Ohio State graduates say “Goodbye, Columbus”
Engineers, accountants, athletes, social workers and scientists will be among 9,699 – the largest spring quarter graduating class ever – who will earn degrees during commencement exercises on Sunday (6/12) in Ohio Stadium. The ceremony celebrates the academic achievements and hard work students have put forth to earn their degrees. Each graduate will receive their own diploma at the ceremony, a practice rarely attempted by a university the size of Ohio State.
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Representative John A. Boehner from Ohio's 8th Congressional District, will deliver the commencement address. Some graduates will continue their education, and others will use their education and experience to enter the workforce.
Outstanding graduates who are using their degrees to take them anywhere: They include:
Gary Bearden, from Marysville, speaks several languages and will earn three separate B.A. degrees: International Studies, French and Russian, along with a minor in economics. Bearden lived in Mexico from age 5 to 9, and credits that experience with his interest in international issues. Following graduation, Bearden will begin a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Kaliningrad (a small piece of land between Poland and Lithuania that actually is part of Russia), teaching at Baltic Federal University, and also working on his own research project, which is looking at whether the people of Kaliningrad think of themselves more as Russians or Europeans, and the potential for an independence movement. After his yearlong Fulbright, Bearden plans to attend Georgetown University to study international law and global security.
As a student, Bearden improved his Russian language ability as part of the Ohio State Russian Intensive Summer Language Program. Among his many internships, Bearden worked in the office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, as Spanish media translator (he is fluent in Spanish) with Mondokio International News, and at the Ohio Department of Homeland Security.
He also worked several on-campus jobs and has been active with Ohio State’s Humanities Scholars group.
Kyle Bruggeman, from Centerville, will graduate with a B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering and go to work at Eaton Corporation.
He says Ohio State made a big impact on him, helping him to discover a career path that he is passionate about, and developing as a leader and professional.
In addition to internships at Nestle and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Bruggeman spent much of his time involved with student organizations. He was a member of Ohio Staters, an organization where members serve to improve the university, worked two years as a resident advisor in university residence halls, and is involved in several honor societies.
Emily Chappie, from Troy, is finishing her degree in three years and leaves town the day after graduation for a job with Union Pacific in Omaha, NE. Chappie, majoring in agribusiness and applied economics and minoring in consumer sciences, is one of the top 10 seniors in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Economics.
A strong advocate for supporting the military and education, Chappie hopes to eventually become a motivational speaker and also build libraries around the world.
During her college career, Chappie served three internships and also was very active in service and leadership organizations.
Some of her most memorable experiences as a student include teaching fitness classes to the ROTC and for Recreational Sports, studying abroad in the Czech Republic and also traveling in the U.S. as an agricultural ambassador, giving campus tours, and representing the university in national competitions for marketing students and in fitness. She served as president of several student organizations and was also a part of the university Homecoming Court.
Ryan Connolly will graduate with a B.S. in Architecture magna cum laude with Honors and Research Distinction. The Sylvania native will continue his architecture education at Yale.
Connolly says at Ohio State, he was fortunate to be part of many small communities – in the studio or library – but also to be part of the larger student body, in the stadium or in Mirror Lake.
He has participated in many student organizations and traveled the world. As president of SERVitecture, a community service organization for architecture students, he went on seven Habitat for Humanity alternative break trips, including six as a leader to locations as diverse as Chicago, New York City, Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA.
In addition, he participated in study abroad programs and conducted independent research in Ireland, England, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Hungary. He also has had work exhibited the world over, in Chicago, Boston, New York City, Cleveland, Columbus, Athens, Greece, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai, UAE.
Jennifer Caceres of Miami, FL, hopes to help others improve their health and will graduate with a B.S. in Dietetics and B.A. in Psychology. She will begin working on a masters degree at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Texas Women’s University in Houston, TX.
In addition to working throughout college, Caceres says her college career has produced many meaningful experiences: she established a family through involvement with Alpha Psi Lambda (a co-ed Latino fraternity), formed lifelong friendships with 23 other students inducted into Sphinx (the senior class honorary), and understood what it was to help those who truly have nothing in life by volunteering at Americorps at the YWCA.
Chigo Ekeke, from Atlanta, GA, will earn a B.S. in Biochemistry with Research Distinction and plans to start medical school at Ohio State in the fall.
Ekeke, whose parents emigrated from Nigeria, says his most meaningful college experience was witnessing an open heart surgery operation at the Ross Heart Hospital, which finalized his decision to pursue a career in medicine.
In addition to a challenging major, Ekeke has been involved with research in the Department of Biochemistry since his freshman year, and worked as a teaching assistant in autumn quarter 2010. He also is a founding member of Band of Brothers, a student-based extension of the Todd A. Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male and all that it stands for.
Ekeke says he came to Ohio State not only because of the university’s rich tradition and superb biochemistry program, but because of his father’s premonition – when Chigo was born, his father knew he would attend Ohio State because his favorite professor during his collegiate career was an Ohio State alum.
