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Northeastern University’s Roux Institute celebrates 174 graduates during third commencement ceremony in Portland, Maine

Roux Institute graduates tossing their caps up into the air.
Graduates of Northeastern’s Roux Institute in Maine gathered on the steps of Portland City Hall for a class photo Friday. Photo by Flatlander Photography for Northeastern University

Courtney Bloniasz, the student speaker at Northeastern University’s commencement in Portland, Maine, said to view her address as a thank you note to the Roux Institute that is transforming the lives of individuals everywhere.

It wasn’t the first and won’t be the last time she shared what she said “has affectionately been called my ‘Roux love story.’”

Bloniasz, who received her master’s degree in analytics Friday, said it was a special privilege to speak to the graduates in the class of 2024 in Merrill Auditorium.

It was the Roux Institute’s third commencement ceremony. This year, 174 graduates ages 23 to 60 received master’s degrees and master’s level certificates in fields including computer sciences, analytics, project management, biotechnology, bioinformatics and engineering.

Bloniasz, who worked full time for MaineHealth for the majority of her three years at the Roux, most recently as strategic projects and operations manager, said the institute provided an unparalleled intellectual challenge as well as an intense level of student camaraderie.


“At the Roux, you have delved into life sciences and medical research, pushed the boundaries of engineering and additive manufacturing, explored the intricacies of human-data interaction and pioneered experiential AI,” she said.

“You are building teams, tackling problems and, most importantly, supporting each other.”

Bloniasz said when she moved to Maine six years ago she dreaded the thought that she would eventually have to leave to pursue career opportunities.

But the Roux changed that, she said. 

“My fellow graduates, thank you,” Bloniasz said. “I am still here because of you and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

“Hold your head high and swing those tassels. You already have so much to be proud of, and we’re only just getting started.”

Commencement speaker Bob Montgomery-Rice, president and CEO of Bangor Savings Bank, compared the graduates to “resilient Mainers who have weathered many a storm.”

“You’ve shown that perseverance and adaptability are not just traits but a way of life,” he said, adding that when life throws them curve balls the skills they acquired at the Roux will help them find a way out.

Montgomery-Rice, who spearheaded the bank’s founding partnership with the Roux Institute in 2019, said that graduates are working on projects that push the boundaries of technology, health care and sustainability.

“You’ve had an impact already,” he said, noting that one student helped LifeFlight of Maine reduce the time from notification to takeoff, while another student is working with Braincube to create a tool that reduces waste and drives sustainability for manufacturers.

The one impact can be life saving and the other could be  the type of tool that slows climate change, Montgomery-Rice said.

“You are the builders of the future, equipped with the tools to build a better world,” he said. “Whether you’re developing the next breakthrough in AI, revolutionizing healthcare or advocating for social justice, your impact will be felt.”

Ken Henderson, Northeastern chancellor and senior vice president for learning, said when Maine Sen. Angus King visited the Portland campus for the first time, “he called the Roux ‘a knowledge factory,’ predicting that you were the people who were going to change the world.”

“And I think our graduates absolutely nailed it,” Henderson said.

Michael Pollastri, senior vice provost and academic lead for the Roux Institute, applauded the graduates for their pioneering role in helping to establish the institute.

“You each began your studies in the earliest days of our institute. You took a chance on us, understanding the vision and mission of the institute to build the technology and life science environment here in Maine,” Pollastri said.

“You consistently helped make us better, strengthening us for the cohorts who started after you. And for that, I extend our deepest gratitude,” he said. “The Roux Institute is focused on innovation and learning, for the benefit of Maine and for society.

“Our environment has allowed you all to nurture your entrepreneurial spirit, equipping you with the skills and knowledge necessary to tackle the complex programs of our time and to translate solutions into practice,” he said.

Chris Mallett, chief administrative officer of the Roux Institute and senior vice chancellor, spoke of the way the institute, named after philanthropists Barbara and David Roux, works in partnership with more than 200 organizations throughout Maine.

 “The Roux Institute itself is a special and important partnership — one that is unique in all of higher education,” he said.  

Mallett said the graduates hailed from 11 states and 41 cities and towns within Maine.

“Seventy percent of you worked while you studied and completed your program here at Northeastern,” Mallett said. “A quarter of you are the first graduates of the Roux Institute to hail from countries beyond the U.S., including Angola, Canada, Ghana, India, Nigeria, the People’s Republic of China, Romania and Vietnam.”

Mallett said the Roux Institute appealed to the students for different reasons, but they all chose to invest in themselves.

Zoram Blancas-Ruiz, a Roux Institute 2023 graduate, welcomed graduates into Northeastern’s alumni community.

“You are joining a powerful network of more than 300,000 graduates in nearly 200 countries,” said Blancas-Ruiz, who is originally from Peru.

“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.”

The ceremony concluded with faculty, staff and the platform party cheering graduates with pom-poms as they left in a procession for a class photo on the steps of Portland City Hall. 

Cynthia McCormick Hibbert is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at or contact her on X/Twitter @HibbertCynthia.