Congratulations Class of 2021!


Overcoming the Odds

Red and orange fraphic that spells out Congratulations to the Class of 2021

This academic year has presented challenges like none other. In the midst of a pandemic, first-generation students have dealt with changes to the delivery of their education, changes or loss of employment, national social and political unrest, and supporting their own families all the while being the first in their families to get a bachelor’s or higher degree. Having persevered through thick and thin, this year’s graduating class is a testament to Overcoming the Odds.

Multiple colored graphic text that spells out 12.5% of the graduating class of 2021 are the first in their families to graduate with a bachelor's degree or higher

Words from our Senior Leaders and Best

A Message from Robert Sellers

Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer

Robert Sellers

Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion

& Chief Diversity Officer


It is with great enthusiasm that we recognize this year’s First Generation student graduates.

Throughout each of our lives, we are presented with opportunities to attempt new things and explore unpaved paths. However, to do these things first requires a great deal of strength, courage and determination.

As first-generation college students, these are the first steps in creating a world of opportunity, one where dreams have the potential to become a reality. At times the journey may be challenging, but its impact will be long-lasting and offer hope to those who come next.

As we honor this extraordinary graduating class, I am enthusiastic about the opportunities that await them. I am confident that they have all the skills, talent, drive, and commitment necessary to overcome whatever challenges they face and to make a real difference in the world. They have endured one of the most challenging times in memory both at the

University and the broader society. Nonetheless, they have not only endured, but they have also overcome.

Make no mistake, the Class of 2021 has made a difference during their time here. We are a better university for having them as students. The University of Michigan will always be their home, and they will always be welcome.

Please join me in congratulating the class of 2021 and their families for their outstanding accomplishments, and their determination not just to be, but to be first.

Martino Harmon

Vice President for Student Life

Trailblazers, congratulations on your graduation!

Trailblazers, you never cease to amaze. You spent the past year striving for academic excellence in the middle of a pandemic that put life as we know it into lockdown — and you still came out of it with your head held high and a shiny new degree from the University of Michigan. That takes courage. That takes commitment. That takes the kind of grit and self-love and respect that will serve you well for the rest of your lives.

To be a Michigan graduate is not just to join the community of over 500,000 Michigan alumni spread around the globe — 500,000 friends who are ready to help welcome you into your next chapter. It is also to embrace the idea that the knowledge and experiences you have earned here are a gift to be used. Your talents, dreams, and aspirations, along with the book-learning and real world practicums that you have seized all along here on campus, are not meant to be hoarded, but shared.

Go out and do great things with what you have learned. Do them well, with integrity and joy in the honest work of it. Carry with you the sense of self-assurance that even a pandemic could not stop you from chasing your dreams. You have overcome sleepless nights of studying for finals, the sweaty-palms feeling of just before a thesis defense, and so many other challenges, big and small. Whatever the next chapter of your story brings, I know you can handle it, and make us still here in Ann Arbor so very proud.

In fact, we are already proud. Your friends, family, and classmates could not be prouder of your achievements. But I hope you know that the most important opinion in all of this is how you see yourself. Wolverines, be proud of yourselves. Recognize and celebrate you for all you have done. Have there been times of self-doubt and struggle for you? I am sure there have. After all, that is what it means to be human.

You are not alone. I have those moments, too — and I am the vice president for Student Life at "the greatest university in the world!"as the voice for Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) put it. Every single other Michigan alum has been through this before you, and as you cross this finish line and set your eyes on a new horizon, remember that they are excited for you to join them, and we the staff and faculty at the University of Michigan will always be here to support you, wherever you go.

And, wherever you go — Go Blue!

Congratulations again, Trailblazers. We are so proud of you.

Community Congratulations

Congratulations to the Class of 2021!

A Special Video Message From The Following:

Adan Hussain

Program ManagerFirst Generation Program

Clayton Wickham

LecturerComprehensive Studies Program

Matthew Sullivan

Program Director and LecturerSociology

Tim McKay

LSA Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Professor in Physics, Astronomy, and Education

Beth Dutridge-Corp

Graduate Education Program ManagerLSA Dean's Office - Graduate Education

Vickie Crupper

Sr. Associate DirectorOffice of Financial Aid

"Congratulations on your wonderful accomplishments. We know you will now go and do great things!"

