Beetles, tech, following mom's footsteps: University of Delaware grads mark 2024 commencement (2024)

Delaware's largest university marked its 174th commencement Saturday.

The University of Delaware's class of 2024 filled Delaware Stadium with friends and families from across the country and farther making their way to Newark to celebrate. Joe Flacco, NFL quarterback and Super Bowl MVP, UD President Dennis Assanis and more joined in to bid graduates their send-off.

It capped a week of ceremonies across colleges and disciplines for UD. But, while more than 6,000 students coated the field to face the stage, the real stories came from looking back.

Following mom's footsteps in medical science, reaching for aerospace technology, discovering wildlife ecology — meet a handful of UD graduates, remembering their experiences as they turn the tassel.

In your footsteps

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First, she'd watch her work.

Before 8 years old, Oluebube Akujieze and her family still lived in Nigeria. After school, she'd wander into her mom's hospital lab, finding comfort in watching her finish work before the pair would head home. Such a routine would only change in 2012, when the family moved to the United States.

Then, she'd watch her head back to school.

Akujieze's mother, Uche Agbasi, decided to pursue a medical laboratory science degree from UD to keep working in her new Delaware home. She was raising a family; she got pregnant again; she kept studying.

"Watching her, I remember some nights she might be cooking dinner and maybe had a paper to write or an assignment to do," Akujieze said, recalling how she would help type things as a youngster. By 2019, she celebrated her mother's earned bachelor's degree, kicking off work at a community hospital.

Then, she was done watching.

Akujieze crossed the stage Saturday in Newark to receive the same medical laboratory science degree as her mom. Agbasi inspired her daughter's chosen field — but she almost made it look too easy.

"I don't think I was prepared enough for how difficult it was going to be, actually, until I was truly in the major," Akujieze said with a laugh. "And I was like, 'Wow, how did you do this with developing kids and a husband?' It is not easy. And I'm here, a single person, but I'm struggling every day really."

But the graduate with medical school in her sights made it happen. She made it through COVID-19 shutdown and a virtual first year, while her mother survived frontline pandemic work. And both UD alumni can't wait to celebrate all of it.

"I'm really very happy and thrilled that she made it," her mom said. "I'm not scared about what she will do in the workforce, just happy that she's graduating. She's going to make it anywhere she goes."

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It's not rocket science

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At first, he stuck with what was comfortable.

Kenny Madden stayed near the Philadelphia home he grew up in, starting school at Drexel University in nutrition and sports exercise. He saw the same people, in the same city. He loved the subjects for himself, though the idea of tailoring to a patient seemed tedious. Something just wasn't right.

"So then, I talked to a bunch of career counselors," said the senior, taking the call between coursework. They pressed him for what he liked, what he was good at. It took him awhile to piece it together — math, design, problem-solving.

He transferred to UD. Suddenly Madden was setting out to study mechanical engineering, with a concentration in aerospace.

And he hasn't looked back. His college career has seen work within a NASA program, tasked alongside fellow seniors by the NASA Glenn Research Center and Delaware Space Grant Consortium to test a possible moon rover. And outside class, he kicked off the university's first chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

"What's going to be going through my mind on graduation is just how proud I am of myself for everything that I've done," said the Pennsylvania native. "But more importantly, how proud I am for the people that I've become close with, all of my friends here."

He's also hooked. This fall, Madden will head to Purdue University for his master's in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, eyeing possible research focusing on astrodynamics. That's basically plotting spacecraft courses, by understanding how outside forces will impact it.

The discovery and puzzle of it all fuels him, but really, he has simply found a subject that's fun.

"I just enjoyed doing the math," he said with a laugh, thinking as far back as advanced calculus in high school. "And knowing that it could have such a big impact for the future of humanity? That really excites me."

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Beetles, bugs, wildlife conservation

Beetles, tech, following mom's footsteps: University of Delaware grads mark 2024 commencement (4)

It was probably the 47 states' worth of National Parks that did it.

Peyton Easton grew up in Dover, but her family was constantly satisfying her need to explore. She was appreciating nature before she ever had to worry about school. Then, the curiosity would meet agriculture classes in high school.

Caesar Rodney High gave her the first taste of animal science, then UD sealed the deal.

"I remember doing a project on wildlife biology as a career path, and I was like, 'Oh, that's interesting,'" she said. "Then when I was looking into colleges, I saw UD offered basically that exact major."

Her honors degree in wildlife ecology and conservation, alongside insect ecology, would allow her to study policy, research, GIS mapping and more. She worked as an "Ag Ambassador" on campus; she studied abroad in Costa Rica; she stayed involved in orchestra with her alto saxophone in hand; joined The Crew Programming Board; kept up with the Entomology Club; went birding with fellow students — the list goes on.

