Two A&S Students Chosen to Speak at May 2017 Commencement Ceremonies

By Jenny Wells

Per UK tradition, a student representative will speak at each of the four University of Kentucky Commencement Ceremonies this week.

The four student speakers are:

Savanah Sellars Sellars, from Yorkville, Illinois, will speak at the 10 a.m. May 5 ceremony. She is graduating with a baccalaureate degree in integrated strategic communication from the UK College of Communication and Information. May 5 is an extra special day for Sellars, because she will commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force shortly after the Commencement ceremony ends.  In June, she will begin her military career at Joint Base Langley-Eustis as a public affairs officer. During her time at UK, Sellars was involved in Air Force ROTC, Arnold Air Society, ROTC LLP, Pi Beta Phi Women’s Fraternity, Ad Club and Club Swimming.  She also served as an executive communications intern in the UK Office of the President, a senator for the College of Communication and Information in the UK Student Government Association, a team captain for DanceBlue and a candidate for 2016 Homecoming Queen. She also studied abroad in London and China and volunteered with Jobs for Life at the Fayette County Detention Center.

“I wanted to represent and honor my class, the College of Communication and Information, the Air Force ROTC program, and the University of Kentucky – all of which have given me so much over the last four years,” Sellars said.

Shaimaa Abdeljaber Abdeljaber, from Lexington, will speak at the 2 p.m. May 5 ceremony. She is graduating with a baccalaureate degree in communication sciences and disorders from the UK College of Health Sciences. Abdeljaber has served as president and service chair of the National Student Speech and Language Hearing Association. She was also a member of the Muslim Student Association and Phi Kappa Phi honor society. After graduation, Abdeljaber plans to pursue a graduate degree in speech language pathology.

“I wanted to represent the UK Muslim community as well as the College of Health Sciences,” Abdeljaber said.  “I truly want the advice I give our fellow graduates to resonate with me wherever life takes me.”

Tiwaladeoluwa Adekunle Adekunle, from Nigeria and Ghana, will speak at the 10 a.m. May 7 ceremony. She is graduating with baccalaureate degrees in international studies and English from the UK College of Arts and Sciences. During her time at UK, Adekunle has held leadership positions with the African Student Association, UK Amnesty International and the Society for International Studies. She has also served as an ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences, a peer instructor for UK 101 and a member of the International Student Leadership Team. Adekunle plans to spend this summer in The Gambia, and then begin a master’s program in communication at Purdue University this fall.

“I’ve reflected a lot on what it means to just leave after an experience as profound and transformative as college,” Adekunle said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to remind us all of what a gift this has been, and to hopefully, give my peers something meaningful to take with them.”

Natalie Hewlett Hewlett, from Georgetown, Kentucky, will speak at the 2 p.m. May 7 ceremony. She is graduating with baccalaureate degrees in secondary English education from the UK College of Education and English in the College of Arts and Sciences. Hewlett has been a member of the UK Equestrian Team all four years at UK, and served as captain and fundraising chair for the last three years. She has also served as a UK 101 peer instructor, a K-Team leader for freshman orientation and a tutor through the CATS Center. She also studied abroad in the spring of 2016 in London, England, and returned to serve as an Education Abroad peer ambassador during her senior year. 

Hewlett plans to take one year off before going back to school to earn a doctorate in psychology.

“I have such a strong love and passion for this university,” Hewlett said. “The students and professors at UK have become my peers, mentors and friends during my four years here. I can think of no better way to conclude my time at UK than by addressing and thanking this wonderful community on graduation day.”

The May 2017 Commencement Ceremonies will be held Friday, May 5 and Sunday, May 7, in Rupp Arena.

Friday, May 5:

  • 10 a.m. - College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; College of Communication and Information; College of Public Health; The Martin School of Public Policy and Administration; The Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce
  • 2 p.m. - Gatton College of Business and Economics, College of Health Sciences, College of Fine Arts, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy

Sunday, May 7:

  • 10 a.m. - College of Arts and Sciences; College of Social Work; College of Design 
  • 2 p.m. - College of Education; College of Engineering; College of Medicine

Since doctoral, master's and baccalaureate degree recipients will be recognized together based on their colleges this year, the selection committee accepted applications from students with all degree types, not just undergraduate students as in past years. The selection committee received over 30 applications.

More than 2,500 undergraduates and 600 graduate and professional students are expected to participate, marking the largest Commencement in UK's history. Overall, 3,680 undergraduate and 1,767 graduate and professional degree candidates had their degrees approved by the UK Board of Trustees at its May 2 meeting.   

All four ceremonies will be live streamed on UKNow.

For more information about the May 2017 Commencement Ceremonies, visit

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue


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