More than 10,000 college students will take a short walk to receive their degrees and a long walk toward their futures as Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University hold graduation ceremonies today. For all of them, graduation is an accomplishment.
For one UVU student who will be receiving her diploma, the journey to college graduation once seemed further away than ever. As a native Rwandan, Claudine Kuradusenge was a survivor of the 1994 genocide between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes which left nearly one million massacred. She wants to become an advocate to prevent future genocides and atrocities.
"I want to make a change, to make sure that what happened to me won't happen to someone else," she said. She and her family went to a refugee camp when she was 5 and her sister was 3. "My sister died in the refugee camp. It was like a nightmare." The camp was overcrowded and rife with starvation and disease. Her mother was murdered two years later by government soldiers.
"When she passed away I was so traumatized," she said. "She was everything I had. I stopped talking for two years."
Her bachelor's degree is in public relations with minors in peace and justice studies and criminal justice. She will pursue a master's degree in peace studies at George Mason University in Virginia in the fall and plans on earning a doctorate and becoming a peace advocate.
Kuradusenge went to Belgium to live with an aunt and there discovered a love of education. After two cousins attended UVU, she chose to do the same and decided to pursue a bachelor's degree in public relations and communication. She became active in the international student center.
"In the future I would like to be back home in Africa," she said. "My area is one of the most violent regions. I would like to help the entire region."
For a number of BYU engineering students, it's their chance to take the real-world knowledge they've experienced through Capstone projects and put it to use in the real world. Ben Spence, Dallin Swiss, Madison Clark, Joel Marshall and Rusty Christensen created the MedVault, which pharmacists can use to regulate prescription pain pills to help prevent abuse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month. Drug overdose deaths have more than tripled since 1990, with 100 people dying every day from an overdose.
A Las Vegas paramedic, Chris Blackburn, wanted to do his part to overcome accidental or intentional overdoses and sponsored the students' project. Over the eight-month course of their work, they created a device to dispense only the medication the doctor has ordered, keeping the remainder safely locked until the appropriate time. They did teleconferences weekly with Blackburn to refine the ideas. A pharmacist loads the device with the prescribed medication and programs it for the correct dosage and timing. The MedVault is made from polycarbonate material, similar to what bulletproof glass is made from, so any attempts to inappropriately remove the medication would be obvious to a pharmacist when the patient goes back for a refill.
The students created the device; it is now up to Blackburn to take it to manufacturing.
"It has been awesome," Spence said. "It is a real confidence booster, coming out of college that you have skills that are very valuable. You can make a contribution in the industry. It taught me that I can figure out how to do stuff, how to figure out how stuff works and make it work. That has been really cool." After graduation, he will work for a medical supply company.