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Northeastern University’s Seattle commencement was a celebration of
more than 450 lifelong learners

The Seattle commencement on Tuesday night, a celebration of lifelong learning, was one of several being held across the university’s global network.

A person wearing regalia is holding two flags while having their picture taken.
Many of the graduates held flags representing the places they call home. Photos by Diwas Photography for Northeastern University

This is part of our coverage of Northeastern University’s 2024 commencement.

Two years ago, Annapurna Bavani Akumalla left her home in India — her entire life packed into two suitcases — to pursue a master’s degree at Northeastern University’s Seattle campus.

On Tuesday night, she stood center stage inside Benaroya Hall addressing her fellow graduates as the student speaker at commencement.

Akumalla represented the more than 450 students who earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the College of Engineering, Khoury College of Computer Sciences, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, College of Professional Studies and D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

The Seattle commencement, an international celebration of lifelong learning, was one of several being held across the university’s global network.

“We come from diverse backgrounds, each with a unique tale to tell. Despite our differences, we stand united, sharing this monumental milestone,” said Akumalla, who graduated with a master’s in information systems.

Akumalla used her Northeastern degree to land a job as a data quality engineer at Lululemon. She reflected on the journey that she and her classmates had undertaken from enrolling into Northeastern to commencement.

She recalled the challenging assignments and exciting internships, which often led to employment opportunities.

“​​We are resilient, we are tenacious, and we are stronger than we have ever imagined,” she told her classmates. “​​Remember, for every ‘no’ we encounter, there is a lesson to be learned, and for every rejection, a door waiting to be opened.”

Akumalla encouraged her classmates to be both kind to themselves and extend warmth and understanding to every person they encounter. 

“As we venture forth into the vast expanse of the unknown, may we carry with us the lessons learned, the friendships forged and the memories cherished,” she said.

Many of the graduates held flags representing the places they call home. Mary Ludden, senior vice president of global network and strategic initiatives, said the flags demonstrate both diversity and shared humanity of Northeastern’s learning community.

“It demonstrates that we are a truly global community, one that will have an impact around the world as you proceed with your next endeavors,” she said. 

Opened in 2013, Seattle is one of Northeastern’s 13 global campus locations, with nearly 1,500 students, a dozen graduate degree programs and hundreds of industry and community partnerships.

Dave Thurman, dean and chief executive officer of the Seattle campus and managing director of Northeastern’s global campuses, encouraged the new graduates to remember three principles for the future: embrace change, constantly adapt and celebrate diversity.

In today’s world, Thurman said, change is not merely a constant, but a driving force behind innovation and progress. It requires a mindset of curiosity and exploration and a willingness to question the status quo and conventional wisdom.

“Going forward, you will have the opportunity to bridge the gap between technology and society — to translate complex ideas into tangible solutions that improve the lives of everyone in the world,” Thurman said.

Since change is a constant, adaptability becomes the most valuable skill, he said. Tools and techniques that the graduates master today are bound to become obsolete.

“The true measure of your value then,” Thurman said, “lies not in what you know today, but in your ability to learn, to grow and to adapt to new challenges.”

Keep a growth mindset, Thurman said, continue to develop abilities and intelligence and ​​remain lifelong learners.  

“The problems we face are complex and multifaceted, they require perspectives and insights from an array of disciplines, backgrounds, and experiences,” he said.

Elizabeth Mynatt, dean of Khoury College of Computer Sciences, introduced the alumni speaker, Moira Zheng, who received her master’s degree in computer science from Northeastern in 2022. 

Zheng graduated with a degree in Chinese literature at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan before earning her degree at Northeastern and landing a job as a software engineer.

“Since I graduated, I’ve learned there is no one ‘right’ decision,” she said. “The choices you make and the actions you take will lead to outcomes that affirm those decisions.”

Zheng spoke directly to female engineers and computer scientists in the audience. 

“Your talents and determination are needed more than ever in the field,” she said. “I urge you to pursue your career with passion and confidence.”

Zheng also reminded the new degree recipients that they will be joining a network of more than 300,000 Northeastern graduates in nearly 200 countries.

“That means almost anywhere you go in the world, you will find other Huskies who share the unique experience that only Northeastern alumni can fully appreciate,” she said.

Three graduates — Daniel Bi, Niyati Khandelwal and Shreya Goyal — were selected to join the inaugural Lux. Veritas. Virtus. Society of Distinction, Northeastern’s new initiative to recognize outstanding graduate students throughout its global network.