CCV held its 2022 commencement ceremony at Norwich University’s Shapiro Field House on Saturday, June 4. For the first time since 2019, CCV staff, faculty, students and their families converged from across the state to celebrate more than 450 graduates earning their associate degrees. Graduates from the CCV classes of 2020 and 2021 were also invited to participate in the ceremony.
CCV-Upper Valley graduate Kirsten Kersey was the student speaker for the Class of 2022. Though she was unable to attend in person, she joined virtually to address her peers. “This is an exciting day, a day I hope you’ll all cherish for the rest of your lives,” she said. Kirsten spoke of her journey at CCV, which started five years ago. She attended classes while also working full-time and managing a chronic illness. In her speech, she acknowledged the diversity and perseverance of her fellow classmates. “I was humbled and encouraged by the resilience of my classmates. Not only have you all managed to complete your associates while balancing other life responsibilities, you have managed to do so during a global pandemic,” she said.
Despite the challenges that came with the pandemic, with a shift to online learning and Zoom classes, Kirsten said, “the college truly felt like a community as all of the students worked together toward a common goal of completing our education. I’m endlessly grateful to CCV for my time there. I imagine that for many of you, like myself, the end of our time at CCV feels bittersweet. Even though it is hard to say goodbye, CCV has prepared us for the next steps that we take in our lives.”
CCV welcomed Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant, inaugural vice provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion and chief diversity officer at Carnegie Mellon University, as the keynote speaker. Dr. Heading-Grant also holds a faculty appointment as distinguished service professor in the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at CMU, and formerly served in senior leadership positions at the University of Vermont. She spoke of her choice to come to Vermont for college, saying, “it is here in this state, and with my mother’s love and tenacity, that I learned how to go forward and not backwards. It is here that I formalized my thoughts about how I can help others…education opened the doors for me.”
Given her own experience and the opportunities she found in the Green Mountain state, she posed a question to the graduates: “what are you going to do with your Vermont education?” Dr. Heading-Grant shared that Vermont, and the education she received, allowed her to find her “superpower: courage, grit, fortitude.” She challenged the students to “think about the underrepresented, think about the marginalized…don’t leave anyone behind. My hope is that you do something good for all people and you use it as your jumping off point, or your continuing point, to be lifelong learners for the betterment of yourself and for all of us. You are equipped with the power to forge a new future…be an impact for good.”
CCV President Joyce Judy officiated the ceremony, highlighting the diverse perspectives and backgrounds of the Class of 2022. “At CCV, we supported you not just as students, but as whole people, and today we celebrate the many unique characteristics that define you as individuals and as a community,” she said. Of this year’s graduates, 300 are first-generation students, 13 are veterans or active duty service members, and 99 started college while still in high school. Students are pursuing careers in high-demand workforce industries, including early childhood education and healthcare. This year’s graduating class also represented students from ages 17 to 69, and most students were working full- or part-time jobs while attending the College.
President Judy presented awards to several individuals during the ceremony. Diane Delmasse, director of HireAbility Vermont, received the community service award for sustained and profound service to Vermont. CCV-Winooski graduate Iris Robert received the Student Leadership Award for dedication to and leadership in her academic center and community. The alumni scholarship was presented to CCV-Montpelier student Nicole Dawson and CCV-Winooski student Jamila Iftin, and will support their pursuit of a four-year degree. Faculty members Melanie Meyer, Allison Dean, and Telly Halkias were honored with Teaching Excellence Awards.
Governor Phil Scott also addressed the Class of 2022, stating that CCV’s graduation holds a great deal of meaning for him as he understands how hard each student worked to get there. “This is the type of effort and the type of opportunity that makes me so impressed with what CCV has to offer,” he said. He also encouraged graduates to use their education to strengthen Vermont’s workforce. “Whatever degree you’re receiving today, I hope you’ll use it right here in Vermont,” he said. “Because while getting that piece of paper today is gratifying, we’re really celebrating what you’ve already achieved, which is a great education, and the skills needed to walk right into a great job or move up the ladder in your current one.”
After the degrees were conferred and the tassels were turned, President Judy had a last remark for the graduates: “Congratulations to the Class of 2022. We are proud that CCV has been a part of your journey, and we hope that you will take the time to celebrate and enjoy this moment. As you move on to new chapters, we trust that you will continue to call on your own unique qualities, as well as what you have learned here, to build stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive communities wherever you go.”