Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Official student newspaper of Alabama State University

The Hornet Tribune

Evening Out Formal Wear
Heritage Barbershop

International Student Association honors its graduating seniors

Justin B. Freeman
International student graduating senior Lucky Chitundu informs the audience about his time at Alabama State University.

In a poignant celebration, Alabama State University honored its international students with a distinct graduation ceremony. Pulsating with the vibrancy of diverse cultures and the triumph of academic success, the event unfolded on Apr. 30, at 7 p.m. in the Great Hall of Teachers on the second floor of the Ralph Abernathy building, setting a memorable stage for the occasion. The event was hosted and facilitated by the International Student Association (ISA).

There were a total of 14 international students set to be honored at the ceremony, but only six were present due to certain complications. The honored seniors received not only a special certificate but also golden graduation stoles that bore the ISA logo on one end and the university logo on the other.

During the ceremony, Mr. ISA and Miss ISA were selected via live voting. While Mr. ISA was a landslide victory for Delroy Opondo, who ran unopposed. In regards to Miss ISA, all attendees were given a sheet of paper that served as a ballot. The three nominees were Mwamba Mukuka, Ghasilia Stewart, and Gaigulo Nakisyuyi, with Mwamba emerging victorious. Both nominees for Mr. and Miss ISA were crowned.


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Attendees of the ISA gathered for the ceremony, some sporting traditional African clothing to represent pride for their international backgrounds. The Mistress of Ceremony was Chioma Kalu, the president of the ISA who is from Nigeria. Kalu also recently won International Student of the Year at the inaugural Hive Awards.

“You know, this is the first one, actually, because last year I tried mentioning it, but it didn’t come out,” Kalu said. “So this time around, we decided that we were going to, like, push it forward. And I tried my best. It was very, very close to being canceled because they were like there was no venue and stuff like that, but at least we had it this time. So this is the first one and there’s more to come.”

Kalu states that the ceremony is important for international students as most of them are not able to have their families around for the actual ceremony where they walk across the stage.

“For example, myself. I came here by myself,” Kalu said. “So I was just thinking that, hey, my international sisters don’t have family. They’ve been here all these years by themselves. Even at the graduation ceremony, there’s nobody going to be there to cheer for them while they do their walk. Some of the international students that would have been there to cheer for them are going to be home by that time.”

She continued.

“So it’s going to be like, hey, you’re just going to be alone. So instead of making them feel alone, I was like, hey, let’s do this ceremony for you. Where you feel welcome, where you feel at home with us, and then you can go ahead and do your ceremony so you don’t feel alone, so you don’t feel like left out.”

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Rakesha Hines works closely with the ISA and sees the special graduation ceremony as a great benefit to their overall university experience.

“They’re coming from another culture, and they kind of build relationships around other international students,” Hines said. “So the students that are here kind of help with the recruitment and retention of our students, and they kind of build their community. So I think a celebration such as this, just to highlight the successes and the joy and the matriculation that these students have went through, being at a whole different country, a whole different culture, and at a, at a university such as Alabama State. So I think this is just a great way to highlight the successes, um, and, and the graduation that they have thus far.”

According to Hines, what motivated the Department of International Affairs to do the event was the desire to commemorate the graduates and let them know that they are appreciated.

“We get together with our international students every month,” Hines said. “So this is just kind of like a program just to target all of our international students and students who are interested in international affairs, to come to congregate together and just have a celebration to say, hey, we appreciate you at O’ Mother Dear. And we are very excited about this great accomplishment.”

There were a total of seven seniors who showed up to be honored at the event, receiving not only a special certificate but also golden graduation stoles that bore the ISA logo on one end and the university logo on the other.

David Oyekeye is a computer science major who has already made significant contributions to the campus community via VibeU, a web-based online chat service that operates as a safer, more college-friendly alternative to Omegle. Oyekeye hails from Lagos, Nigeria.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Oyekeye said. “You know, I don’t even know they do this, so it’s just a nice surprise. And you know, I’m having fun right now, you know, just meeting people. Because I live off campus, I don’t see them, so it’s nice to see.”

Post-graduation, Oyekeye plans to find what he is actually good at, such as working on other projects or potentially expanding VibeU.

“Now once I graduate I’ll just explore,” Oyekeye said. “And definitely I have a job right now, but I’m still going to, you know, try my best to see all the things project.”

Oyekeye believes that the purpose of the event is to show international events that they are appreciated.

“Um, like, they see you because, you know, I don’t really hear about many events organized for international students,” Oyekeye said. “And so it’s nice that people are turning up and they have all this set up for us. You know, I really appreciate it now. So that’s how I feel.”

Rebecca Bernardin is a graduating senior and finance major who originates from Turks and Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory located southeast of the Bahamas. Bernardin is a student athlete who was attracted to the university through its track and field program.

“It feels great to be here, and it feels amazing to be honored because, you know, I’m coming all the way from the Turks and Caicos Islands and to actually be at an event where people, individuals like myself, international students coming to bond and have a good time,” Bernardin said. “And not just that, but honoring us and recognizing us that we are graduating. So it is the sense of belonging. It feels amazing.

Bernardin hopes that this special graduation ceremony informs more students and even more faculty.

“Because most people don’t know about the ISA or what the International Student Association is,” Bernardin said. “So I hope it continues to grow and build on this foundation.”

Graduating senior and biomedical engineering major Arnold Bhebhe hopes that this is the first of many special graduation ceremonies for international students that can help highlight their achievements and how far they have come since freshman year.

“So this ceremony is the first of its kind,” Bhebhe said. “And I feel like it’s pretty good, and it’s something that departments can even try as well, but I like it as well because it gives the international students an opportunity to reflect what they’ve done at ASU, and how ASU has helped them and what they’re going to do next. So I do see that it’s a great opportunity to sort of really reflect and then look into what you can do next. And I think it’s also beneficial to ASU as well, because the more we have the international students reflecting on their journey, that means that I think it’s going to help other students too.”

He continued.

“It’s definitely bringing value. And the value, like from my perspective, is the fact that, you know, I get to reflect about my journey and then look into how I have grown throughout the years and how ASU has impacted my journey, between the classroom or outside of the classroom. And so I think that’s great value. And it’s great value because it’s helping me reflect about what I can do next, and also great value because I think it’s going to attract more other students to come to ASU because they can see this online and say, hey, she seems to be doing pretty good with international students. So I think it sort of shows again that ASU is a pretty good environment for international students.”

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