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UC grads prepare for virtual commencement

Ceremonies for 2020 spring and summer grads will take place online Aug. 7 and 8

The University of Cincinnati will celebrate commencement for 2020 spring and summer graduates with a virtual ceremony on Aug. 7 and 8.

UC was among universities across the country that postponed commencement ceremonies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. UC will acknowledge the work and dedication of more than 8,400 summer and spring graduates in the class of 2020.

Students, parents, faculty and guests are welcome to join UC's commencement here on Friday and Saturday.

UC will host a virtual doctoral hooding and master's recognition ceremony on Aug. 7 beginning with a virtual pre-ceremony at 5:30 p.m. followed by the virtual commencement at 6 p.m. The pre-ceremony will include congratulations from family members and appreciations called GRAD-itudes from students. A complete presentation will be posted to the UC Commencement page.

On Saturday, a virtual pre-ceremony for UC's undergraduates begins at 12:30 p.m. with the virtual undergraduate commencement following at 1 p.m.

Graduates and their families and friends are welcome to join their classmates on Twitter with #UCGrad20 and @UofCincyGradsOn Wednesday, look for UC's virtual Walk Down Memory Lane on Twitter featuring hourly tributes to the Class of 2020.

"While we wish we could be together to celebrate in person, we want you to know we are working hard to make this day a special recognition of your achievements," said Melva Karnes, program director for UC's Student Affairs-Commencement. "We continue to be inspired by the strength, resiliency and Bearcat spirit of the class of 2020."

UC's 2020 Summer Grads

UC will honor more than 1,900 summer graduates at its virtual commencement. The university will confer 145 associates degrees, 661 bachelor's degrees, 1,024 master's degrees and 163 doctoral degrees. (Some students have earned multiple degrees.)

The graduates represent 43 countries as far away as Australia, South Korea, China, India and Zimbabwe. The average age of UC's doctoral class is 34 while the average bachelor's graduate is 28.

Among the summer graduates is 101 U.S. military veterans or their dependents. And 277 students are first-generation graduates.

UC's 2020 Spring Grads

UC also will confer 6,814 degrees upon approximately 6,500 spring graduates. (Some graduates have earned multiple degrees.) Among them are 491 associate's degrees, 4,402 bachelor's degrees, 1,404 master's degrees, 265 doctoral degrees and 252 professional degrees.

The spring 2020 graduates hail from 47 states and 63 countries, including Canada, France, Greece and Cuba.

The oldest graduate is 68 while the youngest is just 18. Nearly 200 graduates attended Cincinnati Public Schools. And 976 students are first-generation college graduates.

Ohio's graduates come from 83 of the state's 88 counties.

A family portrait with Eric and Katherine holding their babies on their laps while they sit on the leaves under a tree.

UC grad Katherine Chambers and her husband, Eric, pose with their children Owen and Caroline. Photo/Provided

Overcoming a health crisis

Katherine Chambers had to put her master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati on hold after she suffered a stroke at age 26.

Chambers was studying medical education in UC’s College of Medicine. She and her husband, Eric, had just had their second child, Owen, when she suffered a stroke, identified as cryptogenic because it has an unknown cause. Just three days later, she found herself back in the hospital for acute pancreatitis, a potentially deadly condition.

“My organs were shutting down. I was back in the emergency room and had to be treated by a trauma team,” she said.

Fortunately, the symptoms were mild, she said. After a few days, normal feeling returned to her body and face. And her speech also came back little by little. For weeks, she had trouble coming up with the right words.

“I re-enrolled and had to finish my project,” she said. “I gave my final presentation on improvements for radiology in a clinical setting.”

Chambers said she leaned on the support of her family, friends and UC associate professors Robert Harper Heather Moore, who served as adviser and mentor.

“Katie is a fighter with an amazing amount of motivation and diligence,” Moore said.

Tiffanie Clark and her friends pose in a UC hallway.

UC graduate Tiffanie Clark, right, got a lot of encouragement from her friends and mentors to complete her doctoral degree. Photo/Provided

Perseverance helps grad succeed

Tiffanie Clark and her husband, Ebraima, were raising their two boys at home in Columbus, Ohio, when she started a doctoral program in the University of Cincinnati’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Clark studied Latin American literature in UC’s Department of Romance and Arabic Languages and Literatures. Commuting to class that first year while caring for her children, Ebrahim and Shareef, was a big challenge, she said.

“During the week, I would drop them off at day care and only see them when I got home at night. By then they would be asleep,” she said. “My husband would work full time and then pick up the kids and do everything for them when he got home.”

A family photo of Tiffanie Clark sitting on a couch with her children next to her husband.

UC graduate Tiffanie Clark and her husband, Ebraima, pose with their children Ebrahim and Shareef. Photo/Provided

Fortunately, Clark said she had the encouragement and supportive ear of her mentor and doctoral adviser, UC assistant professor J. Mauricio Espinoza, to get her through the rough patches. Clark was the first doctoral student Espinoza advised for a dissertation.

Espinoza said whenever Clark voiced doubts about completing the doctoral program, he reminded her that a lot of accomplished students like her feel the pangs of impostor syndrome, the irrational fear that you are outmatched or don’t belong despite your obvious successes.

By the end of her third year, she found her pace, she said.

Today, Clark is a published author whose work has appeared in literary magazines and journals. This week her extended family will help her celebrate commencement. She’s the first doctoral graduate in the family.

She is looking forward to UC’s virtual commencement. She remembers the thrill of reading her first email that addressed her as “Dr. Clark.”

“My kids – they struggled along with me,” she said. “But now they can say, ‘My mom is a doctor, so I can do this. I can do anything.’”

Vicky Yu poses in her cap and gown.

UC graduate Vicky Yu donned her cap and gown for a photo shoot with her friends outside the UC College of Medicine. Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

Previous online celebrations

 UC hosted a two-day virtual graduation celebration in May that included a social media blitz during what would have been the traditional spring commencement. Graduates shared photos from their home celebrations with family and pics of themselves in caps and gowns to mark the occasion.

On May 23, the UC College of Medicine hosted its own Honors Day celebration virtually.

UC professor Laura Wexler, M.D., gave the keynote address during the virtual ceremony, which included awards and recognition for the 159 graduates. 

Dean Andrew Filak, M.D., and UC President Neville Pinto offered traditional remarks during the online presentation.

“I am really glad I chose UC," College of Medicine graduate Vicky Yu said. "The staff, the faculty, they have all been very supportive throughout medical school. They had an open-door policy of ‘Please come to us when you are struggling.’ I felt like they really cared and that’s not the case everywhere you go.”

Featured image at top: UC student Azaria Pittman-Carter recites a poem she wrote for the occasion to an empty Fifth Third Arena during a taped segment to air during UC's virtual commencement. Photo/Lisa Ventre/UC Creative + Brand

Students in commencement gowns toss their caps in the air.

UC students throw their mortar boards in the air outside Fifth Third Arena after celebrating summer commencement in 2019. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand

A service dog wears a UC mortar board.

A service dog celebrates UC's 2019 commencement. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand

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