Outside of work we’ll find you… being a DJ at private events (that all started for me at EWU), at the gym, playing some flag football, taking in the sites, catching a Knicks game, enjoying a local watering hole or watching the latest episode of Suits or Spartacus on my DVR.

Ten years from now you’ll be? Ideally being featured on this list again! Making a positive impact in my community while beginning to raise a family.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? Take a lot of extended vacations then invest all of my time and money in the next great idea. I would be sure to donate to that EWU scholarship fund as well.

Who is your role model? A lot to choose from in this category… My main influences throughout my life have been my mother and older brother Joe. When things get tough in life all you have is your family to count on. They have never let me down to this point and that in itself is admirable.


’08 Amanda Hein, 26

Amanda Hein (right) enjoying time with her sister.

 Degree: BS electrical engineering
Hometown: Omak, Wash., currently lives in Edmonds, Wash.
Job title: manufacturing sustaining electrical engineer

What do you do at work? I work at a manufacturing company that designs, tests and manufactures power supplies, power conditioning modules, automatic transformer rectifiers, battery chargers, and much more, for commercial and military airplanes and helicopters.  Since I work on the manufacturing floor, every day for me is different.  I may be reviewing drawings or procedures one minute, and then the next minute I am on the floor troubleshooting a failure with a product.  I work closely with the design department to understand the intention behind the design of each product, and bridge the gap between the design of a product and what goes into testing and manufacturing the product.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Eastern’s class sizes in Electrical Engineering were perfect for learning to work others, as everyone will inevitably do in the real world, and the professors were always there to help. The technology was cutting-edge so I gained experience with some tools that I’d be using in the working environment.

Best Eastern memory? I was on the Eagle Entertainment board for three years.  These were the best times I had at Eastern.  And at EWU football games! GO EAGS!

Outside of work we’ll find you… Snowboarding, exercising, crocheting, spending time with my fiancé and family

Ten years from now you’ll be? I will have a master’s in electrical engineering, possibly my professional engineering license, and hope to be a manager of engineering of sorts – successful and loving my job at the same time!

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? Pay off all my bills and loans, pay off all my parent’s debt, and open a pizza business with my fiancé.


’98 Sara Johnston, 37
Degree: BS organizational communications (MA, Gonzaga University)
Hometown: Spokane
Job title: partner, Desautel Hege Communications

What do you do at work? I consult and provide strategy on key accounts and specialize in communications planning, creative strategy, tribal relations, and health care communications.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? From an academic standpoint I found a profession that I love and was inspired by people in many different industries and professions.  I not only learned the principles of communications and marketing but how those concepts related to a much broader context.  I learned the importance of advising, consulting, listening, relationships and inspiration.  One perfect example of these ideals in action is how Jeff Stafford, my advisor originally connected me to Desautel Hege Communications for an internship opportunity 15 years ago and we continue to work with, and learn from, Jeff to this day.

Best Eastern memory? Graduation, of course, was a proud moment and celebrating the launch into my career.  Another favorite memory was being in Steve Blewett’s public relations class, working with a few of my classmates on a mid-year assignment.  Our task was to create a crisis communications response for an oil spill.  I remember thinking; I will never use this in my career!  Low and behold, three years later I was creating a crisis communications strategy for a chlorine leak – and using the theory, strategy and skills I learned in class.  It was in this moment where I realized the value of not only communications theory but also my education.

Outside of work we’ll find you… Outside of work I love spending time with my family and friends.  I have an amazing husband and two wonderful children – each day brings a new adventure.  I also adjunct at Gonzaga University and teach at the graduate level in the Communication and Leadership Program.

Ten years from now you’ll be? I often think of the work I’m doing every day as my dream job, so I hope to be working with my brilliant partners and team at Desautel Hege Communications and continuing to do meaningful work in the field of communications that makes a difference in our community and people’s lives.

