In a celebration of perseverance, accomplishment, and their collective experiences, international students at the University of Iowa held an affinity graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 12.
Ayushi Sood, who is graduating this semester with a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology and a creative writing certificate, served as the undergraduate student speaker for the ceremony. Sood spoke of the excitement she experienced when arriving to the university in fall 2018, as well as the struggles she faced as an international student sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sood recalled managing time zone differences when studying from home; needing to sleep during the day just to wake up and login to her virtual courses via Zoom when her family was going to sleep. It was her community of friends she met at Iowa her first two years who supported and encouraged her during her year of remote learning and leadership.
"Although it was just me attending classes and meetings from my room, I never truly felt alone," Sood said in her speech. Despite a year of remote learning, Sood’s experiences as a student at the university allowed her the opportunity to pursue her academic goals in microbiology, explore her passion for writing, and get involved in leadership opportunities through student organizations
"I discovered my passion for research and creative writing at the University of Iowa," said Sood. "I never thought it would be possible to pursue your passions while also excelling in your academics, but I decided to take the risk and do what excited me." Sood grew a lot as a student, leader, and as an individual through her involvement with the South Asian Student Alliance and the International Student Advisory Board. All of her hard work has led her to gain admission to the University of Iowa’s biomedical sciences graduate program to pursue a PhD, which she will begin in fall 2022.
There are countless stories like Sood’s among graduating students at the university, and the affinity graduation ceremony served as a time to celebrate the success of international students who chose to study 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 with the university and the greater Iowa City community.
Gustavo Finatti Campos received the civic engagement award for his commitment to volunteerism with a strong focus on social responsibility and global citizenship and his involvement in the Hawkeye Service Team. Changan Li, Waheed Awotoye, and Siau-Tong Ding each received the academic and scholarship award for showing strong academic backgrounds with contributions to scholarly work in international education.
Redwan Bin Abdul Baten and Ayushi Sood each received the leadership award for demonstrating strong leadership in UI student organizations, showing a record of mentorship, and demonstrating leadership through research, teaching, or campus employment. Additionally, they each received the international community advocate award for their dedication to improving the University of Iowa campus climate for international students, developing creative solutions to global problems, or pursuing international research outside of the university.
Finally, receiving the faculty and staff recognition awards for providing tremendous support for international students at Iowa were Dr. Azeez Butali, professor at the Iowa Institute for Oral Health Research in the UI College of Dentistry, Dr. Katina Lillios, professor of anthropology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Shuhui Lin, coordinator for international student support and engagement with both UI International Student and Scholar Services and UI Multicultural and International Student Support and Engagement.
The International Student Graduation Ceremony was hosted by the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, UI International Programs, UI International Student Support and Engagement, UI Graduate and Professional Student Government, UI Undergraduate Student Government, UI International Student Advisory Board, UI Carver College of Medicine, UI College of Engineering, UI College of Law, UI College of Pharmacy, UI Graduate College, UI Tippie College of Business, and the UI Libraries.