UC Celebrates August Graduating Class

Maria Nakafeero embarked on a Master’s of Public Health degree after watching four of her siblings die from preventable health conditions in her native Uganda.  

Jason Horsley had spent 18 years as a roofer and construction worker, suffering two heat strokes and a fall from a roof that broke his back, when he decided to pursue two associate degrees in computer systems support and networks systems

Ebonee Rice and her nine children lived in an SUV for a month as she struggled to finish up her associate’s degree in nursing in Georgia. She persevered and went on to complete a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing online.  

These are a few of the stories of the more than 2,100 graduates earning degrees at the University of Cincinnati’s summer Commencement held Saturday at the Fifth Third Arena.  

UC President Santa J. Ono congratulated graduates on their resolve to “do more and be more” and encouraged them to continue to author their own life stories.  

“Each of you—thousands of you—have a story all your own, and I want you to know that the University of Cincinnati is proud of you and what you have accomplished by reaching this day,” he said.  

“Wherever you go from this point forward, I hope that you will always be proud of the fact that you came to the University of Cincinnati reaching higher, and today you are on your way to even more.”

UC bestowed one of its highest honors, the President’s Award for Excellence, to

Kristi Nelson

, who retired this year as the university's 15-year senior vice provost for Academic Affairs.  

Nelson, who was named a professor emeritus of art history, came to UC in 1979 and has served in various roles as professor, interim dean of McMicken College of Arts & Sciences and vice provost of faculty relations, among other positions.    


Grad caps


The August 2015 graduating class of 2,117 students hails from 48 states and 40 countries.  Nearly half of the graduates earned master’s degrees, and 163 students, doctorate degrees.

More than 55 percent of student received degrees in the science, technology, engineering, math or medical fields, with 11 students earning dual degrees.  

Women comprise nearly 60 percent of the class.  The average age for undergraduate students is 28 and graduate students, 30, with the youngest overall graduating student 18 and the oldest, 69.  


Students were asked to share their graduation stories with the university. Here are excerpts from what some of the graduates had to say about their experiences:

“Over the years, life got in the way... so it took me until today to earn my associate degree in criminal justice. My children are now adults and I have risen to the rank of major within my (police) department, but I was stuck without a degree. UC Clermont helped me fulfill my dream of being a college graduate and has inspired me to continue my education. I hope to earn my bachelor’s degree in Applied Science in the next two years so I can realize my other dream, being a police chief before I retire. Without UC's help I would still be wishing for a degree.”

James Poynter, UC Clermont College

“I am the mother of nine children and was a stay-at-home mom for 25 years. I had a dream of becoming a nurse and decided to go to nursing school in my 40s. I am now an RN and am completing my bachelor’s science degree in nursing!”

Kimberly Craft, College of Nursing

“Completion, accomplishment and confidence is what I gained from the University of Cincinnati -- not just a bachelor’s degree.  I did not know if I would complete the program; I told myself to take it one day, one semester at a time. I had a long road to tow along with many responsibilities: a wife, seven kids and part-time employment. It is now the summer of 2015 at the University of Cincinnati and I am a graduate and alumni and a Bearcat for life.”

Aaron Jones, College of Allied Health Sciences

“I came to UC from Northern Virginia, knowing no one. By joining a sorority, Chi Omega, and becoming involved through my major, I made my own wealth of friends I can consider my family. The loyalty of my friends became immensely important to me with the passing of my father fall semester, my senior year…I am disheartened that my father will not be able to witness my college graduation, but I know that he would be very proud of all of my accomplishments.”

Amanda Sachs, College of Allied Health Services


uc grad

“Over the years I worked hard to overcome personal challenges, such as feelings of inadequacy and lack of confidence. I have often thought that I was ‘pushing it’ to think that I could actually receive a master’s degree to become a family nurse practitioner. I made it with a lot of prayer and support from my husband, family, classmates and professors.”

Alisha Hopkins, College of Nursing

“It has always been a dream of mine to be a UC Bearcat, and a bucket list item to graduate with a degree. It was not easy going to school parttime while working a demanding full-time job, but with the help of family, I did it! Going to UC was a worthwhile experience that I will always treasure!”

Juanita Lovins-Hottle, UC Blue Ash College

“The online Masters in Communication Sciences and Disorders program allowed me to reach my dreams of being an SLP and most importantly a mother. Because of this program I was able to go to school while navigating the foster to adopt process to become first time parents of our then 4.5-year-old little girl. I would not have been able to manage home visits, doctor’s appointments and had the time I needed to bond with our daughter were it not for this program and the ability to be a midnight scholar.”

Meredith Dunham, College of Allied Health Services


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