Masters-level Elon graduates encouraged to remain lifelong learners

Candidates from graduate-level programs in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education, Martha and Spencer Love School of Business and School of Communications celebrated their achievements during a joint Commencement ceremony May 17 in Alumni Gym.

A graduate poses with flowers, her sapling and her family outside Alumni Gym

Before they crossed the Commencement stage and received their diplomas on Wednesday, May 17, Participate Learning CEO David Young urged the spring graduates from some of Elon’s masters-level programs to carry their passion for learning with them through whatever comes next in their professional journeys.

Young reminded them that graduation is a fixed point in time, and the world keeps changing every day. But as our society, economy and planet rapidly evolve, Elon graduates share a significant characteristic that will ensure their success far beyond their technical skills.

A master's-level graduate with a mortarboard that reads "Through it all, she mastered it"“You have proven that you have learned how to learn, and you have done this repeatedly, time and time again, for many years,” Young said. “Elon is and has always been committed to lifelong learning and has provided you with everything you need to be a continuous and curious learner for decades to come. Not everybody has this capacity, and it is a clear differentiator as you enter or re-enter the job market.”

The joint ceremony in Alumni Gym recognized graduates from the Master of Science in Accounting, Master of Science in Business Analytics and Master of Business Administration programs in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business; the Master of Arts in Interactive Media program in the School of Communications; and the Master of Arts in Higher Education and Master of Education programs in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education.

Jason Smith G’23 of the MBA program, who was selected to deliver the message of appreciation on behalf of his fellow students, applauded the time, energy and dedication that graduates from all six programs devoted to earning their degrees. Inspired by his pastor, Smith focuses on one word to live by each year, such as grace, patience and gratitude. He framed his address to his fellow graduates around his word for 2023 – silence.

“Today we celebrate loudly and proudly,” Smith said. “This Commencement day is all about talking, speaking and congratulating. But silence is not about quietness. Silence is slowing down. Silence is stillness.”

MBA graduate Jason Smith stands behind the podium on the Commencement stage
Jason Smith G’23 of the MBA program was selected to deliver the message of appreciation on behalf of his fellow students.

Smith acknowledged the hard work, sacrifices and compromises that each graduate poured into obtaining their master’s degrees. Moving forward, he encouraged his classmates to honor that effort by embracing the peace that comes with silence.

“Each one of you is a high achiever and high performer, reaching what only 10% of Americans will ever obtain,” Smith said. “How do we blend high performance, success, silence and stillness? My suggestions are to live in the present. Always use paid time off. Always. Talk less. Listen more. Practice gratitude. Check in on your friends. Enjoy work but still leave early. Attend your children’s activities but stay late. Have a date night with your significant other all of the time. Call your parents. Class of 2023, learn to love stillness and silence.”

In his keynote address, Young reflected on his own exposure to Elon’s dynamic learning environment from an early age. His father is former Elon President J. Fred Young, so he grew up surrounded by “the power of community, kindness, engagement and empathy” that Elon offered.

Elon paved the way for his family’s “lifelong pursuit of and commitment to global education and cultural exchange.” Young’s company, Participate Learning, is the leading provider of K-12 global education programs and one of the largest international exchange teacher programs recognized by the U.S. Department of State.

David Young speaks behind the podium on the Commencement stage
David Young, CEO of Participate Learning and the son of former Elon President J. Fred Young, delivered the keynote address.

“Elon introduced my siblings and me to worlds that would otherwise have not been possible – visiting professors, guest speakers, exchange students, travel, languages and more,” Young said. “And these experiences taught us to try and stand in someone else’s shoes for a while and understand what their lives are like.”

Young urged the graduates to carry the rich learning experiences they gained at Elon with them to their next adventure. He said that as an employer who has hired thousands of staff in more than 30 years, he would infer that candidates with master’s degrees would possess certain attributes – like technical knowledge, problem solving, initiative, ambition and self-discipline. But he would expect candidates with an Elon master’s degree to go a step further, with additional characteristics like critical thinking, emotional intelligence, valuing differences, intercultural understanding and curiosity.

“These Elon qualities make you so attractive in the marketplace,” Young said. “And, by the way… your degree is going to become more valuable over the years, and I’ll tell you why – because if there’s one thing I know about Elon, it’s that we will never stop growing, never stop improving and never stop pursuing excellence until we’re No. 1 in every possible ranking there is.”

