Weaver-Hightower Gives Summer Commencement Address


David L. Dodds

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

University of North Dakota


University of North Dakota Associate Professor of English Rebecca Weaver-Hightower will give the main address at UND’s Summer Commencement Friday, August 5, beginning at 3 p.m., in the Chester Fritz Auditorium. About 435 students are eligible to graduate when UND President Robert O. Kelley presides over his fourth summer commencement ceremony. UND annually graduates more than 2,700 students in ceremonies in May, August and December.

Live broadcast and recordings: The ceremony will be broadcast live on Grand Forks Cable Channel 3 and rebroadcast on the same channel Aug. 9-12 at 12:30 a.m., noon and 8 p.m.

UND also provides a live video stream of commencement to allow family and friends to participate in commencement, even if they cannot attend in person. This feed is provided in Adobe Flash Video format, so users may need to download the Free Flash Player.

The stream will begin broadcasting about 2:30 p.m. (CDT) on Friday, August 5. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m.

DVDs of the ceremony are available at the UND Bookstore. To purchase a copy, contact the bookstore at 701-777-4980.

If users have trouble seeing the video, they should contact UND tech support and chat with a representative, or call 701-777-6305.

If users are unable to view the commencement ceremony live, an archived video will be available by Tuesday, August 9.

Honorary degree: Also, the family of Kenneth Mellem, a longtime computer industry businessman and friend of the UND College of Business and Public Administration (CoBPA), will accept an honorary Doctorate of Letters on behalf of Ken, who passed away in June of 2010. The bestowing of honorary degrees, though a rarity for a summer commencement event, is a special tradition at UND, reserved for influential private and public figures over the years, including President John F. Kennedy, famed heart surgeon Michael DeBakey, philosopher Mortimer Adler, and basketball legend and UND alum Phil Jackson. Mellem, who lived in Eden Praririe, Minn., and Largo, Fla., earned a bachelor’s degree from CoBPA in 1966 and his master's in 1968. He suggested and participated in the development of several new programs during his association with CoBPA, particularly the executive in residence at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, where he taught a course for each of the last eight years, and the annual Mellem Business Symposium held on the UND campus. Ken served three terms on the CoBPA Advisory Council and was offered emeritus status for his many contributions to the college. Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorship: Also part of this summer’s commencement ceremony, Roxanne Vaughan, professor of biochemistry& molecular biology, officially will be named a UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor, the University’s highest academic title. Vaughan has been instrumental in building an internationally recognized research program and is known for her collaborative efforts. She is an expert in the biochemistry of the dopamine transporter and its role in drug addiction. Continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1999, Vaughan recently accepted an invitation to serve as a member of the agency’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR) Molecular Neuropharmacology and Signaling Study Section. The NIH noted her scientific achievements, as well as the quality of her research accomplishments, journal publications and honors. Rebecca Weaver-High Tower: In her research and other scholarly work, Weaver-Hightower focuses on colonial and postcolonial studies; 19th and 20th century British and Irish literature; Australian, Caribbean, South African and Canadian literature. Her research delves into psychoanalytic and psychological criticisms; cultural studies; new historicism; visual media (including book illustrations and film) and landscape and literature as it pertains to island life culture. In 2011, during the school’s prestigious Founders Day ceremony, Weaver-Hightower was presented with the UND Foundation/Thomas J. Clifford Faculty Award for Graduate or Professional Teaching Excellence. She was recognized for her unique way of teaching and responding to students. “It’s not accurate to simply say, ‘Dr. Weaver-Hightower is a phenomenal teacher.’ She is of course, but she does more than simply teach within the confines of the classroom. Dr. Weaver-Hightower is one of those rare teachers who actually works to make her graduate students feel like they are her peers,” wrote student Jody Jensen about her mentor. Weaver-Hightower also is a published author of two books. Her most recent, “Empire Islands: Castaways, and Fantasies of Conquest in Post/Colonial Island Narratives (University of Minnesota Press, May 2007),” argues that European imperialism was enabled by a heroic genre of castaway stories that justified, or at least, made sense of, further expansion and maintenance of European conquests around the world. Weaver-Hightower was born in Rock Hill, S.C., to Jack W. Weaver and her mother, Betty Weaver. She received her bachelor’s in English from Clemson University in 1991 and her master’s in English from Winthrop University in Rock Hill in 1993. In 2002, she received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Kentucky. Her dissertation was the same topic as her eventual book of the same name, “Empire Islands.” She is married to UND Associate Professor of Education Foundation & Research Marcus Weaver-Hightower, another respected scholar and published author on campus. Before coming to UND, Weaver-Hightower was a visiting assistant professor at Michigan State University, and she has held teaching appointments at Queens College, Winthrop University, University of Kentucky and the International House English Language College in Brisbane, Australia. In addition to her books, Weaver-Hightower has written several published essays and essay-length pieces as well as a number of book reviews. She also has been invited to deliver presentations on her research at lectures and conferences around the world.