Dustin Gable, a first-generation college student from Miller City, will earn a B.S. in Biomedical Science with research distinction and enter the MD/PhD program at Johns Hopkins University.
Gable received an undergraduate research fellowship from the Pelotonia Foundation, aimed at “training our most promising students who will help cure cancer.” For the past four years, Gable has conducted research on skin cancer.
Growing up on a dairy farm in rural northwest Ohio, Gable says he always though he and his brothers would take over the family farm. He was not planning to go to college until his high school algebra teacher inspired him to do "do big things."
Gable says his volunteer work at the Ronald McDonald House Charities and participation in the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Pediatric Oncology Education Program inspired him to pursue a career to aid children battling terminal illnesses, specifically cancer.
Among his many honors, Gable was named a 2010 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar – the most prestigious national award for undergraduate researchers in science, math and engineering. He also was an Ohio State Land Grant Opportunity Scholar. He has published several research papers and participated in national conferences.
Porsche Lumpkins, from Indianapolis, is the first in her family to earn a college degree. Majoring in psychology and minoring in education, Lumpkins’ next move will be to St. Louis, as a kindergarten teacher for Teach for America. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in education during her Teach for America work, and eventually earn a Ph.D and become a superintendent for a low-income public school system.
Lumpkins says most of her learning occurred outside the classroom.
She has been very involved in campus service and leadership activities and is an Ohio State University Outstanding Senior Award recipient.
She is president of her sorority, led several student service projects to help others in New Orleans, Los Angeles and Santa Monica, and founded an after-school tutoring program called J.E.W.E.L.S Academy.
She was a member of the 2010 Homecoming Court, and in 2009 was named African American Homecoming Queen and Miss Black Gahanna.
Michael Mbagwu will graduate with a B.S. in Biomedical Science and enter the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in August. A graduate of Springfield South High School, Mbagwu says he feels fortunate since not many people from the school have had the opportunity to attend, much less graduate, from college.
In addition to classes, Mbagwu has participated in prestigious summer research programs at Stanford and Harvard universities. He has also worked as an HIV test counselor at Ohio State, and been part of student government.
Mbagwu says Ohio State has helped him meet lifelong friends and also learn that – as a Buckeye – he has become part of something larger than himself.
Brett McFarland, from Houston TX, will earn a BSBA degree in finance and go to work as a financial analyst at Precision Castparts. He hopes to eventually earn his MBA and later, give back and teach minorities about investing and saving, especially those entering college or the workforce.
In addition to working and his classwork, McFarland has been active in student organizations including student government and University Housing Black Student Association. He also has been a part of Band of Brothers, a student-based extension of the Todd A. Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male, and Team Smith, a group of scholars mentored by Ohio State Athletics director Gene Smith. He is one of just 20 Ohio State Senior of the Year Awards.
Tara Milliken, from West Alexandria, will graduate with a B.A. in English and a B.S. in Agricultural and Extension Education. She plans to pursue a career in higher education and student affairs, and hopes eventually to work at a university admissions office.
A first-generation college student, Milliken says she never considered Ohio State until her senior year in high school; a decision she says led to many opportunities, a wonderful college career and a plan to work in higher education.
She has held two on-campus jobs: one giving campus tours to prospective students and another as a student administrative assistant.
In addition, she served as president of the Mabel G. Freeman Chapter of Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society, and for two years co-chaired a campus agricultural outreach effort for elementary school students.
Stephanie Neal, from Jackson Township in Stark County, recently made news for leading a livestock handling training session for several area police departments. Majoring in dairy science with a minor in life sciences, Neal placed first in the university’s Denman Undergraduate Research Forum and is a top 10 senior in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and a top 20 senior at the university level. She will attend graduate school at Virginia Tech studying animal sciences, calf nutrition and immunology.
Growing up in a suburban setting, Neal fell in love with 4-H and raising livestock at age 11 after visiting the Wayne County Fair. She convinced her parents to lend her money to purchase a sheep and likewise convinced a neighbor to let her build a fence and barn for it. She raised sheep, then dairy bulls, then Angus cattle; earning enough cash over seven years to pay for her first year at Ohio State.
During her four years at Ohio State, Neal became interested in dairy cattle and the dairy industry and competed nationally on two college teams. She conducted research in dairy science and led several student organizations.
Jason Pradarelli will graduate with honors and with distinction with a B.S. in Biomedical Science and a minor in Spanish. Pradarelli, a native of Muskego, WI, will attend medical school next year at the University of Michigan (which he says is hard to say out loud since he is a Buckeye forever).
As a student, he worked in the Department of Neurosurgery doing brain cancer research, including working on a project to test a drug treatment as therapy for brain cancer. In addition, he has taken pre-med coursework and observed surgeries at the OSU Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s hospital.
