Hillary Viswanathan, who will graduate from the UA College of Nursing, was named a Pillars of Excellence Student Scholar. In addition to her academic studies, she teaches fitness classes at the Ott YMCA, but considers her work as a mother to be her finest achievement.
Hillary Viswanathan, who will graduate from the UA College of Nursing, was named a Pillars of Excellence Student Scholar. In addition to her academic studies, she teaches fitness classes at the Ott YMCA, but considers her work as a mother to be her finest achievement.

Four Questions With the Class of 2018

Three graduating students talk about their experiences at the University of Arizona, from their funniest stories to their favorite professors and campus hangouts.
April 25, 2018
Extra Info: 

Commencement is the university-wide celebration all colleges attend, where the students' degrees are conferred by UA President Robert C. Robbins. At Commencement, students’ names are not read aloud and they do not proceed across the stage. That occurs at most convocations, which are the ceremonies each individual college and/or department organizes to honor their graduates. Contact information for college convocation ceremonies may be found here.

Ray Mabus, former secretary of the Navy, governor of Mississippi, and U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will be the keynote speaker at the University of Arizona's 154th Commencement. Read more about Mabus at UA News.

For more information on the UA's 2018 Commencement, including admission and parking information, please visit commencement.arizona.edu/.

What: 
Commencement
When: 
Friday, May 11, 7:30 p.m.
Where: 
Arizona Stadium
Olena Kopystynska's message to everyone is never lose sight of your goals and go after what your heart desires. Kopystynska was born in Lviv, Ukraine, and didn't know any English when she moved to the U.S. at age 15.
Olena Kopystynska's message to everyone is never lose sight of your goals and go after what your heart desires. Kopystynska was born in Lviv, Ukraine, and didn't know any English when she moved to the U.S. at age 15.
Dino Kadich was a Magellan Circle Scholar in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and was named the outstanding undergraduate student by Gamma Theta Upsilon, the national geography honors society.
Dino Kadich was a Magellan Circle Scholar in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and was named the outstanding undergraduate student by Gamma Theta Upsilon, the national geography honors society.

Hillary Viswanathan, College of Nursing

Hillary Viswanathan has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Washington and is graduating from the UA in nursing. She is a certified group fitness instructor and health coach who helped the UA College of Nursing pilot innovative honors projects focused on wellness, integrative nursing care and community service. Viswanathan plans to pursue a career as a nurse in a surgical and trauma intensive care unit.

Which UA professor will you miss the most, and why?
Lisa Kiser brought out the best in me. She compassionately but firmly challenged me to be the best version of myself in every way. In speaking with her, I remembered the very reasons I decided to become a nurse and I remembered the gifts I have to offer this profession. As nursing school became more and more challenging, both personally and academically, these conversations were imperative to my success. Her words would become my mantras, seeing me through intense challenges. I would land in her office feeling defeated and unworthy and left it feeling buoyed and determined. I feel more resilient for having known her, and I am grateful for her influence in my life.

What is your favorite funny story from your time at the UA?
I am a group fitness instructor and teach Zumba classes in my spare time. During fall semester 2016, I taught my nursing school cohort the dance steps to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. In the middle of pharmacology class on Halloween, we killed the lights in the classroom and flash mobbed the class with Thriller. It was super fun and a total kick in the pants!

What has been your favorite place on campus, and why?
On the south side of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health is a walkway with many trees. There are also some tables and a grassy area there. It’s a great spot for some nature therapy – the desert’s version of forest bathing, if you will. There is comfort and solitude in the trees, the sunshine and the fresh air, and I enjoyed spending quiet moments there.

In five years, where will you be living and what will you be doing?
In five years I will be back in school pursuing a doctorate in nurse practice, specifically in acute care. If all goes well I will be close to graduating again. It is also my intention to return to group fitness instruction and health coaching, specifically for underserved populations. Lastly, I will be raising my children to be kind and strong in character and spirit. These are my goals no matter where I am.

Olena Kopystynska, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Norton School of Family and Consumer Services

Olena Kopystynska did not speak English when she moved to the U.S. at age 15 and is now receiving her Ph.D., realizing “a lifelong dream.” She knew early in her college career that she wanted to become a professor. Kopystynska has studied conflict and conflict resolution, and her paper examining how parents handle conflict was published last year by the Journal of Family Psychology, receiving extensive media coverage.

Which UA professor will you miss the most, and why?
My adviser, Melissa Barnett. During my time here, Dr. Barnett was very encouraging and supportive of my academic ambitions and guided me effectively in the directions of realizing my dreams and goals.

What is your favorite funny story from your time at the UA?
When one of my professors told me that his aunt is married to a chairman of a famous cosmetics company, which happens to be one of my favorite brands. My reaction during the meeting was priceless, and, let’s just say, it didn’t go unnoticed.

What has been your favorite place on campus, and why?
I enjoyed walking by the Old Main building. The view from the building overlooking the University Boulevard is gorgeous. The area is also surrounded by beautiful arrangements of flowerbeds that quiet your mind.

In five years, where will you be living and what will you be doing?
I suspect that I will be an assistant/associate professor at a university in California.

Dino Kadich, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Dino Kadich completed a double major in geography and Africana studies with a 4.0 GPA. His honors thesis, an exploration of youth politics through the lens of popular culture, was based on independent research in Bosnia. Kadich is originally from Bosnia and left there as a young refugee. He was one of 55 (out of 6,000 applicants) to be awarded a Gates Cambridge Fellowship and will begin study at Cambridge University in the fall.

Which UA professor will you miss the most, and why?
Professor Lynn Staeheli. She has been the most supportive, challenging and caring educator I could have ever asked for. Not only has she driven me to approach issues critically and thoughtfully, but she also made me believe that the research I do matters. 

What is your favorite funny story from your time at the UA?
I truly cannot ice skate. But over the course of my three years in Arizona Model United Nations, I have somehow ended up on ice rinks over and over again (we often travel to conferences in chilly places). A couple of years ago, we were at an ice rink in Chicago and I had pumped myself up to skate around and at least try to cling to the wall for a bit. Meanwhile, my friends come up and grab me by the arms and catapult us into the middle of the rink. I was so terrified. We went in circles over and over again and it started to feel normal. They let go and I fell. Life is easier when you’re holding onto someone for dear life.

What has been your favorite place on campus, and why?
Caffe Luce. While technically off-campus, it is close enough to have been home for the past few years. There’s always someone you know hanging out — and someone you can snag a table from!

In five years, where will you be living and what will you be doing?
Five years from now, I hope to be finishing up my Ph.D. in geography and continuing my research on youth activism and the politics of memory in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As long as I am imagining the future, I will have also caught up on my reading list and sleep in this fantasy world.