Clark U. graduates 1,300 at DCU; student speaker urges 'Free Palestine'

WORCESTER — The unison roar of 1,376 graduates kicked off Clark University’s commencement ceremony Monday morning, with President David B. Fithian leading the students into “the fiercest cougar roar you can muster,” inside the DCU Center’s main arena.

Pablo Enrique Acosta Ortiz, of Puerto Rico, roars with enthusiasm, at the encouragement of Clark University President David B. Fithian.
Pablo Enrique Acosta Ortiz, of Puerto Rico, roars with enthusiasm, at the encouragement of Clark University President David B. Fithian.

“People back on campus need to be able to hear us,” joked Fithian. “If we don’t do this right, your degrees will be invalid and we can’t have that.”

To Fithian’s liking, the arena reverberated shortly after 10 a.m. with the collective voices of 503 undergraduates and 873 graduate students, plus the cheers and applause of thousands of family members who filled the stands.

Laila A. El-Samra, the student speaker, from Shrewsbury, addressed her fellow graduates by encouraging the pursuit of fulfillment as the key to happiness.

More: Words of wisdom: Commencement dates and speakers, Central Mass. colleges

El-Samra, who is set to attend the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, graduated from Clark majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and minoring in community youth education studies, in addition to working in the school’s mycology laboratory as a research assistant.

An Egyptian-American, El-Samra referred to the war in Gaza during her speech while donning over her shoulders a kheffiyeh — a shawl with a netted pattern that is synonymous with support with Palestinian people.

El-Samra punctuated the end of her speech with “Free Palestine,” which received a several-seconds long applause and cheers of the arena.

Signs for the 'Divest Now" movement requesting "Clark's divestment from companies supporting Israel's genocide" was common during Clark University's Class of 2024 Commencement at the DCU Center in Worcester on Monday.
Signs for the 'Divest Now" movement requesting "Clark's divestment from companies supporting Israel's genocide" was common during Clark University's Class of 2024 Commencement at the DCU Center in Worcester on Monday.

“It's living a purpose-driven life that goes beyond maximizing dopamine rushes because more often than not fulfillment involves sacrificing temporary happiness for something greater than ourselves,” said El-Samra. “It means risking your college degree in your last year to speak up against genocide.

“We are the generation of changemakers. We are the ones who will challenge convention and change our world.”

It was the university’s 120th graduation ceremony, a special day for the undergraduates who started their studies in the fall of 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the 873 graduate students, 26 received doctorate degrees that ranged sciences such as biochemistry and molecular biology, but also economics and geography.

Of the 503 undergraduate students, three earned bachelor of science degrees.

“You are examples of resilience, examples of determination,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Sebastián Royo. “The last four years have thrown so much at you and for those who had any question that you could overcome it, this is a resounding response.

“You are here with us today, and we could not be prouder.”

Quoting the New York Yankees great Joe DiMaggio, the chair of the Board of Trustees Gary D. Labovich, class of 1981, aimed to motivate the graduates.

“’There’s always somebody in this stadium who will be seeing me play for the first time,’” quoted Labovich, “’and I owe him my best.’

“Whether you’re a Hall-of-Famer like Joe DiMaggio or a recent graduate of Clark University, you always want to be at the top of your game because your next interaction could have consequences for you now and in the future.”

The school also awarded four honorary degrees, among the recipients being Robert D. Bullard, an academic considered to be “the Father of Environmental Justice."

Bullard, who is a professor of urban planning at Texas Southern University, was to be the ceremony’s commencement speaker, but missed the event due to an illness.

In his place, his speech was read by Rinku Roy Chowdhury, a professor of geography at the university.

Bachelor of Arts

Ashburnham: Jill M. Stone.

Ayer: Jason Malcolm Ugles (s).

Berlin: Tassji Francisco (m).

Charlton: Shannon Lockwood Ross (s).

Douglas: Jason M. Dansereau, Ally Grace Dunphy (m) with honors in History.

Holden: William Hamilton Brown (s) with high honors in History (PBK).

Jefferson: Timothy L. Egli (c).

Milford: Raven Kenneth Clarico (c).

Millbury: Kailey M. Mattus (c).

Northborough: Grace Oelkers (c) and Theodor M. Vlock-Drewitz.

Oakham: Emma O. Lockwood.

Oxford: Sarah A. Kersting-Mumm (s) (PBK) with highest honors in Sociology and highest honors in Political Science.

Paxton: David John Witt (s).

Rutland: Aidan Bray Keefe (s).

Shirley: Nasia A. Bykov-Newry (m), Rebecca J. King (c) and Raiven T. Quirk.

Shrewsbury: Laila A. El-Samra (c) (FL) and Max D. Xavier (c).

South Grafton: Dasan H. De Silva.

Sterling: Gray Soares (c).

Sturbridge: Sean Thomas Keane (m).

Sutton: Patrick Thomas Liddy (c).

Upton: David Andrew MacRae (m).

Uxbridge: Victoria Tzeremes (m) with honors in Psychology.

West Boylston: Sophia M. Croft.

Westborough: Minna Y. Sabry.

Westminster: Keegan B. McMahan (c).

Whitinsville: Woody Michael Garrigan (c).

