A doctoral degree candidate on a mission to create STEM education opportunities for women and other groups; an undergraduate psychology major who founded and organization to support other students; and a law student seeking justice for disenfranchised communities have been chosen by a committee of students, faculty and staff to address their classmates at UMass Dartmouth’s 2017 Commencement exercises May 13–15.
Michael Savaria – Graduate Ceremony - Educational Leadership and Policy Studies doctorate degree
Michael Savaria, of Westport, Massachusetts, is receiving a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, his fourth degree earned from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He has previously earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in 2015, a master’s degree in Marine Biology in 2013, and a bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2010. Michael’s research has focused on creating equal educational opportunities for all individuals, identifying pedagogical methods and administrative policies to increase the recruitment and retention of women and other groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) college majors.
On campus, Michael has held positions as the Vice President of the Graduate Student Senate, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Veterans Upward Bound Instructor, Graduate Tutor at the Writing and Reading Center, and as an International Student Orientation Leader. Michael has presented at 16 research conferences, been the primary author of two peer-reviewed journal articles, and was recently named the recipient of the UMass Dartmouth Young Alumni Award.
Michael plans to move full-time into academia to continue his research and work to advance greater student engagement and advocacy.
Brandi Bass – Undergraduate Ceremony - Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a Business Administration minor
Brandi Bass, of Springfield, Massachusetts, is receiving a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration. An active student on campus, Brandi has served as a Peer Mentor for the Center for Access and Success, Admissions Ambassador, President and Founder of HERO (Helping Each Other Rise Organization), Student Government Association Senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, Public Relations Officer for the Resident Student Association, member of CARE (Creating Acceptance Through Relationships and Empowerment), member of Share Esperanza, Leduc Center for Civic Engagement Volunteer, and member of the International Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society.
Brandi has been accepted to the AETNA Incorporated’s General Management Development Program, accelerating her career development. Through three, 18-month experiences, throughout Aetna’s core businesses in three different states, Brandi will be positioned to become a future leader for the company.
Sheyla Lors – Law School Ceremony - Juris Doctorate
Sheyla Lors, Brooklyn, New York native, earned her bachelor’s degree in Criminology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Sheyla dedicated her high school and college years to serving her local community as a youth leader and liaison within the Haitian-American communities of five states and as an HIV Prevention Peer Educator.
Born to two Haitian immigrants who instilled in her the importance of education, Sheyla worked as a Business Control Assistant at Nordea Bank Finland Plc, and was encouraged to attend law school by her supervisor. In August 2014, Sheyla made the decision to leave New York to attend UMass Law as a full-time student. Her studies led her to develop an interest in International and Human Rights Law, and strengthened her commitment to serving disenfranchised communities locally and overseas. After sitting for the bar examination this summer, Sheyla will be providing pro bono legal services to marginalized groups in Cape Town, South Africa.
At UMass Law, Sheyla served as Co-Chair for the inaugural year of the Law School Diversity and Inclusion Council and as a Senator for the Graduate Student Senate. She also served as the President of the Black Law Students Association, as well as the CNNE Sub-Regional Director for the National Black Law Students Association, Inc. In addition, Sheyla was an Academic Fellow and served as a Student Ambassador for the Admissions office, and a Graduate Assistant
More about Commencement 2017
The undergraduate and graduate ceremonies will be held at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield on Saturday, May 13 to accommodate the growing number of graduates and families attending the ceremonies.
The graduate ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. MacArthur Foundation Managing Director Cecilia Conrad will be awarded an honorary degree. Author and LGBT activist Jennifer Finney Boylan will receive the Chancellor’s Medal.
The undergraduate ceremony will begin at 2:30 p.m. National Public Radio Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg will receive an honorary degree. Obama White House Chief Photographer and Dartmouth native Pete Souza will receive the Chancellor’s Medal.
The School of Law ceremony will be held at the Main Auditorium on the UMass Dartmouth campus at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 15. Southern Poverty Law Center Founder and Chief Trial Attorney Morris Dees will receive an honorary degree.
The university expects to award more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees this spring.
The decision to move the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies 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 been forced to limit the number of family members allowed to attend the ceremonies and split up the colleges into smaller ceremonies. This has 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.