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Walden News // Mar 31, 2016

Walden University Celebrates 55th Commencement in Orlando, Florida

More than 1,000 graduates, along with more than 4,000 guests, attended Walden University’s 55th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, January 30, 2016, held at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Florida. They are part of a graduating class of more than 6,300 students, representing 50 states and 68 countries, who have completed bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and education specialist degree programs at Walden in the past six months. Thousands more participated via live webcast.

Ziauddin Yousafzai, educator, human rights activist, and cofounder and chairman of the board for the Malala Fund—named after his daughter, who was the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate—was the keynote speaker. The Malala Fund works with partners around the world to help empower girls, invest in local education leaders and programs, and advocate for more educational resources and safer schools for every child. Yousafzai also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Walden at the ceremony.

“The mission of Walden University very much resonates with my daughter’s and my life story, which tells the transformational power of education,” Yousafzai said in his speech. “While I had opportunities for an education, all five of my sisters remained behind four walls. I decided that if I’m a father of a daughter, I must educate her… There is not only one Malala—every girl is Malala.”

Yousafzai also encouraged the Walden graduates to embody the change they seek, saying, “...and I must tell you, the great capital, the most important capital, the most important source of change is you, yourself.”

“I am proud that our most recent graduates are helping advance our mission and making a difference. And I hope they are inspired by Mr. Yousafzai to use their education to change the world,” said Jonathan Kaplan, president of Walden University.

Several awards were presented prior to the ceremony, including to:

  • Dr. Wayne Wallace, a 2015 PhD in Psychology recipient from Cincinnati, Ohio, who received the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award for his dissertation, The Effect of Confirmation Bias in Criminal Investigative Decision Making. The award is presented to the Walden student whose dissertation meets the highest university standards of academic excellence.
  • Dr. Kristen R. Beyer (chair), Dr. S. David Kriska and Dr. Penny Devine, faculty in the School of Psychology, who received the Bernard L. Turner Award, given to the faculty dissertation committee of the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award winner.

Faculty Excellence Awards were presented to:

  • Dr. Michelle M. Burcin, College of Health Sciences
  • Dr. Ambronita Douzart, Center for General Education
  • Dr. Anne J. Hacker, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Dr. Cheryl A. Lentz, College of Management and Technology
  • Dr. Ronald D. Paige, The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership

Dr. Burcin also received the Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence, which honors the faculty member who demonstrates unmatched dedication to the university, its mission, and its vision and exemplifies the Walden educator’s role in empowering students to advance positive social change in their communities.

The Walden University community gathers to honor its graduating students twice a year at summer and winter commencement ceremonies. An archived version of the webcast will be available at