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Dec. 18, 2015
Northwest Missouri State University awarded 604 students with academic degrees during its winter commencement ceremony Friday, Dec. 18.
The total number of graduates was the highest for a winter commencement ceremony in the institution’s history, outdoing the 542 degrees awarded last winter. Additionally, Northwest hosted two winter commencement ceremonies for the first time in its history.
The University awarded 330 bachelor’s degrees during an afternoon ceremony and 264 master’s degrees and 10 specialist degrees during a morning ceremony. The top graduate degree was applied computer science, and the most common undergraduate major was elementary education.
Members of the graduating class ranged in age from 20 to 67 years old. The class included 289 Missouri residents, and the students represented five countries including Canada, India, China and Togo.
In his remarks, Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski praised the graduates for the courage they exhibited and the successes they achieved, noting just one-third of the U.S. population holds a bachelor’s degree or above. He encouraged the graduates to contribute to the communities they go on to serve and challenged them to be future-focused.
“Northwest students, you’ve learned how to learn,” Jasinski told the graduates. “You’ve honed your leadership, followership and team skills. You’ve gained unique competencies relevant to assist you in pursuing workplace opportunities, furthering your education and providing service to communities and your nation.”
Jasinski also challenged graduates to reflect upon the societal state of race, equity and inclusion. He pledged that Northwest, with community leaders, will continue to address and enact meaningful actions that ensure differences and diversity are celebrated.
“We live in such a wonderful time period, full of information and the ability to connect with each other,” he said. “On the other hand, we live in a world of strife and one that is ripe for tough and uneasy discussions. We must face these directly and proceed to action.”
Greg Gilpin, a music composer and educator who received his degree from Northwest in 1986 in vocal music education, gave the day’s commencement address. Gilpin’s remarks complemented Jasinski’s as he recounted the early days of his career, overcoming fears and adapting to change.
Since graduating from Northwest, Gilpin has resided in Indianapolis and enjoyed a diverse career as a choral arranger, composer, and private voice and piano instructor. He also works nationally as a choreographer, studio musician and back-up singer.
Gilpin acknowledged the opening of the latest “Star Wars” film at movie theaters this weekend and said he had come from the future to offer practical advice. He urged graduates to “take it all in.”
“At this moment in time, your entire career and the bulk of your life lies ahead of you,” he said. “The great unknown. A massive journey that will take a lifetime to travel and where goals will be achieved. And this world will change. Friends will come and go and quite possibly return. And challenges you never thought you would ever have to face will indeed show up at the most inopportune times.
“There will be incredible, life-altering and indescribable moments of joy and happiness that will stay with you in every breath that you live. As time passes, and indeed it does, you must want to keep learning and be able to bend, to not fear change and adapt.”
He advised the graduates to express thanks to people who help them reach their goals, be kind and say yes often – even it means doing something they don’t want to do. Gilpin recalled saying yes to requests to sing commercial jingles early and the positive impact those early experiences had on expanding his career.
“Take chances and take advantage of opportunities, especially now when you have the freedom to do so,” he said. “Ignorance is indeed blissful and in your favor when you’re young and starting out. As you get older and wiser you start getting held back by what you know, by what you’ve learned and by what others might say to you as you build your career and life. Go ahead give it a try, take a chance. Say yes.”
Founded in 1905, Northwest is a four-year university that offers a broad range of profession-based undergraduate and graduate programs on its Maryville campus as well as locations in Kansas City and St. Joseph.
With an enrollment of 6,600 students, Northwest recently was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the top moderately selective regional university in Missouri for the second consecutive year, and it is one of only four four-year institutions in Missouri to meet all measures of the state’s performance-based funding initiative during its first three years. Northwest also provides a significant impact on the regional economy, generating $617.5 million in added regional income – the equivalent of creating 9,465 new jobs – during 2014, according to an economic impact study released last spring.
Northwest boasts a 49 percent graduation rate, which is in the 85th percentile of the University’s national peer group. In addition, 97 percent of Northwest bachelor’s degree earners and 99 percent of master’s degree earners secure employment or continue their education within six months of graduation, according to the most recent data.
Northwest places a high emphasis on laboratory- and profession-based learning to help graduates get a jumpstart on their careers. Students have opportunities to build their resumes with experiences on campus in nearly every area of study, including the Horace Mann Laboratory School, National Public Radio affiliate KXCV, the RT Wright Laboratory Farm, Mozingo Outdoor Education Recreation Area, the internationally ranked Dean L. Hubbard Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship or Knacktive, a student-driven integrated digital marketing communications agency.
While the Northwest campus also is designated the Missouri Arboretum, its vibrant and diverse learning community offers more than 150 student organizations, and textbooks and a laptop are included in tuition, which is among the lowest in the state, saving students an estimated $7,200 over four years. Northwest also offers 1,200 student employment positions, allowing students to build professional skills through its internationally benchmarked student employment program.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468