"That kind of allows you to realize where your specific interests lie and where you want to go," she said with a smile. The Delaware native doesn't know where she's headed next, but it's graduate school and future research in her sights.

Easton has been studying the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle known for wreaking havoc on certain ash tree species. However, looking ahead, she's interested in both critters and people.

She may delve into disease ecology next, "which incorporates people, wildlife, insects and health," she said. "And I think seeing how people and wildlife interact in this really complex system is really interesting — because a lot of people separate those two things."

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Tracing the 'Trail to Desegregation'

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One 76-year-old University of Delaware student had an idea.

Karen Ingram had been cultivating interest in a particular chapter of Delaware history long before she enrolled. Now, earning her first master's degree this spring, almost all of her academic writings have surrounded this history. Her own experience led her to it. And last weekend, she got to share that passion on "The Trail to Desegregation."

Ingram, empowered by community partners for a final capstone project, marked the 70th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision with a bus tour.

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Her tour traced Delaware's own roots in this landmark desegregation ruling, as the sold-out Saturday tour made stops at Redding House Museum and Community Center, Howard High School, Claymont Community Center and Hockessin Colored School #107C.

"I wanted to tell the whole story," Ingram said, knowing people rarely get to put all these pieces together. "That is what got us here. I wanted to tell the whole story, on a half-day ride on a bus."

Master's soon in hand, she's already looking ahead to her doctorate.

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Got a story? Kelly Powers covers race, culture and equity for Delaware Online/The News Journal and USA TODAY Network Northeast, with a focus on education. Contact her at or (231) 622-2191, and follow her on X @kpowers01.

Beetles, tech, following mom's footsteps: University of Delaware grads mark 2024 commencement (2024)


Who is the speaker of graduation for University of Delaware 2024? ›

Congratulations to the Class of 2024!

Commencement speaker Joe Flacco, NFL quarterback, Super Bowl MVP and 2008 UD graduate, told graduates to embrace uncertainty. “Failure is OK as long as you learn from it."

What time is University of Delaware graduation 2024? ›

Planning is underway for the University of Delaware's celebrations of the achievements of the Class of 2024, with festivities scheduled from Tuesday, May 21, through Saturday, May 25. The University-wide Commencement ceremony is scheduled at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, May 25, in Delaware Stadium.

What time is the University of Delaware graduation? ›

The University of Delaware will hold its 2024 Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 25, 2024 at 9:30 a.m. in the Delaware Stadium.

Where did Biden speak at graduation? ›

Biden's commencement speech focuses on democracy, his work toward a solution in the Middle East. President Joe Biden speaks at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 19.

What is the difference between convocation and commencement? ›

Doctoral graduates have their names read and cross the stage at Graduate Commencement. Master degree candidates will be announced by college, but not individually. Convocation events are celebrations of individual achievement where graduate names are called and graduates cross the stage.

How many tickets for University of Delaware graduation? ›

To attend the University-wide Commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, each graduate will need a ticket and is eligible to reserve as many as four guest tickets. (Due to capacity restrictions, extra tickets are not expected to be available for the Commencement ceremony.)

Does University of Delaware require SAT 2024? ›

For fall 2024, submitting your standardized test scores is optional for all students, including those who are home-schooled or attending a non-accredited high school.

What are the requirements for graduation at University of Delaware? ›

All bachelor's degrees require a minimum of 120 credit hours. In order to “finish in four” students need to complete a minimum of 30 credits per academic year.

What is a degree with distinction at udel? ›

The GPA requirement for a Degree with Distinction is a 3.0 cumulative GPA and a 3.5 in your major. For Honors students who successfully create and defend a Senior Thesis, it is possible to graduate with an Honors Degree with Distinction (HDWD).

What are the quiet hours for University of Delaware? ›

Sunday through Thursday, Quiet Hours start at 8 p.m. and end at 8 a.m. the next day; Friday and Saturday, Quiet Hours start at 11:59 p.m. and end at 8 a.m. the next day; During final exam periods, including Reading Day, 24-hour quiet hours are in effect.

Does University of Delaware require senior year grades? ›

As part of the application, first-year domestic students are required to submit their high school grades through the Self-Reported Academic Record (SRAR). For more information, please review our website. If admitted and enrolling, first-year domestic students are required to submit final secondary school transcripts.

Who is the student that speaks at graduation? ›

At a high school or university graduation, the valedictorian traditionally gives a farewell speech, called a valedictory. This person is almost always the student in the class with the very best academic record.

Who gets to speak at college graduation? ›

Student commencement speakers are often valedictorians or may otherwise be elected by their peers to represent the student body. Despite meaning "beginning", commencement may be mistaken to mean "ending" due to its association with the end of one's studies.

Who is the speaker at West Point graduation 2024? ›

10 a.m. – USMA Class of 2024 Graduation at Michie Stadium. Commencement speaker: President of the United States Joe Biden.

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