The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth awarded 535 degrees at the graduate student ceremony of the university’s 117th Commencement. This afternoon 1,529 undergraduates students will receive degrees and on Monday 49 law students will receive their diplomas.
The event, which attracted 2,000-plus students, family members, faculty, staff, and friends, was held at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield.
Interim Chancellor Peyton R. Helm, who has led the university for the past year and a half presided over the ceremony. Dr. Helm told the Class of 2017 that in his time at UMass Dartmouth, “I've come to know a faculty and staff that's completely dedicated to creating opportunities for men and women who want to learn…I have met remarkable, optimistic, hardworking students who often have surmounted… obstacles to achieve their goals.”
Dr. Helm added that “UMass Dartmouth students gave more than 240,000 hours of service to the community to this year... you give us all hope.”
Dr. Robert E. Johnson, former president of Becker College in Worcester, has been appointed chancellor and will officially begin his duties on July 1.
MacArthur Foundation Managing Director Cecilia Conrad was awarded an honorary degree, “Because with intellectual vitality and passionate commitment you continue to find and foster the promise in others.” Dr. Conrad’s academic research has focused on the effects of race and gender on economic status, and in her role at the MacArthur Foundation she has worked to select individuals deserving of prestigious fellowships for their creative endeavors.
In her address to the graduates, Dr. Conrad noted that this was just her second commencement address, her first being in 1972 at her high school graduation. “Creativity is about making the world a better, happier, more enriched place,” she said, adding, “failure-tolerant leadership requires taking risks, experiments, and allowing mistakes to happen as part of the creative enterprise.”
“The best way to inspire creativity is to give individuals autonomy … Creativity matters, and is critical to the future … As future leaders, you have a responsibility to shape environments that inspire creativity,” she said.
Author and LGBT activist Jennifer Finney Boylan, the inaugural Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence at Barnard College, was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal in honor of her “unyielding commitment to recognizing and protecting the core truth of every individual.” Dr. Helm described her as an "elegant, thoughtful and powerful voice for those who have too long been voiceless."
Michael Savaria of Westport, who was awarded his doctoral degree in Education Leadership and Policy Studies, earned the honor of addressing his classmates. “If we want society to be better, we need to get involved to work towards making it so,” he said. “You are important in this world. You are essential. Embrace your power and share it.”
Alumni Association President Dr. Daniel DeOliveira said, "as you embark on the next phase of your life, remember you will be connected to 50,000 alumni worldwide. Remember your days here at the university, for these are the memories that will last a lifetime."
About the Class of 2017
Total class size: 2,064
Graduate degrees: 535 (including 34 PhDs and 49 law degrees)
Undergraduate degrees: 1,529
Students performing community service: 90%
# of countries represented: 29
# of states represented: 20
# of Massachusetts communities represented: 229
Massachusetts towns with the most graduates: New Bedford (142), Fall River (121), Dartmouth (87), Boston (55) Westport (53), Taunton (48), Plymouth (41), Brockton (39), Attleboro (24)
Members of the Class of 2017 (graduate and undergraduate)
Talia D'Ambruoso of Warwick, RI -- bioengineering to improve lives
Brandi Bass of Springfield – Undergraduate Commencement student speaker, founder of Helping Each other Rise Organization (H.E.R.O.)
Myles Dias of New Bedford – Founding member of campus NAACP chapter.
Kevin Delaney of Walpole – Student Trustee, worked on student voter registration
Callie Nunez of Whitman – Confronting the opioid crisis.
Michael Savaria of Westport – Graduate Commencement student speaker, working to create access to STEM education.
Alex Siddall of Rehoboth: Washington internship to promote international education.
Moving to the Xfinity Center
The decision to move the event from the main campus to the Xfinity Center was made in consultation with student and faculty leadership as the ceremonies have outgrown the 4,000-seat on-campus amphitheater.
Over the past few years, UMass Dartmouth has needed to limit the number of family members allowed to attend the ceremonies and split up the colleges into smaller ceremonies. This meant many classmates were unable to attend the same ceremony together. The move to the Xfinity Center will also allow for much improved security, parking and traffic flow.