Chesapeake, Va. Grad Wins Nationwide Singing Competition

Will graduate and sing the National Anthem at Ashford University Commencement Ceremonies April 28 and 29

Approximately 1,600 Ashford University online graduates from across the country will travel to Clinton, Iowa for traditional commencement ceremonies on April 28 and 29. One will perform the national anthem.

Monica Lukas, an Ecuador native earning a master's degree in Education, is the winner of a nationwide Ashford University competition to open the graduation ceremonies with her rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. Students submitted audition videos, which were evaluated by the Ashford University Commencement Committee for clarity, musicality, melody, intervals and ease in relating to the audience. Top selections were posted to the Ashford University Facebook page, where students, alumni and guests voted for their favorite. Lukas garnered the most "likes" with 323.

“I am absolutely thrilled – there are no words to explain my excitement,” said Lukas. “These are two great accomplishments: to graduate with my Master’s degree and to sing the national anthem at the commencement ceremony. I think it is great that Ashford provided this opportunity.” 

When Lukas came to the United States in 1984, she spoke no English. She took classes to learn the language and immersed herself into the culture. As soon as she understood the language well enough and established a year of residency, she began taking college classes, became a U.S. citizen in 1998, and earned a bachelor's degree. Today, she is an eighth grade Spanish teacher for the Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

Lukas, who – as an online student – has never been to the Ashford University campus, will be traveling to the rolling hills of Clinton, Iowa with her husband and youngest son.

"Singing is my passion. Singing the national anthem is a privilege. To me it is the epitome of having reached the American dream," Lukas said at the beginning of her audition video.

“Each year we have students requesting to sing the national anthem at the commencement ceremonies,” said Ian Foster, Ashford University’s lead graduation coordinator. “And utilizing our Facebook page was a great way to give all of our students, including our online students, a fair opportunity to audition.”

To be eligible to sing the national anthem at the commencement ceremonies, candidates had to be in ‘Pending Graduate’ or ‘Graduate’ status; be on the list of attendees for the 2012 spring commencement; have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0; be in good standing with the University; and have demonstrated an excellent record of conduct.


About Ashford University

Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. Ashford University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association ( The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and

master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit or call Shari Rodriguez, associate vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.