The day started as a typical Portland Saturday morning: overcast, with a light drizzle of rain. By noon, the clouds parted, and April 30, 2016, became a warm, sunny day — perfect Oregon weather to celebrate recent achievements and embrace new possibilities. A perfect time for graduation.
In an afternoon ceremony recognizing the academic achievements of hundreds of teachers and other educators earning their graduate degrees, the inspirational words of commencement speakers and Concordia University-Portland officials were matched with reminders of the expectations and responsibilities these graduates possess along with their diplomas.
Celebrating graduate educators
“We are all about creating leadership that’s going to make a significant difference. We call it transforming society. We live in a world in desperate need of hope, and it’s into that world we send you. Because you are the agents of hope,” said Dr. Charles Schlimpert, Concordia Portland’s president.
“My prayer for you, the prayer of the faculty is you will in fact be a significant, positive force in bringing hope to those around you and that impact will be huge. God bless you.”
‘What do you plan to do with your degree?’
Earning a graduate degree should be celebrated, but what each person does next may be far more important, said Portland resident Bethany Lakies, who delivered the student graduate address.
“People are asking me the same question they asked me when I graduated from high school, and undergrad, ‘What do you plan to do with your degree?’ When I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” said Lakies, who earned a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in English to Speakers of Other Languages.
“I will do the best job I can, providing opportunities for all of my students to ensure that all succeed in my classroom. It is that goal which drives me to face the challenge to be the educator that my students need me to be. ’So, what will you do with your degree?’ ”
Record numbers, record achievements
More than 500 students attended Concordia Portland’s April commencement, including over 300 campus-based students and nearly 200 online program graduates. A record 1,627 degrees were conferred in all of Concordia Portland’s commencement ceremonies this spring — 447 campus graduates and 1,180 online graduates.
This commencement also featured the first students to graduate from Concordia Portland’s new doctor of education program.
Concordia Portland is the largest private university in Oregon, according to Oregon Business magazine’s 2016 PowerBook.
Since January, there have been three commencement ceremonies on the Portland campus, one event in Johannesburg, South Africa, and another in Boise, Idaho, at Concordia University School of Law. Graduates represented nine countries and all 50 U.S. states, including two U.S. territories.
Charge and commissioning
A Lutheran institution of higher learning, Concordia Portland’s religious roots were equally celebrated during commencement, which concluded with the charge and commissioning of graduates by Dr. Mark Wahlers, university provost.
“Regardless of the specific nature of your vocation, carry out your unique and dynamic calling in ways that enlighten and strengthen those around you,” Wahlers stated. “All of you — live your lives as servant leaders and give honor and glory to the God who created and redeemed you.”
Online graduates, on campus
Commencement weekend activities included a Friday president’s reception, Saturday morning campus tours, and a postgraduation celebration complete with a professional photographer and notes to each graduate from their own Enrollment Specialist.
Many of the online graduates visited the Portland campus for the first time; and for the first time met face-to-face with faculty members and their classmates.
“That’s why I’m here today, because I think it was invaluable.” said New York resident Andrea Russo, who earned her MEd in Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). “I’ve had some amazing professional opportunities within this first year. And I truly believe this degree opened up that door for me, that I was able to do these really amazing things.”
Fellow graduate Caitlin McEnroe, who traveled from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with her family, beamed as she talked about the on-campus ceremony.
“A great thing about graduating is that I’m able to travel to Portland, Oregon. I’m going to be honest: My parents are a little excited, too! So it’s been a great experience,” said McEnroe, who earned her MEd in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Equity, Ethics, and Justice.