From 16-year-old freshman to graduate student speaker at Fenway, being a Husky has become central to her identity

Kristine Umeh smiling in cap and gown at graduate commencement ceremony
Graduate commencement student speaker Kristine Umeh speaks during Northeastern’s 2023 graduate commencement ceremony. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

This is part of our coverage of Northeastern’s 2023 commencement exercises. For more information, including a livestream, photos and live coverage throughout the day, visit our dedicated commencement page.

Recounting the hard work, sleepless nights, group projects and co-ops that led to the conferring of Northeastern University graduate degrees Sunday morning, student speaker Kristine Umeh asked her fellow graduates to take time to reflect on their achievements.

“I implore you all to take a moment right now to take it in—you did it!” Umeh said.

“This journey, which began in the heat of the pandemic for some of us, has become this moment of pride, through our dedication to the Northeastern mission and our commitment to academic excellence,” said Umeh, who was introduced by Chancellor Kenneth W. Henderson.

“Kristine graduated from Northeastern with a degree in chemical engineering in spring 2020—a very different time that didn’t allow for celebrations,” Henderson said.

“Today, she graduates with her master’s degree in computer science, which she earned at our San Francisco campus,” he said, adding that Umeh maintained a 3.8 GPA and “made her mark as an ambassador for new students, helping BIPOC students see their potential in technology.”

At Khoury College of Computer Sciences, Umeh enrolled in the Align program for graduate students with no prior experience in technology.

“Starting something new can be scary, and imposter syndrome is almost guaranteed,” Umeh told students graduating with master’s and doctoral degrees.

“It isn’t always easy moving to a new town, city, state or even country,” she said.

“Thankfully, the team at Northeastern fosters a sense of community by organizing social events where Huskies get the chance to explore cities, attend concerts, celebrate cultural holidays and attend resume workshops, interview preps, career fairs and conferences, expos and even alumni mixers.”

“I have the privilege of being a double Husky, and yes, I insert that at every opportunity,” said Umeh, who is originally from Nigeria.

She said her mother likes to take credit for her admission. After talking to co-op students in her delivery room at Boston Medical Center, her mom “decided this was the place for her daughter,” Umeh said.

Having skipped a grade in elementary school, Umeh was younger than the average first-year student. But she says Northeastern helped her with the transition to college and then graduate school.

“From a 16-year-old who couldn’t find her calculus class in Ryder Hall, to a senior graduating during a global pandemic, to me now, a graduate student who flew all the way from the Bay Area to address you today at Fenway Park, Northeastern has formed and framed me through eight years and two degrees and I know it will forever remain in my heart.”

“As we move to the next phase, let us pursue excellence with humility and grace. Let us show gratitude to those who have supported us and help others whenever possible,” said Umeh, who will also address graduates from Northeastern’s Bay Area campus during commencement exercises there on May 23.

Kristine Umeh speaking at graduate commencement ceremony at Fenway
Graduate commencement student speaker Kristine Umeh speaks during Northeastern’s 2023 graduate commencement ceremony. Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“Remember your roots as you chase your dream. Recognize that you are a shining example of what it means to be a Husky,” she said.

“I have confidence that we will continue to achieve extraordinary things,” Umeh said, before closing with a few bars from the song “Something New.”

Cynthia McCormick Hibbert is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at or contact her on Twitter @HibbertCynthia.