Worcester: Aedan Louis Achilles, Pablo Enrique Acosta (m), Tuqa Amer (c), Collin Jarret Anthony (m), Joshua Michael Barbato (m), Shayla L. Belica (c), Shradha Birdika (s) (PBK) with high honors in Geography, Faith Bolques (m), Sammi Lynn Bosque (m) with honors in Interactive Media, Anna E. Camfield (c), Dea Cenolli, Angela P. Coello, Bruce A. Dobson, Fitz P. FitzGerald, Sasha  Gannon (s), Uwimana Grace, Brennan Mackenzie Hare (s), Dukilda Hasanllari (s), Toby Holt (m), Juveriah Z. Hussain, Rana Ismael (m)(FL), Orlie Jeranyama (c), Molly Renee Kessler (m), Caleb Dwight Volpe Kluchman (m) with honors in Geography, Zhangir Kozhakhmetov (m), Ava G. Lavin (c), Olivia Mae Lawrence (c), Bella M. Liss (m), Theo Mitterando (c), Christina Le Nguyen (c), Besma Khalid Nurhussien (c), Cristopher Paula, Nick K. Pontius, Eddy Jose Ramon (m), Natasha Rivas (s) (PBK), Luke Snodgrass (s) with high honors in History, Carolynn Suzanne Steffens (s), Emily Jane Steiger (m), Maddy A. Steigman (s) (BGS), Daniel Raymond Stevens (c), Luz Suarez-Canton Trueba (m) with high honors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Lucy Szpila (c), Tea Tane (s) (PBK), Roanlis Noemi Toribio Jimenez (c), Emily P. Vo (c), Yitao Wang, Miguel Angel Zacarias Paxtor and Hawa Zuo.

Doctor of Philosophy

Worcester: Michael Cecil, Emily Dart and Kulsoom Hisam.

Master of Arts

Shrewsbury: Cam Gill.

Spencer: Maddy Jane Kroot.

Uxbridge: Athena Christine Erickson.

Worcester: Andreza Andrade, William Doyle Westgard Cruice, Zac G. Davis, Andrew Josiah Hensley, Meghan Elizabeth Kennedy, Grace Elizabeth Lucey, Ksenija Scahill, Prakriti Shrestha and Julia Rae Wagner.

Master of Arts in Education

Hubbardston: Sarah L. Gregory.

Master of Arts in Teaching

Brimfield: Bobby F. Moseley.

Marlborough: Emma Ilona Marton.

Milford: Brittany Lynn Giroux.

Whitinsville: John Henry Roche.

Worcester: Carlos Hasbun, Adeline Hebert, Liz Mahon and Mariah Rose Mitchell-LaBrie.

Master of Business Administration

Leicester: Nourhan Malek Abusalah.

Leominster: Tracy T. Nguyen.

Paxton: Josie N. Fitzgerald.

Westborough: Greg Amador.

Worcester: John W. D'Eufemia (BGS) and Elizabeth Lluiza Kota.

Master of Fine Arts

Auburn: Daniel Mojica.

Worcester: RJ Anthony.

Master of Public Administration

Leominster: Frank Michael Lunetta (AEL).

Milford: Jennifer Wong (AEL).

Millbury: Rucely Paola Diaz Cueto (AEL).

Pepperell: Margaret Elizabeth Hladysz.

South Grafton: Eleanor Anderson (AEL).

Sutton: Daniel Benedict (AEL).

West Boylston: Carlos Lopez.

Worcester: Luis Abraham Castillo, Kayanna James, Blake William Leasure, Teodora Uglean (AEL) and Olivia Wilde.

Master of Science in Communication

North Oxford: Tiffany Vo.

Worcester: Ricky Bland, Dominic Xavier Dipersia, Karen Shalev (AEL) and Katy Elizabeth Tucker (AEL).

Master of Science in Data Analytics

Shrewsbury Deepali Ahuja (AEL)

Worcester: Hima Bammidi, Jian Hao, Manideep Nagendla, Kruthik Reddy Theepireddy and Riya Verma (AEL).

Master of Science in Project Management

Worcester: Chandrakant Kamble, Jananikaa Parthipan and Mihir Sanjeev Thakkar.

Master of Science in Business Analytics

Worcester: Srivalli Adigarla, Sreeja Akuthota (BGS), Lohith Jaganathan and Rojina Sapkota.

Master of Science in Computer Science

Worcester: Geethanjali Beeram, Ravi Teja Geddada, Uday Kumar Kanchukommula, Maxwell Koppel (AEL) and Meghansh Reddy Nagula.

Master of Science in Finance

Worcester: Umaid Ashraf, Shubham Pradeep Kolge and Neha Koul.

Master of Science in Information Technology

Worcester: Prakhar Kumar Ahuja, Bernice Ankomah (AEL), Rakshitha Ganta (AEL), Julian Killo, Neha Kumari (AEL), Praveen Sadashiv Shrigadhi (AEL) and Hongyuan Zhang.

Master of Science

Hudson: Lily Kaplan.

Leominster: Ben Aaron Mukda.

Princeton Luke George Mazur.

Worcester: Adeline Akansobe, André de Oliveira Domingues, Weixuan Du, Denys W. Godwin, Lauren Holmes, Lynne Stone and Eleanor Gray Verhagen.

Master of Science in Accounting

Shrewsbury: Kholood Mohammed Alghamdi.

Key: (c) cum laude; (m) magna cum laude; (s) summa cum laude; (AEL) Alpha Epsilon Lambda; (ASL) Alpha Sigma Lambda; (BGS) Beta Gamma Sigma; (FL) Fiat Lux;; and (PBK) Phi Beta Kappa. 

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Clark graduates 1,376 students at commencement ceremony MondayLaila A. El-Samra