University of Maryland University College celebrated its 2018 Summer-Fall Class of global graduates—more than 7000 strong—about 1400 of whom walked the stage to receive associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees at two separate Winter Commencement ceremonies at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland, Dec. 15. In all, this class of graduates represented 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 20 countries and territories.
In his opening remarks, UMUC President Javier Miyares described graduates as the university’s greatest achievement. “It has been our honor to help you in the pursuit of your goals and your dreams,” he said before offering a special note of thanks to the more than 5,000 educators and mentors worldwide, as well as the family members and friends who supported UMUC graduates “in so many ways” throughout their studies.
Miyares also gave special acknowledgment to the active-duty servicemembers and veterans among UMUC’s graduates. “Your service to our country has earned you the respect and admiration of a grateful nation and we are so pleased that you selected UMUC as your university of choice.”
William Wood, a member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, the governing body for UMUC and other public universities within the State of Maryland, spoke at both the morning and afternoon ceremony.
Wood, who is a parent to two UMUC graduates and whose father attended UMUC while serving in the U.S. Army in Frankfort, Germany in the 1950s, told graduates they were receiving a degree from one of the most dynamic institutions of higher education in the world.
UMUC is “the largest university in Maryland, the world leader in online education, and a global force, with a presence in more than 20 countries and territories,” he said. “And today, you become an enduring part of that proud and impressive legacy.”
Retired four-star U.S. Army Gen. Dennis Via and UMUC Distinguished Alumna Christine Ross, ‘06, ’08, delivered keynote addresses that spoke to the common threads that bind them to the graduating students in the audience—and the common traits shared by leaders in all disciplines and from all walks of life that have contributed to their success.
Via, an expert in military readiness and the U.S. defense enterprise, now executive vice president and Defense Fellow at Booz Allen Hamilton, told attendees at the morning ceremony that he, like more than one-third of their class, is also a first-generation college graduate. His father, who had a fifth-grade education but “a Ph.D. in common sense,” understood the importance of education and encouraged his sons to attend college, he said.
“I know all of you desire to be successful and receiving your diploma today is only the beginning,” Via added that success begins with self-confidence.
“You must believe in yourself. After coming back from failure, Steve Jobs once said ‘you have to trust in something … your gut, destiny, life, Karma or whatever, because believing that the dots will connect somewhere down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it means you’re off the well-worn path.’”
Nelson Mandela—who kept a scrap of paper while in prison with the words of the poem “Invictus” that ends with the famous lines, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul”—felt the same, Via said.
He cited a proverb in closing, perhaps from the Greek, that suggests a society grows great when its people plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
“As you depart UMUC, hold on to this unique experience, this acorn of knowledge, and take it with you down your road. Plant it somewhere for someone else so that, someday, they may enjoy the same shade under which you have prospered.” See Gen Via’s keynote address.
On Saturday afternoon, Ross cited a more contemporary source when urging graduates to remember that no matter what they encounter in life and work they should keep their values, ethics and integrity intact. “This is your ultimate position of strength and it will serve you well,” she said.
Ross, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, an advocate for regulatory changes to improve the state’s competitive business climate who leads efforts to ensure a quality workforce and education reform, was a divorced mother of three when she earned both her MBA and master’s in marketing from UMUC.
While married, the former music teacher said she had been “happy and grateful” that she could choose to be a stay-at-home mom—she was out of the workforce for 10 years until her youngest was in kindergarten—and was “in heaven” putting her teaching skills to work with her sons.
But when suddenly faced with adversity in the form of a painful and unexpected divorce, she said she panicked. How would she support her family on her own? “What qualifications did I have?”
For the previous six years, Ross said, she had been the bandleader of toddler pot-and-pan parades in her kitchen and artistic director of sidewalk-chalk installations curated in her driveway—and she wondered, “Who in the heck would hire me with such a large gap in my resume?”
Her fear aside, she knew one thing for sure: “Becoming a parent requires you to set the example for your children. So, I needed to step it up.” And in doing so, she learned a lesson that she told graduates applied to them in business and life as well.
“When you are presented with adversity look at it as an opportunity. And remember, someone is always watching you, [watching] how you behave to see how you respond to these obstacles.” See Christine Ross’s keynote address.
