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Making their mark: Meet the Class of 2018

A look at some of the students who, like so many of their classmates, have made the most of their experience at Rochester.


Commencement 2018: This is one in a series of stories marking the 168th Commencement Ceremonies of the University of Rochester.

Kat Bakrania

Kat Bakrania
For future social worker, Rochester is a place to thrive

The senior from Warner Robins, Georgia, has crammed a lot into four years of college, and she's not done learning. This fall, Kat Bakrania will pursue a master’s degree in social work. “When I graduate, I’m going to leave here with some really solid friendships and some amazing experiences.”

Al Leslie

Al Leslie
Basketball star’s biggest assists come off the court

The business major described by her coaches as a “once-in-a-generation player” knows that community service will be in her game plan. “It’s something I love,” says Al Leslie. “And it’s something that will always be part of my life.”

Matthew Lyskawa

Matthew Lyskawa
An improbable route to Rochester, then Harvard

Bored and frustrated, Matthew Lyskawa was dismissed from two high schools for disciplinary reasons, finally graduating with a 1.8 GPA. But one day in his senior year, a teacher saw a spark and lit the fire that set Lyskawa on his academic journey that contines this fall as begins a doctoral program in philosophy at Harvard. “I am proof,” he says, “that it’s possible to fail forward.”

C.J. Van Huben

C. J. Van Huben
Jack of all trades makes the most of Rochester Curriculum

From saxophonist to student government treasurer, to internships at BASF, SpaceX, and Ernst & Young, C.J. Van Huben has packed a lot into four years. “I had a feeling I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to be put in a box,” the financial economics major says.

Cherish Blackman

Cherish Blackman
A local polyglot prepares to globe-trot

Rochester native Cherish Blackman has always had a knack for languages. “I wanted to study languages that weren’t very close to English,” she recalls. The double major in Russian and East Asian studies is heading to China next year, but is bringing her Spanish books with her.

Ian Manzi

Ian Manzi
From Rwanda to Rochester in one ‘serendipitous’ moment

For Ian Manzi, a photo of Rush Rhees Library left behind in an office at his Rwandan high school changed his life. “It looked so beautiful, a representation of college,” he says.

Ivan Suminski

Ivan Suminski
Choosing between violin, engineering, or both

Apply to graduate school to continue violin studies or to research the biophysics of the inner ear? Or maybe apply for an engineering job? All were viable options for Ivan Suminski, who graduating with dual degrees in mechanical engineering and violin performance. His decision? To attend the University of Michigan School of Music this fall to continue his violin studies.

Erin Dong on stage

Erin Dong
How one student uses dance to understand the biology of grief

Erin Dong didn’t start dancing until she came to college. Now as she graduates with a double major in biology and dance, she is combining her two fields to express how the body experiences grieving.

animated gif showing subway grafitti displayed on an iPad

ExSpace
Bringing subway art above ground

Four Rochester students saw the beauty of graffiti art in abandoned city subway tunnels. Banding together as the ExSpace Artist Collective, they designed an augmented reality project to share that beauty with others.

C.J. Van Huben

Josh Pachter
The ethics of driverless cars

As a computer science major minoring in philosophy, Josh Pachter was ideally suited for developing concepts for programming self-driving cars that behave ethically. His idea: create ethical machines through a process similar to how we raise children.

Anya Khalid

Anya Khalid
‘Leap of faith’ leads to data science studies

Anya Khalid came to the University without having ever coded in her life—but she was eager to get in on the ground floor of the new undergraduate major in data science. Now the Washington, D.C., resident is graduating with degree in economics as well, bound for Seattle and a job as a data analytics consultant.

Samantha Andrew

Samantha Andrew
Promoting inclusive events

Violinist Samantha Andrew is getting a dual degree—in violin performance at the Eastman School of Music and molecular genetics in Arts, Sciences & Engineering. “Seeing students happy because of the events that we put on makes the hard work worth it.”

Delvin Moody

Delvin Moody
Organizing black student leadership

A political science and religion double major, Delvin Moody has been at the forefront of the University’s first two Joint Collegiate Black Student Summits. “I felt these summits gave leaders the inspiration to know that they were not alone and that there was help for them.”

Joshua Hill

Joshua Hill
A student voice on policy change

Joshua Hill serves on the Students’ Association Task Force to Review Sexual Misconduct Policy. “The goal was to help guarantee undergraduate students have a voice in changing policies as they relate to Title IX and sexual misconduct on campus.”

Samekh Harris Reed and Miles Perry

Samekh Harris Reed
Creating supportive spaces

Psychology major Samekh Harris Reed (right) is the student coordinator for Queer Students of Color. “Intersectionality is an important aspect to consider when concerns arise in the LGBT+ community because not everyone identifies the same way.”

four students testing a small black device used to screen for diabetes

Matthew Boulanger, Sue Zhang, Fredella Lee, and Jack Hayden
A portable diabetes test for the people of Micronesia

For their senior design project, a team of biomedical engineering students are working to bring screening and treatment to a remote region suffering endemic diabetes.

collage featuring details from four different student paintings

Studio arts
An art exhibition of their own

Rochester’s studio arts majors cap off their senior year with an art thesis exhibition that serves as the culmination of each student’s hard work and dedication as artists.

four students each holding an item from a refrigerator: milk, watermelon, bread, lettuce

Teron Russell, Chris Smith, Stephen Cohen, and Vivian Li
Look in your fridge with your voice

Meet the digital media students behind Pip, a voice-enabled mobile app that works with smart home assistants like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa to help its users manage their food inventory, balance their grocery budget, and reduce food waste.

Juan Estrella at his workbench

Juan Estrella
Engineering a better guitar

Audio and music engineering major Juan Estrella is working on a new electronic interface that would free musicians from the constraints of traditional instruments and set a new standard for instrument design. “I regard it as my life’s work.”

four students watch a child walk in their walker prototype, with wheels and handlebars and plastic piping

Jennifer Choi, Dan Myers, Devon Foggio, and Joe Cappotelli
Helping kids with disabilities walk with their peers

For young children developmental disabilities, learning to walk can be a long-term process. And in the meantime, the children find it hard to keep up with their peers, which increases their social isolation. An inexpensive, “hybrid” walker designed by a team of biomedical engineering seniors can help.