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Buffalo State announces commencement speakers for May 20 celebration


Mon, Apr 17th 2023 11:55 am

By Buffalo State University

Buffalo State University will hold its 151st Commencement celebration Saturday, May 20, in the Sports Arena. Degree candidates will be honored at three ceremonies:

√ 9 a.m. (School of the Professions)

√ 1 p.m. (School of Education; Individualized and Multidisciplinary Studies)

√ 5 p.m. (School of Arts and Sciences)

The following speakers will deliver this year’s commencement addresses:

•School of the Professions: Deneen Hernandez, Class of 1988, forensic examiner, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Deneen Hernandez is an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians from the Cattaraugus Reservation in Western New York, and possesses roughly 30 years of varied law enforcement experience. She is a recently retired forensic examiner for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laboratory division in the cryptanalysis and racketeering records unit in Quantico, Virginia. She was detailed to the tattoo and graffiti (TAG) program.

Hernandez also serves as an adjunct professor in undergraduate criminal justice and forensics studies and graduate public policy studies, and as a national trainer and board member for the National Partnership for Careers in Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security. She is a member of the FBI’s American Indian Alaskan Native advisory committee and the lab division’s diversity and inclusion “Network of Champions.” Hernandez holds a B.A. in political science from the State University of New York at Fredonia, an M.A. in criminal justice from Buffalo State, and is ABD in public service leadership from Capella University.

•School of Education: Mildred Otero, senior vice president of national impact, Leadership for Educational Equity. Mildred Otero is senior vice president at Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), a diverse network of equity-minded leaders at all stages of life and career. LEE is a membership organization currently open to alumni of several national organizations. Otero is responsible for LEE’s national strategy, designing and developing life-changing civic leadership programs, experiences, and tools serving LEE members across the phases of four leadership pathways.

She is also an adjunct for the University of Miami School of Education. Before joining LEE, Otero served as chief education counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where she managed the Senate majority’s education agenda and its policy development and strategy for children from cradle to career. She has worked in education policy for over 20 years for national leaders that include Hillary Rodham Clinton, Marian Wright Edelman, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Otero earned a B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany and an M.S.W. from the New York University Silver School of Social Work.

•School of Arts and Sciences: Raven Baxter, ’14, ’16, molecular biologist and educator. Raven Baxter is a renowned molecular biologist and leader in science education. Also known as “Dr. Raven the Science Maven,” she is credited with progressing perceptions of science by leveraging creative outlets in music, fashion and comedy. She is president and founder of the Science Haven, a nonprofit organization dedicated to turning STEM dreams into STEM realities by providing academic and socioeconomic capital to underserved communities.

Her impact on science extends beyond academia and into corporations, as a partner to Olay’s STEM initiatives; into entertainment, with her science content referenced in “Saturday Night Live,” “P-Valley,” and on Netflix; and in government, with frequent outreach collaborations with NASA and the White House. 

Baxter's enthusiastic commitment to creativity and innovation in science communication has earned her international recognition and numerous accolades, including recent honors on Forbes “30 Under 30,” Fortune’s “40 Under 40,” AfroTech “Future 50” and Ebony’s “Power 100” lists, and as a “Woman of Distinction” by the American Association of University Women. Baxter earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology at Buffalo State, as well as a doctorate in science education from the University at Buffalo.

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