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SNHU Celebrates the Tenacity and Achievements of Nearly 57K Graduates

A graduate in cap and gown after crossing the SNHU Arena stage at Commencement.

Downtown Manchester, New Hampshire, came alive in a way not seen in some time this weekend when Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) graduates from the Classes of Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021 and Fall 2021 had the chance to walk across the stage at the SNHU Arena and celebrate the completion of their degrees. 

The Commencement ceremonies, held over three days, were the culmination of a time in each graduate’s life unlike any other. Perhaps Bachelor of Arts graduate and Commencement speaker Kathleen Greenwood said it best: “Individually, we all have our own stories, but as part of the diverse body of SNHU graduates this year…we all share a story…some of us lost jobs, some of us lost loved ones. All of us lost what we thought of as normal. But though this story impacted us, it didn’t define us. We kept studying; we kept striving. We kept our focus on our goals, and SNHU kept its focus on us.”

An SNHU graduate wearing a sparkly mortarboard with a pink bow and the words Still I RiseDespite challenges, nearly 57,000 graduates were eligible to participate in this weekend’s Commencement. Of those degree recipients, approximately 6,000 are military-affiliated, and over 1,100 graduates earned two degrees between 2019 and 2021 at SNHU. Of those degrees, more than 41,000 undergraduate degrees were awarded and almost 16,000 graduate degrees. 

Throughout the weekend, 4,300 graduates celebrated their success at five ceremonies, with nearly 12,000 guests cheering them on.  

Friday and Saturday held rescheduled Classes of Spring 2020, Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 ceremonies, featuring graduate speakers: Cynthia Rowley, RN, BSN, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a Clinical Nurse Leader concentration; Lauren Leigh Powell, Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and English; Jesse Duane Baker, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration; and Michelle Renee Barnhart, Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Human Resources Management. 

Virtual honorary degree recipients included Natalie Laub, MD, physician and Boston Marathon first responder, and award-winning journalist and author Soledad O’Brien, each of whom presented a Commencement Address. 

Kathleen Greenwood, left, and Jason Greenwood, right, dressed in their SNHU graduation attire.Graduate speakers Yolanda Cox, Master of Science in Marketing with a concentration in Social Media Marketing, and wife and husband Kathleen and Jason Greenwood delivered their remarks at Sunday’s ceremony. Kathleen earned her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with a concentration in Data Analytics, while Jason earned his Bachelor of Science in Data Analytics

A virtual honorary degree was awarded to NBA legend and New York Times bestselling author Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who also delivered the Commencement Address.

Cox told graduates that if they were anything like her, they talked to their friends, families and co-workers to find out if going back to school was the right thing to do. She reflected on her decision to say yes and hit the submit button to enroll. She spoke of the supporters they all had along the way: “They were excited when you posted your grades on social media. They sent virtual hugs when you were struggling to make it through the week. They knew your ‘yes’ to this process would deliver something special to them, but ultimately it would unlock the greater inside you.”

An SNHU graduate wearing a cap and gown, holding a framed diploma and standing beside a supporter.Finally, she encouraged her classmates to ensure they tell those who are on their way to SNHU that the decision to press submit is one that will change their lives and the lives of those around them. She said, “We will tell them with one collective voice that they can succeed as long as they stay the course and remember the reason they said, ‘yes’ in the beginning.” 

The path to their degrees was a shared experience for the Greenwoods, who jointly delivered their Commencement speech. Jason said they went through their journey together, “spending long nights and longer weekends studying next to one another, working toward the goal of earning our degrees.” He acknowledged that each graduate had given up time with friends and family and invested in their education, noting that Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

“We kept focusing on that payoff, knowing that eventually, we’d be sitting here today,” Jason said. He closed out his remarks with the reminder, “Because of that perseverance, you’re college graduates.”

This group of graduates, along with those who participated in the campus Commencement ceremony in October, were welcomed to the SNHU Alumni Association, a global network of 170,000 alumni. They were encouraged to stay connected, leverage career resources and other benefits, engage in upcoming events and, most of all, find meaningful ways to continue their journey with SNHU. 

Pamme Boutselis is an adjunct, writer and senior content director in higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

Two students walking in front of Monadnock Hall

SNHU is a nonprofit, institutionally accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.