Class of 2024 celebrated ay IUK Commencement

Written on 05/08/2024
Danielle Rush, Communications Specialist, Indiana University Kokomo

Graduates excited for career advancement, family pride

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Impending rain could not dampen the celebratory spirit during the 55th annual Indiana University Kokomo Commencement on Tuesday (May 7).

Clouds loomed overhead as nearly 430 graduates processed from the Main Building through the Quad to the Pavilion, cheered by faculty, staff, and friends eager to celebrate their accomplishments. Family members called to their graduates, including one little boy overcome with excitement when his mother waved at him from the line.

IU President Pamela Whitten and Chancellor Mark Canada welcomed everyone to the ceremony, thanking friends, family, faculty, and staff for their support and care for the graduating class.

Graduate Andrea Méndez Rodríguez was the lone speaker in the ceremony, abbreviated to ensure that every graduate was recognized before anticipated rain and thunderstorms Tuesday morning. An international student, she began with an “Hola, Mama!” for her mother, who came from Spain to attend her daughter’s commencement.

She recalled beginning her biochemistry degree at IU Kokomo “filled with both excitement and trepidation,” and reluctant to step out of her comfort zone. Faculty mentors and friends provided guidance and encouraged her to gain new skills — including public speaking, which she initially thought wouldn’t be important to her as a scientist.

“With each experience, I discovered a newfound confidence and resilience within myself, and I am sure many of you have had the same experience and have overcome similar obstacles,” Méndez Rodríguez said. “I am a testament to the transformative power of embracing new skills.”

She encouraged classmates to learn and grow, and not shy away from acquiring new skills, even if they seem unrelated to their chosen path.

“So let us not limit ourselves to preconceived notions or self-imposed boundaries,” she said. “Instead, let us embrace the unknown with open hearts and open minds, knowing that every experience, every challenge, and every skill acquired will shape us into the leaders and innovators of tomorrow.

“And may we always remember that the greatest growth often lies just beyond our comfort zones,” she continued. “Go beyond your limits and become the innovators of tomorrow.”

The highlight of the ceremony was the introduction of the graduates by Scott Jones, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, as each one crossed the stage to receive congratulations from the chancellor.

Then, with fanfare by the IU brass quintet and a spray of red and white streamers from a confetti cannon, President Whitten conferred degrees and invited graduates to turn their tassels and throw their caps high in celebration.

The ceremony also included awarding IU’s Distinguished Service Medal to Susan Sciame-Giesecke, vice president for regional campuses and online education, to honor her retirement. IU Kokomo’s chancellor from 2014 to 2022, she served most of her IU career as a faculty member and administrator at Kokomo.

Madesynn Freeman, Kokomo, led the singing of the National Anthem and alma mater. Education graduate Hannah Sandefur, Kokomo, represented the class during induction into the IU Alumni Association.

As a newly minted college graduate, Stella Damilola Olayiwola celebrated not only for herself, but for her family.

“It means so much to me,” said Olaywola, who was among the more than 400 graduates honored at Indiana University Kokomo’s Commencement on Tuesday (May 7).

“I am the first in my generation to be graduating from university,” she said, “They are all very proud of me.”

While her mother is still in Nigeria, her father and siblings were in the audience to watch her cross the stage and accept her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Her future plans include working as a labor and delivery nurse at an Indianapolis hospital.

The best part of her IU Kokomo experience was the community she built around her.

“At a small school, everyone has friendships and closeness,” she said. “The teachers are always willing to help the students. I like the relationships among students.”

Many of Tuesday’s graduates had similar stories of career dreams, making their families proud by earning degrees, and of friends and faculty who supported them in achieving their goals.

Michael Sommers looks forward to being a leader in the Maconaquah School Corporation with his master’s degree in education, specifically in educational technology for learning. He serves as the coordinator of instructional technology at his school.

“I learned a lot that will help teachers in my district,” he said, adding that he came back to IU Kokomo “to learn more and gain the knowledge needed for my role, and to help other teachers.”

Sommers, from Walton, also feels he’s setting an example for students by continuing to learn new skills and earn an additional degree, after previously completing his bachelor’s degree at IU Kokomo.

“It was a new experience with some new faculty, and it was just as great as my undergrad was,” he said. “The faculty here is so great at making sure you understand things. They always make sure you have support in what you are doing.”

Like Sommers, Isabella Rolston looks forward to career advancement with her Associate of Science in Radiography.

“It’s very exciting,” the Anderson resident said. “I get to take my boards soon, and then I can become a licensed technologist.” She works at IU Health North Hospital and the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center.

Rolston will continue her education starting this summer, entering the Bachelor of Medical Imaging Technology program at IU Kokomo.

The best part of her experience was “just making new friends and today, getting to graduate.”

Peter Davis hopes to build his career in accounting by earning his Master of Business Administration (MBA), but said he also earned it for personal satisfaction.

“It means a lot to me,” said Davis, from Kokomo, noting that he previously earned a bachelor’s degree from IU Kokomo’s School of Business, and had another positive experience.

“It’s been great,” he said. “It’s probably the most fun I’ve had in my college career.”

Dominic Bauer, Kokomo, is considering his career options with his degree in history and political science, while also playing semi-professional soccer in the Kokomo Vipers’ inaugural season.

“It means a lot to me to earn my degree,” he said. “Both of my parents are college graduates and veterans. It feels important to be a college graduate myself. I’m proud of my accomplishments.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.