UC's record graduating class prepares for next chapter

UC will recognize the biggest spring graduating class in its 205-year history

The University of Cincinnati caters to students such as Quincy Allfree who — like the poet Walt Whitman said — contain multitudes.

The Carl H. Lindner College of Business student completed a co-op in Kentucky, earned a certificate in Spanish business and joined a mentoring fellowship all while pursuing a double major in marketing and business information systems.

He will have a large cheering section of family when he walks across the stage at Fifth Third Arena for the largest spring commencement in the 205-year history of the university based on preliminary numbers.

With four ceremonies spread across three days, UC’s spring commencement kicks off at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 25, with the doctoral hooding and master’s recognition ceremony. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are required for all guests. The arena only allows clear plastic bags.

UC’s undergraduate commencement will consist of two ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday, April 26, and 10 a.m. Saturday, April 27. The ceremonies will be streamed live.

University of Cincinnati celebrates its Fall 2023 Commencement Ceremony.

UC President Neville Pinto will address a record number of graduates at spring commencement. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

Pursuing your passions

Allfree enjoys art and drawing, but he also wanted to learn more about how to reach a bigger audience. So he double-majored in marketing and business information systems in the Lindner College of Business.

And he wanted to learn more about photography and videography, so he minored in media production in UC’s College-Conservatory of Music.

Because he likes to travel, he wanted to brush up on his language skills, so he got a certificate in business Spanish from UC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Allfree is in UC’s Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program, where he became fast friends with his first-year roommate. The program is designed to give first-generation and underrepresented college students a community of support to help them succeed.

Allfree said being a Turner scholar made the transition to college much easier.

“I think it worked for me because I come from a small high school in Cincinnati,” he said. “I didn’t know many people at UC, so it allowed me to have a built–in community.”

Marianne Lewis, Dean of University of Cincinnati College of Business enjoyed their Toast 2023 ceremony Thursday April 13, 2023 at The Graduate Hotel. Photo by Joseph Fuqua II

Quincy Allfree, pictured center, belonged to UC Business Fellows, a professional mentorship group in UC's Carl H. Lindner College of Business. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II

Allfree joined UC Business Fellows, a mentorship program for future business leaders.

Some of his favorite experiences were trips abroad to Canada and Colombia. He traveled to Toronto in his first year at Lindner. And during spring break he went to Colombia for a study-abroad program, where he put his Spanish skills to the test.

He has a large contingent of family coming to commencement. And he’s looking forward to UC’s Afrocentric graduation celebration called Tyehimba. 

Allfree said apart from imparting new skills and knowledge, UC demonstrated the importance of kindness.

“You never know what people are going through,” he said. “Be a friend to people, even if it’s not someone you see yourself fraternizing with.”

About the spring class of 2024

UC will confer 7,521 degrees to 7,391 students. (Some students are earning multiple degrees.) Both represent new records dating back two centuries at UC for a single graduating class.

UC will award 539 associate degrees, 4,549 baccalaureate degrees, 252 doctoral degrees, 1,886 master’s degrees, 3 micro-credentials and 292 professional certificates.

This year 15% of graduates are first-generation college students. And 210 students come from Cincinnati Public Schools. Nearly 3% of grads are U.S. veterans or dependents of veterans.

New this year, three students will graduate from UC’s micro-credentialing program as electronic health records specialists. UC also will celebrate its first spring graduating class in the new master’s of legal studies program.

UC has seen a dramatic increase in master’s graduates in information technology and baccalaureate graduates in cybersecurity in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. Meanwhile, the College of Engineering and Applied Science has seen a surge in graduates in its computer science and biomedical engineering programs, reflecting a growing interest in these fields.

The spring class of 2024 has the largest-ever percentage of master’s and doctoral graduates, representing more than 28% of graduates. And nearly 15% of grads participated through distance learning programs.

Graduates hail from 84 of Ohio’s 88 counties, a new record. They come from all 50 states and 81 countries as far away as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Philippines and Japan.

Women represent 56% of the spring class of 2024. And 57 grads will celebrate their birthday during the three days of commencement.

New Zealand native Tim Brown is the co-founder of Allbirds,  the buzzworthy shoe startup with a .4 billion valuation. He's also a UC alumnus â   he studied design at DAAP while playing soccer for the Bearcats.
New Zealand native Tim Brown is the co-founder of Allbirds,  the buzzworthy shoe startup with a .4 billion valuation. He's also a UC alumnus   he studied design at DAAP while playing soccer for the Bearcats.

UC College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning graduate Tim Brown will receive an honorary degree during UC's spring commencement at Fifth Third Arena. Photo/Lisa Ventre/UC

Spirit of entrepreneurship

The Board of Trustees will award an honorary degree to UC graduate and international entrepreneur Timothy Brown, co-founder and chief innovation officer for the sustainable shoe and clothing company Allbirds.

Brown, a native of Wellington, New Zealand, is a 2005 graduate of UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, where he majored in graphic design and worked in UC’s top-rated co-op program.

Tim Brown plays soccer in a UC jersey.

Tim Brown was a standout soccer player at UC. Photo/UC Athletics

At UC, he was a standout soccer player who turned professional, playing for the Richmond Kickers in Virginia, the Newcastle Jets in Australia and the Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand.

