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Isabela Tasende named valedictorian; Shaker Erbini selected salutatorian

The 179th University Commencement Ceremony will be held May 19 (Sunday) in Notre Dame Stadium for graduates and guests. During the ceremony, Tasende will present the valedictory address, and as the salutatorian, Erbini will offer the invocation.

Isabela Tasende of Panama City, Panama, has been named valedictorian and Shaker Erbini from Crown Point, Indiana, has been selected salutatorian of the 2024 University of Notre Dame graduating class.

The 179th University Commencement Ceremony will be held May 19 (Sunday) in Notre Dame Stadium for graduates and guests. During the ceremony, Tasende will present the valedictory address, and as the salutatorian, Erbini will offer the invocation.

Valedictorian Isabela Tasende wearing a black suit jacket (photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
Valedictorian Isabela Tasende (photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

Tasende is an economics and political science major with a minor in theology in the College of Arts and Letters where she has accumulated a 4.0 grade point average and has been a member of the dean’s list each semester. During her time at Notre Dame, she was a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, Kellogg International Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa early inductee.

This spring, she was awarded the O’Donnell Prize for best senior thesis in comparative politics for her thesis project, which researched the military’s role in the survival of Venezuela’s authoritarian regime.

As a research assistant in the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Tasende analyzed data on gender-based violence and conducted online interviews, transcriptions and public opinion surveys with policymakers and victims of violence. This contributed to the understanding of the relationship between female victimization and political participation in Latin America. She also attended the United Nations Women Global Leaders Forum in Ecuador, connecting with relevant policymakers, community leaders and academics to discuss findings on gender-based violence in settings of territorial control.

During her undergraduate career, she also worked as an intern at PricewaterhouseCoopers and an economic policy analyst at Our National Conversation.

Outside of the classroom, Tasende served as president and treasurer of the Latino Honor Society, the director of casing for Consulting Connect and director of communications for the Pre-Law Student Board. She was a copy editor for a Keough School of Global Affairs publication, a volunteer at Cultivate Food Rescue in South Bend and a Building Bridges peer mentor.

In her native Panama, Tasende co-founded Somos Voces, a student-run nonprofit organization that identifies systemic challenges faced by young mothers. The organization has grown to have five clubs in schools throughout Panama City working to include student voices in political activism. As a part of this organization, she worked with government officials and larger nonprofits to build a center where young mothers could finish their education. She also met with national presidential candidates and public officials, bringing forth a successful petition to discuss the issue of teenage pregnancy and sexual education in the 2019 Panamanian presidential debate. Tasende was instrumental in creating and fundraising for a yearly scholarship that helps young mothers achieve their dreams of higher education by funding the first year of their college courses.

After graduation, Tasende plans to continue her work in this policy area, volunteering for women’s organizations in Panama before returning to the United States to work as an associate consultant at Bain & Company.

Salutatorian Shaker Erbini wearing a blue suit and red and blue tie (photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)
Salutatorian Shaker Erbini (photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

Erbini is a neuroscience and behavior major in the College of Science with a minor in compassionate care in medicine. He has compiled a 3.97 grade point average.

Erbini, who was born in Damascus, Syria, and grew up in Crown Point, Indiana, is an AnBryce Scholar, a Leaders for Tomorrow Scholar and an inductee of Nu Rho Psi, the national honor society in neuroscience. He will be the first in his family to complete a bachelor’s degree.

As part of the Cognition, Learning and Development Lab, Erbini has served as a research assistant and conducted a study alongside two peers, contributing to the improvement of education outcomes in mathematics for elementary and middle school students. Last summer, he also worked as a clinical research intern on a suicide prevention initiative at Notre Dame’s William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families.

On campus, Erbini is the vice president of the Muslim Student Association, through which he built a stronger sense of community for Muslim students, organized food accommodations and frequently delivered sermons and led prayers. As a student co-representative of the College of Science, he has offered a student perspective to faculty discussions related to the honor code. He has also served as an online tutor for Syrian students, teaching English and advising on the college application process.

During the pandemic, Erbini volunteered at the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana where he packed food for low-income and immunocompromised individuals. He has also worked to combat pandemic-induced learning loss by volunteering at the Robinson Community Learning Center in South Bend. As a summer teacher there, he taught math and English to first and second graders and developed and taught a chess curriculum for middle school students. Additionally, Erbini has served as a member of the First Aid Service Team during Notre Dame sporting events, a hospice companionship volunteer through Amedisys and a patient comfort rounds volunteer at Memorial Hospital in South Bend.

As an AnBryce Scholar, he has also mentored undergraduates in the program and created a pre-med guide for first-generation students at Notre Dame.

After graduation, Erbini will attend the Indiana University School of Medicine.

As salutatorian, he will be prepared to deliver a valedictory address should the valedictorian be unable to do so.

The Notre Dame valedictorian and salutatorian selection process begins by identifying the top four students among those with the highest grade point averages in each college or school. Those students are then invited to complete an application that includes letters of recommendation from faculty members and a draft of their commencement speech. A selection committee, coordinated by the Office of Undergraduate Education in the Office of the Provost, interviews finalists and chooses a valedictorian and salutatorian who are approved by University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

Contact: Sue Ryan, executive director of media relations, 574-631-7916, sue.ryan@nd.edu


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