Ten years from now I will still be spending time with my wonderful family. I’d love to continue our adventures around our beautiful state (Leavenworth was our destination last weekend) and venture around the world – learning about different cultures and people and simply enjoying life. Perhaps Quincy, my husband, and I will get a few motorcycles and be “those” parents visiting Tejah our now 12-year-old daughter at college and Eli, who is five, at soccer practice or whatever entrepreneurial endeavor he’s cooked up.  If they choose EWU we’d be proud parents, and we wouldn’t have to travel far to visit!

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?  I’d stay in Spokane permanently and continent hop in colder months. Or, perhaps build out satellite offices of Desautel Hege Communications internationally! I recently attended a Jane Goodall lecture and was inspired by the idea that even small steps taken toward creating a healthier, more just, more caring world can make a tremendous difference. Twenty million dollars could certainly make a dent, build traction and be a meaningful stepping stone toward creating positive change. I would invest, grow the millions and fund social justice causes around the world … and get a really fast car!

Who is your role model? Nelson Mandela. He’s changed our world in immeasurable ways. I once read a Mandela quote that summed up life, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”


‘07 Lindsey Kargbo (Rushton) 28
Degree: BS athletic training
Hometown: Hoquiam, Wash.
Job title: registered nurse

What do you do at work? I care for the elderly.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? I was really involved with Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) on the college campus. I met the Lord through that ministry and it changed my life forever. I met some of my closest friends at Eastern. The professors were challenging and really opened my eyes up to a whole world of possibilities.

Best Eastern memory? My best memory was when I became a Christian at a CRU meeting my freshman year. That one night changed my life forever. God gave me purpose for living and a call to care for the people in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Other great memories – serving on the leadership team with CRU, spending time with friends, travelling to Italy with a team of Athletic Trainers, leading Bible studies and outreaches on campus.

Outside of work we’ll find you… Spending time with my husband and son and going around and sharing about Rescue Ministries International – a nonprofit organization my husband and I co-founded to care for blind orphaned children in Sierra Leone.

Ten years from now you’ll be? Living in Sierra Leone and serving the people there with my family.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? Bless the Sierra Leonean people by improving their health care system.

Who is your role model?  Jesus – there is none greater. His love for others was perfect – I aspire to love as deeply and genuinely as He.


’07 Alicia Kinne, 28
Degree: BA, government (MPA, University of Washington)
Hometown: Riverside, Calif., currently lives in Bothell, Wash.
Job title: Organizational development specialist and doctoral student at UW

What do you do at work? As an organizational development specialist, I help leaders at the University of Washington work to improve processes, develop strategy, and measure organizational performance. My work enables deans, department chairs and vice presidents to make better decisions about how their department operates and shape a strategy that makes sense given the new reality of reduced resources.

As a doctoral student, I study higher education finance and policy. Most recently, I have been consulting with the state legislature on developing a new performance funding model for public colleges and universities in Washington.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Eastern was where I found my passion for higher education  and the mission of universities like EWU who help first generation students succeed in college. My experience there as student body president taught me invaluable lessons about working with and leading teams, managing complex problems,

Best Eastern memory? As a student, running for student government was both a huge amount of work and a thrill. My first year running I pulled a radio flyer wagon around campus for a week that was filled with over 3,000 pieces of candy that my Alpha Xi Delta sisters donated and stickered with my name. I can’t even guess how many people I spoke to that week.

As an alum, watching EWU win the semi-final game at Roos Field to head to the National Championship and then running on to the field. So much Eagle pride that night!

Outside of work we’ll find you… hiking or snowshoeing a forest with my wildlife biologist fiancé (’07 Mike Clawson, BA biology) or in my kitchen cooking to entertain friends

Ten years from now you’ll be? President of Eastern Washington University

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? I’d probably have to share it with Mike so roughly half of it would go to higher education research and college access and the other half would go to wildlife research. I imagine we would start a couple of companies, buy a bunch of land, travel the world scuba diving, and contribute to our communities.

Who is your role model? Dr. Condoleezza Rice. Aside from any of the political careers Dr. Rice held, she grew up in the segregated south and never let that define her. She graduated at the top of her class, earned her PhD at the age of 26, and believed there was nothing she could not accomplish. Not only is she one of the brightest minds in policy but she was recognized for her leadership skills when she was named as the first female, first minority, and youngest provost in Stanford’s history. She is a tireless worker, courageous leader and brilliant scholar.

