GVSU to celebrate December Class of 2021 with in-person Commencement

Julian Sanders poses in graduation regalia.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

Julian Sanders will graduate from Grand Valley State University this weekend having kept a promise to his grandmother by persevering through the unique adversity he and his peers have faced as they completed their degree.

His grandmother’s last words to him were telling him to stay in school, and Sanders will be leaving GVSU with more than a diploma; he is leaving with countless experiences, lessons and connections that take on even more meaning with the challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I really had to embrace the importance of remaining resilient in the face of adversity,” Sanders said. “It allowed me to take advantage of the opportunity to be present with my family and be thankful for the things that I have.”

Sanders is one of about 1,400 GVSU students who are scheduled to graduate. Grand Valley will hold in-person Commencement ceremonies Friday and Saturday in the Fieldhouse Arena on Allendale Campus, where students will walk across stage in person once again to receive their diplomas. 

Sanders, who will receive a degree in political science, transferred to GVSU two years ago, but two years was enough for him to get involved with countless organizations such as Student senate, Debate Team, Law Society, Black Male Scholars, Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and become a Cook Leadership Academy Fellowship candidate while working as a student ambassador to the Office of the President. 

Being such an involved student, Sanders said he is used to a fast-paced life and values human connection. When the pandemic caused him to move home from college, he was forced to adjust to what felt like a life put on pause. 

Looking back on his more than four years as a college student, Sanders said he could never have imagined the unexpected turns his path would take. To his freshman-year self he says “No pressure. College comes with its own challenges, but it’s a marathon not a sprint.”

“We become our worst enemies when we put so much pressure on ourselves to be successful because there are going to be times when you’re going to fail, there are going to be times when you don’t have the answer, and that’s OK,” he said. “Don’t force yourself to be someone you’re not ready to be just yet. You have time.”

As he goes on to law school, he carries with him more than his academic knowledge. The lessons he has learned so far go beyond the classroom. On a personal level, he has learned the importance of remaining connected to his support system and his faith. On a professional level he has learned the importance of taking his time in making decisions and appreciating his failures.

Now at the finish line, Sanders is ready to walk across the stage and celebrate with his family members who will be attending the ceremony on Friday night.

All graduates and up to four supporters are invited to attend their corresponding Commencement ceremony.

Ceremony details are listed below:

Friday, December 10, at 7 p.m.

  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Saturday, December 11, at 10 a.m. 
  • Seidman College of Business
  • College of Education and Community Innovation

Saturday, December 11, at 3 p.m.

  • Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing
  • College of Health Professions
  • Kirkhof College of Nursing

President Philomena V. Mantella will give the Commencement address and the ceremony will also include remarks from Chris Plouff, interim provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs as well as Felix Ngassa, chair of University Academic Senate. 

Everyone is encouraged to fill out their self-assessment prior to arrival.