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General commencement ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 3 with most convocations Friday, May 4.

By Annalisa Purser and Janelle Hanson, communications specialists, University of Utah Communications

University of Utah senior Hodan Abdi came to Utah with her family five years ago from a refugee camp in Ethiopia. She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and an emphasis in biology this year, along with 8,568 other U students who will also celebrate achieving this milestone. The 149th general commencement ceremony will be held Thursday, May 3, 2018, 6:30 p.m., in the Jon M. Huntsman Center, and most college convocations will happen the next day.

Commencement student speaker Hodan Abdi (far right) attended Pizza with the President on April 10, 2018.

Abdi transferred to the U after studying at Salt Lake Community College for two years and will attend medical school this fall.

“My biggest inspiration comes from living in a refugee camp, where there was only one doctor for 10,000 people,” Abdi said. “There were so many people who would get sick and die from preventable diseases. I want to do something to help those people. I have all the opportunities I need here, so, why not?”

Originally from Somalia, Abdi’s family fled in 2008. As a high school student in a refugee camp, she didn’t have time to study during the day as she took care of her younger siblings, cooked and cleaned. With no electricity or technology, Abdi often woke up at 2 a.m. to study by candlelight.

Abdi explained that there were many challenges surrounding women and education. Almost 80 percent of her high school classmates were male, with most women getting married and having children at a young age instead.

“My mother always encouraged me to go to school and study because she didn’t have the opportunity to go,” Abdi said. “She always said education was my way out — my future. So, I’m not just doing this for myself. I’m doing it for people like my mother, my community and friends who didn’t get the chance to go to school. I want to do better for all of them.”

Once she finishes medical school and pays off her student loans, Abdi wants to start her own clinic and go back to work in a refugee camp to help provide much-needed medical care and distribute information about preventative measures.

“My life is so different than it was in the refugee camp,” she said. “There, you are trying to survive. Here, you get the opportunity to make your life better. Having access to education is like being rich.”

General commencement is a campus-wide celebration open to all students, their families and the public and is an opportunity for the institution to celebrate the graduating class and recognize student achievements.

About the graduating class and commencement details: (These numbers are based on data available prior to graduation and are subject to change.)


  • By the numbers:

    • Students in the Class of 2018 represent 26 Utah counties, all 50 states and 80 countries
    • 8,568 graduates
    • 9,113 degrees (some graduates receive more than one degree); 5,791 bachelor’s degrees; 2,343 master’s degrees; 703 doctoral degrees; 97 juris doctors; 101 doctors of medicine; 55 doctors of pharmacy; and 23 doctors of dental surgery
    • 4,410 self-identified men, 3,965 self-identified women and 193 nonbinary/unidentified
    • 3.37 is the average undergraduate grade point average
    • 26 is the average age of bachelor’s degree recipients; the youngest undergraduate is 19, the oldest is 69
    • 31 is the average age of students receiving graduate degrees; the youngest is 21 and the oldest is 63
    • The top 10 undergraduate degrees are: psychology, communication, economics, biology, nursing, business administration, mechanical engineering, human development and family studies, accounting and computer science
  • Speakers: 

    • President Ruth V. Watkins will officiate
    • Keynote speaker: Ben Nemtin
    • Student speaker: Hodan Abdi, who is graduating with a major in chemistry with an emphasis in biology
  • Special awards: 

    • Honorary degrees will be presented to Barbara Lindquist Tanner and Raymond Sonji Uno
    • The Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence, a $40,000 cash award and the most prestigious honor the university bestows on its faculty, will be announced separately
    • Faculty receiving special awards will be recognized
  • 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 convocation 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 3 and 4.
  • Watch it later 

    • Those unable to attend commencement will be able to watch the live stream on the university’s website,