UMass Boston

UMass Boston Class of 2021 Encouraged to ‘Heal the World’

08/27/2021| Danielle Bilotta

After more than a year of virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UMass Boston’s Class of 2021 graduates were eager to celebrate their academic achievements in person.

Class of 2021 Graduates at Commencement
The Class of 2021 graduation ceremony at the TD Garden.

Family and friends gathered to celebrate the more than 3,800 Class of 2021 graduates at an in-person ceremony at the TD Garden Thursday morning and online where families could tune in and celebrate virtually. 

Vanessa Almanzor, who received her bachelor of science degree in Exercise and Health Science (EHS), had advocated for the hybrid ceremony and was excited to be at the event. A Las Vegas native, Almanzor has accepted a job at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and is considering getting her doctorate. She praised UMass Boston faculty and staff for their support over the last year.  

“My teachers were very accommodating with everything, and they were always there when I needed them. Even faculty and staff that weren’t in the EHS department,” she said. “I had an overall great time here.”  

Gabriel Cruz, who received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, plans to pursue a career in cyber security for the Boston Police Department and said finally getting to graduation “felt good.”  

“My four years here have been exciting. Obviously the last two years have been difficult, but overall, I was successful in college,” Cruz said. “[The Criminology and Criminal Justice faculty and staff] were very helpful when I reached out for help on any of the assignments, so I would say that support really stands out for me.”  

Graduation also gave students the opportunity to reflect on their experience at the university. Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing graduate Nicole-Ann Keyton described her time at UMass Boston as “welcoming.” As an out-of-state student, Keyton said faculty and staff were key in helping her navigate Boston and get her bearings.  

“I also got the chance to work with undergraduate students here as a writing tutor, and everyone that I’ve worked with has been so amazing,” she said. “You can tell everyone wants to be here, and I find that to be a really great privilege to be around.” 

Since finishing her classes in May, Keyton has been working full time in the same field she studied and researched during her graduate career.  

“I definitely want to expand my thesis into a collection of short stories, so I'm planning on getting them revised and adding a few more so I can seek out representation and see if it gets picked up by a publisher,” she said.  

The ceremony also included honoring university community members. As part of the virtual ceremony, Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco presented Maurice J. Roberson with the 2021 JFK Award for Academic Excellence. Roberson encouraged his fellow graduates to dispel the category of imaginary strangers created by “superficial and man-manufactured boundaries such as citizenship status and race.” 

“It is imperative that we all, as a collective, practice valuing the lives of others. Regardless of how that ‘other’ presents themselves, what that ‘other’ prefers, or where that ‘other’ is geographically located,” he said. “A baseline of respect and dignity is what all of nature, both human and nonhuman, requires.” 

The class of 2021 commencement speaker Anthony C. Martin spoke about the importance of mentorship and the impact of being surrounded by positive images and interacting with each other in a safe space.  

“I challenge you to continue to shine brightly as a beacon. A shining light up on a hill that lights the way for those following behind,” he said.  

At the end of his speech, Chancellor Suárez-Orozco wished the new graduates happiness and success as they take the next steps in their lives and careers.  

“The world needs you. We need your energy, we need your passion, we need your commitment to the common good,” he said. “Graduates of the Class of 2021, the world needs healing – go out there and heal the world.”