Class of 2020 and 2021
President McRobbie, Trustees, and honored guests, it is an honor and a privilege to introduce you to the 695 members of the Class of 2021. The students represent 39 Indiana counties, 10 states, and 17 different countries.
In addition, this year we also are honoring the Class of 2020, some of whom are in attendance today. Those 651 students represent 41 Indiana counties, 12 states, and 16 countries.
Today marks our 52nd Commencement ceremony. In that time, we have conferred the degrees of more than 15,000 graduates who have gone out into our region, state, and world to make a difference. But even more than that, IU Kokomo has been the main source for higher education in north central Indiana for over 75 years.
As you will hear today, our students have come from very different backgrounds with very different goals and very different stories. But, what I have noticed, is that each and every one of them brought to campus an adventurous, determined spirit. They saw our campus as a place of tremendous opportunity and hope to pursue a better life. The faculty and staff, in turn, made a commitment to each student that they would support them in their journey no matter what path it would take. At IU Kokomo, we are grounded on the principle that every student matters here.
So, every hour, every day, students from all walks of life engaged in the same critical work with faculty – learning and discovering, turning information into action and tangible change, so when they leave us today we know they are prepared to make a difference in this region.
Graduates, as I look at each and every one of you, I am inspired by your personal stories and your successful journeys. And we all know this past year has been challenging, to say the least, … and I commend you for your perseverance and persistence to complete your degree. I wish I had time today to share everyone’s story, but I know the few stories that I will share will embody many of you.
Shelby Mellen, will you please stand?
Shelby served four years with the U.S. Marine Corps, ending his enlistment in February 2015. He enrolled in IU Kokomo in spring 2016, to earn a bachelor’s degree in finance.
During his service, Shelby was an electrical engineer, and was deployed with a Marine Expeditionary Unit on the U.S.S. New York. He served on the first deployment for that ship, which includes a bow constructed from 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center towers that were destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Earning his bachelor’s degree allows him to take the next step towards his career goal of becoming a commercial pilot. He’s preparing to begin flight school at Airline Transport Pilot.
I would like to recognize all of our graduates who have served in the armed forces. Will you please stand and join Shelby for our recognition?
Delaney Harvey, will you please stand? Delaney is proud to be the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.
It hasn’t been easy for her to get to today. Delaney has worked full time and part time jobs while earning her degree in biology and psychology. The hard work and sacrifice has been worth it to her, however, for the example she feels she is setting for her three-year-old daughter.
She’s continuing to aim high, and has been accepted into the master’s degree program in Applied Behavioral Analysis at Ball State University. Her goal is to become a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst, to make a difference in the lives of children on the autism spectrum, and to support their families.
Will all of our graduates, who like Delaney are the first in their families to graduate with a college degree… please stand.
Alyssa Pier, will you please stand? A class trip to New York City changed Alyssa’s life. While touring some of the world’s most respected museums, specifically the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum, her career focus shifted to museum studies. By participating in the Kokomo Experience and You (KEY) trip – her first venture outside of the rural Midwest – she was able to spend five days in the Big Apple exploring NMAT, communication, and history and political science career opportunities.
Alyssa, who is earning degrees in both psychology and new media, art, and technology, got a taste of the career as an intern with the IU Kokomo Downtown Art Gallery.
Samuel Garcia-Lopez, will you please stand? Samuel experienced several milestones through KEY trips— including his first time staying in a hotel for a regional psychology conference in Chicago, and first time traveling on an airplane, for a behind-the-scenes visit to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
He says he didn’t expect to travel until he was 30 after he was done with school and established in his career.
Samuel started his journey here as a criminal justice major because of his childhood dream of being a police officer He added psychology when he decided he could make a bigger impact serving those in law enforcement as a counselor.
Will others who have traveled through the KEY program please stand?
Will Angela Bailiff please stand? Nearly 30 years ago, fear of failure, along with lack of anybody to believe in her, led Angela to drop out of high school.
Decades later, when her daughter began talking about quitting school, she knew it was time to change her path. After many years of jobs that weren’t satisfying, she garnered the courage to try school again, successfully completing her G-E-D when she was 44.
However, she didn’t stop there — she graduated from IU Kokomo in December at age 51 with a degree in English. And she’s not slowing down! She’s been accepted into IU Kokomo’s online Master of Arts in English program, with the goal of teaching at the college level so she can pay it forward.
Will all returning adult students please stand for recognition?
Will Alex Martakis please stand? Computer science was where Alex found his niche, in a field that challenges him and gives him a creative outlet. Plus, he’s enjoyed researching with Abdullah Canbaz, assistant professor of computer science, using data science to target misinformation online. He’s incorporating previous work with metaphors and linguistics, finding and targeting metaphors associated with misinformation and propaganda. They plan to publish their research in the near future.
Alex likes the challenge and says every day is different. because there is always a new challenge.
This computer science major also appreciates the opportunities he had to participate in theatre and choir, and to take voice lessons while earning his degree. This was a great way for him to de-stress. He credits his friends in theater for helping him find is passion for computer science.