Carole Lapidos

Success Connects CoachOffice of Academic Multicultural Initiatives

"Congratulations and I wish you every happiness in the future and your hard work and diligence is so admirable!!!!"

J. Ann Hower

DirectorOffice of New Student Programs

"Congratulations first-generation college graduates! You have achieved an incredible milestone. Be proud of yourselves and I wish you well on your next chapter."

Betsy Brown

Director of Integrated Marketing CommunicationsEnrollment Management

"Congratulations, you did it! The U-M community is so proud of you. We cannot wait to see what you do next. Go Blue!"

Nadia Bazzy

DirectorMulti-Ethnic Student Affairs

"Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment of graduating from the University of Michigan! We are so proud to watch our First-Gen students move into the next phase of life and celebrate all that you have done during your time at Michigan. Forever Go Blue!"

Danielle Dros

Program ManagerFirst Year Experience

"To my fellow first gens - you are superheroes! It takes such bravery to be the first and to navigate so much newness. May the pride you're feeling never fade. Congrats on your graduation!"

Gloria Derr Taylor

DirectorOffice of Academic Multicultural Initiatives

"Congratulations first-gens! You accomplished a remarkable feat for yourselves, your families, and your communities. You have paved a new path for future generations, and I know you will continue to make great strides."

Roman Christiaens

Assistant Director for Learning and DevelopmentSpectrum Center

"You did it!!! This is such an amazing milestone, and I hope that you're finding small and big ways to celebrate this impressive achievement. Congratulations first gen graduates!"

Rosario Ceballo

LSA Associate Dean & Professor of WGS and Psychology

"Dear First-Gen Graduates, Congratulations on your graduation and all of your achievements! As you move towards future paths that are certain to be bright and important, I hope you always remember the strength that lies in your past experiences. Congrats and ¡Felicidades!"

David Schoem

Retired Adj. Associate Professor & Director of Sociology and MCSP

"Congratulations to the First-Gen Graduates! Your graduation from the University of Michigan is a tremendous accomplishment, and I couldn't be more proud of you! It has been an honor to have learned with you in my classes and/or to have worked with you in MCSP. I wish you continued success and much happiness as you go forward with compassion, kindness, and justice."

Amrita Das

Program AssistantFirst Generation Program &Graduating Student, Class of 2021

"Congratulations first-gen graduates! On top of finishing school in the midst of a global pandemic, you're absolutely phenomenal for completing your degree at (what I hear is) a pretty cool school. Please know that you deserve all the good things and the most beautiful part of your body is where it's heading! And do take time being as proud of yourself as we are of you."

Kierra D. Trotter

DirectorComprehensive Studies Program

"A warm congratulations to all of you! Being the first is no easy task. You persevered and overcame the challenges in front of you, and I cannot overstate how incredible you are for graduating from one of the best institutions in the world. I know you will continue to make even greater achievements in the future."

Joelle Fundaro Randall

Assistant DirectorUniversity Career Center

"Congratulations Class of 2021! As 1st Gens we know you have the courage to create a new set of ideas about what’s possible. Build your energy as if you’re preparing for a marathon, not a sprint. You got this! In the weeks and months ahead, be patient and kind to yourself as you develop and learn. The University Career Center is here to help you in your job search process and beyond. We believe in you! We are so happy for you because you did it! Congrats."

Allie Harte

Associate DirectorFirst Year Experience

"Congratulations on your graduation! You did it! As you close this chapter and move on to new adventures, know that you have worked through challenges, tried new things, made connections, and have left a lasting impact on the Michigan community. I celebrate your accomplishment and send you joy and support in this special moment!"

