A grad sits at commencement while wearing sunglasses that say "Grad 2023" above the eyes.

GVSU Winter Class of 2023 honored during Commencement ceremonies at Van Andel Arena

The 3,043 members of Grand Valley's Winter Class of 2023 were celebrated by academic leaders, friends and family during Commencement ceremonies at Van Andel Arena on April 28-29.

A grad stands above the crowd, one hand holding her phone to her ear, the other waving into the crowd.
A grad throws her arms out in triumph in front of President Mantella as she walks across the stage.

Following the opening processional, the ceremonies began with remarks by Felix Ngassa, professor of chemistry and chair of the University Academic Senate.

President Philomena V. Mantella welcomed graduates to this significant milestone, acknowledging that the Winter Class of 2023’s college experience was anything but traditional as they navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This part of your life’s journey truly was unlike any experienced by those before you,” Mantella said. “And while these years tested -- and maybe even, at times, strained -- your resolve, I also know they have strengthened you in ways you’re only beginning to understand. You have persevered and you have triumphed.”

Mantella then recognized this year’s guest speaker and honorary degree recipient, James P. Hackett. Hackett, former CEO of Ford Motor Company and Steelcase, received an honorary doctorate of business administration and made remarks at the Saturday morning ceremony. 

President Mantella addresses the graduating class.
James Hackett addresses the crowd.
A grad greets his mother who places a hand on his cheek after the ceremony.
A grad shakes President Mantella's hand while carrying a baby in her arms.

Following Hackett’s recognition, Jenny Hall-Jones, vice president for Student Affairs, introduced the ceremony’s student speaker. At the Friday evening ceremony, Priscila Onteveros Chucatiny, an international student from Bolivia receiving her bachelor's degree in computer science, spoke about the importance of perseverance and how her time as an international student at Grand Valley helped her reach her full potential. 

At the Saturday morning ceremony, Judith Eguzoikpe, an international student from Nigeria receiving her master's degree in public health, spoke about her empowering experiences at Grand Valley and the importance of not giving up on your dreams.

A grad holds his cap above his head in triumph in front of Van Andel Arena.
Grads in Masters robes clap and cheer during the ceremony.

At the Saturday afternoon ceremony, Javier Guillen, a graduate student receiving his master’s degree in cell and molecular biology, shared stories of growth, and expressed his gratitude to those who impacted him during his time at Grand Valley.

“The truth of the matter is that it took a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and ramen to make it here,” Guillen said. “But it also took a village filled with support, encouragement, motivation from our peers, family, and mentors from GVSU that stood by us.” Guillen is the first graduate of the HBCU/HSI consortium with GVSU.

Student speaker Javier Guillen addresses his fellow grads.
A grad hugs a family member after the ceremony.
Grads stand and prepare to walk the stage.
A dog dressed in a blue mortarboard walks across the stage with their owner.

Following the students’ remarks, Mantella welcomed Kaitlyn Markus, Sadie Essex, Rob Kyle III, and Tumaini Sango to perform “Brave” by Sara Bareilles and Jack Antanoff. 

The conferring of degrees was led by Mantella and Fatma Mili, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

Graduates moved their tassels and were dismissed as official members of the Winter Class of 2023.

Graduates and their supporters have the opportunity to purchase Commencement mementos as well as DVDs of each Commencement ceremony.

The crowd outside Van Andel Arena after the Friday night ceremony from above. A large portion of the crowd is dressed in blue.


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