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UB's multiple graduations provide lessons in logistics

Myadah Kalia, 22, of Syracuse had her eyes on Zambia, where she will travel with the Peace Corps in two weeks to jump-start her career in public health.

Matthew Glosek, 21, of Buffalo hopes to work as a neurosurgeon, so next year he will begin studies for his master's degree in anatomical sciences.

Shabir Mustehsan, 22, formerly of Amherst, graduated in December with a degree in biological science. A project manager working on MEMS technology, Mustehsan now lives in Pittsburgh and works for Bosch Research and Technology Center.

[Gallery: UB 2017 Commencement]

Kalia, Glosek and Mustehsan are three of the 5,894 graduates expected to walk the stage and accept their diplomas during 18 commencement ceremonies continuing through Wednesday at the University at Buffalo's North Campus in Amherst.

This weekend, 14 graduations – six on Friday, four on Saturday and four on Sunday – filled UB's Alumni Arena and the Center for the Arts.

A creative mortarboard worn by a UB student at commencement. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

This year marked on the first time university officials divided the large ceremony honoring baccalaureate recipients from the College of Arts and Sciences into two separate ceremonies, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. On Sunday morning, 700 graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and 4,400 attendees filled the arena for the two-hour ceremony that began at 9:30 a.m.

The event was bookended by classical marches, Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" and Verdi's "Triumphal March." Faculty speaker Jessica Poulin, assistant professor of biology, earned her spot at the podium by receiving the most votes from the graduates of the Arts, Natural Sciences & Mathematics, and Interdisciplinary Programs. Alumni speaker Peter J. Kadzik, who earned his bachelor's degree in 1974, was assistant attorney general for legislative affairs at the Department of Justice.

One by one, the graduates walked the stage to receive their diplomas from UB President Satish K. Tripathi.

UB President Satish Tripathi greets graduates during the University at Buffalo commencement in Alumni Arena, Sunday, May 21, 2017. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Watching over the ceremony like a proud father was Steve Rutz, associate director and onsite graduation logistics guru.

"The kids are the ones getting awarded here, so the readings (the announcements of the graduates' names) is their moment to shine for all the work they've done. Readers are prepped to read (and correctly pronounce) all 700 of their names," said Rutz, whose walkie-talkie gets a workout during graduation week.

"We start preparing in November with scripts, times," Rutz said. "We have lots of notes, some that carry over from year to year. It's just about being organized, and the caliber of our team. I've been doing events for 16 years now, the Dalai Lama, (President) Obama, and when Bernie (Sanders) was here last year. The events just become second nature."

[Gallery: Mortarboard art from UB's commencement]

As the hundreds of graduates exited the arena with their parents, the courtyard turned into a sea of blue, filled with the joy of their accomplishment. Rutz, who also attended an out-of-town commencement ceremony last weekend, shared in that emotion.

"It made me proud of what we do here," he said. "Our ceremony is beautiful."

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