Meet the spring 2024 CLAS commencement speakers

During each College of Liberal Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony, graduates will hear an address from a peer who will reflect on their shared experience as Hawkeyes, while also looking toward the future.
Friday, May 3, 2024

By Izabela Zaluska 

More than 2,300 undergraduate students will receive their degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences this spring. During commencement ceremonies at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, graduates will receive a message from a fellow student.  

Meet the morning speaker: Preksha Kedilaya 

Preksha Kedilaya

Preksha Kedilaya, of Bettendorf, Iowa, will speak at the 9 a.m. ceremony. She will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical sciences and a minor in gender health and healthcare equity. Kedilaya is graduating with honors and distinction. 

Kedilaya worked as a research assistant in professor Adrian Elcock’s lab through the biochemistry and molecular biology department in the Carver College of Medicine and said the experience was “monumental” for her growth. Additionally, Kedilaya was a certified nursing aide at Oaknoll, a retirement community in Iowa City, which reinforced her desire to pursue a career in health care. 

She was also president of Iowa Agni A Cappella, as well as peer educator and volunteer at the Women’s Resource Action Center. 

“The University of Iowa offered many opportunities that aligned with my interests, especially regarding medicine, music, and diversity,” Kedilaya said. “I was able to find long-lasting communities that fit these interests, and I am very happy with my decision to study at Iowa.”  

Kedilaya chose to major in biomedical sciences because of her desire to pursue a career in health care. Minoring in gender, health, and healthcare equity allowed Kedilaya to “explore my own bias and gain a deeper understanding of the inclusivity and compassion I want to hold as a future healthcare provider.”  

“It takes a special type of person to enjoy working in healthcare, and I realized very quickly that I thrived in that environment,” Kedilaya said. 

The college also gave her opportunities to learn and grow personally and academically, she said. The supportive faculty, mentors, and advisors especially stood out during her experience in CLAS.  

During her address, Kedilaya will focus on the upcoming journey graduates are preparing to embark on.  

“I want students to understand that their entire future is at their fingertips,” Kedilaya said. “They should lean into that and create the world that they want to live in.” 

As for her plans after graduation, Kedilaya will begin the physician assistant program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse through the Mayo Clinic in June. 

Meet the afternoon speaker: Hope Hjelmeland 

Hope Hjelmeland 

Hope Hjelmeland, of Humboldt, Iowa, will speak at the 1 p.m. ceremony. She will receive a Bachelor of Arts in economics and public policy and ethics, as well as a minor in gender, women’s, and sexuality studies. Hjelmeland is graduating with highest distinction. 

Hjelmeland was ecstatic to receive a full-ride scholarship to the University of Iowa from the Bright Foundation as a Bright Scholar.  

“I knew Iowa had great writing and business programs, which would allow me to explore many options in college as an open major,” Hjelmeland said. 

She decided to study public policy and ethics to sharpen her critical thinking, writing, and logic skills, which are key to pursuing a legal education. After taking a couple of economics classes, Hjelmeland added a second major to her coursework. 

Hjelmeland worked as a victory congressional intern in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as a financial representative intern at a Fortune 100 company. During her time at Iowa, she also created a student organization geared towards Bright Scholars and other first-generation students. 

Hjelmeland was recently awarded the Outstanding Leadership in Economics award and the Frank Knight Award from the Department of Economics in the Tipple College of Business after four faculty nominated her. 

"I have built life-long connections with professors who have supported me and invited me to various professional and academic events, including alumni dinners and talks with visiting researchers,” Hjelmeland said. 

During her address, Hjelmeland will talk about her experience in Iowa and encourage her peers to take the leap and do things that might scare them. 

After graduation, Hjelmeland will begin applying to law schools in the fall. She will spend the summer studying for the LSAT and enjoying her last few months in Iowa City. In her gap year before law school, Hjelmeland will use the time to build professional and volunteer experiences. 


The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers about 70 majors across the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. About 15,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by faculty at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all Iowa undergraduates through the college's general education program, CLAS CORE. About 80 percent of all Iowa undergraduates begin their academic journey in CLAS. The college confers about 60 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees each academic year.