Stories from UMass Boston’s 44th Commencement
June 06, 2012
Martha Scanlon, Colleen Locke, Zoe Zier
The road to a bachelor's degree in management was not easy for 26-year-old Dorchester resident Huong My Duong.
As a freshman, Duong suffered from kidney failure and had to leave school to receive treatment. She returned to UMass Boston, but left again in 2009 to have a kidney transplant.
In the end, it took Duong seven years to graduate, but the delays were worth it. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” said Duong, who now plans to pursue a master of business administration.
Duong posed for pictures Friday in front of the ocean with her friend and fellow graduate, Dorchester resident Kaylee Van Tran, 24. “I’m so proud of her,” said Tran, who received her bachelor of arts in psychology.
Tran, the first in her family to earn a college degree, said graduation is “a little scary, but exciting.” After participating in an internship in the psychology department, she is studying for the GREs and plans to pursue a master’s degree in the field.
Office of Student Activities and Leadership Director Shelby Harris happened to catch a marriage proposal in the College of Liberal Arts tent on commencement day. Graduate Kristy Ferreira, (pictured above) who earned her master's degree in English, was proposed to by boyfriend Travis Dupuis at her college's ceremony Friday afternoon.
Both families were on hand to watch.
Jacqueline McDonnell used to take a boat to get to UMass Boston. McDonnell, who earned her master of education in instructional design Friday, lived on Martha’s Vineyard before she moved to North Eastham.
“I used to have to take a boat and a bus, but I did want the face-to-face experience, so I persevered,” said McDonnell, a native of Montreal, Quebec,
After taking classes in the instructional design program through University College, McDonnell was inspired to go to Africa to do some development work.
“I did a full needs assessment for an international [non-governmental organization], Catholic Relief Services, which is doing a lot of work with infant mortality, AIDS and HIV, border work from the Somalia conflict in Kenya, so I did a full needs assessment for how to keep track of the safety of staff, and how to keep track of their movement, and helped them to become more automated,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell plans to return to Africa and go to Haiti for additional development work. The mother of five celebrated another milestone on commencement weekend – she turned 51 on Saturday.
Stephen J.K. Muse has taken classes in Boston, Washington, D.C., and Ghana, but he says he’s learned the most from his time in the College of Public and Community Service.
“The faculty and staff here go above and beyond to help the students,” he said at the college’s commencement ceremony Friday, where he received his bachelor's degree in human services.
Muse, 23, is originally from Ludlow and now lives in Roxbury Crossing. He transferred to UMass Boston after attending George Washington University. He first traveled to Ghana in 2009 as part of the nonprofit community resource center UNiTED (Unifying Neighbors Through Educational Development), which he helped establish. He returned to western Africa for eight months last year, spending a semester at the University of Ghana.
The recipient of the CPCS Dean’s Award, Muse said he hopes to break into the public health field. “I’m feeling very excited for the future. There is a lot that I hope to do, and this [degree] will help.”
When his Marine Corps service ended at age 28, Frederick R. Goode III began attending college, but found that he just wasn’t ready. Thirty years later, Goode received his bachelor's degree in human services from the College of Public and Community Service.
Goode received the CPCS Service Award this year for his dedication to community service. A Winthrop resident, he volunteers with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, has a fellowship at Ashburton Place, and serves on a task force that helps veterans return to work after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I tell the veterans that I work with that if I can do this at my age, you can’t say that you can’t do it,” he said.
Goode, who hopes to continue his career in crisis intervention, said CPCS’s acknowledgement that life experiences contribute to education was a major part of his success. “I would never go anywhere else,” he said Friday, gesturing to the professors, staff, and fellow graduates at the college’s ceremony in McCormack Hall. “This is family.”
Abel Rey Cano sported an accessory on commencement day that he helped create – a sash that said, “Latino Graduate 2012.” As coordinator for Casa Latina, Cano helped organize a graduation ceremony just for Latinos. His peers surprised him with a leadership award at the event.
“It was a very emotional moment,” Cano said.
Cano, a Boston native of Dominican descent, earned a bachelor's degree in sociology with a minor in communications. This summer he’ll be participating in the Latino Leadership Initiative at Harvard University and volunteering as director of communications at East Meets West, a nonprofit in Cambridge.
“After that, I’m going to see what opportunities present themselves,” Cano said.
Cano, who worked for Casa Latina for three years, says his ties to the university will remain strong.