’03 Phil Kiver, 36
Degree: government
Hometown: Cheney
Job title: marketing specialist, Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce

What do you do at work? I work in public relations and marketing.  I interact with the news media for the chamber and am always recruiting veterans to help them start their own businesses through the chamber continuing education program we have called NX Level.  I am always busy signing up new members for the chamber and raising money for our foundation.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Well my father started teaching at EWU in 1968, so my entire life I was hanging around his friends who were all professors as well. While I did my graduate work in West Virginia, and military training in South Carolina and Maryland is was pretty obvious that I would attend Eastern as an undergraduate. When I was finally old enough to enroll, it was a pretty easy transition given that I had been running around the campus my whole life basically. I would say that my life experience with EWU showed me the importance, and rewards in developing lasting professional relationships.  When I was a freshman, I was my father’s son.  But now as a graduate and professional I am certainly standing on my own accomplishments

Best Eastern memory? I was in Afghanistan with the Army when Eastern was making their championship run, I was so busy working that I had no idea until the night before they played Delaware what was going on.  I could not get the game live but called KXLY on my cell phone while under the covers in the middle of the night to get the score which was 19-7 at the time. I was able to see it later the next day on TV in a huge military gym, no one else seemed to understand that “my team” was winning the national championship, and it wasn’t Alabama.

Outside of work we’ll find you…Spending time with my wife and daughter, making up for my travels around the world and time apart from them.  I also enjoy kayaking, something my wife got me into.  We love to be outdoors and travel.

Ten years from now you’ll be? I would love to be teaching at Virginia Military Institute or other school or the Shenandoah Valley, perhaps William and Mary.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? I’ll change this to $200 million power ball and say I would buy the Kansas City Royals.  I love baseball and would have so much fun as an owner.  Seattle is my favorite team but they can’t be had at a cheap price. As on owner I would try to make my players contracts based solely on performance incentives past the league minimum wage.

Who is your role model? Ambrose Powell Hill, Jr. (1825-65) was a career U.S. Army officer in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars and a Confederate general in the  American Civil War. He gained early fame as the commander of the “Light Division”  in the Seven Days Battles and became one of Stonewall Jackson’s ablest subordinates, distinguishing himself in the 1862 battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg. Hill was one of the war’s most highly regarded generals on either side. When Hill was a major general, Robert E. Lee wrote that he was the best at that grade in the Army. He had a reputation for arriving on battlefields just in time to prove decisive. Stonewall Jackson on his deathbed deliriously called for A.P. Hill to “prepare for action” some histories have recorded that Lee also called for Hill in his final moments, “Tell Hill he must come up.” I have always felt that in life I have gotten things done in just the nick of time.


’06 Bart Mihailovich, 30
Degree: journalism
Hometown: Butte, Mont., currently lives in Spokane
Job title:  director of the Spokane Riverkeeper Program

What do you do at work? No two days are the same. While I’d like to say I’m out on the river every day, I’m not, because solving water quality issues involves a lot of desk work and phone calls.  But I am working each day on issues to help protect the Spokane River. Riverkeeper is an advocacy group so I spend a lot of time in meetings, tracking processes and decisions about the River and uses and activity in and around the River.

We conduct research. We work with industries and municipalities to try to address concerns. And we work with state agencies and other organizations to help protect our right to enjoy clean, safe water.

My job is to look at pollution problems and how they are impacting the river and the health of the community.

My favorite part of work is the outreach and education I get to do in the community; from speaking to schools from elementary up to college classes, to presenting to business groups or other organizations to simply maintaining my blog, my website and all of Riverkeeper’s social media channels.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life?  I worked mostly full-time throughout college (EWU Special Events / Catering) so I learned a lot about hard work and balancing work and other responsibilities. Working for a non-profit isn’t like punching the clock 9-5. The work is around the clock.  Because Riverkeeper is my passion, I am always “on the clock,” but I also understand the importance of balancing fun and family in to that. So my time working at EWU, with the great people I worked with, really helped prepare me to understand that balance.

