The University of Connecticut conferred degrees on its first group of undergraduates in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, graduating about 1,500 students from across the state, country and world.
The commencement ceremony moved smoothly and briskly. Star student athletes Maya Moore and Kemba Walker led the procession of CLAS students into Gampel Pavilion, followed by university faculty and staff. Only 90 minutes later the seniors had finished their undergraduate careers and were moving on to smaller celebrations and the next stage of their lives. The group had to disperse from the center of campus before thousands more arrived to commence their graduation in the second such ceremony of the day.
Political Science Professor and Associate Dean Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh, a last-minute replacement, gave the featured commencement address in which he encouraged graduates to reflect on their past and take the best of what they've learned with them as they leave the Storrs campus.
The address, called “Visions of Scholars,” and enjoyed by nearly all, focused on Zirakzadeh’s own upbringing and experiences in college at Michigan. He connected themes he found in his own history to the rows of students flanking him.
Zirakzadeh pointed out the visions being seen in the building as he spoke, as families and friends watched their loved ones reap the reward of undergraduate labor.
“Right now they probably think you’re the most splendid and lovely creatures they’ve ever seen,” he said, followed by a round of applause from the audience.
Zirakzadeh mentioned the importance of those scholastic labors as well.
“You are being recognized for something society values deeply,” he said.
Zirakzadeh told the new graduates were more able to think deeply, eschew stereotypes, broaden their tastes, interpret information, change direction and explore new concepts.
“It’s important to branch out and get perspectives different from those you inherited,” he said.
Excited graduates displayed their exuberance with pictures, glitter and, in one instance, a plush dinosaur fastened to their mortarboards. Beach balls, a common site at the ceremony in past years, were not present but vociferous call-and-response cheers of “UConn! Huskies!” punctuated the event.
In addition to the UConn students receiving Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in Gampel Pavilion on Sunday, more than 4,000 students officially completed various undergraduate and graduate programs at ceremonies across the state this weekend. They earned degrees in disciplines from fine arts and philosophy to forensic medicine, law and social work.Six of the students receiving undergraduate degrees from UConn this weekend were from East Haddam. They were:
Julia Marie Ballek
Bethany Alyssa Ciullo
Kayleigh Amanda Meyer
Aldea J. Wasley
Ashley Lauren Wells
Nicholas Theodore Zito