Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography

Outstanding Grad: Thea Labuntog
College of Natural Sciences

story by Haley Candelario
published May 8, 2023

Thea Labuntog’s path to graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology was filled with highs and lows.

While at CSU, she maintained a high grade point average while working part time, serving in leadership positions with Alpha Phi Gamma National Sorority, Inc., and conducting research for group therapy for LGBTQ+ youth.

Though heavily involved with campus activities and her education, Labuntog still faced many challenges.

“I come from a low-income, immigrant family from the Philippines,” Labuntog said. “I basically had to pay for my college education myself and take out loans. I didn’t know that was the case for a lot of other students until I talked to them.”

Thea Labuntog Sketch

“Don’t be afraid. Just go for it, especially in your freshman year. That’s how you set yourself up for success and look out for your future self.”

— Thea Labuntog

On top of financially supporting herself during college, Labuntog faced housing and food insecurity, said Arlene Nededog, the director of inclusion at the College of Natural Sciences, who nominated Labuntog.

Then, during Labuntog’s first year at CSU, the COVID-19 pandemic began. She was faced with the challenge of navigating online classes as a first-year student and the impact it had on her ability to complete internships at CSU in preparation for graduate school. When CSU went fully online, Labuntog turned her mother’s closet into her office to work on her coursework and find some privacy in a household with Labuntog’s single mother and three brothers.

Another thing Labuntog wanted to experience was Semester at Sea, which she hoped to do during her second year at CSU, but she could not because of COVID-19. Labuntog also worried about the financial commitment required to participate.

Despite the challenges, Labuntog was able to participate in Semester at Sea during Fall 2022 with the help of the Patricia and Robert Memorial Impact Award, provided to her by the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center.

“It’s an amazing experience because I went by myself, which made it more fun,” Labuntog said.

For her life after graduation, Labuntog has several options. For starters, she was accepted into a teaching fellowship with the Go Foundation, where she could help serve other underserved communities from August 2023 to June 2024, but she is still deciding whether she will take it.

Labuntog also wants to pursue graduate studies, ideally at an international university. She plans to take some time away from the college lifestyle before returning to graduate school, but she is unsure how long she will wait until doing so.

“I’d want to go back once I gained more life experience, (so) this will either be a gap year, or two to three years,” Labuntog said. “I’m also considering the Peace Corps. I love to travel, and I want to do service during my gap year to connect it to why I want to do therapy. Part of the reason I did Semester at Sea is because multicultural competence is really important, and some things you just can’t learn from a classroom.”

As Labuntog prepares for the next chapter of her life, she wants incoming students to remember to take advantage of the opportunities presented at CSU.

“Don’t be afraid. Just go for it, especially in your freshman year,” Labuntog said. “That’s how you set yourself up for success and look out for your future self.”

Grad Cap 75x53

outstanding grads

The Class of 2023 represents the very best of Colorado State University, showing courage in the face of adversity in the pursuit of their degrees. Read more stories of some of the outstanding students who are graduating this fall. read more