Master’s-level Elon graduates urged to embrace the unknown

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 received their diplomas during a joint Commencement ceremony May 22 in Alumni Gym.

While Commencement marks the end of one chapter, with students becoming graduates after months or years of rigorous work, it also signifies a new beginning. In his welcome remarks at Elon’s Graduate-Level Commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 22, School of Communications Dean Kenn Gaither reminded graduates that a commencement literally means a beginning, despite the traditional framing of graduation as a destination reached.

“Graduates, a commencement is the beginning of a new chapter of your life, and you are now armed with the knowledge from an advanced degree to begin something new,” Gaither said. “The Elon motto is ‘numen lumen,’ which signifies spiritual light and intellectual light. At Elon, you have walked in the light. Now, you enter the world as the light.”

A male graduate in a cap and gown is hooded by a male professor in academic regalia
A graduate receives their hood during Elon’s Graduate Program Commencement on Wednesday, May 22, in Alumni Gym.

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.

Stephen Gyan of the Master of Arts in Higher Education program, who was selected to deliver the message of appreciation on behalf of his fellow students, encouraged the graduates to embrace the beauty of the unknown. A first-generation college student from Ghana, Gyan traveled 5,389 miles to realize his goal of earning a master’s degree and deepening his understanding of how educational systems nurture people and transform societies.

He shared how overwhelming it was at times to pursue an advanced degree in an unfamiliar country, an ocean way from his family. But Gyan’s Elon experience also broadened his educational and professional horizons and boosted his confidence in his own abilities, leading him to pursue his Ph.D. this September.

A male graduate in a cap and gown speaks at a podium
Stephen Gyan G’24 of the Master of Arts in Higher Education program was selected to deliver the message of appreciation on behalf of his fellow graduates.

“There’s power in the unknown, and it’s important to reframe it as a catalyst for action,” Gyan said. “Life may be complex, but I firmly believe that when we trust ourselves and take initiative in the present moment, the world will conspire to help us achieve our dreams.”

Gyan said he believes that earning their master’s degrees Wednesday night signified a stepping stone for the future he and his fellow graduates want to create for themselves. With a commitment to learning continuously, constantly seeking mentorship and acting proactively, he said he felt confident the graduates would leave Elon well equipped to take on whatever comes next for them.

“Let’s draw inspiration from taking small steps even when the path isn’t clear,” Gyan said. “By doing this, we become bold, action-oriented and willing to experiment. It will free us from the fear of inadequacy and imposter syndrome and empower us to embrace the humanity that includes failure as part of our journey. After all, our actions can have a variety of outcomes – it can be good, it can be bad or somewhere in between. But the most important thing is that we would have tried. Colleagues, let’s choose to be optimistic and embrace the positive world that awaits us.”

André Valcour, vice president and laboratory director with the Center for Esoteric Testing and discipline director of allergy, coagulation and endocrinology at Labcorp, echoed the importance of lifelong learning in his keynote address. He remarked on humans’ capacity to adapt to change and reflected on how rapidly the world has evolved throughout his own educational and professional journey.

A male commencement speaker in academic regalia stands at a podium
André Valcour G’14, vice president and laboratory director with the Center for Esoteric Testing and discipline director of allergy, coagulation and endocrinology at Labcorp and a 2014 graduate of Elon’s MBA program, gave the keynote address.

When he took his first computer programming course in college, he submitted his homework on punch cards. His doctoral dissertation at the University of Vermont was the school’s first to be written on a word processor rather than a typewriter. Today, people carry computers in their pockets or wear them on their wrists and are now experimenting with artificial intelligence as a resource. To keep up with such exponential evolution, Valcour said it’s imperative that people always aspire to learn.

“To soar in the age of explosive change, you will need to constantly increase your knowledge and skills,” said Valcour, a 2014 graduate of Elon’s MBA program. “You will need to be a lifelong learner to be a lifelong success. The days when you could get a four-year degree or even a graduate degree and think that it would sustain you for a lifetime are over.”

