Thoughts on Commencement


Ashford University celebrated its Fall 2015 commencement on October 4 in San Diego. Cheered on by 7,000 family members and friends, more than 1,400 students attended the event, according to the university registrar’s office. For graduates unable to make the trip to San Diego, we brought commencement to them via a live online feed. As always, it was a joyous, noisy, and truly wonderful event.

While commencement is, of course, a major milestone for all of our graduates, it also has special significance for the staff and faculty at Ashford. For us, commencement is always a time of sharing and reflecting. We share the joy that our students feel upon seeing their hard work reach fruition. Personally, I feel particularly proud of our students because so many of them have furthered their education while living busy lives and dealing with complex issues. These students often study late into the night and, in most cases, pursue their degrees alone without the company of classmates in the desks next to them to discuss topics quickly and easily. As I said during my commencement address, “It takes a fair amount of persistence and courage to be successful as a college student.” It is this persistence and courage that we honor at commencement.

For Ashford faculty members, commencement is especially poignant. Their work in the online classrooms takes on a new sense of reality as they see the students they have taught achieve their goals. It brings a sense of closure. Our faculty members swell with pride when they hear the name of one of their students called and they watch that student cross the stage at commencement. It is a similar feeling for staff members and those of us in administration who frequently work behind the scenes at Ashford. At commencement, we see how the work we do every day has helped thousands of students to succeed. And that is pretty special.

Events like commencement are important in general because they mark moments in our lives that we want to both celebrate and remember for years to come. I urge everyone – students, faculty, and staff – to attend commencement and experience the overwhelming positivity that fills the arena. Even if you are not graduating and do not know anyone who is graduating, the atmosphere of joy and accomplishment is inspiring. Invariably, the folks I have to cajole into attending commencement always come back to me and say how glad they were to have been part of such a wonderful occasion.

Having attended many graduation ceremonies over the years, I can say that I always feel the same after each commencement. I am pleased to see so many students enjoying the rewards of their long journeys, and I feel honored to take part in their celebration. Each and every Ashford University commencement is a great day.

Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude is the President and CEO of Ashford University.

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