After four years at the University of Arizona, Natalie Becker is going to work in a largely thankless job with a high burn-out rate - and she couldn't be happier.
The California native is staying in Tucson after UA graduation to work as a child abuse investigator for the state's Child Protective Services.
"There are a lot of people who have unfortunate lives and they really need help," said Becker, 21, the only child of two police officers who taught her to value public service.
With a bachelor's degree in public health and a CPS internship under her belt, Becker will be among those responsible for probing child-abuse complaints.
Already, she's encountered babies born to heroin addicts, youngsters living in squalor and kids growing up in a marijuana grow house.
"It's been eye-opening," she said about her previous work with CPS, but also "interesting and rewarding."
Becker's police officer parents will be in the audience at Arizona Stadium tonight as she and several thousand of her fellow Wildcats mark one of life's most momentous achievements.
More than 6,600 bachelor's and master's degrees will be awarded in the UA's spring commencement.
The class of 2013 will be heading into a job market barely recovering from the recession of recent years, said Eileen McGarry, UA's director of career services, which tracks graduates' success at finding work in their fields.
This year's tracking effort has just begun and of the 50 percent or so of new grads responding so far, about 43 percent are either headed to graduate school or have jobs in their chosen professions, McGarry said.
New time and venue
UA's main commencement ceremony has a new time and venue this year. It's being held at night at the football stadium, instead of Saturday morning at McKale Center, the much-smaller home of Wildcats basketball.
"We outgrew McKale," said Kasey Urquidez, an associate vice-president for UA student affairs.
The new venue will allow for some extra flourishes, she said, such as a pre-show event for guests and photos of graduates on the stadium's big screen.
The commencement address will be given by PetSmart CEO Robert F. Moran, a longtime UA supporter, who also will receive an honorary degree.
Other honors being awarded this year include:
• Robie Gold Medals to Victor Arias, who will graduate with honors with degrees in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology, and to Meardey Kong, who's graduating magna cum laude with degrees in psychology and in philosophy, politics, economics and law.
• Robert Logan Nugent Medals for Garrett Voge, who's graduating with honors with degrees in accounting and management information systems, and for Devin Gregory, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in political science.
• Merril P. Freeman Medals to Lexi Shinn, who's graduating magna cum laude with a degree in accounting, and to Jon Denton-Schneider, graduating summa cum laude with honors with degrees in Spanish and in entrepreneurship and business economics.
• An alumni achievement award to Paula Van Ness, a 1974 graduate, for a distinguished career in nonprofit leadership.
• Honorary degrees to longtime UA supporters Paul Lindsey and Raymond Spencer.
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4138.
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Did you know?
The last time the university held commencement at Arizona Stadium was 1972.
If you go
• What: UA Spring Commencement.
• When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
• Where: Arizona Stadium, 525 N. National Championship Drive. Stadium gates open at 6 p.m. The audience will be sitting on the east side of the stadium with the graduate area and stage on the field.
• Website: commencement.arizona.edu/
• Parking: Maps available at website.
Partly cloudy, with a 10 percent chance of thunderstorms.