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UC honors graduates' perseverance

Arts & Sciences graduates turn tough times into triumph

Reaching the goal of graduation can be tough, even when the path to college commencement is relatively smooth. Most students experience the ups and downs of practical—and emotional—challenges that are part of college life. It’s when the hurdles get higher that students have to dig deep to find the resilience to stay the course—and stay in school—until they earn a diploma.

Every year, the University of Cincinnati’s College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) honors those students who show the drive and determination to overcome those obstacles. Since Spring 2017, 30 students have received Triumph Cords in recognition of their perseverance, earning the right to wear the slender purple cord at commencement as a symbol of overcoming adversity.

“Sometimes, [things like] raising a family while in school and working is tough. They’ve persisted through some tough times. We’re proud of their accomplishments.”

Lisa Holstrom, A&S Senior Assistant Dean.

Three accomplished graduates – Natalie Beck, Vince Milano and Sharell Moore – wore the faculty-nominated triumph cords during their graduation ceremony this year. Here they share their stories of personal challenges—and how they overcame them.

Natalie Beck

Graduation can seem lightyears away, especially when your health is at risk. Intense medical treatments and long-term hospitalization can derail even the most committed students. In the years leading up to her graduation, Natalie Beck was forced to miss many classes and accept incomplete grades due to invasive medical procedures, including eight inpatient stays in the hospital. 

Beck lives with from Crohn’s disease, and it has affected her performance throughout her academic career. Despite missing up to three weeks of class at a time, Beck knew she was capable of academic success.

“Even if I was really down at times, I tried to power through,” she says. Academic accomplishment on a traditional timeline is made increasingly difficult with the added stress of health problems, but Beck accepted her route, earning a degree in environmental studies, with minors in psychology and biology.

Beck was surprised to learn she had been nominated for a Triumph Cord. “I just thought I was a regular person graduating, and when I found out about it, it made me feel special and recognized,” she says.

Beck is a positive reminder that all accomplishments, no matter the time it took to get there, are worthy of pride. “I wanted to be an example for other people,” she says. “I still made it through. It doesn’t matter how long it took to get there.”

To other students facing challenges, Beck says, “Go with the flow and take it one day at a time.”

Vince Milano


An avid reader since childhood, Vince Milano has always taken to topics related to history. His Italian and Catholic background drew him to study the ancient Romans.

Despite his aptitude and the high grades he earned in high school, Milano was concerned about entering the world of higher education, because of an attention-related disability.

“Writing papers and having a disability [makes it] difficult to concentrate or do work and not procrastinate,” says Milano.

To successfully obtain his degree, Milano reached out to campus resources, crediting the academic coaching and writing centers, specifically. By acknowledging his unique struggle, Milano was able to create a path to success that suited his specific needs. He also highlights the staff at the accessibility resources office as playing a role in his graduation.

Milano is now the proud owner of a history degree and considers his triumph cord as a significant sign of his achievements. His new goals involve becoming an historian or museum curator. 

Sharell Moore

Sharell Moore moved to Cincinnati freshman year specifically to start her academic career here at UC. But life and circumstance interceded, and she transferred to a university in Kentucky to continue her studies.

“It took me awhile to finally realize what I want to do with my life, where I want to be, and that I want to be successful,” Moore says. “I had a lot of obstacles in my life, dealt with the ‘real world,’ and I realized that I didn’t want a job anymore, but a career.”

Moore ultimately returned to UC, and in spite of a three-hour roundtrip commute, graduated with a psychology degree from A&S. “I missed [UC] so much that I decided to finish my last year here,” she says. “I wanted to make sure I graduated a Bearcat.”

She graduated with more than her degree—Moore takes with her the goal of a career in human resources and ultimately helping people. “I’ve been at the bottom of jobs,” Moore says. “I want to look out for employees more than anything.”

For students still facing adversity of their own, Moore shares a lesson she earned on the road to graduation: “Whatever goal that you have, you have to go for it,” she says. “There have been some ups and downs, but I will tell anybody that if you’re in the position of quitting college—don’t do it because it’s stressful. Don’t do it because you think that it’s too much for you to handle. I promise you: If you put your mind to it, you will be successful.” 

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