Graduates Hail from All 50 States and 20 Countries
University of Maryland University College held its 2015 stateside commencement exercises on Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17, at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland. In all, nearly 11,000 graduates from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Guam, and 19 other countries earned degrees this year, with more than 3,200 of the 9,023 members of the stateside class of 2015 attending the three stateside ceremonies over the weekend.
“Today, you represent our greatest achievement,” said UMUC President Javier Miyares, who, along with UMUC Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Marie Cini, set the commencements’ celebratory and inspirational tone. “[This] is a day to look ahead to a brighter future because of the investment you have made in yourselves,” said Cini.
Elected officials were on hand to pay tribute to the graduates and deliver motivational keynote addresses urging them to use their hard-earned degrees to effect positive change.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, who spoke at the Saturday morning commencement, told graduates they should not get caught up in the vortex of complacency. “Don’t think that you graduate, get a job and a house, and you’re done. Our community, our society can’t afford for you to be done,” he said.
Leggett, who cited the struggles in Baltimore as an example, said it’s important to fight against complacency. “In the end, you will be better, our community will be better, and our society will be better.”
Recalling a question he received from his grandchild, Leggett asked, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do we end poverty? How do we end hunger? One UMUC graduate at a time!”
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, who spoke on Saturday afternoon, encouraged graduates “to use the knowledge you acquired to serve your communities. Regardless of your focus of study, you have the ability to contribute in a way that you never had before because you have a tool you never had before, a college degree.
“By making it to today, you have the capacity to take on the challenges of the 21st century,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, who elicited cheers from the crowd at Sunday’s ceremony by declaring UMUC to be the best online university in the nation, praised the graduates—the majority of whom attended classes while serving double or triple duty as full-time workers, parents, and military servicemembers—for their formidable achievement.
“You are problem solvers. You are risk takers. As graduates, you are truly among the elite,” said Cardin, pointing out that less than 30 percent of Americans have college degrees. But, recalling the words of Peace Corps founding director R. Sargent Shriver, Cardin encouraged graduates also to be among the genuinely elite, those men and women who have given their lives to justice and charity.
Cardin suggested that UMUC graduates are uniquely positioned to do so, because the university’s innovative methods and use of advanced technology have provided them a rare online, 21st-century, community-building experience.
“Your experiences at UMUC have prepared you to think in new and creative ways in what constitutes community. Baltimore, Watts, Harlem, the South Side of Chicago. These are [our] communities, and they desperately need your help,” Cardin said.
He added that graduates who become food industry executives, doctors, or bankers might ply their trades in the inner city to help end the hunger, minority health disparities, and predatory lending practices that rob those living there of any hope of pursuing their dreams.
“If you become a teacher, go to Baltimore and teach inner city kids so they may be inspired and equipped to follow in your footsteps,” Cardin said.
Each year, UMUC selects several graduating students to deliver commencement addresses to their fellow graduates. UMUC’s student speakers for 2015 were Jermaine Montgomery (BS, Criminal Justice), Shannon O’Brien (MS, Management), and Kitsana “Kit” Dounglomchan (BS, Digital Media and Web Technology).
Montgomery told his graduating colleagues to make their every professional move undeniably bold. “Strive for nothing but excellence and accept no substitutes,” he said.
Dounglomchan urged graduates to hold onto the curiosity that led them to sign up for their first class and remember how they persevered through the tough courses. “Because that curiosity and perseverance is the spirit of a lifelong learner—one who accepts the challenge despite the possibility of failure. And to me, that’s the spirit of a UMUC graduate.”
“If there is one thing you can take away from my story, I hope it is [this],” said O’Brien. “It doesn’t matter where you are coming from; all that matters is where you are going. Let education be the bridge between your passion and what the world needs. Find what drives you, learn everything you can, and take chances. Your future is waiting,” she said.
UMUC also held commencement ceremonies for military personnel and their dependents at installations around the world (Tokyo, April 11; Okinawa, April 18; South Korea, April 25; Europe, May 9; and Guam, May 16). In addition, a formal commencement was conducted for doctoral candidates at UMUC’s Adelphi headquarters on March 15.
Facts about the UMUC Class of 2015:
- Number of graduates stateside: 9,023
- Number of graduates worldwide: 10,825
- Average age of stateside graduates: 36
- Average age of worldwide graduates: 35
- Age of oldest master’s degree graduate: 74
- Age of oldest worldwide graduate: 80
- Age of youngest stateside graduate: 20
- Age of youngest worldwide graduate: 17
For more information about UMUC’s 2015 commencement, please visit www.umuc.edu/commencement.