The University of Michigan-Flint has announced its student speakers for the 2018 Spring Commencement Ceremonies. Both students are recipients of the Maize and Blue Distinguished Scholar Award, the highest academic honor bestowed upon UM-Flint graduates. Both ceremonies will be held April 29.
10 a.m. Student Speaker: Noor R. Abdalla
Noor Abdalla enrolled at UM-Flint because she felt the campus and classroom environment would make it easier for her to get involved, and talk to professors. She found this and more at the university.
"Through the inclusive and close-knit community that the university has to offer, I was able to comfortably make my way through undergrad and overcome the struggle of choosing a career path. I had many incredible advisors and professors help me through the process and aid me in making one of the biggest decisions of my life," Abdalla said. "The university has been nothing but good to me, and I hope that in the future I will be able to repay the debt that I owe all the wonderful people I have met along the way."
Abdalla developed a passion for social justice after taking the First Year Experience course "Intergroup Dialogue."
"Every week we would talk about racial issues, religious issues, and other hot topics people don't normally talk about," Abdalla said. "I did not know how much I would love that class. It sparked something inside me."
She became a peer facilitator for the class, and presented on Islamophobia.
"Because of this passion, I came back semester after semester to be a peer facilitator and help teach others what I had learned."
Abdalla grew up in Flint, and spent six years in the United Arab Emirates before returning to Michigan and enrolling at UM-Flint. She was heavily involved in volunteer work during her college career, including as a camp counselor and at a Flint Township soup kitchen.
In the summer of 2016, she taught Syrian refugees in Lebanon while volunteering for a nongovernmental organization.
"It helped me to see just how lucky I truly am, and how I constantly take things for granted," Abdalla said. "Because of this realization, I made a promise to myself to use my education to help those who are less fortunate. This experience prepared me for a future in the dental field, where I hope to work alongside vulnerable groups, assisting in dental related service."
During her UM-Flint career, Abdalla was heavily involved with research, both on campus and beyond. She conducted research at the University of Illinois in Chicago on the Zika virus as part of her Honors Program off-campus study. Abdalla conducted biology research at UM-Flint and explored a range of other topics, including child labor in India, the lead poisoning in Flint, and the evolution of modern day numerals.
"My academic achievements, research experience, participation in the Honors Program, and my work as a volunteer have prepared me for a life after graduation, in dental school, and eventually in the real world. Without the University of Michigan-Flint, all of the opportunities that I had to grow personally and intellectually would never have happened."
3 p.m. Student Speaker: Danielle B. Emerson
Danielle Emerson joined UM-Flint with a goal of becoming a nurse. During her college career, she learned all the skills it would take. But she also developed a commitment to one day give back as a registered nurse who also teaches to those going into the field.
Emerson is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
"My education, university involvement, and volunteer work have prepared me to undertake the challenges of a career in nursing," she said.
"My experiences have only increased my resolve to become a nurse. While attending UM-Flint, I have encountered numerous instructors who are clearly dedicated to the success of their students and who truly care about the experiences that students receive. Specifically, my experience with professors in the nursing program has increased my desire to further my education in order to become a nursing educator in the future. I would very much enjoy giving future nursing students the same remarkable educational experiences with which I have been privileged at UM-Flint."
Emerson said the UM-Flint culture of support made a big impact on her.
"I've been able to meet with every instructor I've had if I needed to, whether it was English, nursing, chemistry, or any other subject," she said. "I feel it is a lot easier to be involved at the university, as well as in the community, because faculty speak directly with you about various opportunities."
Emerson, part of the Honors Program, traveled to Cambodia for her off-campus study as part of a medical mission group from UM-Flint who provided health assessments and health education to those in need. She provided nursing care in villages, hospitals, and orphanages with limited equipment.
"The trip was a very eye-opening and humbling experience," Emerson said. "I have found this experience to be one of my greatest opportunities for academic, as well as personal growth."
Emerson devoted a significant amount of time at UM-Flint tutoring other students, including nursing and Honors students.
"Tutoring has bettered me as an individual, while allowing me to better other students' educations," said Emerson.
She also contributed to a range of volunteer projects through the university, including at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, a cardiac assessment of teens in Fenton, and more.
"These rewarding volunteer experiences made available through UM-Flint School of Nursing have greatly enhanced my sense of community, time management, and interpersonal skills; nurturing my personal growth."
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