Kayla Anderson

Student Support CoordinatorKessler Scholars Program and LSA Scholarships

"Congratulations, first-gen graduates! With courage, each of you ventured into the unknown and came out victorious. Hail to the victors! As you look towards tomorrow, take a moment to celebrate your profound success and the example you've set for others. You have worked hard and deserve to feel proud. May you continue to prevail in all your endeavors!"

Dwight Lang

Retired LecturerSociology

"I was faculty advisor to First Generation College Students@Michigan from 2008 to 2019, had the honor of knowing many first-gens, and witnessed their amazing transformations. I know all of you have had similar experiences and wish everyone the very best. Your Michigan years have enabled you to thrive, not merely survive. This bodes well for you as you graduate and move on to new challenges. Always keep in mind our UM first-gen motto: We may be the first, but we won't be the last. Go Blue!"

Gail Gibson

DirectorKessler Scholars Program

"To all of the 2021 first-generation graduates -- and especially the first-gen scholars in the Kessler Scholars Program -- I am thrilled to share my warmest congratulations on reaching this milestone! Each of you have made U-M a better place during your undergraduate journey, and each of you have shown enormous tenacity, curiosity, and resourcefulness. Congratulations, graduates -- we cannot wait to see what you do next!"

Javier Solorzano

Program ManagerMulti-Ethnic Student Affairs

"Congratulations Class of 2021! You did it! I ask for all of you to use this time to thank yourself, to love yourself, and to be grateful for everything you have accomplished. Remember that there is beauty in everyone's journey. Everyone's story consists of many different chapters. Some chapters are a bit shorter than others. Some chapters are a bit funnier. And some chapters are a bit more serious. The beauty is in living through all of those chapters."

Megan Taylor

Program Manager, First Generation Program

"Congratulations on your graduation! I know you have worked so hard for this moment and that it signifies years of dreaming and dedication! We are so proud of you and your accomplishments, and hope that you take the time to celebrate yourself and allow yourself to feel that pride as well. As you take your next steps into the world, I hope you do it confidently and know that your unique strengths and resiliency will shine wherever you go! Your Michigan family will always be here to support you!"

Paula Hathaway

Manager of Graduate EducationLSA Dean’s Office

"Congratulations First Generation graduates! This is such an exciting time of year for everyone at the UM, but most of all for graduating students and their families. You have worked so hard during your time at the university and we are so happy to celebrate all of your accomplishments. We are proud of you and we hope you are proud of your own success as well. We look forward to seeing where your next adventure takes you. Please have fun, stay safe, and forever Go Blue!"

Student Speeches

Kayla Browning

Congratulations to our Undergraduate Speaker for the Class of 2021!

Kayla Browning is graduating with two Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and English from the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

Read Kayla's Speech about Overcoming the Odds

There were many times in my life where graduating from the University of Michigan seemed like a dream that would never come true. As a Michigan native, U of M was always my dream school. But as a child of a single, teenage mother who had to raise me with little support, attending any university didn’t feel possible sometimes. Fortunately, my mother is the epitome of overcoming the odds. She is the person who first taught me how important school is. She always reminded me that an education is the key to success and also the key to my chance of living a different lifestyle than the one in which I grew up. Thanks to my mother, I developed a lifelong love of learning and a determination to pursue higher education no matter what it took.

Once I began college, the battle became mine. My mom had overcome the odds by getting me here. It was now my turn. The universe definitely made sure to put up a fight. The summer before my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with cancer. I spent that fall semester having the rest of the cancerous cells surgically removed from my body. I also failed a class and barely passed my others that semester. A short month after going into remission in October, I started developing a weird neck pain that I chalked up to sleeping in a weird position. At least, I tried to blame it on that until my left knee swelled up two times its size in January. Shortly after, my other knee, finger and wrist joints, shoulder joints, and ankle joints followed. I could barely walk without knee braces or crutches. I was showering maybe once a week because I didn’t have the strength to turn the water on-and-off. My hair lived in a ratty bun because I couldn’t lift my arms to brush it. All I wanted to do was sleep and cry because those were the only two times that I wasn’t in excruciating pain. After months in-and-out of the emergency room, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and arthritis.

