Regis University Announces Commencement Speaker and Civis Princeps Awardee

Ceremonies will take place May 4 and 5

Regis University is pleased to announce that Jessica Hernandez, Ph.D., will be awarded an honorary doctorate and will serve as the speaker for the upcoming commencement ceremonies. Additionally, the University is excited to recognize Donna Auguste, Ph.D., as the recipient of the prestigious Civis Princeps award, and Susan Kiely as an honorary doctorate recipient.

Graduate ceremonies will take place on Saturday, May 4, and undergraduate ceremonies will be held on Sunday, May 5. Both ceremonies will be held at 10 a.m. on Boettcher Commons on the Northwest Denver Campus. A Baccalaureate Mass will be held at 8 a.m. May 5 at the St. John Francis Regis Chapel. 

Hernandez, of Binnizá and Maya Ch'orti' heritage, is a distinguished Indigenous scholar, scientist, and community advocate based in the Pacific Northwest. Her academic journey spans marine sciences and environmental physics, and she is a vocal advocate for climate justice and land rights through her scientific and community engagements. Hernandez is the esteemed author of the award-winning book "Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science," and is currently working on her second book, "Growing Papaya Trees: Nurturing Indigenous Roots of Climate Displacement & Justice." Forbes recognized Hernandez as one of the 100 most powerful and influential women in Central America. Her academic roles include adjunct faculty at South Seattle College and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Washington Bothell and the Center for One Health Research. Dr. Hernandez's remarkable contributions have garnered accolades, including being a Los Angeles Times Book Award Finalist in the Science & Technology category. 

The University also is privileged to award Susan Kiely an honorary doctorate in recognition of her dedicated efforts to support low-income and homeless women and their children over many years. Kiely is the founder of Women with a Cause, a nonprofit organization that focuses on finding a career path that enables single mothers and women veterans to break the cycle of poverty. She also remains actively involved in empowering women in Ethiopia and Africa through partnerships with the Mother and Child Rehabilitation Center and Women with a Cause. Kiely's longstanding friendship with Regis and her remarkable contributions make her truly deserving of this honorary doctorate. 

The Civis Princeps award, Regis University’s highest honor given annually at commencement, will be presented to Donna Auguste, Ph.D. Auguste is a trailblazing business leader, entrepreneur, and philanthropist recognized for her groundbreaking work in technology and engineering. As a first-generation college graduate and the first African American to enter the doctoral program in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, Auguste has demonstrated exceptional dedication and leadership. Her commitment to serving marginalized communities through philanthropy and faith aligns deeply with the Jesuit Catholic values upheld by Regis. Auguste's philanthropic efforts include founding the Leave a Little Room Foundation, which supports initiatives such as building homes and clinics on the Navajo Reservation, establishing a hospital wing in Haiti, and providing aid to child soldiers in Uganda and shelters for people experiencing homelessness?  in Chicago and Denver. 

Regis University looks forward to honoring Hernandez, Kiely and Auguste at the commencement ceremony, celebrating their remarkable achievements and dedication to service. 

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Jessica Hernandez smiling in photo
Jessica Hernandez


About Regis University

Established in 1877, Regis University is a premier, globally engaged institution of higher learning in the Jesuit tradition that prepares leaders to live productive lives of faith, meaning and service. Regis University, one of 27 Jesuit universities in the nation, has two campus locations in the Denver metro area and extensive online program offerings with more than 6,000 enrolled students. It is a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution. For more information, visit