University awards more than 2,000 graduates

May 14, 2017
Courtesy of: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth National Public Radio Legal Correspondent Nina Totenberg addresses the class of 2017.

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth celebrated its graduates on May 13, as 1,529 undergraduate and 535 graduate students walked across the stage at the Xfinity Center.

An estimated 10,000 students, family members, faculty, staff, and friends attended the university's 117th undergraduate commencement exercises, while another 2,000 attended the graduate ceremony earlier in the day.

In her address to the graduates, National Public Radio Legal Correspondent Nina Totenberg addressed the current state of civic life and journalism in the country.

“We at once create an echo chamber of information for ourselves, and at the same time have very little sense of national or local community,” she said. Totenberg then challenged the Class of 2017.

“For God’s sake, don’t just listen to things you agree with…If you hate [political gridlock], you just have to get in there and rumble,” she said.

Totenberg was awarded an honorary degree for her, “enduring commitment to searching for the truth and to helping to create an informed and discriminating public.”

Interim Chancellor Peyton R. Helm, who has led the university for the past year and a half presided over the ceremony. Helm predicted the Class of 2017 is “going to make wonderful contributions to our world,” and praised the class for “breaking down the stubborn barriers between genders, races, religions, and culture.”

Dr. Robert E. Johnson, former president of Becker College in Worcester, has been appointed chancellor and will officially begin his duties on July 1.

Dartmouth native Pete Souza, chief White House photographer during the Obama presidency, was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal because “genius has always revealed the essence of the powerful and the powerless and the momentous events that have engulfed them both.”

Student speaker Brandi Bass, a psychology major from Springfield who is entering the Aetna Inc. management development program, spoke of the university's Corsair spirit.

“While being at UMass Dartmouth, we have embodied what it means to be a pirate,” she said. “Because of this, UMass Dartmouth has become our island. The Bachelor’s degree we are receiving today is our map. And the treasure we are ready to leave the island for is our passion and purpose in life.”

The class of 2017 totaled 2,064 students. Thirty-four of those students received PhDs, while another 49 received law degrees. Graduates represented 29 countries, 20 states, and 229 Massachusetts communities. Eighty-seven of the graduates were from Dartmouth.

An additional 49 students graduated from the UMass School of Law on May 15. That ceremony was held on campus.

This was the first year commencement ceremonies were held at the Xfinity Center. University officials decided to move the event from the main campus because ceremonies have outgrown the 4,000-seat, on-campus amphitheater.

Over the past few years, UMass Dartmouth has needed to limit the number of family members allowed to attend the ceremonies and split up the colleges into smaller ceremonies. This meant many classmates were unable to attend the same ceremony together. The move to the Xfinity Center allows for improved security, parking, and traffic flow, said officials.

Brandi Bass, student speaker at undergrad commencement. (Courtesy of: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth)
Doug Roscoe, Political Science professor and Faculty Senate president, is also a Dartmouth resident. (Courtesy of: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth)
Dartmouth native Pete Souza is a Chancellor's Medal Recipient. Souza also served as the Chief White House photographer during the Obama administration. (Courtesy of: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth)
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