To be successful in today’s world, Valcour encouraged the graduates to routinely assess what further self-development they need, what further knowledge and skills they need, what standards they should set for themselves and what strengths they should employ. He also urged them to be proactive in exploring mentoring relationships with people who are smarter than them, people who will provide guidance and support, and people who will challenge them.

“You must remember that if you will be successful in this kind of relationship, you must be open to criticism, you must have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and, most of all, you must be passionate about your goals and be willing to take risks to achieve them,” Valcour said.

A female university president in academic regalia stands at a podium holding an oak sapling
President Connie Ledoux Book charged the graduates to be resilient and steadfast like the mighty oaks for which Elon is named.

Valcour also underscored the importance of not only learning throughout your career but using that knowledge to empower the success of others. Leadership, he said, is not about a person’s position, but about their actions, their innovations and their influence.

“Be the kind of leader that makes others successful,” Valcour said. “Use your talents to effect positive change. Above all, maintain a strong moral compass. Your integrity is your most valuable asset.”

In her charge the graduates, President Connie Ledoux Book said she hoped they would carry Elon’s core values of honesty, integrity, responsibility and respect with them as they begin their next chapter as master’s degree recipients.

“Use these Elon values when you encounter hard choices,” Book said. “Lean on them – and each other – when you need to reason things out. Remember, we are forever bound together by these values – you, me, your classmates, faculty, staff, Elon.”


Candidates for the Master of Science in Accounting Degree

Alex Belveal

Katlin S. Bollenbach

Blake C. Cleven

Liam M. Dabagian

Tommy Dimock

Claire E. Doherty

Taylor Getz

Kaitlin A. King

Jack C. McAuliffe

Jackie Schmidt

Ariston J. Tomes

Jake Varady

Julia C. Vide

Callum R. Walker

Candidates for the Master of Science in Business Analytics Degree

Annabelle Ackroyd

Jessica Booth

Jack Cutler

Rafi Dahdal

Léanna Dejean

Justine Dobral

Matthew Downing

Raphael Engelhard

Luca Erhardt

Zac Ervin

Zane Bruce Gilbert

Kai Glass

Chazz Harley

Nazhiyah Hayes

Dylan Heap

Kathryn Johnson

Maya Johnson

Daniel Martin

Drew Ellen Menscer

Hannah Miller

Ajay Nimmala

Caleb Ogunmola

Tate Ostrowski

Shane Paradine

Edoardo Righetti

Victor Roche

Isak Sedin

Suman Sharma

Trinity Roshni Swepson

Vanessa Taylor

Jabril Williams

Jun Yin

Candidates for the Master of Business Administration Degree

Kyra Auguste

Richard Bechtold

Quintin Brenner

Frederick Brown

Jose Daniel Castillo Solano

Felicia Cenca

Major Duckett

April Dawn Dudash

Jessica Hamrick Hart

Nitish Kumar

Meghann Mae Lail

Breanna Lewis

Aeriel Miller

David Eugene Morgan III

Jasmine C. Ryant

Victoria Schneider

Warren Snell

Brandon Jade Swindell

Candidates for the Master of Arts in Interactive Media Degree

Raven Monique Abbott

Jessica Maris Baker

Andrew Allen Dryfoos

Isabella Maria Szalay Hilditch

Tishana Trinity Jackson

Kaitlin N. McGoogan

Cameron Xavier Rosebud

Gabriella R. Sable

Denise Yvonne Simmons

Abigail Sparkman

Morgan Sierra Stankiewicz

Amaya C. Waddy

Puxin Zhao

Candidates for the Master of Arts in Higher Education Degree

Hao Chun Chi

Julia Ruth DeWitt

Darynha Gnep

Elana Rae Gutmann

Stephen Gyan

Caleigh Shea MacKinnon

Marie-Clare Oluebube Ofoegbu

Elijah Pennock

Vanessa Lorraine Truelove

Haley Nicole Turczynski

Alexandra Lucia Weaver

Candidates for the Master of Education Degree

Robert A Alvis

Fernando Antonio Arevalo Rodriguez

Wanying Deng

Yanmei Duan

Maria Florencia Guida

Alexa Perkins LaTorre

Wenting Li

Zongchao Mu

April Ashford Siler

Madeleine Steffani Tapia Solis