Students share experiences and wisdom gained at Iowa

To celebrate the countless achievements of University of Iowa international students and their accomplishments, the University of Iowa (UI) held the 2023 International Student Graduation Celebration on Thursday, May 11. The event was hosted by Vedansh Airen, a graduate student in computer science, and Valeria Quintero Jaramillo, an undergraduate student in neuroscience on the pre-med track.

Vedansh Airen and Valeria Quintero Jaramillo

Joanne Constantine, who graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in health services and policy, served as the graduate student speaker for the celebration. Constantine spoke of the changes that Iowa brought into international students’ lives, as well as the guidance and direction Iowa provided for their road ahead. Constantine recalled building relationships and celebrating each other’s differences when she started her journey at Iowa.

“Iowa will always be our sweet home; colorful in autumn, picturesque in winter, vibrant in spring, and bright during summertime. How precious is it to grow professionally while developing on the personal level in a beautiful, nurturing environment?” Constantine said in her speech. Her experiences at Iowa shaped her into the woman she is today, not only by supplying the academic knowledge, but also by instilling in her values she will cherish beyond her doctoral training.

“During our time at the University of Iowa, we became equipped for our role as global citizens. Be agents of change!” said Constantine. “We are growing into the person we were always intended to become, so let us lead by example in what we say and do. We all need wisdom and understanding to be successful, and this is exactly what the University of Iowa has provided us.”  

Hsin Chen, who was graduating with a BA in interdepartmental studies (health science – global health), also shared her experience as the undergraduate student speaker at the event. There are countless stories like Constantine’s and Chen’s among graduating students at Iowa.

In addition to recognizing all graduating international students with the conferral of affinity cords, awards were presented to individuals who demonstrated positive impacts both in and out of the classroom: 

  • Eweosa Owenaze and Nafisa Kamal Ayntee each received the civic engagement award for their involvement with organizations on campus and their communities.  
  • Apoorva GokareOksana Hirchak, and Sydney Nguyen each received the leadership award for demonstrating strong leadership in UI student organizations and programs as well as showing a record of mentorship and ambassadorship.  
  • Shinji Katsumoto and Bhavya Vats each received the academic & scholarly achievement award for demonstrating outstanding contributions to scholarly work in their research areas. 
  • Elmira Jangjou and Qianyi He each received the international community advocacy award for their dedication to supporting other international students through various means.  

Receiving the faculty recognition awards for providing tremendous support for international students at Iowa were Dr. Aixin Tan, associate professor in the Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science, and Dr. Christopher Benson, professor of internal medicine in the UI Carver College of Medicine.

Finally, a keynote address was given by Dr. Azeez Butali, the Gilbert Lily endowed professor of oral pathology, radiology, and medicine, and professor at the Iowa Institute for Oral Health in the UI College of Dentistry. “You are going into a world where you will need a tool kit that contains self-belief, recognition of failure, never give-up attitude, self-gratification, mentoring, and mental well-being. This is not a complete list, but a starting point,” said Butali.

The International Student Graduation Celebration was organized in part by the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; UI International Programs; UI International Student Support and Engagement; UI Graduate and Professional Student Government; UI Carver College of Medicine; UI College of Education; UI College of Engineering; UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; UI College of Law; UI College of Pharmacy; UI Graduate College; UI Tippie College of Business; and the UI Libraries.