Kentucky State University Spring 2020 Commencement Convocation valedictorian hopes a ceremony brings closure

Kentucky State University Spring 2020 Commencement Convocation valedictorian hopes a ceremony brings closure

The spring 2020 graduating class faced a semester like any other, putting the finishing touches of their college career on hold while the world dealt with a pandemic. 

In the spring, Kentucky State University President M. Christopher Brown II promised the spring 2020 class an in-person ceremony. On Oct. 16, President Brown delivered with a historic combined Founder’s Day and Commencement Convocation. 

Kentucky State University’s valedictorian for the spring 2020 class, Derek Roberts, said he thinks having an in-person ceremony will bring closure. 

“I was definitely more at ease with the possibility of not having to give a speech, but I've made my peace and am confident in my ability to deliver despite my anxiety,” Roberts, who earned a degree in computer science, said. “Commencement and finally actually delivering a speech and going through the ceremony will probably feel like closure, as silly as it may sound.”

Roberts, from Frankfort, detailed the odds he’s overcome to achieve success in the spring and now he’s  searching for a job during a pandemic. 

“The job search is definitely tough, especially with the big companies,” Roberts said. “I'm applying for incredibly competitive jobs. They all have long, drawn out, grueling technical interview processes that take weeks and you can get dropped from consideration on a dime without much feedback.”

Having already overcome so much, Roberts said failure isn’t a deterrent for him. 

“I just work harder to practice data structure and algorithm problems,” Roberts said. “I remain confident in my abilities and have faith in myself to persevere.”

During his undergraduate career, Roberts was awarded Outstanding Computer Science major in 2018-2019, a highly selective honor awarded to one student per year. Roberts was the chair of Kentucky State’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) robotics team and was part of a Kentucky State team that placed first out of 100 teams in the 2017 IBM HBCU Watson Hackathon in Atlanta, Georgia.

Outside of Kentucky State, Roberts was selected to participate in the highly competitive National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) for Immersive Media Computing program in May 2019 at Georgia State University.