A President's Reflections

Celebrating Commencement & Staff Graduates

Posted on November 15, 2021

This past weekend, we were finally able to celebrate our 2020 and 2021 online graduates across five powerful and inspiring ceremonies. The SNHU Arena was filled with incredible student stories: A 67-year-old grandmother who finished a degree she started in 1972, when I was still in high school. A woman holding her three-week-old infant. A couple who met on a discussion board, fell in love, and are now married. A surprise proposal. Mothers and daughters graduating together. One woman who had multiple surgeries and blood clots and said she often thought she might not see this day. Parents who completed their final assignments mere hours after their daughter was born. A woman whose son died by suicide this year who told me how much the SNHU community helped her through her darkest days. Nurses and health professionals who were on the front lines of the pandemic and still finished their degrees. A man who lost his wife last year and promised her he would complete his degree and walk at Commencement. When he came up to receive his diploma, tears streaking his cheeks, I urged him to pause and think of Betty, his wife.

The weekend was full of those moments, and it can sound like a litany of hardship cases, but I heard them as cases of triumph and pride. The diversity, grit, and perseverance of our students was amply on display in that arena. It was truly our North Star: Transforming Lives at Scale, personified. 

Our campus graduates also had their moment in the sun in mid-October when more than 400 celebrated their incredible achievements at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. It was so rewarding to see our graduates back in person, after an abrupt closure in March 2020. It was a celebration of resilience, grit, hopes and dreams, and incredible accomplishments. 

This year’s graduates are from all 50 states and 71 countries and among them were 160 faculty and staff members who earned SNHU degrees this year. While tirelessly supporting our students, balancing working from home and family obligations – during a global pandemic no less – they were also working hard to complete their degrees. I am in awe of our colleagues and all of our graduates who persevered during this unprecedented year and wish each of them heartfelt congratulations. So many of them volunteered and brought smiles and high energy to the work; the broadest smiles and loudest cheers were often for colleagues, and it felt like a family celebration at times. 

Academic Advisor Danielle Lavoie exemplifies the determination of our staff graduates. At Commencement, she worked a shift and later walked at her own ceremony. First through the door was her advisee Selena Longoria and her mother Virginia, who crossed the stage together this weekend. The moment brought her to tears, and she shared her story with us. Hear her story:

I have never been more proud of this place, our people, and our mission. Congratulations to the classes of 2020 and 2021!

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