UC to honor 2,079 grads at summer Commencement

UC also will pay tribute to 2020 grads this weekend at Fifth Third Arena

The University of Cincinnati will celebrate its 2021 summer Commencement Friday, Aug. 6, even as it gears up for what could be another record-breaking incoming class this fall.

UC will recognize 2,079 graduates in two ceremonies at Fifth Third Arena.

At 9 a.m. Friday, UC will honor students from:

  • College of Allied Health Sciences
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • College-Conservatory of Music
  • James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy
  • College of Medicine
  • College of Nursing

At 2 p.m. Friday, UC will honor students from:

  • Carl H. Lindner College of Business
  • College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning
  • College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services
  • College of Engineering and Applied Science
  • UC Blue Ash College
  • UC Clermont College

In keeping with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, please stay home. The ceremony will be live-streamed on the Commencement website.

Facial coverings are required for everyone in attendance, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings will be provided for those who don't have one.

A UC grad turns the tassle on her mortarboard during Commencement.

UC will host two Commencement ceremonies on Friday for summer 2021 grads and two ceremonies on Saturday for 2020 grads at Fifth Third Arena. Facial coverings will be required for everyone in attendance. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative

Honoring 2020 grads

On Saturday, UC will honor the spring graduating class of 2020 with similar ceremonies at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Fifth Third Arena, although the mix of colleges recognized will be slightly different from Friday’s celebration.

Facial coverings are required for everyone in attendance, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings will be provided for those who don't have one.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, UC will recognize 2020 graduates from:

  • College of Allied Health Sciences
  • Carl H. Lindner College of Business
  • College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services
  • James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy
  • College of Medicine
  • College of Nursing

At 2 p.m. Saturday, UC will recognize 2020 graduates from:

  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • College-Conservatory of Music
  • College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning
  • College of Engineering and Applied Science
  • UC Blue Ash College
  • UC Clermont College

The doors at Fifth Third Arena open 90 minutes before the ceremonies. Students are welcome to bring up to six guests. Parking is available at Calhoun, Corry, CCM and Campus Green garages.

UC also will honor 2020 grads with a Bearcat Walk at Fifth Third Arena (or another location to be determined) during Homecoming Weekend on Nov. 6. Students are invited to walk in their caps and gowns for a commemorative video and optional photos for purchase. 

Graduates in caps and gowns sit in Fifth Third Arena.

UC will celebrate summer Commencement for more than 2,000 graduates at Fifth Third Arena. Facial coverings will be required. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand

About the summer class of 2021

UC will confer degrees to approximately 2,079 graduates, based on preliminary applications. UC will present 159 associate’s degrees, 749 bachelor’s degrees, 1,026 master’s degrees and 159 doctoral degrees. (Some graduates have earned multiple degrees.)

UC’s summer class includes 299 students who are the first in their family to attend college. UC will honor 67 military veterans or their children and 50 students from Cincinnati Public Schools.

The youngest graduate is 18 while the oldest, earning a bachelor’s degree, is 70. The average age of a graduate earning a bachelor’s is 27. Women graduates outnumber men, 62% to 38%.

Summer grads hail from 47 states and 52 countries on five continents, but 62% are from Ohio. And in Ohio, they represent 71 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

A portrait of Mariam Elgafy.

UC graduate Mariam Elgafy will give the Commencement address to the summer class of 2021. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Demonstrating resilience

This summer’s commencement speaker is UC College of Arts and Sciences graduate Mariam Elgafy. As an undergraduate, Elgafy studied education and communication with a minor in political science. She just finished her master’s degree in communication, penning a thesis on political communication in the media.

Her commencement address will relate the unique challenges the class of 2021 has overcome during a global pandemic that has affected everyone in ways big and small.

“With the pandemic, it’s hard to sugarcoat our experiences. We were all just trying to make it through. It’s been a struggle for everyone educationally and emotionally,” Elgafy said.

Whether it was adjusting to virtual classrooms or contending with the impact the pandemic had on activities, social outlets and relationships, everyone was affected, she said. And some students faced personal or family health crises that really put priorities into perspective.

