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Commencement: June 17, 2012

That most untraditional of traditions, the whimsical procession known as the Wacky Walk, kicked off the University's 121st Commencement.

David Gonzales

"Gal pals" Katie Pyne, Rachel Lindee, Mary Beth Corbett and Afia Bonner posed with a replica Stanford ID.

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Four years at Stanford can take any number of unexpected or venturesome twists and turns. Stanford offers three examples from the Class of 2012 of how diverse the achievements of undergraduates can be.

Isaac Bleaman
Photo: Samantha Berg

Isaac Bleaman 
For Bleaman, the challenge was to still be himself after an unusally disturbing event. Before his junior year at Stanford, he decided to study abroad at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A couple of weeks into his stay, he and a friend got confused about the path to a synagogue and ended up being angrily confronted by a group of Arab teens. Bleaman and his friend escaped—Bleaman was chased through the streets until Arab drivers stopped and intervened—but the incident had a long echo psychologically.

"I've tried to not let it interrupt my life," says Bleaman, who double majored with honors in linguistics and comparative literature. "I think there's a tendency after something traumatic like that to shut people out. I try to be extra social."

The next academic step for Bleaman, whose awards include the English-Speaking Union Scholarship, is the pursuit of a master's in Yiddish studies at Oxford.

Sharada Jambulapati
Photo: Samantha Berg

Sharada Jambulapati
No student is an island, no matter how strong her or his character. Jambulapati is graduating with a firm sense of what she has accomplished, but as a first-generation, low-income student, feeling comfortable at Stanford wasn't always the norm for her.

In a college community where affluence is often conspicuous, "routine casual things can be isolating," Jambulapati notes. She heard more than a few conversations about other students' elaborate travel plans; for Jambulapati, the concern of the moment was likely to have been about staying on a tight budget.

Jambulapati, whose parents arrived in the United States from India in 1982, grew up in a rural part of Georgia and attended a high school that lacked many advanced placement courses and any dedicated college preparatory program. Now the winner of a John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, she's passionate about working on behalf of immigrant rights and plans to eventually attend law school.

Nicole Torcolini
Photo: Samantha Berg

Nicole Torcolini
"Just getting in all my units" was the ongoing battle for Torcolini, blind since the age of 4 due to cancer that affected her optic nerves. The extra time involved in accomplishing some assignments, as well as traversing the campus, meant planning every quarter's schedule extremely carefully.

Moreover, as she noted in an email, "most of my materials have to be reformatted in either an electronic format or in Braille before I can read them. The Office of Accessible Education does this, but in order for me to receive the materials at the same time as the other students, the OAE has to receive them ahead of time. Working with professors to ensure this happens sometimes takes a little work."

Torcolini, a computer science major who has a job waiting at Google, says she had terrific support from the University, family, friends and—indispensably—from her guide dog Lexia.

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