Faculty, Family and Friends
Honor Northcentral University Class of 2018

Written by Judy Tierney

Graduates from 47 states and 20 countries and territories around the globe gathered in Phoenix in August for NCU's 2018 commencement festivities. More than 600 of the 2,113 class of 2018 students, along with their families and friends, attended the events which were held at the Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa. Classmates who could not make the trip were invited to join the celebration via a live webcast.

Lisa Leslie Lisa Leslie

The day started with a poster session where over 30 students shared their doctoral research with attendees. Dr. Margaret H. Jurek from the School of Education was selected as the 2018 Poster Session of the Year award recipient for her research focused on the use of ePortfolios as a strategy to improve at-risk students' self-regulated learning skills.

Following the poster session, 400 plus doctoral students took part in the annual doctoral hooding and academic recognition ceremony. This tradition, where Deans and faculty members place a doctoral hood over the head of the graduate, represents the attainment of a doctoral degree and symbolizes the passing of the guard from one generation of doctors to the next.

At the ceremony, Dr. Patricia Henry, Dean of the Graduate School, announced the winners of the Dissertation of the Year and doctoral Alumni of the Year Awards. Dr. Sylvester "Bruce" Wilson, Jr. from the School of Education, who was honored for his dissertation titled: "A Qualitative Case Study on the Academic Impact of Middle School Students Living as Doubled-Up Homeless Youths." Henry noted that Wilson's research is significant as it can benefit underserved populations of students and families living in homeless situations across the U.S.

NCU's Alumni of the Year Award was initiated to recognize the positive lasting changes NCU alumni impart upon their communities and organizations. The doctoral Alumni of the Year winner is invited to graduation and to give a speech at the doctoral hooding ceremony. This year's recipient, Dr. Kirby Reutter, graduated from the Department of Psychology in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences in 2012 and has used his degree to transform the lives of human trafficking victims and abused children and families.

"We can do it. You have to ask why not me. You guys are the change."

—Lisa Leslie

Then it was off to the main event – the graduation ceremony. NCU President George Burnett welcomed the guests and graduates, including the first two graduates from the new School of Technology and the first class of students to graduate through an education partnership between NCU and DKCF (Daokou Wealth), an affiliate of the People's Bank of China School of Finance at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

NCU President George A. Burnett and School of Business Dean Dr. Kelley Walters join the first class of graduating MBA students from NCU’s partnership with Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Prior to the conferring of the degrees, three-time MVP in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and four-time Team USA Olympic gold medalist, Lisa Leslie, delivered an inspiring keynote address. Reflecting back on her childhood, Leslie imparted wisdom she learned growing up with a single mom and two sisters in inner city Compton, California.

"People in this room are from all over the world, and you can't tell me if we are really concentrating on giving back and helping other people that we can't make our world better..."

—Lisa Leslie

Her mom, Leslie explained, served as a positive force in her life, encouraging her to pursue her dreams, while always remembering to treat people with kindness and have an open hand. With a drive to be successful and the knowledge that somebody has to be the best, Leslie adopted a simple mantra: why not me?

Leslie challenged the room to ask the same question as they go through life and to continually give back to their communities. "People in this room are from all over the world, and you can't tell me if we are really concentrating on giving back and helping other people that we can't make our world better," she said. "We can do it. You have to ask why not me. You guys are the change."

NCU graduation ceremony reception

Provost Dr. David Harpool and the deans of each of school concluded the ceremony by presenting diplomas to the graduates. Along with the two master's students from the School of Technology, 92% percent of the class of 2018 completed a graduate or doctoral degree; 44% in education; 36% in business; 12% in psychology; and 8% in marriage and family therapy.

Faculty, staff and members of the Board of Trustees joined graduates and their families for a dessert reception following the ceremony. Northcentral University congratulates all the 2018 graduates and wishes them great personal and professional success in the future.