Northeastern conferred degrees upon more than 1,000 students Friday morning at the College of Professional Studies graduation at Matthews Arena, where speakers celebrated the graduates’ achievements and urged them to be lifelong learners and embrace opportunities to serve.
Retired Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, the former top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, delivered the graduation address. He congratulated graduates, particularly noting that as many as 80 percent have been earning their degrees while working full or part time. He delivered five pieces of advice: be a creative thinker, get outside your comfort zone, hone your interpersonal skills to be effective leaders, demonstrate empathy in your lives and careers, and be of service to your country.
“I challenge you to set goals for yourself, and go around obstacles,” McKiernan said. “Use today as a springboard to be where you want to be tomorrow.” He said among the graduates are future senior political leaders, innovators, creative thinkers, and educators who inspire the next generation. “Let your imagination set the limit.”
Service to his country has been a hallmark of McKiernan’s career. The former commander for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, he entered the Army in 1972 with an ROTC commission and commanded soldiers at every rank from second lieutenant to four-star general. His distinguished 37-year U.S. Army career included service in the Gulf War, Korea, Europe and the Balkans, Southwest Asia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Since retiring from the Army in 2009, McKiernan has served as a special advisor to Northeastern on expanding the university’s programs for veterans and active duty military. In his address Friday, McKiernan commended Northeastern for its longstanding commitment to veterans, and particularly noted the 38 student veterans receiving diplomas at the ceremony.
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Philomena Mantella, senior vice president and CEO of the Northeastern University Global Network, also noted that over the past 60 years, more than 4,000 Northeastern students have received ROTC commissions, and that there are more than 500 veterans and 150 active duty military currently enrolled.
To the entire Class of 2016, she said, “Your global engagement and cultural competency has prepared you for a diverse and global society,” adding that graduates have already addressed pressing real-world challenges in the workplace through experiential learning at Northeastern.
In opening remarks, John LaBrie delivered his final address to graduates as dean of the College of Professional Studies, a role in which he’s served for the past six years. LaBrie was recently named the first regional dean and founding principal of Northeastern’s Toronto campus.
LaBrie said this year’s graduating class is one of the college’s largest and most diverse, with graduates hailing from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and more than 70 countries.
“You are the story of how higher education is changing, becoming increasingly global, more flexible, more intertwined with the professions and the new fields and enterprises that are just being formed now, and that will become the jobs of the future,” LaBrie said. “In this rapidly changing world, the people who thrive are those who have learned how to move outside their comfort zone. You all demonstrated that you are such individuals and are capable of taking chances when you came back to school, whether to upgrade your skills, or to pursue an entirely new career. You’ve already proven that you can shift gears and learn from within your (profession).”
LaBrie added: “Society needs people like you, people who imagine possibility, and respond to changing times. Your education will help you weather these changes, but it also has prepared you to lead change, and to transform your fields.”
The ceremony also honored two faculty members—Corliss Brown Thompson and Darin Detwiler—receiving the college’s Excellence in Teaching Award this year.