Samantha Vaverka Named Commencement Senior Speaker

Samantha Vaverka

Augustana senior Samantha Vaverka, from Milford, Nebraska, majoring in biology and Spanish with an ecology/environmental sciences emphasis and a modern foreign languages minor, will serve as the senior speaker for the 2019 commencement exercises, set for Saturday, May 25, at the Sioux Falls Arena.

Vaverka will deliver her address, “Fearfully Fearless,” before 297 graduates who will participate in the undergraduate commencement ceremony (an additional 43 students will graduate in absentia). Augustana will also honor 49 master’s degree graduates (and 137 in absentia) in a graduate commencement ceremony on Friday, May 24, in the Chapel of Reconciliation.

Vaverka, who will graduate summa cum laude, said her remarks will outline why we can’t live our lives waiting to be unafraid, because we will miss every opportunity that is on the other side of fear. “Thanks to Augustana University, students are prepared to tackle those fears and poised to take on the world.”

Throughout her time at Augustana, Vaverka has been an engaged member of the campus community. She was involved in several campus organizations including Beta Beta Beta biological honor society, Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish Honor Society), Augustana Student Association, Spanish Club, and Biology Club. She was also an active tutor assisting with both Spanish and biology tutoring for the Student Success Center, and was a Spanish tutor for the Augustana University Language Institute. Vaverka held a teaching assistant positions for the biology department, as well as employment at the Eide/Dalrymple Gallery.

Vaverka received several recognitions and scholarships during her time at Augustana including the Will Rosine Memorial Scholarship (top biology department award), Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network Summer Research Fellowship and the Distinguished Scholars study abroad opportunity in Scotland. She also studied tropical ecology in Guatemala and Belize and participated in a marine biology course in Florida. Vaverka received the American FFA Degree in 2018.

A highlight of her time at Augustana was the research internship she completed at the Graduate School of Oceanography in Narragansett, Rhode Island through the SURFO program (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships in Oceanography). The prestigious 10-week summer research program selected only 12 students nationwide to participate in the fellowship funded by the National Science Foundation. As a result of the program, Vaverka was able to attend the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico to present her research.

After graduation, Vaverka plans to take a gap year to do research and spend time studying abroad before beginning work on an advanced degree, most likely in medicine. She is the daughter of Terry and Jackie Vaverka.

Katie LeBrun
Public Relations and Communications Strategist