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Fall 2021 Commencement Speakers

Undergraduate Ceremony

Inky Johnson

Inky Johnson

Speaker, Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony
Friday, December 10, 9:00 a.m.

September 9, 2006. It started as a normal college football game in Neyland Stadium. For Inquoris “Inky” Johnson, though, that game changed everything. A routine tackle turned into a life-threatening injury, leaving him with a paralyzed right arm and daily pain and physical challenges.

Johnson’s dream had always been to play professional sports. Anyone who knows him, though, also knows that no injury could ever destroy his motivation or crush his spirit.

Johnson could be described as the survivor of an underprivileged past, a refugee of poverty and violence, a success story stained by tragedy. But there’s much more to him.

There’s a man who looks in the face of defeat and asks, “Am I really failing, or is God prevailing?”—a man gripped by the promise that God has purposes and plans far beyond our own. And there’s the example of his relentless determination. Johnson’s injury didn’t turn him into an inspiration; it just showed the world the inspirational life he had been living all along.

Executives, professional athletes, church members, and young people have all benefited from the energy and charisma of Johnson’s speaking. Whether the topic is leadership, teamwork, or perseverance, Johnson brings inspiration and transforms lives.

Johnson has a master’s degree in sports psychology from the University of Tennessee. He travels the world as a speaker, hosts the podcast Serendipity with Inky Johnson, and devotes time to mentoring athletes and underprivileged youth. He and his wife, Allison, live in Atlanta with their children, Jada and Inky Jr.

Graduate Hooding

Bikash Bogati

Bikash Bogati

Student Speaker, Graduate Hooding Ceremony
Thursday, December 9, 4:30 p.m.

Bikash Bogati grew up in a bucolic village in Nepal. His father’s formal education ended before high school because he could not afford tuition, and his mother received no formal education.

Bogati began his studies in a certificate-level laboratory medicine program that could help him get a job and support his family. During his training and later work as a laboratory technician at Dhulikhel Hospital, he became fascinated by the dynamics of health and diseases.

After seeing people suffer and die from easily preventable and treatable infections, Bogati became interested in decoding the arcane language of microbial pathogens and pursued an undergraduate degree in medical microbiology. His efforts to combat infectious diseases ranged from placing an intravenous line to save the life of a patient infected with cholera in rural Nepal to dissecting a bacterial genome to understand its survival mechanisms.

Bogati came to UT for his doctoral studies, working with Elizabeth Fozo, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, to investigate genes that can be targeted to limit the growth of E. coli and prevent associated foodborne outbreaks.

The move to Knoxville took Bogati thousands of miles away from his social network and support system. To connect to his new community, he began volunteering to transport senior citizens and people with disabilities to medical appointments, religious services, and various errands. He believes that no matter where we are, there are always opportunities to serve the community and that is where true happiness comes from.

The decision to help others enabled Bogati to cope with the challenges of graduate school and gave him a sense of belonging. His reflections on his volunteer work were published in the prestigious journal Science in April 2021.

During his graduate school career, Bogati has learned to play tennis, enjoyed baking and brewing, and found inspiration in hiking and camping in the Great Smoky Mountains. Now that he has received his PhD in microbiology, he will continue fighting infectious disease as a postdoctoral researcher studying antibiotic resistance at Emory University.