Commencement Feature: Alixe Bunyard

Alixe Bunyard poses for a photograph against a maroon-colored brick background.
Jared Libby

What makes TMCC exceptional is its students, a brilliant collective who continue to surpass our expectations and land rewarding careers to benefit the communities we serve in Northern Nevada. One who understands the value of selfless actions is Alixe Bunyard, a veteran, the Sam Lieberman Regents’ Award for Student Scholarship recipient, and an esteemed graduate in the Class of 2024.

While she is grateful for her successes, she shares this joyful milestone with support from her family, friends, and colleagues. College was a time to overcome adversity. Cultivating relationships while immersed in courses genuinely fascinating to her were the cornerstones of her degree completion. Her story is a refreshing message of besting uncertainty through the virtues of higher education, garnering a thirst for lifelong learning.

It Isn’t Where You Came From, It’s Where You’re Going That Counts

Born and raised in Reno, Bunyard heeded a call to active duty in the U.S. Navy. After eight years and earning an officer’s rank, she returned to the Biggest Little City with her husband, Anthony, and daughter, Evangeline. Soon, the armed forces would beckon her still, leading to a successful transition into the Nevada Air National Guard. She’d attend drill once a month and at least two weeks in the summer for annual training, a relatively flexible situation allowing airwomen and airmen to maintain regular employment while performing duties to their country when obligated. It seemed they were finally settling in. She couldn’t have foreseen what came next, and unfortunately, a manning drawdown occurred within her ranks (an inventory of personnel, including their grades, occupational groups, and numbers.) Suddenly, Bunyard was a fresh face left without orders for a year. She landed a new job, too, but it was a letdown and strained her loved ones. She’d always wanted to pursue Nursing and now seemed like the perfect opportunity.

“Nursing is attractive to me for many reasons, but one of the main ones is that, whatever I’m doing, I want to feel impactful and help people. That’s what drew me to nursing,” Bunyard said.

“I treat it like my job. I went from work to college full-time. I leave to pick my two children up [we have a son named Henry] and drop them off at school. My husband’s very supportive, and we share that responsibility. I’m here as much as I can be. For the most part, TMCC’s campus culture has been great. Finding a group of friends in the Veterans Resource Center helped tremendously,” Bunyard continued.

When abruptly relinquished from the mission, Bunyard was apprehensive as she asked herself, “What do I do? Who am I without this job?”  When she met others in similar positions at TMCC, she found solidarity and support. They’d direct her to assistive resources, recounting their experiences and what they discovered to be a positive influence on them. A network began branching out, and her willingness to connect with others formed an inclusive environment. She studied with fellow veterans, capitalizing on their shared knowledge and diverse perspectives. With parallel course structures, they could inquire, compare notes, and absorb information in a relaxing framework with productive results. She even scored a student-worker gig at the Veterans Resource Center, where she met several individuals who encouraged her.

“Everybody in the Veterans Resource Center has been amazing. It’s great. They’re not only people who’ve helped me, but I consider them friends. I showed up and didn’t have that. I was new. Felipe Gutierrez and K [Keali Kalawao-Cummings] used to be students here, too, so they understood how I felt,” Bunyard said.

“It’s a tight-knit group, and I’m grateful to have them. They’re wonderful, and I love them. I can talk to Felipe, Tim, or K whenever, and they listen,” Bunyard continued.

It would be a busy afternoon at Renown Regional Medical Center for Bunyard when hearing she was the 2024 Sam Lieberman Regents’ Award for Student Scholarship beneficiary. She called Gutierrez to confirm this prestigious honor with surprise. He had nominated her and was delighted to hear that she had won. His consideration was humbling, and she voiced her appreciation. As she disbursed the stellar news to her relatives, many questioned what the accolade referred to. After giving a thoughtful explanation, their reactions were a unanimous “Wow! That’s a huge deal.”

Bunyard admires TMCC’s instructors’ commitment when conveying the crux of their subject matter, especially in Biology. Dr. David Huber and Dr. Amy Kavanaugh have rigorous, entertaining approaches to communicating scientific principles. It’s done wonders for her, with an allure sticking with her as she contextualizes the planet and her daily habits – noticing it in her garden where the bees buzz, in human bodies and their complexity, and assimilating this wisdom to improve her professionalism as a healthcare provider. Bunyard applauds TMCC’s affordability and our extensive portfolio of bachelor’s programs and is graduating with an Associate of Science, Public Health, Pre-Nursing Track before advancing to the next chapter of her academic journey. She appreciates the ability to experience smaller classroom sizes, speak to her professors, visit their office hours, and greet them in the hallway.

“You’ll be glad you went, even for people who aren’t utilizing military benefits. It’s a great place to be. I’ve had an excellent experience here, and I let people know the different things they can get into, like a job working at Café Verde or the Welcome Center. You can also join a club or visit the pollinator garden,” Bunyard said.

“Honestly, the late-night study sessions I’ve had on campus until 10 p.m. with my friend are wonderful memories, too. We have our little inside jokes and how we remember stuff,” Bunyard continued.

Before TMCC, Bunyard says, “I didn’t feel ready to jump in. The community happened later, but you are a part of it, even if your journey looks different. I became more open and learned that these people are like everyone else. They’re welcoming, kind, and not as scary as you think. It’s been great. Some of my closest friends are in the veteran community now.”
“Don’t be afraid of it. Take that step. It’s been a positive experience for me, and there was hesitancy and doubt to start. See what the future has in store, but in the meantime, leap,” Bunyard continued.

For more information about the Class of 2024, please visit the Commencement website.