Arcadia Celebrates Class of 2021 Following Hybrid Academic Year
Over six ceremonies, Arcadia University awarded more than 900 doctoral, master, and bachelor degrees and certificates under blue skies on Haber Green. Family and friends cheered as graduates’ names were announced, while those streaming the ceremony online offered congratulations through live social media praise using #Arcadia2021.
At the Friday ceremonies, Arcadia University President Ajay Nair addressed graduates, stepping to the podium as Lil Baby’s “Bigger Picture” played, which Dr. Nair noted is a perfect reflection of the Class of 2021.
“Through all the turmoil that you have experienced, you have taught us what resilience truly means,” said President Nair. “One of the positive elements of the past year has been the opportunity to see your brilliance in action—and as Lil Baby says, to see you make it count, to see the student become the teacher.”
President Nair noted that the Class of 2021 has taught him three things over the last year: relationships and connections are critical; to always be prepared for the unknown and unexpected; and that there’s always opportunities to make radical changes in inequitable systems and thinking. He urged the Class to remember how Arcadia University has prepared them to not only find problems and challenges, but solutions as well.
During the Thursday ceremonies, where doctoral and master’s degrees were awarded, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeff Rutenbeck addressed graduates, stressing how much the world is waiting for their impact.
“What you have accomplished these past months and years has prepared you for what comes next,” said Dr. Rutenbeck. “The linear and predictable has shifted to become the unanticipated and unprecedented. The world needs you now more than ever—and with your Arcadia degree in hand, and with the partnerships and relationships you’ve formed while you’ve been with us, you are supremely situated to make a difference in this world.”
Through an academic year of all-modes and hybrid learning, and with a pandemic raging around them, the Class of 2021 persisted. Among graduates were the 2021 International Collegiate Business Strategy Competition team, which placed first in Performance, Reports, and Presentation; a Philabundance’s Healthy Pantry Initiative (HPI) Competition winner; and a Public Relations & Marketing Masterclass fellow with Cashman and Associates and the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.
“As a graduate of Arcadia, I remember my Commencement as a day of mixed emotions,” said Chair of the Board of Trustees Alison Aaron Madsen ’85 in a video message to graduates. “I encourage each of you to take this opportunity to reminisce on the experiences that defined your time here, especially the challenges that you have overcome to reach your academic goals.”
Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology President Pedro Rivera, who earned his Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility at Arcadia in 2005, was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, while Jiangsu University Professor of Mathematics Dr. Danchien Lu was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Mathematics from Arcadia University.
“Who you are is good enough,” said Rivera, who served as Commencement speaker, in a video message to graduates. “Why you are has brought you to this point in your life, and your authentic self will provide opportunities that align to your strengths and your interests. Ultimately, you will be happier and successful in reaching your goals, whatever they may be.”
Dreams were made at Commencement, as the Class also included students who have a combined 69 years of educational pursuit: English major Marlene Sokolow ’21, who started at Beaver College over 30 years ago; Education Studies major Susan Gallagher ’21, who began her degree 19 years ago; and Doctor of Educational Leadership Jacqui Bader ’21, who after 20 years of educational endeavors is finally achieving her educational goals.
Following last year’s need to host an online Commencement in May with a drive-through celebration in September, students and families were excited for the in-person experience, even with COVID guidelines in place.
“I didn’t expect that we would be able to celebrate in person, and am very grateful that we will have this very special and important milestone together on campus,” said Dr. Angela Kachuyevski, associate professor of Political Science and mother of a graduate. “It is a bit of return to normalcy that the Class of 2021 deserves after more than a year of this awful pandemic. This Class has completed their degrees … they have amazing capstones, and they are meeting the next stage of life much more resilient and prepared for the future.”
Graduates sat with their guests in “pods” during the ceremony, which had eight-feet of space around each group to ensure social distancing. Masks were required.
“Hearing about other universities’ COVID regulations or lack of, I feel Arcadia has done a great job and is taking measures to keep everyone safe while offering the most they can,” said Spanish major Emily Cruz Pineda ’21. “This event encapsulates four hard years of hard work, and one last year of extra mental and physical stress.”
Pineda said that over the last year, she’s particularly missed gathering with classmates for Fun ’til One events hosted by Engagement and New Student Programs each week. She missed the community, but having an in-person Commencement helped end her academic career with that campus connection.
“When I graduated from community college, nothing compared to the feeling of gratitude I got from faculty and family, and I’m so excited to experience that again with my Arcadia family,” said Environmental Journalism major Rikki Rosenthal ’21. “I am really proud of all I was able to accomplish online like being a writing center consultant, getting to work in the dendrochronology lab, getting to intern for University Relations, and making the Dean’s List for both Spring and Fall 2020. Although my time at Arcadia wasn’t what I expected, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
During the ceremonies, English and Media and Communications major Lashanna Bryant ’21 was announced as The Senior Golden Disc Award recipient, while Keisha Robinson ’17MEd, ’23EdD was honored with the A. Richard Polis Graduate Scholarship Award.
“The world expects a great deal from us, and while that may sound overwhelming, we can do it because we are not just ordinary graduates—we’re Knights,” said Bryant, who also served as Class of 2021 student speaker. “We are advocates, inquisitive activists—powerful, open-minded and, despite being told no, we have always found a way to say ‘yes actually, we can and we will.’”
Additionally, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Dr. Amy Miller was honored with the Lloyd M. Abernethy Faculty Award for Outstanding Service on Thursday, while Assistant Professor and Head of the Theater Arts Program Mark Wade was awarded Professor of the Year on Friday.