Elon President Connie Ledoux Book stands behind the podium on the Commencement stage with an oak sapling in her hand
President Connie Ledoux Book charged the graduates to be as resilient and steadfast as the oaks for which Elon is named and presented them with oak saplings to symbolize their growth.

Young said he had no doubt that everyone who crossed the Commencement stage that night possessed those qualities, and he emphasized that lifelong learners often become excellent leaders.

“When I look out at you, that’s what I see – dozens and dozens of future leaders ready to enter the world and make a positive impact,” Young said. “And it brings me joy and hope to see, because we have huge challenges ahead as citizens and humans. We need you now, and we need you fast!”

President Connie Ledoux Book charged the graduates to remain resilient and steadfast in their future endeavors, like the mighty oaks for which Elon is named. Oaks symbolize the Elon community’s strength, she said – strength that also resides within each member of the Class of 2023.

“I hope each time you see an acorn, or an oak tree,” Book said, “that you are reminded of the personal leadership that you have developed during your studies at Elon, strengths and skills that I’m counting on you to use to make a difference in the world.”

Candidates for the Master of Science in Accounting Degree

Kaitlyn Susan Cherniss

Luke Taylor Chisholm

Yuzu Pham Do

Colburn Gray Ehrhart

Andrew Clinton Junkin

Hunter Autumn Leong

Jacob Stone McAllister

Brian Joseph McDonnell

Hari Meher Nori

Conor J. O’Neill

Jane Madelyn Ragland

Madison Schulenburg

Olivia Noreen Taylor

Candidates for the Master of Science in Business Analytics Degree

Gustavo Damian Atencio

Joseph Alan Baughman

Kalli’Ana Alize Claire Botelho

John Otis Bowen III

Kiana Aires Bradford

Michael Clow

Matthias Delbove

Baptiste Di Maiolo

Nicole Rose Dischinger

Abigail Marie Fusca

Franc Gàmiz Quer

Sean Elliot Halloran

Alexander James Kisch

Apolline Lartiguevieille

Nicolas Legeay

Benjamin C. Muse

Jehan Panthaki

Michael P. Purcell

Corbin David Skaff

Chelsea Paige Wallace

Master of Business Administration Degree

Sandra Paola Acosta Pena

Abdulmohsen Alzamil

Faiger Megrea Blackwell

Timothy Q. Boles

Skyler Christian Davis

Mary Marie DeFriest

Timothy Patrick Dengler

Lindsey Miller Furiness

Jacquelyn Renee Gauntlett

Paris Elaun Henderson

Olivia Creech Holbrook

Brian Scott Joyner

Aleah King

Quianna Lewis

Alexa Noelle Lowey

Sierra McKoy

Aaron Nana Kwame Ofori

Babatunde Sunday Opaleye

Quinn Patrick Reilly

Cassidy B. Richardson

Jason Smith

Kathryn Larned Soraghan

Rosemary Sparrow

Faisal Sulman

Kari Austin Taylor

Nathan Wyscarver

Candidates for the Master of Arts in Interactive Media Degree

Olivia Beth Archer

Shaina Danielle Catchings

John Edward Donohue

Abby Yongting Lachance

JaRiah Teree Morris

Sequoia Raven Nichols

Maya Nicole O’Neal

Hana Rose Sedivy

Courtney Lillian Simmons

Michaela Angelle Zeno

Candidates for the Master of Arts in Higher Education Degree

Jordan Ballantyne

Kelsey Frances Baron

Ivy Blue Breivogel

Toni Maria Formato

Mackenzie Grim Hahn

Martha Yulissa Lopez Lavias

Charles D. Presar

Sarah May Richey

Odaly Esmeralda Rivas

Amy Elizabeth Smith

Rebecca Elisabeth Wiles

Candidates for the Master of Education Degree

Michael Buttner

Destiny Carter

Valentina Cubillos

Manfredo De la Cruz Interiano

Yanela Ferrer

Kirsten Garrison

William Giblin

Erika Liseth Hernández

Ana Herrera Castillo

Javiera Leyton Alarcon

Emma Lu

Kimberly Manning

Marcela Marambio

Issac Marsh

Deanna Polito

Tatiana Rudiander Conte

Corey Waters

Hannah Wilpon