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ASU Class of 2021 overcame tumultuous times on path to success

Graduates told that challenges of the pandemic led to greater creativity, preparation

May 03, 2021

Arizona State University’s spring 2021 graduates were congratulated for not only persevering through the difficulties of a pandemic, but also for helping to make the university a better place despite the challenges.

“What we’ve found in 2020 and 2021 is that we’ve learned to be a better university, our faculty have advanced and we’ve developed new teaching and learning techniques,” said ASU President Michael Crow during the commencement video.

“I hope people see what we’ve done. We’ve kept the institution moving forward in the middle of the first global pandemic in over 100 years.”

Crow said that the 2021 graduates are prepared to be lifelong learners.

“We’re living in a world where everyone is empowered by technology and they’re able to study across cultures and across complex subjects, and they’re able to double major and triple major and they’re able to build things and do things,” he said.

“Our undergraduate student body and our graduate students are problem solvers now. They are teachers and learners and discoverers now.

“If anything, the pandemic has driven up our commitment to social equity. It’s driven up our commitment to having a deep impact across our society, and it’s driven up the creativity of our faculty and students.”

Read more: Meet some of the exemplary graduates of the Class of 2021

The half-hour video recording took the place of the university commencement ceremony that is typically held at Sun Devil Stadium but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, each college and school at ASU is holding virtual and smaller, in-person celebrations this week.

In the commencement video, Crow told the graduates: “You have advanced during this unique time.

“You have a unique opportunity, and there’s nothing to be discouraged about. Just the opposite. This is a carpe diem moment.”

On May 3, ASU conferred degrees to nearly 18,000 students — an 8% increase from spring 2020 — including more than 5,200 ASU Online students, a 24% increase over last May. Of the student total, nearly 12,200 are undergraduates and more than 5,500 are graduate students.

The class of 2021 includes the first graduates of two new degree programs.

  • The LACMA-ASU Master’s Fellowship in Art History, a partnership between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, was launched in 2018 and is intended to diversify the field of museum professionals. Those graduates are Ariana Enriquez and Matthew Miranda, who work at the ASU Art Museum, and Dhyandra Lawson and Celia Yang, who work at LACMA.
  • Lauren Amado-Manchego is the first ASU Online student to earn a Bachelor of International Public Health. Offered in collaboration through the PLuS Alliance, a partnership between ASU, UNSW Sydney and Kings College London, the international public health degree program integrates jointly developed curriculum and courses among both ASU and UNSW Sydney. 

The commencement video included an acknowledgement of the Indigenous peoples' homelands that ASU's campuses are situated on, the traditional elements of “Pomp and Circumstance,” a flashback to the Class of 2021’s Fall Welcome rally for incoming first-year students in August 2017 and a timeline of news events from the past four years.

The student speakers emphasized their peers’ resilience in the face of huge challenges, such as switching to remote learning and dealing with the effects of the pandemic.

“Some of us lost loved ones; some of us had to take care of children and vulnerable family members while meeting academic obligations,” said John Oyas, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association.

“For most of us, we had to go through the most difficult of challenges without having the comfort of a hug.”

Oyas, who is graduating from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, told his fellow graduates not to remember the past few years as a “lonely and chaotic time.”

“I hope you take this opportunity to look back and see the better version of yourself that you have become,” he said.

Troy Anderson, president of the Undergraduate Student Government at the Polytechnic campus, said that the pandemic will not be the legacy of the Class of 2021.

“Today’s graduating class is filled with first-generation students, students who never thought that they would be graduating from college, students doing double duty as parents, students who always knew what they wanted to major in, and students who are still figuring life out,” he said.

“Regardless of who you are as a graduate today, we all share the unwillingness to be held back by the problems of our world, whether they be viral or systemic.”

See photos from in-person convocations on each campus

Downtown Phoenix

Top image: In the commencement video, ASU President Michael Crow told the graduates, “You have advanced during this unique time. You have a unique opportunity, and there’s nothing to be discouraged about." Screen grab by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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