- Claire Oduwo (College of Arts and Sciences)
- Justin Korth (College of Business Administration)
- Ruey Dei (College of Public Affairs and Community Service)
The work of UNO graduate Benjamin Hayworth is something that is truly out of this world.
As a double major in both physics and philosophy, Hayworth has explored the nature of the world scientifically as well as conceptually, hoping to better understand how it is we know what we know.
“When you start out as a science major you take science as almost divine but then you start breaking it all down and it’s like ‘shoot, what do we actually know, scientifically?” he says. “Then you try and build a theory back up from that to describe what science is doing and what knowledge we can get from science.”
Working as a research assistant in the physics department and conducting his own work, thanks to grant funding from the Office of Research and Creative Activity, helped Hayworth, who is also an honors student in the UNO University Honors Program, land a spot at Penn State where he will be earning two doctoral degrees – one in geoscience and one in astrobiology – as well as a master’s degree in astronomy and astrophysics.
“I’m going to study planets, planetary science, as my field,” he explains. “Based on people at the school who were under the same advisor, I will probably be doing my post-doc at NASA or somewhere very research based but ultimately I would like to end up at a university teaching and doing research, that would be my end goal.”
Hayworth credits his advisors as key supporters in finding his passion and preparing him for the next step in his career.
“My physics advisor hired me on as a research assistant, which is really cool to get hands-on theoretical research, and my philosophy advisor, Dr. Newman, he actually has a Ph.D. in physics and philosophy and he’s been spectacular as an advisor because having someone with the same interests as you, just at a higher level. It’s really opened doors for me.”
Claire Oduwo is a graduating senior who is earning her bachelor of science degree in neuroscience, with three minors in math, psychology and chemistry.
Oduwo has loved life as a Maverick. She is a member of the Urban Health Opportunities Program (UHOP) and the Pan-African Student Organization.
She has set her sights on becoming a doctor, and since joining UNO’s UHOP program, the future has never looked brighter.
“I have such pride in finishing this part and I look forward to what’s next. I feel a sense of accomplishment, knowing with this degree I can do so many more things.”
Just like a series of notes need to be arranged purposefully in order to make great music, the right experiences can lead a student to create something amazing.
This is certainly true for Bach Mai, a graduating senior who is receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Music Entrepreneurial Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing with a minor in International Business.
Initially a general performance major who was also involved in Jazz Choir, Chamber Choir and a student-led acapella group, he quickly saw the benefits of adapting his path to focus towards marrying music and business.
“I’ve always been interested in participating in more of a contemporary music scene,” he says. “Playing music myself, booking shows, writing music, and organizing festivals … once the music entrepreneurship degree was available I realized that was something that I actually wanted to pursue.”
An Omaha native, Mai is a musician who is passionate about Nebraska’s music community, which is why he is hoping to make a career out of supporting it.
Thankfully, Mai already got a great start not only interning at Hear Nebraska, a local nonprofit that helps promote musicians and music festivals across the state, but by turning his senior capstone project into the inaugural Conspire Music and Arts Festival, which will take place from Saturday, May 6, through Saturday, May 13.
“What’s really neat about interning at Hear Nebraska is that we share the same space as Saddle Creek Records, Slowdown and the Maha Music Festival, so I get to pick the brains of a bunch of big players in town,” he says.
Mai is planning to stay on at Hear Nebraska through the rest of the year to help promote festivals and events across the state. Afterwards, he hopes to find a job where he can continue to tell rest of the state – and world – about Nebraska’s music scene.
No matter what he does, Mai says he is prepared for whatever opportunities come his way thanks to his experiences in the classroom at UNO.
“Being able to [learn music theory] and learn entrepreneurial aspects as well as going to business school itself will definitely provide me a better opportunity to perform and do what I need to do.”
From the fields to the classroom - and now on to the boardroom, Justin Korth has always blazed his own path towards success.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with emphases in accounting; business finance; banking and financial markets; and investment science and portfolio management, he is well prepared to navigate any challenges that may come his way as an accountant.
Korth’s resume touts a variety of internships over the course of his college years. Firms include Lincoln Financial Group, Seim Johnson, Wells Fargo Investment Institute and more. Currently, Korth works for Lutz & Company as an associate accountant in the tax and consulting department. This is in addition to the eight student organizations he was involved in during his time at UNO.
