Class of 2024 shows determination in earning degrees

· 7 min read

Class of 2024 shows determination in earning degrees

Graduate Monzeratt Valentin smiles as she holds her diploma above her head.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Monzeratt Valentin of Omaha shows off her diplomas to family and friends during the undergraduate commencement ceremony May 18 at Memorial Stadium. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the College of Arts and Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the College of Business.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln conferred 3,567 degrees during commencement exercises May 3, 17 and 18.

Full list of graduates | Featured grads | Photos | Program

The 3,484 graduates are from 64 countries; 46 U.S. states and Puerto Rico; and about 230 Nebraska communities.

Chancellor Rodney D. Bennett noted that many of the graduates started at the university during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and were initially unable to participate in many of the traditions and activities that previous Huskers enjoyed.

UNL Graduation Cinematic Recap | May 2024
Video: May 2024 commencement cinematic recap

“Nevertheless, you persisted, earned your degrees and now possess the tools to contribute to communities across Nebraska and beyond,” he said. “Congratulations are always in order each commencement day, but today is notable because of your exceptional determination to persevere through extraordinary obstacles.”

Among the graduates was Anastasia Spruce, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science with a specialization in biology from the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

The Orlando, Florida, native wants to help people, and that’s what she’ll do by analyzing blood and tissue samples to parse DNA and other evidence from crime scenes as a forensic biologist.

By June 1, she’ll be back in her hometown, where she’ll begin her career as a crime lab technician for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In a year, she plans to begin work on a master’s degree in DNA analysis and serology with the goal of eventually working for the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.

A brown guide dog wears a mortar board and bowtie.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Carson, the guide dog for Julia Rucker, sits on the Memorial Stadium field sporting his own mortar board and bowtie.

Spruce has always felt a connection to Nebraska. Though she’d lived in Orlando her whole life, her dad, a Husker alumnus, talked about the university often, and brought Anastasia to a football game in 2016.

“We did the athletics tour, and visited a couple of places on campus, and I was just like, ‘I want to come here,’” she said. “I immediately fell in love with the campus and atmosphere. It was different from home — in a good way.

“It just happened to be that UNL had the exact program that I wanted down to the T. I searched other schools, and UNL had exactly what I needed.”

Spruce feels fully ready to launch her career, thanks to the excellent education she received in the classroom and labs, and through internships.

“When I was doing my internship in Orange County, it was a feeling of ‘wow, I’m watching them do all of these things, and I know how it’s done and why,’” she said. “I really appreciate the hands-on aspect of this program.” Read more.

Aaron Nix and Caroline Gidlow | University Communication and Marketing
Video: To the Class of 2024

Also graduating May 18 was Ananya Amarnath, who earned a Bachelor of Music in Education from the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

Amarnath, of Elkhorn, said her academic career included many challenges, but when things got difficult, she remembered she had the opportunity to study two of her passions.

“Everybody has an origin story, why you love music, why you love teaching,” she said. “Taking a second to reconnect with that and not lose that idea is really important.”

Amarnath’s introduction to music education came at age 5, when she started learning Indian classical music. As a small child, she also took lessons in Indian classical dance. Her younger sister participated in the lessons, and Amarnath realized then that she loved helping her sister learn.

The elder Amarnath started in group singing lessons, and in middle school, she started playing the flute, which continued through her years at Elkhorn South High School. She just completed her student teaching at Papillion-La Vista South High School, where she had the opportunity to learn from two instructors.

Six male graduates pose for photographs outside of Memorial Stadium.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Mechanical engineering graduates pose for a group photo outside Memorial Stadium after commencement.

“The two of them have two very different approaches to teaching, so I’ve been trying to figure out, seeing both, what I want my approach to be,” Amarnath said. “I just love watching them teach, and they have such good relationships with their students.”

Outside the classroom, her music education major required Amarnath to learn the basics of playing several instruments, and her favorite additions were saxophone and oboe. She also participated in multiple university choirs, including University Chorale, University Singers, Chamber Singers and i2 Choir.

Now that she’s fought through the challenges and has received her diploma, Amarnath wants students to remember they will face adversity, but it doesn’t mean they won’t succeed. If she could speak to her past self as she was entering college, she would say it’s OK to “fall on your face, because everyone does.”

“At this point, I’m more sure of who I am and I don’t think that would have happened if I had not done all the things I have done at UNL,” she said. Read more.

Four graduates — three young women and a young man — move the tassels on their caps at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
(From left) Kimberly Osborn, Kaylee Pekarek, Lisa Peterson and Scott Peterson move their tassels at the conclusion of the graduate and professional degree ceremony May 17 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Also graduating in May:

  • Hassan Ramzah, Doctor of Philosophy, assistant vice chancellor and chief of the University Police Department, who wrote his dissertation on community policing;
  • Grant Jones, Juris Doctor, who will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force on May 19 and join the Judge Advocate Generals’ Corp;
  • Sreemedha Chintamadaka, Bachelor of Science in Design with distinction, who will attend grad school at Nebraska for a dual master’s program in architecture and community and regional planning;
  • Karlie Gerlach, Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication with highest distinction, who found a close-knit community and took advantage of many opportunities in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources;
  • Jenna Rogers, Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences, a Husker high jumper who created the Everybody Plays Mini Camp to connect student-athletes and people with disabilities;
  • Mariano Azurduy Castellanos, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, who is turning opportunities in the College of Business into a career on Wall Street;
  • Sarah Hindman, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, who received her diploma on her 22nd birthday;

The May graduating class earned 150 new Juris Doctor degrees, 539 other new graduate and professional degrees and 2,878 new baccalaureate degrees. The university has awarded 321,608 degrees since it was founded in 1869.

Sone Tuala performs a haka, a ceremonial Māori dance, to honor his brother Maika Malualelagi Tuala, a doctoral graduate, outside of Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Craig Chandler | University Communication and Marketing
Sone Tuala performs a haka, a ceremonial Māori dance, to honor his brother Maika Malualelagi Tuala (right), who received his doctoral degree in sociology. The graduate had a large cheering section of family and friends.

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