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New College celebrates online grads from around the world at in-person reception

Psychology master's degree graduate Marihan Mahrish poses with Sparky at New College's online graduation reception on May 12.

June 09, 2022

Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences celebrated its largest-ever graduating class this spring, with 1,285 students receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Of these graduates, 780 completed their degrees through ASU Online.

On May 12, New College welcomed online grads and their friends and families to celebrate their accomplishments at a pre-convocation reception. Over 350 grads, friends and family members attended the reception from across the country and the world. 

For many of the online grads who attended, it was the first time they met faculty, staff and their online peers.

“Innovation looks like what you’re experiencing today and what you’ve experienced for the past four years. Many of you who I’ve spoken to have said the last several years have been really, really hard. The world changed in a way that none of us could’ve predicted,” Todd Sandrin, dean of New College and vice provost of ASU's West campus, said in his remarks during the reception.

“When the pandemic hit, we forged on — you forged on. You kept going.”

Jessica Alyea, a military veteran who received a master’s degree in forensic psychology, and her son traveled from Germany to attend the reception.

The spring 2022 convocation was the first graduation ceremony Alyea had ever attended.

Woman on stage at graduation

Jessica Alyea poses for a photo as she walks the stage at New College's spring 2022 convocation. She and her son traveled from Germany for graduation.

Alyea said she was amazed at the community she found at ASU — something she hadn’t experienced since her time in the military.

“It was a huge milestone. It was something I always wanted to do, and it meant a lot to me,” Alyea said. “I had always wanted to experience a ceremony for myself, to see what it is like to walk the stage.

“Going to school at ASU gave me newfound confidence. It gave me a sense of purpose. Being awarded my degree, hearing my name called and being able to walk the stage was an emotional experience for me because before that it didn't really seem real. I think I needed that validation for myself. It was also important for me to show my son that no matter what life throws at you, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

The experience was also emotional for first-generation grad Alexander Castillo, who attended the reception with his brothers and his parents. Castillo, who traveled from Boston, received a master’s degree in social justice and human rights.

“I was the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree, and now I’m the first person in my family to earn a master’s degree. I didn't think I was going to go any further than a bachelor's, but when I found out about this program it really stood out to me because it really spoke to my purpose in life," Castillo said. “My family's here with me — my mom, dad, younger brothers — and it means a lot because they've been with me.”

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