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375 Students Set to Receive Degrees at Winter Commencement

Student Speaker Who Hails from West Africa and Works for U.S. Department of Homeland Security Will Take Next Step in His Educational Journey

On Saturday, Jan. 26, 375 Bellevue University students are expected to cross the stage at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and receive their diplomas at the University’s winter commencement ceremony. Among the graduates will be student speaker Nathan Zopoula, an immigrant from West Africa, who now works for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Zopoula’s journey began almost 6,000 miles away. He grew up outside of Boura, Burkina Faso, a landlocked West African country, and trekked 10 miles to school every morning. Since arriving in the United States in 2011, Zopoula has earned his Associate of Arts and Sciences degree at Northeast Community College, added a bachelor’s degree and, now has earned his Master of Science degree in Security Management from Bellevue University. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in global security at the Henley-Putnam School of Strategic Security.

“The transformation and empowerment that we create in students is remarkable,” said University President Mary Hawkins, “and Nathan Zopoula exemplifies that. The students we serve best are those who, like Nathan, have invested in themselves and are motivated to get to the next level.”

Zopoula, who now works as an immigration consultant for DHS and serves in the U.S. Army Reserve, credits his family in West Africa and his Bellevue University family for his success. “My parents did all they could to help me and my siblings go to school,” he said, and at Bellevue University “everyone is working for your success. The faculty is always available to help.”

The commencement ceremony, which begins at 9:10 a.m., will also feature Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Burke as the winter commencement speaker. Burke, who joined OPPD in 1997 and was named CEO in 2015, is active as a volunteer with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the United Way Way of the Midlands and a variety of other area non-profit organizations.

According to University Registrar Colette Lewis, the University conferred 521 degrees from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2018. This includes 334 undergraduate degrees, 180 master’s degrees and seven doctoral degrees.

The University streams the commencement ceremony live so those who cannot attend have an opportunity to see students receive their diplomas. The live streaming link is available on the Bellevue University website starting at 8 a.m., Central Standard Time.