He used his experience as a professional athlete and a designer to make what Time magazine called “the world’s most comfortable shoe.” Allbirds uses natural and sustainable fibers like wool.

“I consider my design education such a valuable thing for what I’m now doing as an entrepreneur,” Brown said in a 2016 interview.

Brown returned to campus in 2019 to accept UC Athletics’ Outstanding Alumni Award. While there, he addressed students at his alma mater, telling them not to listen to naysayers about what is and is not possible. He was warned how difficult a task it would be to succeed in Division 1 soccer while taking on a demanding program like graphic design. 

“I had to fight through the warnings and prove people wrong,” he told students. 

Neil Armstrong sits in the bleachers folding a paper airplane.

UC College of Engineering and Applied Science Professor Neil Armstrong folds a paper airplane with his aerospace engineering students during a lesson on flight characteristics. Armstrong taught at UC after serving as a test pilot and being the first person to set foot on the moon. Photo/UC Marketing + Brand

Following a legend

UC graduate Chin Hua “Odin” Ou is following in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon. Armstrong came to UC to teach aerospace engineering after leaving NASA. Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was an engineer and test pilot who worked to improve the aerodynamics of aircraft.

Odin Ou poses with a fighter plane flying above him.

UC College of Engineering and Applied Science graduate Odin Ou wants to design aircraft. Photo/Provided

Like Armstrong, Ou wants to help design better airplanes. He will accept a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Among his UC highlights was publishing a paper on unmanned aerial vehicle design at a conference and competing in an international competition in Fort Worth, Texas, as a member of the UC AeroCats. They finished an impressive fourth overall in the 2023 competition.

Ou said the trip to Texas was epic.

“We built two types of UAV. To transfer them to Texas, we rented a truck and van to drive down from Cincinnati,” he said. “It’s the biggest road trip I’ve taken.”

They celebrated their good finish at a barbecue restaurant.

“I would definitely recommend the aerospace engineering program at UC. It’s a great place to study,” he said. “The environment here is very friendly. And there are a lot of resources to use.”

Ou is an international student from Taiwan. During his time at UC, he traveled to Montana, Washington and Florida. And he went to Detroit to visit his younger brother who is studying transportation design there.

Their father is a retired electrical engineer. He is excited to see his parents at commencement. Afterward, he will return to Taiwan to complete his mandatory military service. And then he hopes to work for an aviation company.

“After all these years of studying, it’s a big end to me — and a new chapter,” he said.

A portrait of the Hellmann family.

UC graduates Jaina and Benton Hellmann, pictured with their family, will graduate together this spring. Photo/Provided

No sibling rivalry

Siblings Jaina and Benton Hellmann are graduating together this year.

Jaina is an Honors Program student who conducted research at a pediatric hospital while studying chemistry in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“Our project focuses on how your body develops an immune ‘memory’ against antigens that have invaded you before,” she said. “I never dreamed of doing biomedical research. I’ve seen myself grow as a researcher and team member at UC.”

Jaina and Benton Hellmann pose together in UC spirit wear at a football game.

Siblings Jaina and Benton Hellmann are graduating together this spring. Photo/Provided

Now she plans to pursue a doctorate in environmental engineering in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

“She’s the brains of the family,” her brother, Benton, joked.

Benton has a job offer in cybersecurity after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Information Technology in UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services.

“I took some computer classes in high school and that kicked things off with me. I wanted to have a secure future so information technology was a safe bet,” he said.

Benton said he especially liked living on campus.

“It was easy to get to a game and be a part of campus life. And it was convenient to get help from classmates,” he said. 

Jaina said she tried to balance academics with research and her social life. She took part in RallyCats, a student spirit organization that provides a cheering section for a range of student sports. Their motto: They play the games; we make the noise!

“There are so many fun memories, like when we beat Houston to make the College Football Playoff and stormed the field. Being a part of that is something I’ll never forget,” she said.

She wants to pursue a career in water-quality monitoring.

“UC has been a really good place for me to discover who I am as a person in and out of the classroom,” she said.

University of Cincinnati celebrates its Fall 2023 Commencement Ceremony.

UC will celebrate spring commencement over three days at Fifth Third Arena. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

Pushing frontiers of medicine

Darl Jacob is earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, where he conducted research in immunology.

“We were working on therapeutic interventions for people who are diagnosed with immune deficiencies,” he said.

He has been interested in chemistry since high school. The field of immunology is seeing dramatic advancements in treatments of diseases like cancer, he said.

“It’s been interesting to see how you can modify the body’s immune cells,” he said.

Jacob was born in India but grew up in the United Arab Emirates. His family will come from two continents to attend his commencement. Meanwhile, his brother is in Europe, working on a graduate internship in electrical engineering in the United Kingdom.

“My mom and dad are coming from the UAE and my grandmother is coming from India,” he said.

His dad also works in chemistry as a biochemist.

“The good thing is my dad was able to give me a lot of insights about opportunities in chemistry, particularly if I wanted to go into research,” he said.

After graduation, Jacob will attend Brown University for graduate school.

“One of the biggest lessons I learned is that resilience is a good thing. And it’s really important to ask questions when you don’t know something,” he said. “That’s something I’ll take to grad school.”

Featured image at top: UC students will celebrate commencement over three days at Fifth Third Arena. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

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