I was also fortunate enough at EWU to go through the journalism department when it was in Spokane, with some great professors (Steve Blewett and Bill Stimson), who exposed us to real issues and real professionals in the Spokane area, many people who I now interact with in my role as Riverkeeper. Getting that hands-on experience and learning from journalists who have lived and worked through a lot of growth and turbulence both culturally and historically in the Spokane area prepared me to run a program in the Spokane area that is oftentimes polarizing.

Best Eastern memory?  I’d have to say in 2005, when the campus was in an uproar over Ward Churchill being invited to speak on campus by the Native American Student Association.  Churchill, a Native American, had made some controversial post 9/11 comments and was slated to speak publically on campus. I was writing for the Easterner at the time, and though I wasn’t covering this story specifically, being involved closely with that controversy, but also just being a free-thinking student at the time, really awoke my eyes to the real world and discussion about rights and responsibilities.  For me that’s what I imagined college being like.  That’s when I started feeling like I was making my own decisions and charting my own path in life.   Plus it was 2005, a time history will look back on as being very sensitive and formative as we as a country moved beyond the grief of 9/11 but in to a time of great uncertainty with the economy and war and insecurity.  That Ward Churchill episode was very real, very raw and extremely eye-opening.

Outside of work we’ll find you… Always on the go.  My wife Sara (EWU ’07) and I are always traveling, always exploring. Our families are in Montana and Alaska, respectively, so we try to travel home to see family and explore to great states, but we travel all over.  We’re trying to see every National Park together so that keeps us going, plus we love concerts and music festivals so that’s another excuse to road trip. Here locally we raft the Spokane River a lot, play a lot of disc golf on area courses, hike, bike, ski, run outside, and when we have to, we slow down enough to enjoy a beer and good food on our back deck or on one of Spokane’s many restaurant patios. Oh, and Roos Field, of course. Go Eags!

Ten years from now you’ll be?  Honestly, probably somewhere in Montana, working on water protecting and water conservation issues, and definitely rafting down a river with my wife and family.  I grew up with my parents taking me down rivers, it obviously set the tone for what I’d become in life, so I hope to do that same thing to my eventual children.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? 30-year-old Bart is going to answer this question a lot differently than 20-year-old Bart would. I would make people around me comfortable and debt-free, invest a ton of it, and make my wife and I comfortable on a nice river in Montana.  But what I’d have the most fun with is reaching out to all of the great people I’ve met and worked with through being Riverkeeper and helping make their lives and work a little easier.  There are Keepers around the world who are selfless advocates for waterways, who would definitely benefit from a little boost to their bottom line.  I think it would be fun to start a foundation that helps support the work of Waterkeepers or anyone working on clean water and climate changes issues.  Those are the pressing issues of not only this time, but certainly looking in to the future.  I’d love to make sure people’s passions could be lived and worked without the sole stress of fundraising.

Who is your role model? Honestly, I’m inspired by and driven by ANYONE who has the courage to stand up for what they believe in and fight for what’s right.  I’ve met people from around the world who are just like me, people who work every day to fight for our right to clean water or clean air or environmental or social justice.  I probably gain a new role model every single day.


’07, ’05 Travis Laurence Naught, 30
Degree: MS physical education, BA psychology
Hometown: Goldendale, Wash., currently lives in Cheney
Job title:  author of The Virgin Journals, a collection of poems reflecting life as a quadriplegic and all the hopes and frustrations that come with it

What do you do at work?  I am primarily a poet. That means I write lines to help capture moments.  Most of my lines are written in front of a computer screen at home while enjoying copious amounts of coffee.

It is terrifying to try and capture a moment that will contain meaning for more people than just myself. It is in that terror that I know whether or not I am doing a good job.  If something feels easy or contrived, then I know I am failing anyone who might read my work.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Critical thinking was the main lesson I learned in my time at Eastern.  There are so many ways to encounter the world and the professors did a great job of teaching me how to give credence to other ways of living.  I also learned how to write efficiently; to get my point across without convoluting the message.

