Graduate Mackenzie Hagemeister, Czech colleagues speaking Friday at UNK winter commencement

WHAT: UNK Winter Commencement
WHEN: 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 16
WHERE: UNK Health and Sports Center
SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow @UNKearney on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to see photos and posts
LIVE BROADCAST: Watch commencement live at


KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney will host its winter commencement 10 a.m. Friday at the Health and Sports Center on campus.

Chancellor Doug Kristensen will confer degrees for 405 graduate and undergraduate students during the ceremony and present the annual Leland Holdt/Security Mutual Life Distinguished Faculty Award. He’s also awarding honorary doctorates to commencement speakers Martin Elbel and Jan Stejskal, who coordinate the study abroad program between UNK and Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic.

UNK established a study abroad program with Palacky University in the early 1990s. Since then, more than 700 students have participated.

Elbel began coordinating the program in 1998, and Stejskal joined him the following year. Together, they strengthened and improved the program by adding field trips to the curriculum that take students to historical and cultural sites in the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Hungary and Italy. They deliver classroom lectures in Olomouc, and within a day or two students are standing in the places they learned about. Elbel and Stejskal also developed a Czech language course for UNK students.

They’re with participants during nearly every step of the study abroad experience – from organizing transportation to providing guidance, supervision and mentorship.

Both natives of the Czech Republic, Elbel is an associate professor at Palacky University and Stejskal serves as dean of the Faculty of Arts. They both hold master’s degrees in medieval studies from Central European University and doctorates in history from Palacky University.

Mackenzie Hagemeister
Mackenzie Hagemeister

The student speaker at this week’s commencement is Mackenzie Hagemeister of Arlington, who graduates summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

A recipient of the prestigious Board of Regents Scholarship, Hagemeister was part of the UNK Honors Program, Undergraduate Research Fellows, Mortar Board honor society and Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society. Her research focusing on seasonal affective disorder as a target for drug discovery was recently awarded a $395,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, with that funding supporting the project through August 2025.

Hagemeister will begin medical school next fall at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

NU Board of Regents Chairman Bob Phares will also address the graduates. The national anthem will be performed by Zac Ochsner of North Platte and UNK accompanist Mirim Kim. Ochsner is graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

Those who are unable to attend in person may watch the ceremony via livestream on UNK’s website. A recording can also be viewed later on the website.


Commencement attendees are encouraged to park in the lots west of the Health and Sports Center. Visitors with handicap permits can park east of the Health and Sports Center. Those transporting a handicapped person will have access to drop off the individual on the east side of the complex but will need to move their vehicle to another lot.

Visitors with wheelchairs can sit in the corner seating sections on the main floor of the Health and Sports Center or use the elevator in the northeast corner of the building to sit in the designated section on the arena floor.

Doors open at 8:30 a.m.