Colorado Springs celebrates its newest graduates

May 25, 2023
Colorado Springs graduates excitedly enter the graduation ceremony.

Newman University held its annual commencement ceremony in Wichita, Kansas, on Friday, May 12. However, graduates completing their social work degrees, both bachelor’s and master’s, at the Colorado Springs outreach location aren’t always able to travel and attend the official ceremony.

For more than 10 years, those graduates have had a local celebration ceremony, complete with pinning and hooding.

This year, the celebration was bittersweet as the social work outreach program transitions to a fully online experience. 2023 will be the last time a special hooding ceremony will take place in Colorado Springs.

Graduates will continue to be invited to attend the official Wichita, Kansas, commencement ceremonies in May each year.

A total of 30 graduates were recognized during the Colorado Springs celebration ceremony on Friday, May 19, which was held at the Library 21C Venue at Pikes Peak Library District. More than 200 family members and friends gathered to watch their graduates be honored.

In addition to the festivities, some of the new graduates, along with local Newman alumni, gathered for a mixer on Thursday, May 12.

Attendees were able to enjoy food and drinks while meeting current social work program faculty who teach from the Wichita, Kansas campus.

Celebrating graduates

Each year, the social work program recognizes outstanding graduates who have distinguished themselves through commitment, dedication and leadership in academics and field.

The three graduates honored this year are:

  • Maria Rolland — MSW Distinguished Student Award
  • Megan Sandefur — BSW Distinguished Student Award 
  • Cheryl Turonis — MSW Excellence in Field Award
Associate Professor and Interim Director of the Master of Social Work Program Yelando Johnson (left) stands with MSW Excellence in Field Award recipient Cheryl Turonis (right).

The Excellence in Field Award goes to a student who has demonstrated excellence in their field placement. This is measured by their field work, site visits and final evaluation. Turonis was highlighted as someone who demonstrates the social work values and ethics as well as the mission and values of Newman University. 

Inductees of Pi Gamma Mu — a nationally recognized honor society for high-achieving students striving toward a career in the social sciences — were also recognized during the ceremony by Professor Emeritus Larry Heck, Ph.D.

Heck is a member and also was chapter sponsor of Pi Gamma Mu throughout his entire 47-year career at Newman.

The Colorado Springs Master of Social Work location opened in 2005 and has helped hundreds of graduates realize their dream of launching a career to serve others — and will continue to do so as it transitions to an online-only curriculum beginning fall 2023.

The program is fully accredited and graduates are eligible for licensure as professionals.

Colorado Springs graduates of the Social Work and Education bachelor’s and master’s degree programs

2023 Colorado Springs graduates are:

Bachelor of Social Work

  • Maggie Papalia
  • Megan Sandefur
  • Kirsten Yribi

Master of Social Work

  • Brian Adams
  • Karina Anderson
  • Cherie Barham
  • Chelsea Beach
  • Valiore Corral
  • Cynthia Figueroa
  • Javier Figueroa
  • Erich Frey
  • Chase Gaumond
  • Antonia Guadagnoli
  • Elliot Holloway-Dowd
  • Tiara McCray
  • Amanda McDermith
  • Alice Miles
  • Kimberly Murphy
  • Deann Pacheco
  • Nicole Prince
  • Sonia Rodriguez
  • Maria Rolland
  • Janet Starr
  • Randal Thomas
  • Darlene Truesdell
  • Cheryl Turonis
  • Sarah Webster
  • Justin Wilson
  • Nicole Wright

Master of Education

  • Amanda Stahnke-Joy

Earn a degree in social work

Social work is not just a job; it is a helping profession rooted in dedicating oneself to continuous growth, learning, change and becoming the best version of yourself.