Each year, the university selects graduating students, who represent the special attributes of the graduating class, to deliver commencement addresses to their fellow graduates.
Jermaine Montgomery, Master of Science in Management with a specialization in Criminal Justice Management, delivered the student address at UMUC’s Saturday morning ceremony and told graduates that his experience at UMUC has inspired him to develop better habits to achieve greater success.
Montgomery, a Maryland Transportation Authority Police corporal—and the first in his academy class to be promoted—also sang the National Anthem and UMUC Alma Mater at the morning ceremony, and previously was chosen as student speaker when he received a bachelor’s in criminal justice from UMUC in 2015.
“A few years ago, I had the honor as your commencement speaker to talk with you about sacrifice, determination, hard work, and perseverance, qualities that are hallmarks of successful people who chart a blueprint to their destiny,” he said.
Calling commencement the gateway to graduates’ destinies, Montgomery told his fellow graduates that any future challenges they may face will yield as a result of their grit and determination, “because we shape our destiny.”
“As we plot out a new course, we can draw upon that hard work, that inquisitiveness, that empathy, that never-wavering attitude that we have learned here at UMUC to carry us through any rough places.” See Jermaine Montgomery’s speech.
Andrea Ayala Stull, Bachelor of Science in Psychology, told afternoon graduates that circumstance does not defne them or their future. “It is not about where you came from, or where you are right now, it is about where you are going . . . whatever life throws at you, you are so much stronger than that obstacle.”
For Stull, who over the past 10 years married her childhood sweetheart—a Navy sailor—gave birth to three “beautiful babies,” traveled across the U.S. to Hawaii and back and experienced deployments, the obstacle was the postpartum depression that she said “found a seat right next to me” and threatened to derail her dream of attaining a college degree.
But one of her favorite aspects of studying at UMUC helped lift the veil. “Encountering people from all over the world, going through the same classes, all experiencing life while juggling the tasks of furthering our education . . . It is comforting to know, that you aren’t alone in the struggle,” Stull said.
She urged fellow graduates to embrace “seasons of stillness” that encourage an internal environment conducive to personal growth. “Recognize when distractions are taking up space during times you need to just be still and think. Am I willing to continue the path of learning to become the best version of myself? Am I going to work to live or live to work?” she said.
And Stull advised graduates to learn to be content with what they have. “It is one of the keys to happiness.”
Initially embarrassed instead of joyful about graduating because it took her a decade to complete degree requirements, Stull said she came to realize that the timeline she had set for herself was arbitrary—and it did not account for her triumphs over the many obstacles that had crossed her path.
“This was me finding peace and contentment. We all have fallen, are falling, or will fall. But, falling does not equate to failure. As long as you get back up and keep trying, you have not failed.” See Andrea Ayala Stull’s speech.
Each ceremony featured a student singer who performed The Star-Spangled Banner and the UMUC Alma Mater.
Saturday morning, Dec. 15: Jermaine Montgomery, ’15 and ’18, Master of Management
Saturday afternoon, Dec. 16: Cherita Johnson, ’18, Master of Science in Health Care Administration
WATCH THE COMPLETE CEREMONIES
Saturday, Dec. 15, morning ceremony
Saturday, Dec. 15, afternoon ceremony
FACTS ABOUT THE UMUC SUMMER–FALL CLASS OF 2018:
Number of graduates worldwide = 7,034
Where in the world are our graduates? All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 20 countries and territories
Youngest graduate = 19
Oldest graduate = 77
Average age = 35
Associate = 1,043
Bachelor’s = 3,609
Master’s = 2,417
See more about the University of Maryland University College 2018 Winter Commencement on UMUC’s Facebook page.
UMUC will celebrate its stateside doctoral graduates, graduates of the winter 2019 term and all spring candidates at our May commencements in 2019. We expect more than 3,000 of the nearly 6,000 eligible graduates nationwide to attend the spring ceremonies in College Park, Maryland. Stay tuned for more information starting in January.
UMUC also holds global commencement ceremonies for military personnel and their dependents at installations around the world—at Tokyo, Okinawa, South Korea, Europe, and Guam.