Interactive Media Commencement ceremony celebrates Class of 2021

The 18 members of the Master of Arts in Interactive Media Class of 2021 were honored for their hard work and dedication to their studies during the program's Commencement ceremony at Alumni Gym on Tuesday, May 18.

Photo Gallery: 2021 Interactive Media Commencement Ceremony

Following a challenging year on multiple levels, the Master of Arts in Interactive Media graduate program proudly celebrated its newest class of graduates during an in-person Commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 18.

The ceremony in Alumni Gym recognized the 18 members of the Interactive Media Class of 2021. The ceremony served as an opportunity to honor the class for its perseverance and achievements throughout the rigorous 10-month program, despite having to pursue their studies during a global pandemic.

Ashley Deese ’13 delivers the Commencement address.

The Interactive Media graduate program, in its 12th year, offers students the opportunity to learn from award-winning professors and build media projects in state-of-the-art facilities using the latest coding, graphic design and production techniques. Through hands-on experiences in classes and with real-world clients, students discover the creation, strategies and application of interactivity through content development and marketing, UX design, responsive web design, prototyping, usability testing, analytics, social media, app development and human-computer interaction.

The program’s keynote address was presented by Ashley Deese G’13, assistant director of digital media and communications for the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The Interactive Media alumna shared with graduates about her journey as one of five children growing up in a Native American tribe in rural North Carolina. As the first in her family to attend college, Deese shared the obstacles she faced in earning a college degree and then a graduate degree from Elon.

Deese has produced internationally acclaimed and best-selling apps and e-books such as “Morphy,” “Disaster Detector,” and “Stories of Women in STEM at the Smithsonian.” Deese is a two-time Webby Award nominee and was named to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list to go along with several other honors. In Deese’s speech on Tuesday, she encouraged graduates to consider a few key questions as they prepare to embark on their own career journeys. The most important step, Deese noted, is finding one’s purpose.

“What is it that your inner voice is telling you,” Deese asked graduates. “You are the only ones who can create a sense of identity because you can find a job online, you can go online and find a date, but you cannot find your identity online.”

An Interactive Media graduate is honored during the program’s 2021 Commencement ceremony.

Deese also urged graduates to focus less on planning and more on dreaming, telling the group to follow their passions wherever they may lead. She also stressed the importance of failure and how graduates should continue challenging their own limits to find true success.

Interactive Media graduates, their families and supporters also heard from Ben Johnson ’20 G’21, who was selected as this year’s student speaker for the Commencement ceremony. Johnson took time to reflect on the challenges and growth each graduate experienced during the 10-month program and especially praised his classmates for overcoming obstacles posed by COVID-19.

“This past year wasn’t easy, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that,” Johnson said. “We have all faced hardships and personal struggles, but I look out to my classmates today and I see 17 people who set out to get their master’s during a pandemic, and we all did just that.”

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Aswani Volety presented the 18 members of the Class of 2021, and President Connie Ledoux Book conferred the degrees and issued a charge to graduates, encouraging them to be resilient and steadfast in the face of all future challenges.

Each graduate received their graduate hood during a ceremony conducted by Book, Dean of the School of Communications Rochelle Ford, Director of the Interactive Media Program Derek Lackaff, and University Registrar Rodney Parks.

As she shared parting words with the Interactive Media graduates, Deese reminded each student of the skills they gained in the program and the courage they should carry with them throughout their lives and careers.

“You have great strength within you,” Deese said. “There is nothing that can stop you.”

Candidates for the Master of Arts in Interactive Media Degree


Abigail Samuel Bekele

Megan Lachlan Boericke*

Michael R’Kell Boyd

Meagan Janelle Chalmers

Chandler Elizabeth Colclough

Jeffrey Cullen Dean

Diondrian Marquis Cummings

T’keya S. Davy*

Carol Ann Friday

Yasmeen Naomi Grandison

Matthew Henry Harrell

Madeleine Kelley Horrell

Olivia Caroline James*

Benjamin Matthew Johnson

Natalie Ann Oldani

Alynda Jacura Pratt

Jasmine Camille Simmons

Benjamin Wendell Winslow


*denotes Phi Kappa Phi