• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

A record 7,231 students graduate in three days of ceremonies

By Michael Miller

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati celebrated a record-setting commencement with four ceremonies honoring the largest graduating class in its 204-year history.

UC paid tribute to undergraduates in three ceremonies Friday and Saturday at Fifth Third Arena. On Thursday, UC kicked off commencement with its doctoral hooding and master’s recognition ceremony.

In his commencement address, UC President Neville Pinto spoke about the high-tech world UC graduates will be influencing.“Introduced to the world in November, it took ChatGPT just two months to reach 100 million users,” Pinto said. “By January it was the fastest growing consumer application in human history.”

UC President Neville Pinto delivers the commencement address during UC’s undergraduate ceremonies at Fifth Third Arena. In his speech, he implored students: “Be awesome. Be human. Be you.” Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

“Even in a world where bots can replace humans in key tasks, you have much to offer. In fact, your value has never been higher,” Pinto said.

“My challenge to you is to move forward from today — now fully equipped with the knowledge and experiences you’ve attained at UC. Move forward with a newfound resolve to take the next hill. Charge after your goals, but do not go alone,” Pinto said.

“Go with others. Learn from them. Experience your life and your relationships to the fullest. And perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to bring your distinctively human self.”

He concluded his speech by imploring students: “Be awesome. Be human. Be you.”

Pinto invited UC Vice President of Student Affairs Debra Merchant on stage.

President Neville Pinto recognizes UC Vice President of Student Affairs Debra Merchant, who is retiring after nearly 25 years at UC. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

“Debra has served UC for nearly 25 years,” Pinto said. “Among her many, many duties at the university, she has overseen our commencement ceremonies. In fact, her team shares that during her time here, she has supported the journey of more than 150,000 Bearcat graduates. How about that?”

UC graduate student speaker Dominique Tanner, a biomedical engineer in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, greeted her classmates: “Good afternoon, grad ‘Cats!”

“I remember when my journey first began. I recall seeing my little sister, Myles, having seizures,” Tanner said. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do — to learn about epilepsy and improve her quality of life.”

Tanner urged her classmates to take risks even in the face of possible failure. “Don’t settle for less. Don’t become accustomed to what is good enough when that can always be better,” she said.

A graduate accepts congratulations on stage at Fifth Third years at UC. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand Arena

About the class of 2023

UC awardees 526 associate degrees, 4,729 bachelor’s degrees, 1,543 master’s degrees, 264 doctoral degrees and 297 professional certificates. About 46% of degrees are in science, technology, engineering, math or medicine. Graduates hail from 81 countries on six continents, all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The youngest grad is 17 and the oldest is 65, both earning associate degrees. Nearly 3% of graduates are veterans or dependents of veterans. And 219 students graduated from Cincinnati Public Schools.

Students celebrate after being acknowledged on stage at Fifth Third Arena. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

A time to remember

Graduates in the class of 2023 persevered through a global pandemic, celebrated Bearcat victories and saw UC’s footprint expand in both new programs and new facilities. UC created a new College of Cooperative Education and Professional Studies. It builds on the model that Dean Herman Schneider pioneered in 1906 in which students spend part of the year in the classroom and part of the year working full time at employers in their chosen fields.

UC was named the nation’s top public university for co-op by U.S. News & World Report in its latest 2022-23 rankings.

UC opened its new Digital Futures building in 2022 as a collaborative research hub for science and industry. Calhoun Hall reopened this year after an $80 million renovation. And UC unveiled a new Esports Innovation Lab in the 1819 Innovation Hub.

Students celebrate after being acknowledged on stage at Fifth Third Arena. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

UC also celebrates the first graduates in the new Early IT program, which allows students to complete the first year of their bachelor’s degrees while they’re in high school. Four students in the program graduate this month.

Both the UC Bearcat mascot and the UC cheerleading team defended their titles by winning second-consecutive national championships during the 2023 College Cheerleading and Dance National Championship at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex.

First to go to college

About 16% of this year’s graduates are the first in their family to go to college — students like Karrington Rainey, who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UC’s College of Arts and Sciences. In her first year, Rainey stayed in a UC residence hall dedicated to first-generation students where she said she quickly found a community.

“I became really close to other freshmen Gen-1 students. It’s been very beneficial to my success,” she said. “The Gen-1 program is designed for peers to help peers who can lean on each other. Also a big thing they teach is to ask for help sooner than later.”

UC College of Arts and Sciences graduate Karrington Rainey was the first in her family to go to college. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

Rainey is studying for the LSAT and plans to enroll in law school. She is also celebrating the publication in April of her first book, a memoir titled “Queen City” about her family and growing up in the early 2000s.

Rainey took part in UC’s Cincinnati Public Schools Ambassadors outreach program to high school students. She said she would recommend UC to any student, but especially those like herself who are the first in their families to pursue higher education.

“The selling point was UC’s unique Gen-1 program, which puts a lot of resources into helping first-generation college students succeed,” she said. “I would recommend UC for anyone looking for college. All of our programs have great connections.”