Korth’s main goal in his extraordinary involvement was to build relationships.
"Business is fundamentally based on relationships,” he said. “I've learned this through my small-town upbringing and the multitude of connections I've made here."
Through it all, Korth credits UNO and the College of Business Administration, particularly the exceptional faculty and staff, as well as the community relationships that the College of Business have fostered to connect students with internship and career opportunities.
As one of the student speakers at the UNO's May 2017 Commencement ceremonies, Korth spoke about the importance of maintaining this commitment to engagement after graduation.
"All of us found our routines and what worked win college, and our lives ahead will be another new chapter of our story. We will have to adjust our lifestyles and priorities, but never stop learning, and leverage your education, experiences and connections all while keeping an open mind about your future careers."
Senior Bashayer Hammadi doesn’t know yet where her next journey will take her, but she knows that wherever she goes, she will be helping others.
Born and raised in Kuwait, Hammadi came to the United States in 2011 to study English at the University of Colorado – Boulder. While studying, she found a passion for children with communication disorders and helping those whose speech may be impaired due to developmental disabilities or a medical malady.
“Initially I wanted to be a pediatrician, but I decided that medical treatment is not the sort of thing that I wanted to work with,” she explains. “I wanted something that speaks more to quality of life and lets you work one-on-one with people.”
Now, six years later, Hammadi will become the first in her family to graduate from college – earning a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology. It is an occasion that her family even flew in from Kuwait to experience.
“It’s been a week of adventure,” she says. “My nephew is here and I haven’t seen him in two years and so when I first saw him I was touching him like ‘are you real?!’”
As a graduate, Hammadi will leave behind a legacy of caring and commitment to the UNO and Omaha communities. She was an active member of UNO’s chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, University Honors Program and Sustained Dialogue Network, while also volunteering her time to teach Arabic at the Noor Learning Center and coordinate youth activities at the Islamic Center of Omaha.
Hammadi also graduates fluent in Arabic, English and sign language. She even provided sign language interpretation for the national anthem at a recent Stormchasers baseball game.
Not surprisingly, Hammadi isn’t slowing down after graduating. She is waitlisted at several schools to continue on and earn a master’s degree in speech-language pathology but says if that doesn’t work out she will travel home to Kuwait. Either way, she hopes to provide speech-language therapy to children affected by autism and other developmental disorders.
“It’s been so fun getting into the community, learning the different parts of Omaha and helping them out. My time at UNO has been a wonderful experience.”
What better way for a future playwright to learn their craft than by studying under an Academy Award winner and Tony Award nominee?
That’s exactly what new alumnus Noah Diaz, who is earning his bachelor’s degree in special education and communication disorders, will be doing as a graduate student at the Yale School of Drama, working with Tarell Alvin McCrany (“Moonlight”) and Sarah Ruhl (“The Clean House”).
Diaz is an Omaha native who wrote for The Gateway while at UNO, as well as worked at the Rose Theater. He hopes his future plays can foster artistic communities that celebrate those who are otherly-abled.
“My personal mantra, stolen from my favorite memoirist, Cheryl Strayed, is: ‘Life is a great and continuous unfolding.’ I hope that my fellow grads will continue unfolding in the profoundly specific and unique ways only they can.”
A huge baseball fan and former player, Japan-native Yamato Nonaka came to the United States hoping to join an athletic training program. After visiting UNO, he was sold. He will return to Japan with loads of clinical experience in athletic training, and he couldn’t have gotten it in a better environment. Last summer he was waking up at the crack of dawn as an intern with the Texas Rangers of the MLB.
“I loved the environment at UNO,” said Nonaka. “There’s lots of international students. I had a great experience.”
Sometimes it takes Maverick thinking to make a change in the world.
That sentiment is certainly true of graduating senior Matthew Martens, who is earning his bachelor of science degree in bioinformatics from the College of Information Science and Technology.
Even before graduating, the senior from Blair, Nebraska, has had his research published in the Journal of Genomics and has secured a scholarship to help him earn a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Immunology, Pathology and Infectious Disease graduate program.
So, what’s next? How about treating malaria?
