About 3,500 students traded warm hats and gowns for graduation caps and gowns Saturday at the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) arena in Manchester, New Hampshire. Three fall inaugural ceremonies celebrated the achievements of more than 17,700 alumni worldwide and brought the university’s global alumni community to over 200,000 graduates.
Those who have earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in business or science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) kicked off the weekend’s celebrations and found their place among their peers – many meeting for the first time. The second ceremony honored those with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in education, health professions, humanities, nursing and social sciences. The day’s closing ceremony kept the arena lights on long after sunset, celebrating the master’s degree holders.
At every ceremony dr Paul LeBlanc, President of SNHU, reminded graduates what they all brought with them to university and their own college trips. “At this time of year and again in May, there are graduation ceremonies across the country,” he said. “But there are very few degrees that have that kind of talent, that kind of grit, that kind of stamina, that set of life stories.”
Another ceremony — the ninth for 2022 — is scheduled for December 10, when thousands more graduates will tune in for a virtual celebration with a student speaker Gustavo Perez’s 22MBA. Earlier this year, five opening ceremonies recognized more than 15,000 graduates, meaning nearly 33,000 students will have completed their SNHU degrees in 2022.
Evolve with SNHU
Living in all 50 states and 65 countries, these graduates enrolled in SNHU for different reasons and from different backgrounds. Their ages range from 15 to 89 years. Some are parents or grandparents. Many are the first in their families to go to college. More than 1,800 graduates are affiliated with the military, often completing their studies while on a deployment or changing agency.
But they now have at least one thing in common: after investing many hours and effort in class discussions, assignments, and other projects, they are college graduates.
“This is the work that will change the course of your entire family life and generations to come,” LeBlanc said. “Generations you may not even know will live different lives because of you being here today and graduating.”
As SNHU celebrated its 90th anniversary as an institution this year, it has evolved – and so has the entire Class of 2022:
The student speakers at each ceremony shared how their college trips were going. Patria Evans ’20 ’22an immigrant from Jamaica and mother of five, recognized the courage and determination it takes to graduate.
“We’ve 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 had to find a way for ourselves, keep our heads up and eyes ahead as we take advantage of the opportunities that await.”
Even when Evans was in an intensive care unit after the birth of her daughter, she remained focused on her education and kept her laptop nearby so she could complete coursework. Her commitment paid off. She earned two degrees — a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration followed by an Associate of Science in Accounting — with a 4.0 GPA.
“At SNHU I developed skills that have helped me on my journey to self-improvement, employment and earning potential,” Evans said in her inaugural address. “Those years, the help and encouragement I received from co-workers, family and friends will always be remembered. Today is a celebration for me and everyone who has worked to make it to this day.”
To the Traci Schoolcraft ’22, developing a growth mentality was key as she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She said this achievement took more than 30 years and many adversities in the making.
“During our coursework at SNHU, we learned about our purpose in the world,” she told her colleagues. “We learned the true meaning of vulnerability, determination and resilience. These skills will help us become influential leaders and notable agents of social change; we have developed a growth mindset.”
Past the torch
Family was a central theme at all opening ceremonies. Several parents graduated with their children – including Sabrina Mentis’ 20who traveled to Commencement with her daughters, Stephanie Mentis’ 22 and Kellyann Alves’ 22MBA.
“I’m so, so excited to be graduating today and walking the stage with my girls,” Sabrina said. “It’s just important to us. I’m so proud of them, proud of their accomplishments so far…I’m so excited to be able to share this moment with my girls, to see them succeed, to see them become independent women and move on with life.”
And many graduates kept their families in mind throughout their college years. student speaker Robynne Lofton ’22G chasing her dreams late at night from a small desk in her bedroom. She decided to pursue a master’s degree to deepen her understanding of communication.
“With SNHU, I’ve learned what’s possible—in me and for me,” she said. “With every new task, every work written, what was only possible somehow became belief and that belief became action.”
Towards the end of her Master of Arts in Communication program, Lofton switched careers and dedicated everything she learned in school and in her previous job of 26 years.
“My now five-and-a-half year old has this tiny desk in her room that’s permeated with every glitter of hope,” she said. “To my graduates, stick to what is possible. Always remember why you started as the inspiration for the many hills yet to be climbed. This achievement is your proof of what is possible in all of us.”
A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU online program that can best help you achieve your goals.
Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 ’22G is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.