Best Eastern memory? Working with the men’s basketball team and being taken with them to the 2004 NCAA tournament.  It represents the ultimate experience for someone working with college basketball and was an independent vacation from my normal life.

Close second: I got paired with a professor who looked just like one of my aunts during a class group exercise. The exercise, flirt with your partner … I made her blush!

Outside of work we’ll find you… I am a frequent purveyor of Cheney/Spokane coffee shops! Wander around the area for a few days and you would be just as likely to find me downtown reading as you would be to spot me chatting up the people working in the on campus locations.  Socializing at karaoke and any number of poetry events in the area are also some of my favorite places.

Ten years from now you’ll be?  Thank you! Glad to know I’m not the only one wondering if I will still be in 10 years. Optimally, I will be married and happily writing. Realistically, I just to still be. One day at a time.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? My parents would never have to work another day in their lives. Dad could quit his job if he wanted. Mom could finally have someone take care of her the way she has always taken care of me. Plus, I would spend a lot of time on the water with my friends.  Cruises for everyone!

Who is your role model? Stephen King. He is a writer that writes for himself and is interested in helping other writers. I enjoy what I do and want other people who are interested in putting words on paper to do that! His word output is much grander than mine, gives me something to aspire to.


’02 Karl R. Otterstrom, 35
Degree: BA urban and regional planning (MUP, University of Washington)
Hometown: Spokane
Job title: director of Planning, Spokane Transit Authority

What do you do at work? My staff and I are responsible for the development of bus service, including writing the schedules and determining the location of bus stops; grant administration, public works that are designed and constructed by STA; and, the long-range transit system plan for Spokane Transit. I attend a lot of meetings both at STA and with various transit, city, county and community groups in the greater Spokane area. I also coordinate the work of the planning department to ensure that we are working together to provide the best possible transit planning in our community. We spend a great deal of time brainstorming and cogitating solutions to both imminent transit issues and opportunities in the future.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Before EWU I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. It was in my first day of transportation planning class in fall 1999 that I decided I wanted to become a planner. My professors were very encouraging both of my interest in the field and of the role planners can play in making great places. They encouraged me to take on internships and part time work that gave me significant professional experience by the time I graduated.

 Best Eastern memory? I’m not sure I have one “best memory” but I enjoyed taking the required senior capstone class wherein we worked with the city of Kelso, Wash., to identify land-use changes that could support revitalization of a neighborhood within the city. The project included traveling to Kelso and surveying the neighborhood. It was satisfying to not only study outside the classroom but to make real-life contributions as part of the curriculum.

Outside of work we’ll find you…spending time with my wife, Kate, and our three children, Inge, Björn, and Astrid, enjoying the great outdoors, occasionally teaching as an adjunct for the Urban and Regional Planning program, and serving people within the East Central, Logan and Chief Garry neighborhoods in my responsibilities in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Ten years from now you’ll be? I’ll still be in Washington. Ten years from now at this time of year it will be spring and I will be a more serious gardener. I’ll have teenagers in the home so I’ll be dividing my problem-solving between urban transport issues and teenage troubles.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? I don’t gamble so my odds of winning the $20 million jackpot are even lower than the average person’s, but if I did unexpectedly come across $20 million I’d pay my tithing, set up trust funds for my children’s education, and take my family to Brazil, where I served a two-year mission for my church. I’m not sure what else. Too much money is a hard thing to deal with.

Who is your role model? Theodore Roosevelt has been one of my favorite role models for many years. I admire his courage and tenacity. He believed that morality should pervade politics and business and was defined broadly enough to include the conservation of national resources and the concern for the plight of America’s urban poor. He was quick to remind himself and others that public opinion was fickle and therefore valued less than his relationship with his family.

’05, ’03 Jon Deacon Panamaroff, 34
Degree: MA public administration, BA business, BA psychology
Hometown: Kenai, Alaska, currently living in Aberdeen, Wash.
Job title: CEO/president of Willapa Bay Enterprises Corp.

