By Nicole Capozziello
Published May 12, 2021
Graduating is both an uncertain and exciting time – and perhaps never more so than in 2021. At this year's commencement ceremonies, two student speakers will have the honor of sending their fellow School of Engineering and Applies Sciences graduates off into this next chapter.
Barnard Uche Onyenucheya, a PhD student in electrical engineering, will address his fellow graduate students on May 14 while Amy Faville, a mechanical engineering major, will speak at the undergraduate ceremony on May 15.
The students earned first place in the Student Speaker Competition, an annual event run by Christine Human, associate dean for accreditation and student affairs. The event is organized into two competitions: one for graduate students and the other for undergraduate students. “The competition is open to all students participating in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences commencement ceremony,” says Human. “This year, we had an outstanding pool made up of nine graduate students and 10 graduate students.”
A panel of faculty and staff volunteers choose the winners, whose speeches are evaluated based on relevancy, appropriateness of content and delivery. In addition to presenting their speeches at commencement, the winners also receive a custom UB class ring.
“Each year, I’m more impressed by the students we have here in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Their perspectives and motivation never fail to inspire me,” says Human.
“I saw this as an outstanding opportunity to both improve my professional public speaking skills and to instill a feeling of hope and excitement for the future in my fellow graduates,” says Faville of her inspiration to enter the contest. “The past four years have been tough and this class has faced numerous hurdles. I wanted to remind them that regardless of how challenging it has been, each and every one of them should be immensely proud of their accomplishments.”
Faville, who hails from Avon, NY, comes from a family of engineers. During her time at UB, she has been a research assistant under Matthew Burge, an assistant professor of teaching in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, where she evaluates methods for the observation of fluid and heat transfer phenomena. She’s also been involved in the freshman engineering course EAS199, where she’s mentored projects groups and worked as a teaching assistant for labs.
Outside of the classroom, Faville has been an active member of Theta Tau, a professional co-ed engineering fraternity on campus. She was recently honored as the recipient of the 2021 MAE Student Excellence Chair’s Award, which recognizes an individual’s promotion of engineering culture at UB and efforts spanning all engineering principles.
Upon graduation, Faville looks forward to starting at Fisher-Price as a product development engineer and pursuing a Masters of Engineering Management here at UB.
“My favorite memory from my time at UB is my study abroad experience in Troyes, France,” says Faville. “Not only did this time give me a chance to experience a variety of cultures and global history, but it gave me a special opportunity to connect with like-minded engineers within SEAS. This study abroad was an amazingly run program that I strongly encourage every younger engineer to pursue – it provided me with lifelong friends and memories.”
Graduate student speaker Barnard Onyenucheya hails from the Bronx, N.Y. A four-year letter winner on the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team, Onyenucheya received both his bachelor of science and master of science degrees in electrical engineering from UB.
“I don't think I fit the traditional mold of someone completing a PhD in electrical engineering so I thought giving people insight into my journey would be interesting and inspiring,” says Onyenucheya. “To address your peers is the highest honor that anyone could ask for in any ceremony. I know that I will be representing not only the Class of 2021 but the University at Buffalo as a whole, which is something I'm honored by.”
Onyenucheya was a recipient of the National Science Foundation Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship and is the co-founder of the Engineering Cooperative Society, which funds and provides outreach to underrepresented students in STEM. He is also the founder of the creative engineering solutions start-up Epsilon Blue LLC.
“During my time at UB, some faculty, coaches and classmates turned out to be much more than just their title – they became family,” says Onyenucheya. “I really believe the university fosters an environment where strangers become so involved and shower you with so much support that they become integrated in your life forever.”