Fall Commencement Ceremonies Celebrate More Than 17K SNHU Graduates
Some 3,500 students traded warm hats and coats for graduation caps and gowns inside the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Saturday. Three fall Commencement ceremonies celebrated the accomplishments of more than 17,700 graduates worldwide, raising the university’s global alumni community past 200,000 graduates.
Those who earned an associate or bachelor’s degree in business or science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) began the weekend’s festivities, finding their seats among peers — many meeting one another for the first time. The second ceremony honored those with an associate or bachelor’s degree in education, health professions, liberal arts, nursing and social sciences. The final ceremony of the day kept the arena’s lights on long past sunset and celebrated master’s degree holders.
At each ceremony, Dr. Paul LeBlanc, president of SNHU, reminded graduates of what they all brought to the university and to their own college journeys. “There are graduations about this time of year and again in May that happen all over the country,” he said. “But there are very few graduations that have this kind of talent, this kind of grit, this kind of perseverance, this array of life stories.”
Another ceremony — the ninth for 2022 — is scheduled for December 10, when thousands more graduates are set to tune into a virtual celebration, featuring student speaker Gustavo Perez ’22MBA. Earlier this year, five Commencement ceremonies recognized more than 15,000 graduates, meaning nearly 33,000 students finished their SNHU degrees in 2022.
Evolving with SNHU
These graduates, who live in all 50 states and 65 countries, enrolled at SNHU for different reasons and from diverse backgrounds. Their ages run the gamut, from 15 years old to 89. Some are parents or grandparents. Many are the first in their family to go to college. More than 1,800 graduates are affiliated with the military, often completing their degrees while deployed or changing duty stations.
But they now share at least one commonality: After devoting many hours and much effort toward class discussions, assignments and other projects, they are college graduates.
“This is the work that changes the trajectory of your whole family life and the generations to come,” LeBlanc said. “Generations you may not even know will have a different life because you’re here today, getting this degree.”
As SNHU celebrated its 90th anniversary as an institution this year, it underwent an evolution — and so too did the entire Class of 2022:
- 3,500 + earned an associate degree
- 19,900 + earned a bachelor’s degree
- 9,500 + earned a master’s degree
- 17 earned a doctoral degree
The student speakers across each ceremony shared what their college journeys were like. Patria Evans ’20 ’22, an immigrant from Jamaica and mother of five, acknowledged the grit and determination necessary to finish a degree.
“We persevered as immigrants from humble beginnings, as single mothers and fathers, as first-generation graduates and as stay-at-home parents, juggling careers and studies,” she said. “We have had to carve out a path for ourselves, keeping our heads high and our eyes looking ahead as we seize the opportunities awaiting us.”
Even while in an intensive care unit following the birth of her daughter, Evans was focused on her education, keeping her laptop close by so she could complete coursework. Her dedication paid off. She earned two degrees — a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration followed by an Associate of Science in Accounting — with 4.0 grade point averages.
“At SNHU, I gained skills that helped my journey of self-improvement, employment and earning potential,” Evans said in her Commencement address. “These years, the help and encouragement I received from staff, family and friends will stay with me forever. Today is a celebration for me and everyone who worked to make it to this day.”
For Traci Schoolcraft ’22, developing a growth mindset was key as she finished her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She said this accomplishment was more than 30 years and many adversities in the making.
“During our coursework at SNHU, we learned about our purpose in the world,” she said to her peers. “We learned the true meanings of vulnerability, grit and resilience. These skills will help us become influential leaders and remarkable agents of social change; we have developed a growth mindset.”
Passing the Torch
Family was a central theme across all the Commencement ceremonies. Several parents graduated with their children — including Sabrina Mentis ’20, who traveled to Commencement with her daughters, Stephanie Mentis ’22 and Kellyann Alves ’22MBA.
“I am so, so excited to be able to graduate and walk the stage with my girls today,” Sabrina said. “This is just major for us. I am so proud of them, proud of their accomplishments so far … I am so very excited to be able to share this moment with my girls, to see them succeed, to see them become independent women and to go on with life.”
And many graduates had their families in mind throughout their college journey. Student speaker Robynne Lofton ’22G chased her dreams late at night at a little desk in her bedroom. She decided to earn a master’s degree to deepen her understanding of communication.
“With SNHU, I learned what was possible — within me and for me,” she said. “With each new task, each paper written, that which was merely possible somehow became belief and that belief became action.”
Toward the end of her Master of Arts in Communication program, Lofton changed careers, committing all she learned in school and her previous job of 26 years.
“My now five-and-a-half-year-old has that tiny desk in her room, imbued with all of possible's glittering hope,” she said. “To my fellow graduates, hold tight to the possible. At all times, remember why you started as your inspiration for the many hills you’ve yet to climb. This achievement is your testament to what is possible within us all.”
A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU online program that can best help you meet your goals.
Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 ’22G is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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About Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU is a nonprofit, 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.