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9,000 graduates will celebrate by welcoming President Obama

May 12, 2009

Arizona State University is honored by the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama, who will be the speaker for spring commencement ceremonies at 7 p.m., May 13 in Sun Devil Stadium. The university expects a crowd of more than 63,000 people.

Almost 9,000 students will receive their degrees that day, and the majority are planning to attend the historic event with their families. Ticket requests for the event were unprecedented for an ASU graduation.

“President Obama’s priority on education and his stand on building a green economy as the solution to our economic crisis is a perfect fit for ASU’s mission and aspirations,” says ASU President Michael M. Crow.

“Through our education and discovery missions, ASU is producing the nation’s newest national assets, our graduates. I can think of no more important speaker than President Obama to address them, as they emerge from the university into a world that needs their talent and leadership.”

President Obama’s emphasis on building the next generation of leaders in science, technology and sustainability, as well as the arts, mirrors ASU’s mission as a New American University.

For the last six years, ASU has served as America’s largest effort at institutional transformation in higher education, building a solution-focused institution that combines the highest level of academic excellence, inclusiveness to a broad demographic and maximum societal impact.

ASU is home to the nation’s first School of Sustainability and also the Biodesign Institute, both of which focus on huge global challenges and which prepare students for essential future careers. This commencement marks the first class of 13 School of Sustainability graduates.

In line with President Obama’s goal for America to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world, ASU is improving preK-12 education through its University Public School Initiative to provide resources for teachers, as well as a network of research-based schools. ASU also reaches out to minority communities to increase high school graduation and college attendance, and works closely with community colleges to increase the number of students transferring to the university. About 5,500 transfer each year.

In 2006 ASU opened its doors to the Downtown Phoenix campus, bringing education to the heart of the fifth-largest city in the country. More than 8,000 students are enrolled at the campus, one of four ASU campuses located throughout the metropolitan area.

At the commencement ceremony, ASU will honor President Obama with the naming of the President Barack Obama Scholars program, an expansion of the university’s most important financial aid program. Several of the new Barack Obama Scholars will be introduced during the evening.

ASU will graduate about 800 teachers, 500 engineers, 300 social workers, 150 nurses, 144 lawyers, 85 architects, 160 journalists and 170 artists and performers. About 600 people are getting their MBAs, including 22 from Mexico City and 47 from Shanghai. Another 900 will receive undergraduate business degrees, in various fields.

Almost 2,400 students are graduating with honors, 365 of them from Barrett, the Honors College. The most popular majors are elementary education, psychology and political science, with marketing, global business and communication next.

This year’s graduates include two 17-year-olds, Raymond Singh of Scottsdale, who will receive a degree in aerospace engineering, and Danielle McBurnett of Chandler, earning a bachelor of science in nursing. Both of these stellar young students are entering doctoral programs, Singh at Virginia Tech and McBurnett at ASU.

One graduate is a Katrina survivor from New Orleans, graduating magna cum laude four years after the hurricane destroyed her city. Another graduate was working on the 77th floor of the World Trade Center north tower on Sept. 11, 2001, and has slowly rebuilt her life.

Kishan Lara, getting a PhD. in education, will be the first person in the Hupa/Yurok tribes of northern California ever to earn a doctorate. Guadalupe Ramirez immigrated from Mexico eight years ago speaking only Spanish but now is a U.S. citizen, graduating with a master’s in aerospace engineering. Adrienne Azurdia started a camp for children whose parents have cancer and now has been accepted to eight medical schools.

Tickets are required for commencement this year, and no re-entry will be allowed for people who leave the stadium. Graduates and guests should arrive early and expect to wait to clear security points. While parking will be free throughout campus, individuals should expect heavy traffic and use public transportation if possible. The ceremony is expected to last about two and a half hours.

A pre-commencement program of music that starts at 5 p.m. will include Dash Cooper and his Runaway Phoenix band, and his father, rock legend Alice Cooper.

ASU will provide extensive coverage of the 2009 Spring Commencement using various social media tools, including feeds on Twitter, pages on Facebook and a live webcast. Follow President Barrack Obama’s visit on and by connecting to

Convocations for each individual college will be held at different locations throughout the campuses May 14 – 16. For updated information about commencement, go to