National University Graduates Over 1600 Students
Graduates, meet your future.
With the sun shining outside the San Diego Convention Center, and the faces of more than 1,600 graduates beaming inside, National University held its Southern California commencement ceremony Monday.
After an inspiring rendition of the national anthem by Leonard Tucker, multi-talented Ben Stein delivered the commencement address. With a healthy dose of humor keeping everyone laughing, including NU System Chancellor Dr. Jerry C. Lee and NU interim President Patricia Potter seated behind him on stage, Stein’s message to the Class of 2012 was crystal clear: hard work would be the key to continued success, and that the graduates’ school of choice was the ideal place to start.
“National University is exactly the kind of school that will get America back to work,” Stein said to those in attendance, to thunderous applause and hoots. With a nod to online education, Stein added “The internet is an ideal solution for education.”
With more than a thousand family members and friends filming and taking photographs of nearly every moment of the ceremony, and countless bouquets of flowers and Hawaiian leis being purchased, the graduates felt justifiably proud of their accomplishment. Many balanced family life and the rigors of a job, with long nights of school work.
One such student was 41-year-old Kendra Landers of Lancaster, California. An employee with the County of Los Angeles Probation Department, Landers felt “awesome” with “nervous energy,” knowing the culmination to her educational journey was mere hours away, in the form of a Master of Public Administration degree. She said she appreciated NU’s flexible schedule.
“This is a big accomplishment for me,” she said outside the convention center with a radiant smile. “I work full-time, and National University has afforded me the opportunity to continue my education and to really set an example for my kids, and to continue my career.” Landers plans on using her degree towards her professional development and upward mobility in the probation department.
One student faced the unique challenge of combining the aforementioned juggling of career-family-school with integrating into a new culture. Maumartha Mtandika and her family are natives of the United Republic of Tanzania, and are now permanent residents of the United States. Mtandika spoke about her educational achievement of a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership degree. Like Landers, Mtandika believes NU was the perfect school for her, and her family.
“It’s been a crazy 12 months,” she said with her husband, Michael and two daughters nearby, one of whom was happily waving the flag of their East African nation homeland. “There still will be challenges. Being a mom and wife…National University pretty much made it easy for us to do both, but not feel overwhelmed, so I’m grateful for that.” Michael Mtandika’s face was sheer joy as he looked back at his wife’s hard work. “It’s been an amazing ride, and such an amazing moment for us,” he said.
Planning this massive event, and ensuring overwhelming success for all who attended was the work of Michael Pasquarelli, NU’s Director, Special Events, and his staff of more than 150 dedicated professionals. Long-range planning from a year out is key, Pasquarelli said in a rare, quiet moment of reflection before the ceremony began.
Prior to the conferral of degrees, President Potter presented Stein with an honorary doctorate degree, and also inferred the title of chancellor emeritus to Dr. Lee in honor of his years of service to National University. Potter also called out the friends and family members of the graduates “…to please stand, so that the graduates and all of us may acknowledge your important contributions.”
Leslie Praisuwan’s family didn’t just contribute to her educational pursuit, they increased, too. Praisuwan gave birth to her youngest son in between homework, school projects and finals. And for that matter, her oldest son was born during her first degree program.
As her husband and parents praised her dedication saying “she had done it all online, all at night, while working, and having children,” Praisuwan explained she gave birth to her now 4-and-half-year old son during her bachelor’s degree program, and that her two-year-old was born during her Master of Science in Special Education degree program. While she expects to be another casualty in the ongoing budget cutbacks sweeping California’s educational system, Praisuwan remains optimistic.
“My school is closing at the end of this month….I’m looking forward that this may be my opportunity to go out of state as well,” Praisuwan said. “Since California has the best and most rigorous training for teachers, I’ll be well appreciated out of state.”
National University is the 12th largest nonprofit institution of higher learning in the United States, and the 2nd largest in California. With a student body of more than 22,000, there are students in 48 states and 96 countries pursuing degrees via online means. The Class of 2012 graduates will join a National University alumni community of more than 130,000.