Dickinson State University to hold spring commencement ceremony, honor outstanding graduate nominees

Dickinson State University students Anya Baranko and Luisa Popp will address graduates, families and friends at the institution’s 2022 spring commencement ceremony Saturday, May 14 at 10 a.m. in Scott Gymnasium.
May Hall on the Dickinson State University campus. (Dickinson Press file photo)
Dickinson Press file photo
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DICKINSON — Graduation is a rite of passage at every university, but at Dickinson State University, commencement is truly a one-of-a-kind event. The quintessential university tradition that stretches back to when DSU's story began on June 24, 1918.

Clad in the esteemed regalia and various accouterments denoting success in higher education, faculty, students and staff each May process to the stage for one of the most visually stunning commencement ceremonies in the state.

The ceremonies will feature DSU students Anya Baranko and Luisa Popp, who will address graduates, families and friends at this year's 2022 spring commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 14 at 10 a.m. in Scott Gymnasium.

Anya Baranko, of Richardton, North Dakota, will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with minors in leadership studies and art. (Contributed / Dickinson State University)

Anya Baranko, daughter of Darren and Missi Baranko, was born and raised in Richardton, North Dakota. She is a graduate of Richardton-Taylor High School's class of 2018. Baranko will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, with minors in leadership studies and art.

While a student at Dickinson State, Baranko was an active member of the Student Education Association (SEA) as well as the Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program (TRHLP). As a member of the SEA, she helped the education community in Dickinson by organizing a winter gear and school supply drive for local elementary schools. As a member of the TRHLP, Baranko completed numerous community service hours benefiting Dickinson and even aided with events like Brave the Shave and Boo Hawks.


While at DSU, Baranko participated in the 2019 and 2021 student art shows on campus. Having already secured employement, after graduating she will be teaching fourth grade in Hebron, North Dakota.

Luisa Popp, of Heidelberg, Germany, will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. (Contributed / Dickinson State University)

Luisa Popp is a native of Heidelberg, Germany, and is the daughter of Markus Popp and Wiebke Brettel. Popp graduated from St. Raphael Gymnasium in 2017, before beginning her higher education academic career at Dickinson State. She will be graduating with dual Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Communication.

During her Dickinson State career, Popp participated in DSU Cheer, women’s basketball and the Psychology Club. She also worked on campus in the Tutoring Center as a peer tutor for psychology, physics and Spanish and in the University Relations office creating social media content, writing articles and taking pictures for university publications.

In 2021, Popp received a grant from the North Dakota Department of Health to improve COVID communication at DSU. After graduating, she says she would like to pursue a master's degree in forensic psychology in her home country of Germany.

As the commencement ceremonies continue, Dickinson State will award 32 master’s degrees, 137 baccalaureate degrees, 39 associate degrees and 16 certificates to students who will celebrate their graduation by walking across the stage to receive their diplomas from DSU President Steve Easton.

Dickinson State University will also be awarding an honorary degree.

More than 200 students are eligible to participate in this semester’s ceremony, with nine students graduating with Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program distinction.

The graduates, faculty, staff, alumni and guests will also hear from President Steve Easton; Danita Bye, a representative of the State Board of Higher Education; and DSU alumna Melani Lowman Walton via video.


Dickinson State University President Steve Easton is pictured.
Dickinson State University President Steve Easton will address students at the 2022 spring commencement ceremony Saturday, May 14, at 10 a.m. in Scott Gymnasium.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

Live streaming of the ceremony will be available at


Nineteen students have been nominated by their respective departments for Dickinson State University’s 2022 Outstanding Graduate Award. The award is the highest honor bestowed on graduating seniors by the University.

The following students will be honored by Dickinson State University the day prior to the commencement ceremonies at the Outstanding Graduate ceremony held on Friday, May 13, at 3 p.m. in the DSU Student Center Ballroom.

The nominees include:

Rachel Andrus Arts and Letters South Heart, ND
Linda Braun University Studies Bismarck, ND
Tariro Chitiyo Nursing Harare, Zimbabwe
Colton Damjanovich Teacher Education Lemmon, SD
Heather Fahy Nursing Dickinson, ND
Trey Fischbach Agriculture and Technical Studies Moorcroft, WY
Alexander Fransen Social Sciences Glasgow, MT
Treven Hopfauf Business and Entrepreneurship Dickinson, ND
Morgan Hutzenbiler Arts and Letters Scranton, ND
Jace Johnson Business and Entrepreneurship Sidney, MT
Mariah McLaughlin Agriculture and Technical Studies Beulah, ND
Cassandra McWhorter Teacher Education Rock Springs, WY
Caleb Petross Natural Sciences Miles City, MT
Luisa Popp Social Sciences Heidelberg, Germany
Stephanie Schendel Natural Sciences Wilton, WI
Jessica Smith Health and Physical Education Billings, MT
Andrii Soloviov Math and Computer Science Kyiv, Ukraine
Jace Steier Health and Physical Education Dickinson, ND
Osamudiamen Naomi Uwagbai Math and Computer Science Lagos, Nigeria

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