Fulbright College Celebrates Spring 2019 Commencement and Student Accolades

by and | May 15, 2019 | Dean's Corner, Events, Student Awards & Achievements, Student Success

More than 4,500 students attended the 2019 Spring Commencement ceremonies on May 10-11 and May 18 and about a fourth of those new alumni are from our very own J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

The number of students attending Spring Commencement has grown by 67 percent since 2012, when the Fall Commencement ceremony was re-instated.

The largest number of students attending commencement were undergraduates – 3,557 planned to “walk” during the six undergraduate commencement ceremonies. Additionally, 844 graduate students planned to attend the All University Commencement, with another 109 there for the School of Law ceremony.

“This is a great day for our students, their families, the university and the state of Arkansas,” said Chancellor Joe Steinmetz. “Many of our graduates will start their careers after graduation right here in Arkansas, whichever state they are originally from. Some will start their own businesses here, now or in the future. Their talent, education and ability to work hard and well will enrich this state – and the communities where they work.”

“It’s good to remember that the graduating students who will ‘walk’ during these ceremonies come from all ‘walks’ of life. We have graduates whose parents and grandparents are U of A alumni; we have graduates who are the first in their family to attend college. Some were born and lived all their lives in Arkansas; others had never been near the state until they came to this campus,” he said.

“In fact, some earned their degrees without ever coming to campus – except online. Our students come from all economic levels, from every county in the state, from nearly every state in the country – and from many different countries, as well. They all worked very hard to earn their degrees, they all made sacrifices to succeed, they all had help and support from people who loved them, and we hope that they all found a home here at the University of Arkansas. And when they have received their degrees they will all have a permanent place on Senior Walk,” Steinmetz said.

The Fulbright College ceremony took place Friday May 10 in the Bud Walton Arena, with featured speaker Anna Frances, a senior majoring in communication and minoring in social work.

During the ceremony, three students and their families were also recognized posthumously, with a U of A honorary degree that recognizes the contributions of students who passed away while working toward their degree.

Taryn Claassen was seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in theatre. Receiving the diploma were her mother and stepfather, Sherri and Brad Fyar and her father and stepmother, Mark and Tammy Claassen.

Jacob Durkin – Kuehner was seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in theater. Receiving the diploma were his mother and stepfather, Angela and Tim Kuehner, along with his brothers and his fiancé Michaela Conway, a fall 2018 graduate of Fulbright College.

Jessamy Eve Samuels was an honors student seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in anthropology and a minor in art history. Receiving the diploma was her father Mark Samuels and her sister, Emily.

If you missed any of the ceremony, you can still watch the video online.

And while more than 1,070 students applied to graduate this spring from Fulbright College, only 47 of these new alumni did so after maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA and completing more than half of their coursework with the U of A.

This group was honored in early May, at the college’s annual spring Scholars Breakfast.

“This is such a meaningful annual tradition, because it allows us to recognize these amazing scholars as they complete their undergraduate studies and take their next steps – either academically or into their chosen career,” said Todd Shields, dean of Fulbright College. “These 2019 scholars make us so proud; we know they will go on to do extraordinary things!”

See the full list of honorees and read the full story.

Additionally, Spring 2019 Commencement marked another milestone for the college’s School of Art – the first graduating class with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design.

The first nine graphic design B.F.A. graduates have been described by faculty as a unit, collaborators and a new class of problem solvers. The B.F.A. program creates opportunities for students to further specialize in professional graphic design and offers an enhanced focus on human-centered and interaction design, typography, branding and design research.

“We are so proud of this first class of graduates from the new Bachelor of Fine Arts in the graphic design program,” said Tom Hapgood, associate professor and head of graphic design program. “Their hard work and dedication to the curriculum and faculty has set the standard for future graduates.”

Read more about the graduates here.

And, of course, spring at Fulbright College marks the exciting announcements of numerous significant student awards, fellowships and achievements.


And, of course, spring at Fulbright College marks the exciting announcements of numerous significant student awards, fellowships and achievements.

Here are a few recent accomplishments to celebrate:

Bryan Pollard has been selected to join the next class of John S. Knight Journalism Fellows at Stanford University. He is completing the graduate journalism program at the U of A School of Journalism and Strategic Media with an emphasis in documentary filmmaking. He is also the director of programs and strategic partnerships with the Native American Journalists Association.

Three U of A honors students – including Fulbright College’s Tyler Bishop of Fayetteville, a junior honors physics and astronomy major – have been named 2019 Goldwater Scholars, an award for top students in mathematics, science, and engineering. They will each receive a scholarship of up to $7,500 from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship Foundation.

Senior John Caleb Lowdermilk is this year’s recipient of the Delta Phi Alpha National German Award for Outstanding Senior, granted annually by the National German Honor Society to a single graduating senior in the U.S. who has demonstrated excellence in German Studies and has been accepted into a program of graduate study in German.

Three U of A students – including Fulbright College’s Brayley Gattis, an honors chemistry and French major, and Alexander O’Brien, an honors chemical engineering and physics major – have received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. The highly competitive awards are given to students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and recognize academic excellence and potential.

Luis Paganelli Marin, doctoral candidate with the Department of English, was awarded this year’s Hudson Doctoral Award in the Humanities by the Graduate School and International Education, which is given to an exceptional doctoral student in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, English, History or Philosophy, who has only the dissertation left to write and defend and who is approximately one year away from graduation.

Sydney Gower, a senior majoring in international studies and history, has been awarded the 2019 Russian Scholar Laureate diploma by the American Council of Teachers of Russian for her outstanding studies of the Russian language. Gower studied Russian for four semesters, which allowed her to practice Russian while she was teaching English during two past summers in the Ukraine.

A video plea for more women to lead efforts to curb climate change won national recognition for two U of A students – including Fulbright College’s Christina Trexler, an honors computer science and math freshman. Their video, “Environmental STEMinism,” won the “Fan Favorite” award in the Storyfest 2019 competition hosted by Planet Forward.

Visit us online for more information about Fulbright College.

Portions of this story also appeared in the U of A’s Newswire publication.

Andra Parrish Liwag

Director of Communications, J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences 

479-575-4393 // liwag@uark.edu

Steve Voorhies

Manager of Media Relations, University Relations 

479-575-3583 // voorhies@uark.edu