March 20, 2013
When you’re talking about the best moments on the job for a Capella faculty member or employee, it’s hard to beat a Capella commencement.
Every year, we have summer commencements in July or August at our home in the Twin Cities. Every spring, we hold a commencement ceremony at a rotating location for our widely dispersed graduates. Last weekend, the Capella community descended on Long Beach, California for one of the largest commencement ceremonies in our history. What a weekend it was!
It began with a chance for graduates to spend time with the professors who have worked with them along their journey at a meet-and-greet reception on Friday afternoon. For some learners and faculty, this was the first time they’ve had an opportunity to see each other face-to-face. It was a special experience to see graduates connecting with the faculty who have guided and supported them along their educational journey. I saw a lot of smiles from graduates and a few tears from faculty members. The faculty meet-and-greet was followed by a reception for our military graduates where Capella University President Scott Kinney announced a plan to support current Capella learners who are having their military tuition assistance eliminated as a result of federal budget cuts.
On Friday night, graduates and their families gathered with the Capella University Board and faculty for a dinner and celebration—complete with music and a mini-commencement ceremony for the children of our Capella graduates. It’s hard to go to a commencement and not be struck by the unique make-up of Capella’s learner population, by and large, working adults juggling family, career and dreams. I’m especially proud to be part of an institution that has commencement activities for the children of the graduates. It is another testament that the educational journey of our graduates is truly a family affair.
Saturday was the big day—it was time for the commencement ceremonies. Our commencement speaker was Jeannette Walls, author of the memoir, The Glass Castle. She delivered a poignant message about overcoming life’s challenges, staying true to who you are, and reaching behind yourself to help others along their journey. It hit the perfect note for Capella’s adult graduates.
Our CEO Kevin Gilligan likes to say that when someone is truly happy, they smile with their eyes. We saw a lot of people smiling with their eyes on Saturday. I was especially touched by the family of April Folgert, who sat behind me at commencement. Her husband, son and daughter had traveled from Milwaukee for the event. They spotted April as soon as she processed in, kept careful tabs on her as she made her way to the stage, and cheered as loudly as they could when she walked across the stage and received her doctoral degree in Education. When we spoke afterwards, they were filled with pride for their mom and her accomplishment.
The best part of the ceremony for me was going outside afterwards to see the graduates reunite with their families. Many smiles and tears. I especially enjoyed connecting with Capella graduate Laurie McIntosh with the Society for Human Resources Management. We kept finding different things we had in common (including the fact that her husband and I are both Creighton graduates who are going to be pulling for the Jays this weekend!).
I also had the pleasure to meet with graduate Tharinia Dukes Robinson, a California local who overcame many obstacles on her journey to complete her PhD degree in Criminal Justice. She shared exciting news that shortly after completing her degree, she was offered a faculty position with Piedmont College in their Criminal Justice program.
It is truly remarkable to have the opportunity to capture and witness so many touching stories of joy and perseverance. I took more pictures than I can possibly post, but I’ve shared a few throughout.
Finally, a HUGE “thank you” to the commencement leadership team, volunteers and social media team. It was a very special weekend to be part of the Capella family.