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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Two Bellingham residents receive Outstanding Graduate title

Ina LaGrandeur and Julie McElroy stood out in their studies at WWU

By Shannon Steffens

Two Bellingham residents were named 2020 Outstanding Graduates at Western this summer.

One graduate from each department is selected as an Outstanding Graduate. Ina LaGrandeur, an accounting major, and Julie McElroy, a nursing major, are two longtime Bellingham residents who have been chosen for the title this year.

“The award is based on criteria decided entirely by the programs and departments themselves,” said Paul Cocke, director of communications at Western. “A student may not necessarily have the highest grade point average, yet they stand out in a variety of ways: excellence in research/publishing, community service, academic excellence, leadership or stewardship to the department and university.”

Ina LaGrandeur graduated in June with a Bachelor of Arts in accounting and minors in Spanish and business administration.

Ina LaGrandeur stands in front of a lake. She is a Bellingham resident who was named an Outstanding Graduate. // Courtesy of Ina LaGrandeur
Ina LaGrandeur stands in front of a lake. She is a Bellingham resident who was named an Outstanding Graduate. // Courtesy of Ina LaGrandeur

LaGrandeur said she had always had an interest in business and she was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) while a student at Sehome High School. Her interest in accounting strengthened after taking a few introductory-level accounting classes at Western.

“I enjoyed attending Western a lot,” LaGrandeur said. “I feel like I grew a lot as a person and I made really great friends and connections. I think that the classes I took there really helped prepare me for my next step.”

This upcoming year, LaGrandeur will be attending the University of Notre Dame and working toward her Master of Science in accountancy with a concentration in taxation. Once she completes her degree and takes the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, she hopes to work as a certified public accountant.

A Western professor that made a big impact on LaGrandeur was Steve Smith in the accounting department. She took four classes with Smith and he was her advisor for her Honors Capstone Project about improving student engagement in campus recruiting.

“I’ll often describe Ina as fearless,” Smith said. “She just has this level of confidence that really brings everybody else along.”

Smith also said that one of the best qualities an accounting major can have is being able to take ownership of something and see it through, which is something LaGrandeur excels at.

Julie McElroy will graduate in August with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a minor in biology.

McElroy had previously worked as a hairstylist in Bellingham for 15 years before deciding to become a nurse.

“It just made sense to me because it was that perfect blend of fulfilling my interests with science and health,” McElroy said. “And it also met that social aspect that I liked with doing hair.”

 Julie McElroy stands in front of a door. She is a Bellingham resident who was named an Outstanding Graduate. // Courtesy of Julie McElroy
Julie McElroy stands in front of a door. She is a Bellingham resident who was named an Outstanding Graduate. // Courtesy of Julie McElroy

She always felt drawn to nursing. She originally hesitated because many members of her family work in healthcare and she didn’t want to just follow in their footsteps.

McElroy said her time at Western has been incredible. She has been motivated and inspired by her professors and her peers.

After graduating, she plans to attend graduate school to continue her nursing education. Her goal is to become a family practitioner with a focus on mental health.

Dr. Bill Lonneman is a nursing professor at Western who made a large impact on McElroy. She said he was a brilliant and inspiring professor.

“What stood out with Julie was her willingness to share from her experience, how she enriched  the general atmosphere of the class, and her thoughtfulness,” Lonneman said.

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