“I know I’m going to come back here, because I just love the way it feels to be at UMass Boston and I love my experience here,” Cano said.
When Joey R. Buizon’s cousins Adrian and Alfredo Guevara graduated from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences last year, their family presented them with championship belts like those worn by professional wrestlers. This year, it was Buizon’s turn to be the champion as he received his master's degree in rehabilitation counseling from the College of Education and Human Development.
“It’s become a tradition in our family,” he said, hands raised in the air and championship belt around his waist, as he celebrated with his wife, son, parents, and best friend in the Campus Center.
Buizon, 29, lives in Somerville and works in the vocational rehabilitation department at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. He said he hopes to continue working at the agency, using his new degree to help him advance. “I’m excited to see what doors open up for me because of this graduate degree.”
Being from Guyana, South America, Makesha Balgobin, 23, insisted on finding a unique and diverse campus that offers different perspectives and culturally aware classes. Balgobin earned her bachelor's degree in social psyche with a minor in criminal justice.
“The diversity of the student body is what made me pick UMass Boston in the first place”.
Although diversity played a role in guiding Balgobin to UMass Boston, she shares a quirky memory that only solidified her choice in university. “My first English class at UMass Boston was great. The first day of class our professor, Nelson Duncan, wore butterfly wings while reciting a poem. It was so funny and unique I knew it would become my favorite class, and it did”.
Balgobin has already set her sights on the greater good by securing a job for the nonprofit organization ABCD, which specializes in helping low-income families. “After the many years here, today is by far my best, getting to see the joy on everyone’s faces is great."
Donald Bullock already had his hands full – working fulltime, interning, and finishing up his bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Then his daughter Hailey was born two months ago.
“It was tough to stay awake and get papers done at times,” Bullock said. “I never thought I’d make it.”
But he did make it. Bullock received his degree from the College of Liberal Arts on Friday as his parents, grandmother, girlfriend, and little Hailey looked on.
Bullock, 27, is originally from Pembroke and now lives in Braintree. While earning his degree, he worked fulltime at Lowe’s Home Improvement and interned at North American Family Institute’s Alliance House. He recently accepted a position working with at-risk youth at the Home for Little Wanderers.
“It’s been kind of a long road, but this here is the payoff,” he said. “I’m relieved I was able to make it to the finish line.”
Graduating with a bachelor's degree in sociology is especially meaningful to South Boston resident Rayris Agnomas.
“I’ve really learned English here at UMass Boston. It’s a big accomplishment!” said Agnomas, who took pictures with her family on commencement day while proudly wearing the blue-and-gold sash created for graduates by student organization Casa Latina.
The 24-year-old, who has a double minor in Latino studies and Spanish, grew up in the Dominican Republic.
Agnomas is a member of Casa Latina and the Dominican Club, and she has participated in U54 Partnership for the past two years.
Agnomas will spend two weeks in Puerto Rico this month before returning home to resume her job search. She said she hopes to work for City on a Hill and plans to pursue an advanced degree.
Her parents, brother, and uncle celebrated graduation with her. “My whole family has been so supportive of me,” she said.
Serina Pen won’t be spending much time in Boston now that she has graduated. The 21-year-old, who earned a bachelor's degree in nursing, is headed to Haiti with plans to develop a clinic there.
“I really want to instill primary prevention because I think that’s the way healthcare should go,” Pen said.
She’s going with a friend from the Boston area.
“I’m really excited. This is a huge stepping-stone, and only the beginning,” Pen said.
On commencement day, Pen wore a pin and a pink sash around her neck. She says she’ll continue to wear that pin in Haiti and wherever else life takes her.
“It represents all of the hard work over the past four years. It’s a nice little memorabilia that I can take it with me when I’m working on a hospital floor, so I can put it on my badge [and it shows I’ve worked] really hard to get to where I am,” Pen said.
Amy Julian, 25, of Everett, Massachusetts, is the third generation of UMass Boston graduates to receive a degree in the human service field. Earning her second degree in nursing this year, Julian was happy to be surrounded by her friends and family. “It has been a long haul but being here with my friends, family, and fiancé is really exciting for me."
Having met her fiancé at UMass Boston six years prior while being inducted into the Freshman Honors Society, Julian said that they will be married next October.
Although she looks forward to entering the nursing field with her new degree, she places emphasis on the great professors she met along the way and playfully jokes that she will “not miss the studying."