What do you do at work? I hire the right teammates, listen to their expertise and try my best to not mess it up by getting in their way. I lead my team by example and sound business decisions.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Eastern gave me the foundation to become the Executive business professional that I am today. The faculty gave me the tools I use regularly to analyze a situation, determine the solutions and then execute on the decisions that I make.

Best Eastern memory? Too many to count but I loved being a part of the Eagle Ambassadors, Sigma Nu fraternity, the football team, McNair Scholars, Psi Chi, Alpha Kappa Psi, Honors Program, a Study Abroad, a tutor for the Academic support center, a research assistant  and the Native American Student Association. But if I was going to pick a best, it was amazing to share all my years at EWU with my wife, ’02 Kelly (Mason ) Panamaroff, who is also an EWU graduate in business administration.

Outside of work we’ll find you… Spending quality family time with my wife and our two kids Katelyn (4) and Trevor (1).

Ten years from now you’ll be? I still plan to complete my PhD and hope to someday come back to Eastern as either a member of the faculty or administrative staff.  As a McNair Scholar at EWU this has always been my goal and one I still plan to complete. I just didn’t want to be a professor without any field training. Once I feel I have enough experience I plan to give this knowledge back to the next generation of professionals.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? Invest a portion of it into emerging small businesses and education programs. We need to invest in the future if we plan to leave a better world for our children than we had. This is an interesting question for me as one of the companies I oversee is a Casino and the primary thing that we do with income generated from this operation is to diversify our business model into other companies through Start-ups, Mergers and Acquisition.

Who is your role model? Everyone, we can learn so much if we truly just listen to each other. Even if you don’t agree with something someone says you can learn from their mistakes and try not to make those same mistakes in your own life… but then again we are all human. Let’s take our work seriously and not ourselves.

’12 Ashley Podplesky, 22
Degree:  BA social work, BA international affairs
Hometown: My dad was in the Army so I moved around a lot. I don’t really have a hometown, but Washington is my home state. I was born in Tacoma, Wash., and went to high school in Lakewood, Wash. and Carlisle, Pa., before moving to Cheney to go to EWU.
Job title: Currently I’m a verification specialist for a company called Pinnacle Investigations. This is just a temporary position though, and I hope to return to San Diego to continue in my last position, volunteering as a Regional Representative for an organization called Invisible Children (IC).

What do you do at work?  As a Verification Specialist I complete background investigations for nuclear power facilities across the country. I consider my most recent work as a Regional Representative for IC to be light years more important and fulfilling. Invisible Children was created to help bring an end to the longest running conflict in Africa, and as a Representative I was able to travel to and meet students and community members in and around New England, educating them on the conflict in Central East Africa, the programs IC has established in the region, and letting them know what they can do to help end the conflict. I have supported IC since eleventh grade, and being able to educate and hopefully inspire students just as I had been was absolutely life changing. After the tour ended I came back to Washington to work and save money, but I hope to return to IC this fall and lead a new team of Representatives in a new region.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Eastern helped prepare me for my career/life because it gave me the opportunity to experience things I never thought possible. Because of classes I took, people I met, and organizations I joined at EWU, I was able to travel to Spain, Ecuador, Kenya, and China, and take part in things I never thought I would be able to. I learned so much from each and every professor and advisor I had, from every conversation, and from every lesson. The people who came into my life because of Eastern will stay with me forever, and I doubt I will ever fully comprehend the impact they all had in shaping my path in life.

Best Eastern memory? My best Eastern memory was walking across the stage on graduation day, receiving my diplomas alongside my classmates and my twin sister, becoming, as many EWU students are, the first in our family to graduate from college. I was so proud of all I had accomplished over the last four years, and it was an amazing feeling to celebrate those accomplishments surrounded by family and friends.

Outside of work we’ll find you… Usually just spending time at home, watching TV, reading, catching up with friends, that sort of thing. I love traveling too, but I don’t do that nearly as much as I would like.

