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More than 3,000 graduates walk at Spring 2019 commencement ceremonies


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Central Michigan University‘s May 4 commencement ceremonies took place in McGuirk Arena

This weekend, more than 3,000 Central Michigan University students joined a group of 235,000 people as CMU alumni.

This weekend, more than 3,000 Central Michigan University students joined a group of more than 200,000 people as CMU alumni.

Among the 3,200 graduates were about 2,300 bachelor's degrees, 700 master's degrees and 200 doctoral degrees — 100 of which were doctor of medicine degrees.

"You are not here today by accident," President Robert Davies said at one of the ceremonies. "You made the difficult choice over and over again to study hard, to put in long hours, to cooperate with your faculty mentors and to make sacrifices in order to pursue this degree."

Friday, May 3 — 4 p.m. ceremony: Raymond Cross, president of the University of Wisconsin System, spoke about the importance of friendship at the doctoral commencement ceremony.

He pointed out that on CMU's seal are the latin words for wisdom, virtue and friendship.

"Few universities include friendship as one of their fundamental values," Cross said. "It's not something we teach directly. It's not listed in any of our course catalogues, but it is so incredibly important."

Besides teaching students about research, writing and other technical skills, Cross said universities need to teach graduates how to understand people who are different from themselves.

He spoke about a friendship he created as a master's student at CMU. His faculty adviser helped him with coursework and research while Cross was a student, but their friendship lasted long after graduation. Cross said he often sought advice from his former adviser, who helped him secure leadership roles in higher education.

"He was more than a faculty member," Cross said, "and as Aristotle would say, he was a good friend."

There were 102 doctoral graduates who received their degrees at Friday’s ceremony, which took place in Warriner Hall’s Plachta Auditorium. 

The degrees awarded at the ceremony were:

  • Doctor of Audiology
  • Doctor of Education
  • Doctor of Educational Technology
  • Doctor of Health Administration
  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy

Saturday, May 4 — 9 a.m. ceremony: Graduates were addressed by CMU alumnus and author Subir Chowdhury, who spoke about his experience moving to the United States from Bangladesh to receive a graduate degree at CMU. 

“The first night I spent in America, I spent in Mount Pleasant, Michigan,” he said.

Chowdhury arrived three weeks early to when he believed he’d be receiving a fellowship award, only to find out the department had chosen someone else. Without it, he had no way to pay for his graduate schooling.

Instead of giving up, Chowdhury turned to other departments for help. He knocked on several department office doors, told his story and asked if there was any way they could help him.

Chowdhury knocked on 21 department doors until he was offered another fellowship. In 1993, he graduated from CMU with a Masters degree in industrial management.

Chowdhury told graduates that life is about choices, and they must choose to continue trying instead of giving up.

Graduates received the following degrees at the 9 a.m. ceremony: 

  • Bachelor of Applied Arts
    • Entrepreneurship Major
  • Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training
  • Bachelor of Science
    • Communication Disorders/Communication Sciences and Disorders major
    • Community and Health Education major
    • Exercise Science major
    • Health Administration major
    • Physical Education major
    • Physical Activity Specialist major
    • Public Health Education major
    • Sports Studies/Management major
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
  • Bachelor of Science in Education
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Public Health
  • Master of Science - Information Systems
  • Specialist in Education

Saturday, May 4 — 1:30 p.m. ceremony: CMU alumna Sarah Rowley Opperman addressed graduates about her time in college, as a retired Dow Chemical Co. executive and serving on CMU‘s Board of Trustees for eight years.

Opperman told graduates that she wasn’t speaking because she was famous, successful or because of a fancy title.

“I am here because this is personal to me,” she said. “I am passionate about you.”

Opperman broke her address into three parts: Get ready, get set and get going. 

Opperman said “get ready” meant graduates should start their journey by being a leader, mentor and professional. Most important of all was resilience, she said.

“No one is immune to failures, to setbacks, to disappointments,” she said. “Build that capacity to get back up again.” 

To “get set,” Opperman said that graduates should self-evaluate themselves and make sure to stay true to their priorities. In Opperman’s own life, this meant retiring from her job at Dow Chemical Co. to spend more time with her family.

Opperman finished her address by telling graduates to “get going” on following their passions and never stop.

“Don’t wait for life to happen to you,” she said. “Go after what is important to you.”

Graduate Stephan Wilson sang the national anthem at the ceremony and led the Alma Mater. His mother Sharonda Wilson was also at the ceremony even though she was graduating from Ferris State University at the same time. 

President Robert Davies said that when he found out Sharonda had missed her own commencement ceremony in order to attend Stephan's, he made a phone call to FSU President David Eisler. Davies conferred Sharonda's degree on behalf of FSU.


Graduates received the following degrees at the 1:30 p.m. ceremony:

● Bachelor of Applied Arts (for all majors except Entrepreneurship)

● Bachelor of Fine Arts

● Bachelor of Music

● Bachelor of Music Education

● Bachelor of Social Work

● Master of Arts

● Master of Music

● Master of Public Administration

● Master of Science in Administration

● Graduate Certificates

Saturday, May 4 — 6 p.m. ceremony: Keynote speaker Joseph Mancewicz, a senior software engineer at NVIDIA, urged graduates to ignore self-doubt and do everything with confidence.

Mancewicz received his bachelor's degree in physics from CMU and wanted to be a rocket scientist. He joined the Ph.D. program in space science at the University of Michigan and worked at NASA over summers. 

"At every step along this path, I felt like an outsider," he said. "I felt like everyone was smarter than me and more deserving. I was just waiting for them to find out that I didn't belong."

He said this self-doubt, which is commonly known as imposter syndrome, is a lie.

During his summers of research, Mancewicz created his own software to create simulations because he didn't understand the complex software NASA already had. This inspired him to make a radical change in his life.

His plan was to become a rocket scientist, but he instead decided to go into filmmaking. He didn't have a plan this time, but he was determined to succeed, and he did.

Mancewicz was part of visual effects teams that won two academy awards, including the awards for visual effects for the 2012 film "Life of Pi." 

The degrees awarded at the ceremony include:

  • Bachelor of Individualized Studies
  • Bachelor of Science (for all majors except those in the 9 a.m. ceremony)
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering
  • Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
  • Master of Science
  • Specialist in Psychological Services

Sunday, May 5 — 1 p.m. ceremony: Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of the American Association of Medical Colleges, told stories about his experience as a medical student and explained how to be an ethical doctor at the College of Medicine commencement ceremony.

He said that while the United States has the best medical system in the world, there is still a lot of work to do. He said inequality in healthcare is preventing outcomes from being as good as other countries.

"These may seem like political issues," Kirch said, "but for you, there are ethical issues."

During the conferring of degrees, administrators put hoods on the graduates to signify their doctoral status. However, about a dozen graduates were hooded by their parents, who were physicians.

All graduates received a Doctor of Medicine degree.

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