“On top of that was mental health, something we should be taking especially seriously during the pandemic,” Elgafy said.

At UC, Elgafy taught communication classes and was honored with an Excellence in Teaching award. She also works as a public speaking coach and served as a mentor at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati.

Every graduating class faces some uncertainty. This class is no different, she said. But UC graduates persevered to reach this milestone. Their strong character was forged in the hardships of this global emergency.

“I see students filled with resiliency. Resiliency and being joyful is about overcoming adversity,” Elgafy said. “So much has been thrown at us in so many ways. We’ve been through a lot. And that will be reflected in our work ethic and our skills.”

As for herself, Elgafy said she is excited about what the future might hold.

“The past year taught us patience,” she said. “I’ve had to remind myself that with time, good things happen.”

Natalie Meredith holds a clipboard in a hallway.

Graduate Natalie Meredith will celebrate summer Commencement from UC's College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. Photo/Colleen Kelly/UC Creative + Brand

Making most of time

Natalie Meredith, a criminal justice major in UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services, will celebrate graduation with family at Fifth Third Arena.

The key to her success at UC, she said, was getting involved in groups and activities. She served as an orientation coordinator, helping new students get acquainted with life on campus. Later, she trained others to do likewise as an orientation leader. 

“The most common question students had was, ‘How do you build a community here?’” she said.

Meredith’s answer? Get involved and try new things. UC has more than 250 student groups and each college offers unique opportunities.

She credits the professors and academic advisers at UC who helped her reach her academic goals.

Meredith plans to go to grad school to pursue a career in higher education, but she said she will always remember being a friendly face for new UC students.

“It was great to be the first person they see and make them feel welcome and supported here,” she said. “I always say I love UC because it’s a bigger campus where we have opportunities for students to get involved, but it has a small-campus feel.”

Students in face masks, caps and gowns take a selfie at the spring commencement.

UC will recognize 2,079 graduates at its summer Commencement. Facial coverings will be required for graduates and guests alike regardless of vaccination status, but one will be provided for those who need one. Photo/Andrew HIgley/UC Creative + Brand

Service first

UC College of Arts and Sciences graduate William Wright will celebrate commencement with his family watching at Fifth Third Arena. Before enrolling at UC, Wright served as a corpsman in the U.S. Navy where he was attached to a Marine Corps unit. He attended UC through the GI Bill, which provides college tuition for qualified veterans.

At UC, Wright studied geology in a department he said made him feel welcome immediately.

“I’ve always been extremely passionate about the outdoors. Geology allows me to work outside while giving me a chance to investigate really interesting science,” Wright said.

He plans to continue his geology education in graduate school at Texas A&M University.

William Wright hikes in a ballcap and backpack with a creek behind him.

Geology major William Wright will celebrate Commencement from UC's College of Arts and Sciences during a celebration at Fifth Third Arena. Photo/Provided

The pandemic postponed field research for students and faculty alike.

“Geology is very much a hands-on science. So the transition was more challenging,” Wright said. “Still, the professors in our department did a fantastic job using technology to respond.”

Despite the pandemic, Wright was able to collaborate on research with UC geologist Joshua Miller, which he hopes to get published later this year.

“If you have an enthusiasm for geology, there are lots of research opportunities for undergraduates,” Wright said.

He took part in a pre-pandemic trip with UC Geology to Niagara Falls. Meanwhile, southwest Ohio is world-renowned for its Ordovician Period fossils that tell the story of the great inland sea that covered the Midwest more than 430 million years ago.

“People who are not familiar with the richness of fossils in Cincinnati are completely amazed by what they find here. You can’t pick up a rock without finding marine fossils,” he said. “Cincinnati is a gold mine for paleontology and geology.”

Wright said his nontraditional path to UC required perseverance, hard work and encouragement from his professors.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity that UC and the Geology Department afforded me,” he said.

Featured image at top: UC President Neville G. Pinto spoke during the Spring 2021 commencement inside Nippert Stadium. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

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