Ten years from now you’ll be? I have no idea, but at the very least I want to be happy. I want to go to graduate school and at the moment plan on getting degrees in social work and law, with the hopes of working as a human rights lawyer. As everyone knows plans for the future change by the hour, but no matter what my title is I just want to be doing something that makes the world a little better.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? I couldn’t spend $20 million if my life depended on it, so I’d probably end up donating a good portion of it. I hate how the access to basic human rights is so disproportionate around the world, so supporting organizations that work to eliminate this lack of access would be a priority. I’m sure I could name a thousand organizations that I would donate to, but I won’t do that here.

On a more selfish note, one of my dreams is to travel to every country in the world, and $20 million would certainly help make that happen. I’ve been to six countries so far with a hundred something more to go, and having a nearly unlimited budget would make accomplishing this goal so much easier.

Who is your role model? My role model is my teammate and friend, Oyella Jane. Jane is the personification of perseverance, strength and determination, and I feel so lucky to know her. Over the three months I spent with Jane I learned more and more about her, and became more and more inspired by her every day. Jane grew up in Northern Uganda, a region that was directly impacted by decades of conflict. To make an extremely long story somewhat shorter, Jane grew up in the middle of this conflict and somehow managed to survive, despite losing her father, uncle, multiple cousins and countless friends and classmates to the violence. She did not make it out unscathed though, and she miraculously survived being shot in the back while fleeing from the rebels who attacked the bus she took to school, after which she spent five days in the jungle before she was discovered by a farmer and taken to the hospital. Jane is now studying quantitative economics at Makerere University (known as the Harvard of East Africa), and hopes to one day go in to leadership. Each team of regional representatives consisted on three Western representatives and one Ugandan representative, meaning the Ugandan representative had to speak at each and every presentation, while the American roadies were able to alternate speakers and take breaks. Jane’s story was incredibly difficult to hear just once, so I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to tell her story, day after day, oftentimes multiple times a day for an entire year. In total, Jane took a year off from school to come to the US and travel around the Midwest and New England, speaking to thousands of students of all ages, not once taking a break or skipping a presentation. The most inspiring thing about Jane is that she never mentioned how hard this task was, only working to share her story to make sure other children never have to grow up as she did. Jane is the most selfless person I know, and I can only hope to be half the person she is.

02 Eric Sobotta, 33
Degree: BA education
Hometown: Cheney; currently lives in Richland, Wash.
Job title: Principal, Three Rivers Homelink Alternative Education Program, Richland School District

What do you do at work?  I serve our team, our families and ultimately our students.  A lot of my time spent on the job is allocated to effectively communicating with all of the stakeholders of our school.

How did Eastern help prepare you for your career/life? Might sound like a weird answer but EWU taught me how to appreciate learning for the sake of learning.  I could have cared less about academics in high school, even though I had some pretty great high school teachers.  I think it was the combination of having professors with high standards, being independent of home and really enjoying the content and college atmosphere.

Best Eastern memory? Intramurals – I was a below-average athlete in high school so this provided me with an opportunity to continue playing organized sports.  Now I just look for the old man pick-up games in the Tri Cities.  Second, 105 N. 9th – nothing like four guys living together in a two-bedroom apartment.  I guess I’d also add that regular night fishing at Sprague and Chapman Lake was a great memory from those years.

Outside of work we’ll find you…I love to spend time with my family.  My boys are at awesome ages and we spend a lot of time playing superheroes.  Also, this year my wife and I joined up with seven other couples to start a business that will hopefully have launched by the time this magazine comes out.  It was been really, really energizing how things have come together.  Basically the business model is to make a bunch of money and give it all away.  We’ve trademarked the slogan, “Buy 1 Give 100” and have already donated enough money in our company’s name to build 11 wells in India without even officially launching the company yet.  For more information: iaminhim.com

Ten years from now you’ll be? Night fishing on Chapman Lake catching a monster silver trout.  Seriously, I have no idea, just along for the ride.

If you won $20 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?  Pay off my mortgage, finish the fundraising for the new Tri Cities Union Gospel Mission building, and invest into an adventure camp for at-risk youth my wife and I dream of starting.  We’re heading to a camp this summer to get ideas.  We’d love to one day operate a camp somewhere in the Wenatchee Valley. 

Who is your role model? Jesus.  Why?  You’ll have to read the Book.







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