It was hard to go from fully able-bodied to dealing with a disability while simultaneously working two jobs and taking 17-18 credits a semester. Despite everything, I was determined to continue with my schooling and to graduate on time. I managed to complete both of my majors while struggling to balance my invisible illness, my jobs, volunteering, homework, and being the best daughter, sister, girlfriend, and friend I could be. I would say that, like my mom, I have managed to beat the odds. I would not be here today without her.

I am honored to be among you as the first person in my family to possess a degree from a four-year university. To be completely honest, I could care less what is even on this degree. I fought like crazy just to have it. I think that is a sentiment we should all express today. No matter what GPA you may have or what you and your families had to sacrifice to be here, celebrate your achievement. Just by being here, you have overcome the odds. No one knows what you had to go through to be graduating today, but you. So, be proud of yourself. Thank that person who helped you get here. If there is no person celebrating with you today, thank yourself because you are that person. Now, go, continue to beat the odds. Go out there and flourish. Be an inspiration for yourself and others and always remember to hold a hand backwards and help those who are in the position that you once were in.

Guadalupe Cervantes

Congratulations to our Graduate Speaker for the Class of 2021!

Guadalupe Cervantes is graduating with a Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan School of Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy and Management.

Read Guadalupe's Speech about Overcoming the Odds

It is my deepest honor and privilege to say, “Congratulations, we did it!”

Despite all our tribulations, nothing stopped us from chasing our dream of graduating. Our ceremony may look a bit different this year, but nonetheless, we are bound by our experiences at the University of Michigan.

My experience here began the summer of 2018. I had the honor of being part of the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP), which exposes undergraduate students to public health and prepares them for graduate school. I loved my SEP experience so much that I decided to come to Michigan for my graduate education.

Unfortunately, my transition was not as smooth as I had hoped. Coming straight from an undergraduate institution, I struggled with imposter syndrome. Coming from a mixed status family, I often worried about their physical and financial security as our xenophobic administration targeted, and separated, hard-working “undocumented” individuals. Faced with these uncertainties, I remembered a phrase my SEP program manager Mr. Clarke often told me, “These are just small potatoes,” and I find joy in sharing this with you, today.

This phrase is an analogy for overcoming adversity by always keeping the end goal in mind. You deconstruct obstacles into smaller-digestible pieces, like small potatoes, and view them for what they are, minor obstacles. You then work on these obstacles until eventually, you reach your desired goal. Using this analogy, I sought mentorship from Drs. Lopez, Beck, Burns, Dotson, and others, who ignited my passions as a student and leader, and helped me turn my life crises into small potatoes.

As we graduate, we are faced with combatting another life crisis. And I am not referring to what our generation calls, “Rona;” I am talking about racism. What many do not know is that George Floyd had coronavirus, but recovered. It was not a biological disease that ultimately stopped his breathing, but the systemic disease of racist police violence.

As first-generation students, we and our loved ones have often been victims of this same racism. Yet our lived experiences are often dismissed, or simply used as a statistic. Therefore, it is time to rise up and change the narrative.

As leaders, we can draw upon our diverse departmental skills and passions to collectively tackle segments of racism, so that even systemic racism is just small potatoes. This collective power is THE most precious gift we have to offer the world, so use it wisely.

And because I strongly believe in our capabilities, I challenge us to be fearless advocates for those who have been silenced. Engage in difficult and uncomfortable conversations, create new seats at the table for those directly impacted, and never stop calling out power, privilege, and oppression.

Lastly, as we anxiously plan the next steps in our lives, and wrestle with feelings of uncertainty. Yet again, I hope you pause, take a deep breath, and believe in yourself and your capabilities. When in doubt, utilize this “small potatoes” analogy to guide you towards your next step.

