University of Iowa graduates celebrated the culmination of their studies during a series of commencement events that began May 11 and continued through May 14. Students from across the Iowa City campus—from the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences—cheered, hollered, and shed a few tears as they contemplated the closing of an important chapter in their lives.
All told, about 4,800 students received diplomas as part of spring 2017 commencement ceremonies. Festivities began Thursday with the College of Pharmacy. On Friday, MBA students, law students, teaching students, medical students, and other graduate-level students celebrated in ceremonies of their own. Over the weekend, business, liberal arts, and engineering students got their spotlight. Dentistry students, the last to celebrate, will receive their diplomas May 26.
Commencement for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences took place in two separate ceremonies on Saturday. The morning ceremony began when hundreds of graduates in black robes and mortar boards began streaming into Carver-Hawkeye Arena. After the procession, Chaden Djalali, dean of the college, welcomed family members and congratulated graduates.
“The world is calling, and you stand ready and eager to answer,” Djalali said. “Thank you for your energy and commitment to your education and to the society you will lead.”
Graduating senior Samantha Kaplan of Naperville, Illinois, also addressed graduates, recalling their arrival on campus four years ago.
“When we came to Iowa, we started a new chapter, we became Hawkeyes,” she said. Flashing forward, she said she now understands how a UI education can positively change a person and better prepare them to “change the world.” Concluding her speech, Kaplan said: “I’m proud to be a Hawkeye.”
One of those celebrating over the weekend was Oscar Castro of East Moline, Illinois, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human physiology. Castro’s family—his mom, dad, and two brothers—arrived early at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena so they could get front-row seats to watch him receive his diploma.
“It was an intense four years, but also really rewarding,” Castro said as he waited with other graduates before the morning ceremony began. “I met a lot of great people and I had a lot of great opportunities. I think I’m ready for the next phase of my life.”
One of the opportunities that shaped Castro’s UI experience was the chance to work in a laboratory that studies premature births. Castro says the experience confirmed his decision to pursue a career in medicine. His plan is to attend a post-bachelor’s program to beef up his résumé and to eventually apply for medical school.
“I’d definitely come back to the University of Iowa,” Castro said. “I feel like I already have some great connections here.”
Graduate Emily Legel of Thomson, Illinois, is sure she’ll be back on the UI campus. Legel received her bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning on Saturday but said a conversation with Charles Connerly, professor and director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning, convinced her to pursue a master’s degree.
Relive the moment
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“He told me that if I was passionate about the field, then I should consider going on to get a master’s degree,” Legel said. “It was nice of him to take the time to meet with me and to give me that boost of confidence. I’m really excited about this next step in my education, especially since I already have a great connection with the program.”
Standing not far from Legel were two other members of the Class of 2017. As they waited for the ceremony to begin, Kayla Rummans and Zoie Schares, both of Jesup, Iowa, stood fiddling with their mortar boards. On hers, Rummans had written, “I think I’m quite ready for the next adventure,” and adhered a small heart-shaped sticker.
Asked about the statement, Rummans said: “I’m not sure what I want to do next, but I know it’s going to be something in the health field. Probably occupational therapy or nursing. That’s why I put the heart on there.”
Both young women said they planned to work a bit before contemplating their next move. Schares said she already has a post-graduation job working at the UI College of Education.
“I already know that I don’t want to be in the classroom, but I do enjoy higher education and I could see myself working in that field,” Schares said. “My job at the College of Education will give me the chance to explore this option a bit more.”
Another graduating senior, Benjamin Kasl, of La Grange Park, Illinois, was excited to run into Tom Paulson, associate director of undergraduate admissions, at the ceremony. Kasl said that Paulson played a major role in making sure he found his place on campus when he transferred to the UI as a sophomore.
“When you transfer in from another school it can be tough to find a group of friends, but I always felt like people on campus were welcoming,” said Kasl, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and theatre arts. “People always took the time to help out.”
Over the weekend, many graduates made their way to the UI Pentacrest to snap photos.
Posing with his toddler daughter, Kyle Dieleman of Iowa City, Iowa, said the five years he put toward earning his PhD in religious studies were well spent.
“Working with faculty and other graduate students at the Department of Religious Studies has been a great experience,” said Dieleman, who will begin work as a professor at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, in the fall. “The program connected me to the field and to other scholars, as well as to academic conferences and experts.”
Standing at the bottom of the steps of the Old Capitol building, Yi Chen of Los Angeles, California, posed in his graduation cap and gown as his family took photos. Chen, who graduated with a Doctorate in Musical Arts at a ceremony Friday, said he came to the UI to study with saxophone professor Kenneth Tse. He doesn’t regret his decision.
“There is a good support structure at the university and within the School of Music,” said Chen. “There was always someone to turn to, always someone to go to for help. You realize that you are not alone.”
Elsewhere on the Pentacrest was Corning, Iowa, resident Bailey Heaton, who was celebrating her graduation from the Tippie College of Business with a master’s degree in accountancy. Heaton said she came to UI with enough college credits to complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree in four years.
“It’s bittersweet to be graduating,” said Heaton, “but I’m happy that the plan (to get two degrees in four years) worked out and that I found a campus that has truly become home.”
Heaton said she will start a job at RSM, an accounting firm in Des Moines, Iowa, in the fall. She’ll use the months in between her graduation and the start of her career to study for her Certified Public Accountant exams.
And for graduates still wondering what they’ll do or where they’ll work? Fear not, says R. Tyler Priest, associate professor of history and geographical and sustainability sciences. Priest gave the faculty address at the morning commencement ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“A college degree signifies that you have learned how to learn, not learned all there is to know,” he told graduates. “It means you have acquired the ability to ask questions, many of which remain unanswered. At your young age, there are still countless wonders to discover and mysteries to unravel.”