If you participated in a research project or research symposium, or took part in a campus organization, please stand for recognition.
Most college students aspire to complete their degree in four years. However, we always see a few overachievers… like Mallory Maris – will you please stand. Mallory completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years.
Her journey began when she graduated from high school a semester early, and immediately enrolled at IU Kokomo. By taking at least 18 credit hours each semester, and going to summer sessions, she earned her degree in hospitality and tourism management in three years.
Mallory wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do after that, but when she was offered the chance to be a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Life and Campus Diversity, which offered a stipend to cover tuition for her master’s degree, she accepted. She’s helped plan student activities, worked with student organizations, and helped in many other ways, while earning her Master of Public Management. Her career goals include working in higher education, and potentially owning her own business.
We are also proud of our athletes who complete their degrees on time. Antoin Clifton, will you please stand?
Antoin, earning a degree in business, is a well-regarded leader for the IU Kokomo men’s basketball team. He took on a coaching role, contributing to his team from the bench when he was sidelined with a knee injury. He also used his skills to give back in the Kokomo community as a youth sports volunteer.
Four-year women’s golfer Brandi Jones graduates today with not only an impressive athletic record, but academic as well. Brandi, will you please stand? This 6-time tournament winner with a national ranking of 23, completed all 8 semesters with a 4.0 GPA. She’s a double major in finance and management, with minors in psychology and sports marketing and management. She’s not wasting any time and will begin her MBA here this summer.
Grant Gaylor, will you please stand? Grant chose IU Kokomo because of its nursing program, where he has excelled. He’s also proven to be outstanding outside the classroom with the best finish of any team or individual athlete in school history. In March, he earned the title of the NAIA National Runner Up Indoor Track Shot Put thrower. Currently, he is second in the country for outdoor shot put and will attempt to up his title at the national meet at the end of this month. Good luck to you, Grant!
We also have more students this year that pushed hard to complete their degrees in 4 years or less. If you finished your degree in 4 years or less would you please stand.
Some students come to us from other countries to achieve
their college dreams, like Elizabeth Dada. Elizabeth, will you
It takes courage to leave home at 18 years old, to live alone in a new country and navigate its language and culture.
A dream of becoming a nurse inspired Elizabeth to do just that, moving from Nigeria to Indiana, where she enrolled at here and found a second home. It was her first time traveling to a different country.
Before graduating in December, Dada worked on campus as a peer advisor and orientation guide, helping lead tours for incoming students and their families. This gave her an opportunity to share the warm welcome she had received, and provide reassurance.
Will all of our international students who are graduating today, please stand for our recognition.
Our students never cease to amaze me with their desire to learn more and take the next step to graduate and professional schools. Several students have been accepted in to graduate or professional schools this fall.
Elliott Barnett is one of those students. Elliott will you please stand?
Elliott has earned a bachelor’s degree in biological and physical sciences, with minors in physics, mathematics, and biology. He has been accepted into the graduate program in Physics at IU Bloomington and hopes to earn a PHD in physics.
Evan Koziedski has been accepted into the Masters degree program at Marian University School of Medicine
Mehreen Tahir, has been accepted into the doctorate program in biochemistry at Arizona State University
Jacob Benzinger, has been accepted into the doctorate program in physical therapy at IUPUI.
I know there are many more students headed to graduate or professional schools, will you please stand, too?
Will Kristina MacLain and Abby Cox please stand? These two health sciences students helped punch out Parkinson’s disease as interns at the Kokomo Family YMCA.
Kristina and Abby assisted with Rock Steady Boxing during the fall semester, leading the classes. Rock Steady Boxing is a national not-for-profit with the goal of giving people with Parkinson’s disease hope, by improving their quality of life through a non-contact boxing-based fitness curriculum. This internship gave them valuable experience working in health promotion.
Jasmine Vincent, will you please stand? High school sports set the stage for Jasmine’s internship in athletic training and gave her the insight she needed to determine her next steps. She took advantage of the hands-on experience to decide she’d like to become a certified physical therapy assistant.
During the 120 hours of devoted time to the internship, she assisted on the sidelines at football and basketball games, as well as swim meets.
Will all students who have participated in an internship or externship please stand?
Once you’ve graduated, the hope is to find a job. Paxtyn Bailey is one of those who has #landed a job! Paxtyn, will you please stand?
Because of connections Paxtyn made through a communications class project, she is graduating with a job at the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Kokomo. She starts this month as an account manager, overseeing orders for area retail stores, and communicating product placement designs, among other duties.
Will all the students who have a job ready upon graduation please stand with her?
As I stated earlier, I wish I could share more stories with all of you because you would continue to be impressed. Today, our graduates will receive an Indiana University diploma. As you can see, all of our students have worked hard to earn this prestigious degree that commands respect and instills pride.
Graduates, on behalf of all of us, we couldn’t be more proud. Best wishes to you, Class of 2020 and Class of 2021.