More than 3,000 earn degrees, congratulations during virtual commencement

President Philomena Mantella behind podium in regalia
President Philomena V. Mantella welcomes family, friends and supporters of graduates.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Grand Valley's top leaders congratulated more than 3,000 winter semester graduates during a virtual commencement ceremony April 30.

President Philomena V. Mantella said the tenacity students demonstrated is a competency that will serve them well throughout their lifetime. 

"This is a year we will never forget, and you are a class we will always remember as 'the class that even a pandemic couldn’t stop,'" Mantella said.

Mantella said completing a degree during a pandemic demonstrates resilience, another tool for a graduate's skill set. "Studies show practicing resilience helps you face future challenges. This skill makes it possible for people to not only to get through hard times but to thrive during and after them," she said.

Provost Maria Cimitile addresses winter semester graduates during the virtual commencement ceremony. She is in academic regalia and behind a podium.
Provost Maria Cimitile addresses winter semester graduates during the virtual commencement ceremony.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Provost Maria Cimitile told graduates that their degrees are not signs they are finished, rather they are "prepared for what comes next, prepared for life."

"I am encouraged by the confidence with which you faced challenges and the growth you experienced that will follow you into your next venture in life," Cimitile said.

Before conferring degrees, Cimitile introduced LaTonia Pearl Harris, a Detroit native who earned a bachelor's degree in writing. Harris wrote a poem, "Out of Darkness," and was recorded performing it at Grand Valley's Detroit Center.

Out of Darkness

An excerpt from Harris' poem reads: 

"There is something to be said about the calling of scars to education.

I say scars because when I came to this place of knowledge.

I came covered in them.

Deep, embroidered, violet bruises.

Abhorrently carved into brown skin.

When I touched them, they sang odes to strange fruit.

They hummed unsightly things beneath my surface.

They were invisible to others but vivid to me.

I was sick & acceptably knowing it.

Writing poems thinking the only way to conjure up pain

Was through a fixated enslavement

to substances, my mind always forgot how to spell.

And I'm a writer so, I know how to spell."

Deans shared congratulations as names of graduates were featured on screen. The in-person Laker Graduation Celebration will run from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 1, in the Fieldhouse Arena.

Roy Olsson Dean of the College of Health Professions greets graduates
Roy Olsson, dean of the College of Health Professions, greets graduates in a video recording.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills


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