First Generation Graduating Class of 2021

Graduate Students

Andrea Basurto Salgado

Guadalupe Cervantes

Bharadwaj Chepuri

Amrita Das

Joanna Dimas

Marilu Duque

Saadet Durmaz

Sahil Farishta

Meredith Fruhauf

Yingli He

Stephanie Hefelfinger

Erica Hernandez

Dawn Kaczmar

Jessica Kosticak

Donald Lindsay

Jasmine Mack

Christopher McClain

Haley Roell

Kalee Rumfelt

Yezenia Sandoval

Olivia Sciore

Elsie Serrano

Leslie Tetteh

Deborah Trimble

Natalie Valdez

Rigoberto Vazquez Jr

Sandra Vidal

Courtney Videchak

Katherine Wolf

Alethea Young

Max Zhang

Mary Zywot

Undergraduate Students

Reem Aburukba

Ashlee Adams

Tanzima Ahad

Mahmuda Ahmed

Zahara Amir

Michele Appledorn

Tyler Atkinson

Zeinab Ayoub

Giovanna Bautista Rodriguez

Elijah Baylark

Selena Bazzi

Kendra Beaudoin

Brenda Bekins

Mariah Benford

Hawraa Beydoun

Dunja Blagojevic

Luca Borntrager

Kelsey Boucher

Zini Brace

Kayla Browning

Anthony Bui

Lily Caldero

Quantae Carr

Matthew Carroll

AJ Carter

Lucero Castillo

Angelica Chapa

Benny Chen

Jiaxi Chen

Michele Cochran

Kadasjah Cochran

Taylor Cornett

Haleigh Cotton

Matthew Cunningham

Dipita Das

Kelsi Davis

Alexander Delgado

Isaac Deng

Nick Dobreff

Syd Doornbos

Jillian Drzinski

Kunru Du

Sydney Edwards

Aliruda El-Sayed

Chase Everitt

Natalie Farran

Abigail Findley

Thania Flores

Derek Fuller

Makaila Furderer

Hunter Glew

Vanessa González

Taylor Grier

Maya Grossman

Harmony Groves

Paige Guyott

Katherine Hasted

Laura Hattar

Yingchao He

Melissa Hernandez

Kaitlyn Hines

Camille Hollins

Cindy Huang

Kaylee Hukarevic

Johnson Huynh

Eneida Hysi

Saika Islam

Hollya Israil

Linda Ivanovic

Mustapha Jaber

Franchion Jefferson

Emilija Jeskeviciute

Kiyara Johnson

Kaylee Johnson

Jessie Jordan

Kayla Kane

Fawad Karim

Zohaib Khan

Shahera Khandaker

Vanessa Kiefer

Alyssa Knight

Megan Kujawa

Marita Ky

Chance LaPratt

Tiffany Lee

Daphne Lin

Arturo Lopez

Anna Lopez

Aleksandra Luca

Zahra Makki

Kaitlyn Malo

Mark Markaj

Angela Martínez

John McCartney

Julia McCloud

Mia McCrumb

Autumn McGuffie

Noelia Mercado

Jasmine Miller

Sarah Minnis

Jennifer Moreno

Luz Navarro

Anh Nguyen

Angelique Nichols

Mariam Oloko

Monica Olszewski

Juan Orozco

Kristin Orrach

Susana Ortega

Andrew Pavon

Jasmine Penny

Julia Pickard

Bridgette Pollaski

Karolina Rak

Michael Rakowiecki

Julliana Ramirez-Matias

Zack Rauch

Nicholas Ray

Rachel Rigole

Destini Riley

Lynnitaane Riley

Nicolette Rose

Noelia Ruiz-Divas

Afsana Shahid

Rose Sickrey

Travis Simmons

Kathy Sliwinski

Duey Smith

Emmary Smith

Michelle So

Nathan Solis

Aidan Sova

Skylar Stoddard

Lauren Suga

Andrew Tallquist

Hunter Tarsin

Blaine Thompson

Angelica Tome

Quynh Tran

Megan Trapp

Alyssa Waters

Danielle Williams

Donnell Williams

Mia Wilson

JJ Wright

Lucy Xu

Nicole Yang

Angela Yu

Maria Zaccherini

Graduation Viewbook

PDF Available for Download.
First Gen Graduation Viewbook.pdf