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Commencement 2023

Katy Nesbitt is Pitt’s 2023 undergraduate commencement speaker

Two referees stand in orange shirts

Katy Nesbitt, a Pitt alumna and the first American woman to referee at the World Cup, will be the University of Pittsburgh’s 2023 undergraduate commencement speaker. The ceremony takes place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 30, at the Petersen Events Center.

Nesbitt (A&S ’15G) says she learned to practice resilience while performing research in chemistry professor Adrian Michael’s lab during graduate school in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

“In science, it often doesn't work out when you’re studying something — trying to discover something new or have a new hypothesis. Refereeing is also not the easiest job. You’re often hated by half the fans and not well-liked by some of the players, so finding a way to work through these struggles and bounce back is a skill that works well in both fields,” said Nesbitt.

“You do the best you can, but not everything you do is successful in science or refereeing,” she added.

A person attaches an arm band to Nesbitt

Her postgraduate work involved researching analytical methods for chemical measurements in the brain. For most of her adult life, Nesbitt juggled her duelling passions of soccer and chemistry, but in 2019, she traded her beakers for cleats and left her assistant professorship at Towson University to officiate full-time. Her first stop: the Women’s World Cup in France.

Today, Nesbitt is a decorated assistant referee and the holder of many firsts, including the first woman named a Major League Soccer assistant referee of the year and the first American woman to referee at the World Cup played by men.

For Pitt graduates embarking on firsts, whether the first in their family to complete college or those forging new paths in their discipline, Nesbitt said the key is to have confidence in what you know.

“Many times in my career, I realized that I shouldn’t try to be exactly like the male referee that's gone before me, or I can't do it exactly how somebody else has done it. I have to do it my way. That's what's going to make me perform the best. That's what's going to make me happy,” she said.

Another first for Nesbitt is delivering a commencement speech, where she’s looking forward to sharing even more lessons from the lab and the field.


— Nichole Faina, images courtesy of Katy Nesbitt

Your guide to graduation 🎓

Here's how to get around and make the most out of commencement on Sunday, April 28. Find full instructions for grads and guests at commencement.pitt.edu.

Clear bag policy: Make sure your bag follows Petersen Events Center security policies.

For international guests: Based on current policies, you will not need an invitation letter. Learn more about the steps to invite your family to the United States.


Parking: All University-owned garages and parking lots will be free and open beginning at 8 a.m. on Sunday, April 28. Shuttles will be available to transport guests and graduates from lots around campus to the Petersen Events Center. Learn more about transportation schedules and accessible parking and entrances at commencement.pitt.edu.

Pictures: All graduates will be photographed during the procession; you can buy those pictures directly from GradImages. Stop by Cathedral Lawn before or after the ceremony to take portraits with Pitt landmarks, including Heinz Memorial Chapel, the Panther statue and — of course — Cathy.

Getting home: Stay tuned for more information on traffic and bridge closures from Pitt Special Events.

Social media hashtags: Share your memories with the hashtags #PittGrad and #H2P. Follow Pitt on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram to see moments from the big day.