“This year I’ve been working with Dr. [Kiran] Bastola on a plant [Artemisia annua] that makes an anti-malarial compound,” Martens says. “We found some ways that we can alter the plant’s environment to make it produce more of this compound, which is kind of surprising. It’s really helpful now because we are seeing high rates of drug resistance in malaria against a lot of the current treatments.”
In addition to his research work, Martens is a member of the UNO University Honors Program and is a UNO Distinguished Scholarship recipient. He has also spent time volunteering to help incoming students study to take the test needed to potentially earn that scholarship.
He says that his time at UNO has been incredibly important to helping him find his passion and pursue his desire to help others through research.
“I’ve been so impressed with the research that is done at UNO and the research environment,” Martens said. “The amount of research and type of research people are doing here is amazing. I’m really glad that I ended up coming here.”
Born and raised in India, Anson Dsouza is now committed to helping citizens in and around the Omaha.
Less than two years after first coming to the United States, Dsouza is graduating with a Master’s of Science in Management Information Systems from UNO and already has two jobs lined up thanks to connections he made while a student.
After spending time as a student worker with Omaha nonprofit WhyArts, a partner with UNO’s Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center, Dsouza met Matt Bross, who helps with educational programming for the nonprofit and is co-founder of the multimedia design company OnPxl. Bross convinced OnPxl’s parent company, Perfecta Media, to hire Dsouza as a systems engineer while also keeping him on at WhyArts? to help them with administrative tasks and IT support.
“There are two things that I am passionate about: working with technology and working with nonprofits and reaching out to people in our community,” he says. “I feel that this is a perfect opportunity.”
In addition to his work at WhyArts, Dsouza also worked with Vodec, who provides services to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities; NorthStar, which provides afterschool programming for young men in North Omaha; the Archdiocese of Omaha; and UNO’s International Studies and Programs office as a global diplomat, who help incoming international students get acclimated to Omaha.
“Sometimes international students, when they come to a different country, experience culture shock and t’s difficult for them because things are so different,” he explains. “As a global diplomat, our job is to make them comfortable.”
Dsouza also spent his time at UNO as a member of student government and working at Baxter Arena, which he says gave him the chance to interact with a variety of people from Omaha and learn about customer service.
He says that every one of his experiences at UNO has helped him better understand the importance of giving back and how to build strong communities.
“My time here has been great. From what [my life] was a couple years ago to how that’s changed in the past year and a half has been really amazing.”
After touring the UNO Aviation Institute, Dalton Taylor knew what he field he wanted to go into. During his time at UNO he enlisted in the National Guard, was deployed to Kuwait, and took a job at Delta Airlines. He did all of this and still graduated in five years. Next he’s going into helicopter training with the Army National Guard.
“UNO really worked with me to achieve my goal of graduating,” Taylor said. “I’ll leave with lifelong friends.”
Ruey Dei is a true Maverick, and one whose journey to earn his graduate degree was a lot longer than most.
A native of Bool, a small village in rural South Sudan. Dei is the first in his family to graduate high school, obtain an undergraduate degree, and complete graduate school.
He came to the United States as a young refugee with his aunt in 1995, and after being separated from his family for more than 20 years, was reunited with them in 2015. Dei is a proud husband to Michaela Dei and father to Gloria Dei. Dei completed his undergraduate degree at UNO in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in History and a minor in Geography. He played on the UNO Maverick football team from 2007-2009.
After graduation, Dei became an Assistant Boys Varsity Basketball Coach at Omaha South Magnet High School. His team was named Nebraska Class A State Champions in March of 2016.
He chose to pursue Social Work and Public Administration at UNO because he had a strong yearning to learn how to advocate and find resources for people, just like the individuals who advocated for him during his time as a refugee and new American.
Dei also wanted to learn how to serve and protect people in a public setting. He was interested in these two programs because they are well-known and highly needed. He believes that the skills and techniques he gained from both programs will help him live out his purpose in this world.
As one of the student speakers for UNO's May 2017 Commencement ceremonies, Dei told his fellow graduates:
"I encourage all of us here to not simply be satisfied with crossing the finish line, but strive to go beyond it because there will be more challenges to overcome for yourself and those you will help. The key to accomplishing extraordinary and remarkable things in this short and uncertain life has been given to us today; let's utilize these degrees to empower people, communities, society and the world."
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