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Student speakers announced for SDSU's commencement

South Dakota State University’s 2022 commencement will be held May 7 in Frost Arena. There will be three sessions, starting at 10 a.m.  

All students receiving degrees—associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral—will walk in the ceremony for their respective colleges.

The commencement schedule will be:

  • 10 a.m. — The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and the Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering
    The student speakers for this ceremony are Shayanti Minj and TJ Bigge.
    Minj, a native of Deshbandhu para, Siliguri, India, graduated following the fall 2021 semester with a doctorate in biological sciences with a specialization in dairy sciences. Minj works as a food scientist with a plant-based food company based in San Francisco. During Minj’s time at State, she developed a novel, spray-dried, dairy-based health formulation and a high-protein probiotic butter using whey proteins and encapsulated probiotics. She presented this work at several conferences and competitions.
    Bigge, of Parkston, is majoring in agricultural education, communication and leadership with a specialization in agricultural education. Bigge chose his major because of the impact his high school agriculture education teacher made on him. Bigge plans to teach agriculture education/FFA and hopes to help his students become passionate about agriculture and FFA, develop a love for learning and teach them to be kind.
    Dan Rykhus, former CEO and president for Raven Industries, will receive an honorary doctor of public service degree.
  • 2 p.m. — The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the College of Education and Human Sciences
    The student speaker for this ceremony Samantha “Sami” Gortmaker.
    Gortmaker, a native of Pierre, is graduating with a degree in economics with minors in history and legal studies. A cadet in the U.S. Air Force ROTC Detachment 780, Gortmaker served as the cadet corps’ wing commander. She will commission as an officer with a master’s degree in economics next year. Her desire is to serve her country in active duty before earning a law degree. In addition, music opened doors to friendship and international travel as an alto in the SDSU Concert Choir and allowed her to serve as a worship leader in several ministry groups.
  • 5 p.m. — The College of Nursing, the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions and the College of Natural Sciences
    The student speakers for this ceremony are Bikram Kumas Das and Zachary Lehmann.
    Das, a native of Kathmandu, Nepal, is graduating with a doctorate in biological sciences with a specialization in microbiology and a certificate in data science. He conducted research on the microbial community in natural prairie soil and its role in the nitrogen cycle, especially nitrogen fixation. The work also identifies the shifts in microbial communities and their activity within soil systems in response to either seasonal changes or novel fertilization techniques.
    Lehmann, a Sioux Falls native, is graduating with degrees in biochemistry and physics. He will pursue a doctorate in the field of structural biology and biophysics with aspirations of running his own research lab. In addition to serving as a tutor, he has conducted research in both the physics and chemistry and biochemistry departments. Lehmann also was an intern and teaching team member for two semesters in the Aamlid Family Human Anatomy Lab.
    Bev Warne, a mentor with the College of Nursing’s Native American Nursing Education Center, will receive an honorary doctor of public service degree.

More information about Commencement 2022, including how the ceremonies will be streamed, is available at