Just a few short weeks ago, on June 16, Walla Walla University awarded 342 bachelor’s degrees, 18 associate degrees, and 67 master’s degrees to students from around the world.

Each of those 427 degrees represents countless hours in the library and laboratory, and hundreds of lectures attended, papers written and exams taken. From those arduous years on the WWU campus have come some pretty amazing graduates with some really great ideas.

Angelica Chan, a graduating senior majoring in history, has explored an interesting angle on the history of tuberculosis. Her research paper is titled, “A Flattering Malady: Consumption as a Fashionable and Feminine Disease in Early Nineteenth-Century England.” The question that comes to mind is how anyone could think of tuberculosis as fashionable! Chan explains: “Tuberculosis integrated well with the existing beauty standards because it gave the victims very pale skin, a slender figure, and flush checks, and it also accompanied the rise of sentimentalism in the early 19th century in England, which solidified ideas about femininity and disease.”

Three graduating seniors majoring in engineering — Dane Ocampo, Kandice Gage and Matt Shankel — are developing and testing a second generation bioprinter that 3D prints scaffolds comprised of a polymer. The team is layering these strong scaffolds with weaker scaffolds created by a second technique called electrospinning that are more similar to the environment in the human body. They hope to develop scaffolds that are both strong and similar to the structures in the human body where cells can grow. The potential implications of their work are profound.

Students of communication — Isaiah Taylor, Regan Hinshaw and Meghann Heinrich — have been taking a closer look at the ways different generations send and interpret text messages. Hinshaw said, “Emojis are so much a part of the way we communicate now. We wanted to look at the ways different age groups approach them. Emojis function not only to give context to the words we text but they also function as language — sometimes we text emojis without even writing words. We wanted to see the different ways that different people interrupt them.” Their research shows that regardless of age, study participants were overwhelmingly more grammatically correct and less likely to use emojis when texting their boss than when texting their mother or best friend. ;)

Master of social work graduate Skyler Glatt helped write five grants to raise more than $2 million for nontraditional treatment facilities for people with opioid use disorder. Through his work on the project, Glatt learned that individuals facing this challenge are able to come back and make a full recovery. “It’s all about what they put into it and the resources we can provide them whether it be social work or medical or community resources. There are a lot of hopeful avenues for recovery.”

It is really exciting to see each student begin to build on the foundation they have developed during their years in college and to explore their world in new ways. Each student is unique. Each one has a special place and purpose. They are learning to make the world a better place by doing what they love. That’s a big idea that can inspire us all.

John McVay is president of Walla Walla University. He can be reached by emailing john.mcvay@wallawalla.edu or by calling (509) 527-2121.