In Full Bloom: Class of 2022 Grads Join the Growing Alumni Community
Graduation ceremonies can feel like the end of an era. It’s the culmination of effort and determination that guided graduates through their courses and late nights, class discussions and final projects.
But “commencement” is literally the beginning.
Four Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Commencement ceremonies in Manchester, New Hampshire, spanned the weekend. On Saturday, April 30, campus students traveled down the road to the SNHU Arena to walk the stage in the morning while many online graduate students met their classmates, faculty and support staff for the first time face-to-face that afternoon. Online undergraduate students donned their graduation regalia on Sunday, May 1, for two ceremonies encompassing all online associate degree and bachelor’s degree programs.
"We are thrilled to be back in this arena after two years of being away," said Dr. Paul LeBlanc, SNHU's president. "The last time we were able to do a Commencement in the spring was 2019, and we have missed our graduates; we have missed this day. It is the best weekend of the year for all of us. It's a celebration of your incredible accomplishment. We have remarkable people here."
In a couple of weeks, a fifth ceremony will happen as a virtual reality experience for anyone who didn’t make it to their in-person ceremony.
Joining the Global Alumni Community
SNHU graduates this spring represent a far-reaching global community. Every U.S. state was accounted for as well as:
- Armed Forces Europe
- Armed Forces Pacific
- Marshall Islands
- Puerto Rico
- Virgin Islands (St. Thomas and Kingshill)
- Washington D.C.
There were also graduates from 46 countries worldwide.
More than 15,000 SNHU graduates are beginning the next chapter of their lives with a degree in hand this spring – over 11,300 with an undergraduate degree and nearly 3,900 with a graduate degree.
These graduates have joined the growing alumni network of more than 185,000 people globally.
Sgt. Derek Cataldo ’22, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and member of local law enforcement, was among almost 4,000 graduates who attended the weekend’s festivities. Having completed his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, he spoke about the universal importance of education in his student speaker address. “(Our degrees) represent a goal people across the world are working towards every day,” he said.
The Class of 2022 faced many challenges in their pursuit of college education, a major one being the COVID-19 pandemic. Riley Sood ’22, an international student on campus who earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, commended her peers for not only graduating but for doing it after the pandemic disrupted their college experience.
“We have shown that no hurdle is too high, and, through this obstacle, we have united and persevered to achieve the unimaginable,” she said in her Commencement address. “From adapting to new environments and navigating through the unexpected, we have proven that we can accomplish anything. We have demonstrated remarkable resilience, and this graduating class is sure to go down in history.”
Spotlight on Healthcare Professionals
Not only did the graduates dedicate themselves to their studies throughout such uncertain times, but some also served on the pandemic’s frontlines. Others were inspired to advance their education so that they, too, could work in a health profession.
Vanessa Vidal-Ramharrack ’22G is one of them. Inspired to go back to school on New Year’s Day in 2020, she completed her Master of Science in Healthcare Administration despite her long work hours bookended by hour-long commutes. “As a first-generation immigrant and university graduate, my experiences and educational achievements at SNHU have allowed me to reinvent myself,” she said. “With new knowledge and enhanced skills, I have a heightened desire to lead. This experience has taught me to fully utilize all the tools available and to lean on the right support to accomplish my goals.”
As she moved through her classes, Vidal-Ramharrack realized how strong and resourceful she was and acknowledged the support she received from others to reach this culminating moment. “Embrace every emotion you are feeling right now,” she said. “This moment will never happen again. Take a moment to thank your support system. They took this journey with you and will continue to soldier on as you further your education and career."
Adjunct instructor Dr. William Cundiff was one of the many supporters at Commencement. One of his former students, Janet Johnson '22G, invited him to sit with her family as she crossed the stage with a master's degree.
A Distinguished Scholar Award recipient, Johnson managed to earn a 4.0-grade point average (GPA) while working in a small hospital. More recently, she transitioned to a role at an NCI-designated center in California. Johnson also had a baby as she worked toward her degree and found time to lead the American College of Healthcare Executives, one of the many extracurricular organizations at SNHU.
"It's very exciting to say that I have my Master of Science in Healthcare Administration," Johnson said. "... It's just so rewarding, and I am honored to have my degree from SNHU."
As she celebrates her accomplishment, she hopes her two young daughters realize they can achieve anything they set their minds to.
Supported Through Graduation and Beyond
From friends and family to faculty members and advisors, a tremendous number of people supported these graduates throughout their educational journeys. Many were seen cheering them on at the SNHU Arena over the weekend.
DeMeeta Hulett ’22, a first-generation college graduate with a perfect GPA, recognized all of the people who rallied around her as she finished her 42-year-old dream: A Bachelor of Science in Operations Management. “Despite COVID-19 affecting all of us directly, including losses of our loved ones, it was by grace and support from family, friends, my outstanding academic advisor, Rebecca James, and Southern New Hampshire University faculty that supplied gale force winds for my sail,” Hulett said. “I pause to say thank you.”
A record number of nominations were made for this year’s Excellence in Advising Awards. Approximately 13,000 letters were submitted by students – many of them containing stories about how their advisor helped them achieve their goals.
The winners were:
- Alison Ganon
- Dr. Audrey Rogers
- Cristina Velez
- Evan Bodi
- Jackie Trexler
- Jennifer Langley
Among those supported were more than 1,600 graduates with a military affiliation. SNHU staff and faculty understand the demands of military life and work closely with this population so they, too, can reach their dreams of a college degree whether they’re deployed or supporting an enlisted loved one. Shaquita Callier ’22, a mother of four and a 2020 military spouse scholarship recipient, drove from North Carolina to New Hampshire with her family to celebrate her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development.
After submitting the last assignment for her bachelor's degree program, she said, "honestly, it's a feeling that is impossible to explain in words."
While each of these students graduated, it doesn't mean their journey with SNHU is over. Some go on to earn a second – or even third – degree. In fact, over the last 20 years, 8.6% of graduates have earned multiple degrees from SNHU. Graduates also have the opportunity to stay connected to the university as members of the alumni community and can tap into Career Services whenever they need it.
Virtual Reality Commencement Experience
Commencement Weekend is a highly anticipated event for the whole SNHU community – one often referred to as the university's Super Bowl Weekend. While the four in-person ceremonies may be done, the celebration is not over.
On May 14, nearly 4,000 more graduates will participate in SNHU’s inaugural 360-degree virtual reality ceremony. These registered graduates and their loved ones will have a chance to experience the energy of in-person ceremonies from their homes. They’ll hear their name read aloud and displayed on the stage’s big screen while also taking in the rest of the SNHU Arena – from the filled stage to the seated graduates to the cheering crowd.
As graduates begin the next chapter of their lives with a diploma in hand, Sood said: “I urge all of you to continue taking chances and never sell yourself short. Start each day with an open mind and a readiness to learn. We have the power to decide who we want to be, so soak it all in, and you just might change the world one day.”
Online. On campus. Choose your program from 200+ SNHU degrees that can take you where you want to go.
Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 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.