Video by Joe O'Neill
by Matt Getty; photos by Dan Loh
Dickinson College celebrated the class of 2023 on Sunday, May 21, as Commencement speaker and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell urged the graduates to solve the world’s “wicked problems” and be the “stewards of our future.”
Defining a “wicked problem” as one that requires cross-disciplinary collaboration to overcome what at first looks to be an insurmountable challenge, she encouraged the class to believe in themselves and their solutions.
“When you have the opportunity, speak up and lead,” she said. “Bring the lessons you learned in the classroom, or studying abroad, or working and attending school, to the table. And if someone tells you that it will never work, say ‘I believe we will succeed.’ If someone says it is impossible, say, ‘only if we fail to try.’ ”
She then charged the graduates to “take adversity and turn it into opportunity,” reminding them that their Dickinson educations prepared them for exactly the kinds of challenges wicked problems present. “No matter how big the challenge, how heavy the burden, it is the Dickinsonian spirit that will help carry you through,” she said. “Dickinson College class of 2023, you are the stewards of our future. It will be your minds that inspire us, your voices that rally us, and your hands that will guide us toward a future that is safe, sustainable, and equitable for all.”
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell addresses the class of 2023.
This year’s Commencement marked two important firsts for the college, as students with new degrees created in the last four years graduated. Liwen Li, Zimeng Liu, Jimmy Moore and Thi My Hanh Vo became the first Dickinsonians to graduate with bachelor of science in data analytics degrees. Created through a co-innovation effort among alumni and faculty, the data analytics program has quickly become one of the college’s most popular majors, featuring an advisory committee of alumni working on the cutting edge of the field.
Dickinson also celebrated the first graduate students to earn master of arts degrees in managing complex disasters: Adjila Boubacar M.A. ’23, Annwen Hughes-White B.A. ’19 (Italian studies), M.A. ’23 (graduated in February), and Kirsten Larimer (graduated in February). Paige Hahn, Jessica Kiefer, Martin Mann and Thomas Vari earned certificates in the program. This marked the first time in more than 100 years that the college awarded master’s degrees.
Adjila Boubacar and Annwen Hughes-White were two of the first graduate students to earn master of arts degrees in managing complex disasters.
During the ceremony, several faculty members and students received awards, which are bestowed annually.
Steve Riccio, senior lecturer in international business and management, earned the college's Constance and Rose Ganoe Memorial Award for Inspirational Teaching. Presented each year, the honor is determined by a secret-ballot vote conducted by members of the senior class. Associate Professor of History and Walter E. Beach '56 Chair in Sustainability Studies Emily Pawley won the Distinguished Teaching Award.
Jordyn Ney (political science) was named Dickinson’s new Young Alumni Trustee. During each Commencement Dickinson’s Board of Trustees chooses a Young Alumni Trustee from among nominated seniors to represent young alumni on the board and serve a two-year term.
Andrew Howe (biochemistry & molecular biology) was presented the James Fowler Rusling Prize, which recognizes excellent scholarly achievement. Stephanie Uroda (chemistry, neuroscience) received the John Patton Memorial Prize for High Scholastic Standing. The Hufstader Senior Prizes, which are awarded annually to two graduating seniors who, in the judgment of the college president, have made the greatest contributions to the good of the college, were awarded to Katrina Faulkner (anthropology and classical studies) and Chinemerem Nwanze (psychology).
Andrew Howe was presented the James Fowler Rusling Prize, which recognizes excellent scholarly achievement, and Stephanie Uroda received the John Patton Memorial Prize for High Scholastic Standing.
Earlier in the ceremony, Nwanze, who served as Student Senate president, addressed the audience, highlighting the potential that lies ahead of the graduates and the power of this transitional moment. “Today the phrase ‘I want to be’ becomes ‘I will be.’ ” However, she also reminded them that with that potential and power, comes responsibility. “As Dickinson graduates, we hold a shared responsibility to make an impact on our communities—not just to become working professionals, but also to become leaders.”
In addition to awarding Criswell the Doctor of Emergency Management honorary degree, Dickinson awarded two other honorary degrees during the ceremony as well as the Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism.
Michel Martin, award-winning journalist and host of NPR’s Morning Edition, received the Doctor of Public Affairs honorary degree; and Robert '59 and Thomas Davis '62, philanthropists and retired plastic surgeons specializing in reconstructive surgery, received honorary Doctor of Medicine degrees. This year's Rose-Walters Prize was awarded to Tara Houska, environmental and Indigenous-rights advocate and founder of Giniw Collective.
“I would invite all of us … to just take in this exact time, to listen to the trees and listen to the birds,” Houska said after accepting the prize. “Remember that mother nature is around us all of the time. … As you take your steps moving forward, please be conscious of that. Please do all that you can. There are many different ways to protect this beautiful home that we all share.”
Tara Houska, environmental and Indigenous-rights advocate and founder of Giniw Collective, received the Rose-Walters Prize.
Following a long-held college tradition, Commencement ended with the graduates walking down Old West’s "old stone steps" to complete the journey they began four years ago by walking up those steps to sign in to the college.
“I’m confident that you’re ready to take on the world,” said Dickinson President John E. Jones III ’77, P’11, noting the challenges the graduates had to face during their college years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I believe that out of adversity comes resilience and strength. My perception is that you have both of those attributes in abundance, and they will serve you well as you go out and engage the world”
View the full ceremony.
TAKE THE NEXT STEPS
Published May 22, 2022
Published May 21, 2023