The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth awarded 1,529 degrees at its 117th undergraduate commencement exercises today.
The event, attended by an estimated 10,000 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 predicted the Class of 2017 is “going to make wonderful contributions to our world,” and praised the class for “breaking down the stubborn barriers between genders, races, religions and culture.”
Dr. Robert E. Johnson, former president of Becker College in Worcester, has been appointed chancellor and will officially begin his duties on July 1.
National Public Radio Legal Correspondent Nina Totenberg was awarded an honorary degree for her, “enduring commitment to searching for the truth and to helping to create an informed and discriminating public.”
In her address to the graduates, Totenberg addressed the current state of civic life and journalism in the country. “We at once create an echo chamber of information for ourselves, and at the same time have very little sense of national or local community,” she said. Totenberg then challenged the Class of 2017: “For God’s sake, don’t just listen to things you agree with…If you hate (political gridlock) you just have to get in there and rumble.”
Dartmouth native Pete Souza, chief White House Photographer during the Obama presidency, was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal because, “genius has always revealed the essence of the powerful and the powerless and the momentous events that have engulfed them both.”
Brandi Bass, a psychology major from Springfield who is entering the Aetna Inc. management development program, earned the honor of addressing her classmates and spoke of the Corsair spirit of the university. “While being at UMass Dartmouth we have embodied what it means to be a pirate,” she said. “Because of this, UMass Dartmouth has become our island. The Bachelor’s degree we are receiving today is our map. And the treasure we are ready to leave the island for is our passion and purpose in life.”
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.