Pradarelli also has enjoyed his college experiences, including dorm life, athletics events with friends, intramural sports and discovering Columbus. He has been active in student organizations, serving as president of the ONE Campaign, which fights poverty and preventable diseases.
Surili Sheth, majoring in economics and political science and minoring in math, will spend the next two years as a research associate with the MIT Poverty Action Lab in India. She credits Ohio State with providing opportunities to study, research and volunteer in India that have been life-changing.
She has conducted considerable research on poverty and violence in India and also traveled there to teach English and provide community service. As a child, Sheth frequently visited India to see her grandparents.
A member of the Honors Collegium, she interviewed as a finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
Sheth, whose first name means sweet voice, grew up around Indian music and Indian Classical dances, learning and performing dances from the age of 4 to when she graduated high school. Although she speaks Hindi and Gujarati, she says when she returns to the villages and slums of India, she often that music and dance have are her greatest forms of communication, filling in gaps that words cannot.
A native of Athens, GA., Sheth’s family moved to Dayton when she graduated from high school.
Yuhao Sun, from Changsha, Hunan Province, China, does not plan to end his education with the B.S. in chemical engineering degree he is earning. He hopes to eventually achieve a Ph.D. degree.
Sun’s parents, both university professors in China, will fly to Columbus to attend his graduation. It will be their first time in the U.S.
During his four years at Ohio State, Sun took advantage of many opportunities. He participated in undergraduate research and also worked in two university jobs to help incoming international students, as both a host and orientation leader. As part of that work, he produced a video to introduce international students to Buckeye traditions. An enthusiastic and optimistic student, Sun’s motto is “If you want the rainbow, you must first embrace the rain.”
Omar Turay will graduate with a B.S. in agriculture, having majored in agricultural business & applied economics. He will go to work for Cargill, Inc. in Arkansas.
Turay says he has a strong passion for giving back to the community and helping others achieve their goals and aspirations in life.
Outside the classroom, the Chicago native has been heavily involved his fraternity Omega Psi Phi, including two years as president. He also has been involved in the Multi-cultural students in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences. In addition, Turay has chaired numerous events including the Ohio State Step Show hosted by the national pan Hellenic council and Ohio Union Activities Board.
He was a part of the athletic band as a tenor saxophone player and studied abroad in the Dominican Republic.
Mike Vandewalle, from Worthington, will graduate with a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering and will go to work at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX., where he spent four rotations in a co-op program.
Vandewalle alternated work and school, including four rotations in the co-op program at NASA. During those experiences, he designed an electrical system that successfully supported shuttle missions since March 2009 (including the first high definition video downlink from the shuttle), and a software program which allows flight controllers to determine the latitude and longitude of the center point of four International Space Station cameras on-orbit. Both projects earned him Special Achievement Awards from NASA.
DeWayne Williams, from Twinsburg, has published research and plans to go to graduate school. Williams, majoring in psychology, is the first male in his family to attend college. He has worked two jobs – including as a as a research assistant in the university’s Emotions and Quantitative Psychophysiology lab, where he has conducted research. He also has participated in several undergraduate research conferences, including the 2011 National Conference in Undergraduate research.
Originally from England, Williams began his Ohio State education at the university’s Newark campus. He is a member of several honorary and research organizations and also Team Smith: a group of scholars mentored by Ohio State Athletics director Gene Smith. He is also active in the Todd A. Bell National Resource Center and Band of Brothers.
Following graduation, Williams plans to continue working off campus and as a research assistant, prepare to apply to graduate school, and write a paper on his research for publication.
Mary-Margaret Williamson, from Akron, enjoys solving problems and learning languages. Williams, majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering and minoring in Russian language, will be moving to California to work for General Mills as a quality and regulations engineer.
While putting much time into studying, Williamson also has enjoyed being immersed in Buckeye culture, and exploring areas of Columbus beyond. She and her friends have created college bucket lists to try and fit it all in.
Williamson has been heavily involved with the Society of Women Engineers and mentoring younger female engineering students. She says without the support the organization provides female engineers, it would have been more difficult to survive in the male-dominated field of engineering.
In addition, she also has worked several jobs and volunteers in engineering outreach events.
Brandon Woodard, from Cincinnati, is a track star and plans to become a minister. Woodard, majoring in exercise science, originally planned to become a doctor, and has taken the MCAT and applied to medical schools before changing direction and deciding to become a pastor.
A four-time scholar-athlete, Woodard was captain of the men’s track and field team and is also a student assistant coach for the team. He is a three-time Big Ten champion in the 4x400 relay; the team holds the third fastest time in Ohio State history. He also holds the third fastest 600 meter time in university history.
Woodard is the recipient of the Corwin A. Fergus scholarship, one of the highest awards that a student athlete can win. He credits much of his success to support from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Todd Bell National Resource Center.
Woodard volunteered as a mentor and tutor in Columbus City Schools and helped lead Athletes in Action. He also worked as a student intern at the Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center and volunteered at the Xenos Free Clinic.