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University of Utah student Christina Andino will be among only 0.03 percent of foster youths who graduate from college when she receives a bachelor’s degree this year. After transferring to the U in 2015 from Salt Lake Community College, Andino is graduating with a Bachelor of Social Work and no student loan debt.
While Andino is one of a handful of students from similar backgrounds who graduate from college, she is among 8,566 U students who will celebrate their achievements at the university’s 148th commencement exercise Thursday, May 4, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. in the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Andino won’t have much time to celebrate before starting the Master of Social Work program two weeks following graduation. Getting to this point hasn’t been easy, she said, because she didn’t have the parental support that many college students experience, but Andino was determined to work hard to better her future.
Andino applied for a variety of scholarships and completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to receive financial aid in order to make higher education a possibility. She also works 30 hours per week for Salt Lake City School District to pay bills for the apartment she shares with her sister. Her goal now is to complete graduate school with no debt as well.
The U continues to lead the state for students who graduate with the lowest percentage of loan debt.
“Scholarships help our students stay in school and enroll full time to accelerate completion,” said Ruth Watkins, senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “We have seen our graduation rate increase approximately 10 percent in the past five years, and this success can be attributed to efforts to increase access to academic advisers; offering flexible class options, such as online courses and one-week intensive courses; and significantly increasing scholarships and financial assistance.”
At the U, Andino met regularly with academic advisers, became involved in the Bachelor of Social Work student association, participated in a practicum experience at University Neighborhood Partners and did a summer internship that took her across the country to speak with educators and colleges about how her past shaped her experience as a college student.
“When I turned 18, I had the opportunity to control my life and do something for myself,” Andino said. “It was completely up to me to provide for myself and gain a sense of stability because there wasn’t a plan B.”
Andino plans to work with foster youth and others from marginalized communities through offering educational programs in schools, and she is interested in becoming a school administrator.
“Education is what got me through foster care,” she said. “School was everything for me — it provided structure and stability and never changed, no matter what was going on in my life. I’ve been motivated to get through school because I don’t want to repeat the cycle of my family.”
Her adviser, Jason Atherton, has enjoyed working with Andino, encouraging her to push her boundaries and seeing her grow professionally.
“Her story highlights how higher education should work,” he said. “Looking at where Christina started and how she’s been able to navigate through her undergraduate education, it’s exciting to see how she’s given back to the community and is working toward a career that will allow her to do that for the rest of her life. She’s the perfect example of how higher education offers upward mobility, resources and opportunities. She’s the whole package of a successful student.”
General commencement is a campus-wide celebration open to all students, their families and the public. It is an opportunity for the institution to celebrate the graduating class and recognize student achievements. The evening’s program is designed with the graduates in mind and includes videos and multimedia, a collage of Instagram photos documenting the U experience of the Class of 2017, as well as traditional elements of “pomp and circumstance” associated with graduation events.
“Commencement is always an exciting time for us because it is the main reason we are here — to help students succeed and reach for their goals,” said U President David W. Pershing. “The members of our graduating class have already achieved so much, and we are excited to see what they continue to accomplish after they leave. The university community proudly recognizes the Class of 2017 and welcomes everyone to join us as we celebrate.”
About the graduating class and commencement details: (These numbers are based on data available prior to graduation and are subject to change.)
- Students in the Class of 2017 represent all 29 Utah counties, all 50 states and 84 countries
- 8,566 graduates
- 9,118 degrees (some graduates receive more than one degree); 5,780 bachelor’s degrees; 2,351 master’s degrees; 716 doctoral degrees; 118 juris doctors; 94 doctors of medicine; 59 doctors of pharmacy
- 4,589 men and 3,977 women
- 3.33 is the average grade point average
- 26 is the average age of bachelor’s degree recipients; the youngest undergraduate is 19, the oldest is 64
- 31 is the average age of students receiving graduate degrees; the youngest is 19 and the oldest is 68
- The largest number of undergraduate degrees awarded will be in these departments: communication, psychology, economics, nursing, biology, business administration, mechanical engineering, exercise and sport science, health promotion and education, human development and family studies
Two new graduating classes
- The first cohort of students from the University of Utah Asia Campus will graduate this year. The UAC, located in Incheon, South Korea, opened its doors in 2014 to students looking for a global and culturally diverse education.
- The first cohort of students from the U’s new School of Dentistry will also graduate. It was the first new school at the U in more than 50 years, and its inaugural class had the second-highest GPA for incoming dental students in the U.S. All 20 students have passed their dental board exams and scored in the top 15 percent nationally.
- President David W. Pershing will officiate
- Keynote speaker: Conrad Anker
- Student speaker: Luísa Gerstner da Rosa, who is graduating with a double major in operations management and information systems
- Honorary degrees will be presented to Conrad Anker and Gail Miller.
- The Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence, a $40,000 cash award and the most prestigious honor the university bestows on its faculty, will be announced in a separate press release the morning of May 4.
- Special awards will be given to 11 faculty members.
Schedule for college convocations
- Each college holds a convocation ceremony, where candidates for graduation are acknowledged individually and where college-specific awards are presented. College convocations are schedules can be found here.
Transportation and parking
- Campus parking lots may be used at no charge during commencement and convocation ceremonies. As campus parking is limited, visitors are encouraged to use the free U shuttle service to travel between commencement events. Shuttles run throughout campus and are scheduled every 10-15 minutes. The U campus is also a TRAX free fare zone on May 4 and 5.
Watch it later
- Those unable to attend commencement will be able to watch the live stream on the university’s website, utah.edu, or watch the rebroadcast on KUED, channel 7, Saturday, May 6, at 5:30 p.m. MDT.