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Walden News // Feb 11, 2019

Walden University’s 61st Commencement Celebrates Over 5,900 Graduates

Walden University’s 61st Commencement Celebrates Over 5,900 GraduatesMinneapolis—February 11, 2019—Walden University celebrated its 61st Commencement on Saturday, January 19, 2019 in Tampa, Florida, with more than 1,300 graduates and 5,400 guests in attendance. Overall, Walden had 5,933 graduates joining its international network of alumni, which includes more than 132,000 members from 165 countries.

Erin Gruwell, author of “The Freedom Writers Diary” and founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation, served as the keynote speaker. She spoke of the positive transformation students undergo when exposed to creative and engaging teaching methods and encouraged graduates to use their education and experience to spark change in the world.

“Ordinary beginnings can transform into extraordinary endings,” said Gruwell. “I feel like I'm holding up a mirror to my Freedom Writer students because you, too, have that same story. A story of grit, a story of determination, a story of taking a pain and making it a purpose. You are going out in the world to make it better because for each one of you that chose this beautiful family of Walden University, you did so because you deserve that dignity. You deserve that chance. You deserve that platform for the world to watch and listen. We hope that when you leave here today, you will stand up, speak up and light a spark. We want you to go and be social activists, change agents, catalysts for change and proud graduates.”

Walden’s nursing ceremony featured Dr. Ernest Grant, the newly elected president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), which represents the interests of the nation’s four million registered nurses. He encouraged graduates to consider their legacy and embrace the unexpected.

“The road before you is an exciting one filled with potential,” said Dr. Grant. “I ask you to think about what you will do with your gifts and how you can bring the Walden mission of effecting positive social change to life. How can you seize every opportunity to learn, to grow and to better the lives of your patients, the conditions of your workplace or the profession of nursing? Make the most of this valuable education, and work hard to spot those little moments that can grow into great opportunities. You might not see your legacy now, but it is waiting for you to discover and nurture it.”

Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson, Walden’s 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award recipient and co-founder of DC Project Connect, spoke at the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony, where she urged graduates to create a vision of social change and be bold and innovative when addressing challenges.

“You are the leader of your dream,” said Dr. Hart-Johnson. “What would your vision of hope look like if you could not fail? Embrace the unknown. It is a leap of faith, and it is the alternative to taking safe, small baby steps that require little sacrifice. This idea of hope requires that you dream big and unleash the visionary within—hope that can extend from the most populated cities around the world to vast and remote villages where people are looking towards you, Walden social change agents, as their vision of hope. You are poised to make great change in the world.”

In addition to the ceremonies, graduates, faculty and staff were honored during commencement weekend, including:

  • Dr. David Takudzwa Zinyengere, a 2018 PhD in Public Health graduate from Harare, Zimbabwe, received the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award for his dissertation, Household Determinants of Malaria in Mutasa District of Zimbabwe. This award is bestowed upon a Walden student whose dissertation is judged as meeting the highest standards of academic excellence.
  • Dr. Shingairai Feresu, Dr. Chester Jones and Dr. Tolu Osoba, faculty members in the School of Health Sciences, received the Bernard L. Turner Award, which is given to the faculty dissertation committee of the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award winner.
  • Dr. Julie Evener, a 2019 Doctor of Education (EdD) graduate from St. Augustine, Florida, received the Frank Dilley Award for her doctoral study, Organizational Learning in Libraries at For-Profit Colleges and Universities. This award is bestowed upon a Walden student whose doctoral study is judged as meeting the highest standards of academic excellence.
  • Dr. Vicki L. Underwood, Dr. Beate Baltes and Dr. Caroline M. Crawford, faculty members in The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, received the Rita Turner Award, which is given to the faculty doctoral study committee of the Frank Dilley Award winner.
  • Carolyn Klug, an undergraduate student in the School of Health Sciences from Mobile, Alabama, received the Academic Performance Award, which recognizes distinguished scholarship, service and citizenship in an undergraduate student who embodies the ideals expressed in Walden’s core values and who is committed to serving humankind.
  • Christopher R. Davis, an MS in Leadership student from Mascoutah, Illinois, received the Citizenship Award, which recognizes distinguished scholarship, service and citizenship in a master’s student who embodies the ideals expressed in Walden’s core values, is committed to serving humankind and has effected positive social change during their graduate program.
  • Dr. Kim Wilson, a 2019 Doctor of Education (EdD) graduate from Rock Hill, South Carolina, received the Leadership Excellence Award for distinguished scholarship and mentorship. The award honors a student’s leadership contributions that have positively impacted the Walden community during the course of his or her graduate or undergraduate program.
  • Amber Cook, associate director of faculty outreach and support, received the Ann Rayner Academic Support Service Award for her outstanding work in the Academic Skills Center. This award is granted to a Walden or Laureate staff member who has contributed to Walden’s success through their collaborative spirit and engagement in work and the positive impact it produces.
  • Dr. Mohamad S. Hammoud, a faculty member in the College of Management and Technology, is the recipient of the Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence, which recognizes a faculty member who demonstrates an unmatched dedication to the university’s mission and exemplifies the Walden educator’s role in empowering students to advance positive social change in their communities.

Faculty Excellence Awards were also presented to the following individuals:

  • Dr. Omar Clay, Center for General Education
  • Dr. Aimee Ferraro, College of Health Sciences
  • Dr. Mohamad Hammoud, College of Management and Technology
  • Dr. Lynn Wilson, College of Social Behavioral Sciences
  • Dr. James H. Miller, The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership

The Walden University community honors its graduating students twice a year at summer and winter commencement ceremonies, with many graduates and guests participating via live webcast.

About Walden University
For more than 45 years, Walden University has supported working professionals in achieving their academic goals and making a greater impact in their professions and communities. Students from the District of Columbia, all 50 states in the U.S. and more than 150 countries are pursuing their bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees online at Walden. The university offers more than 80 degree programs with over 385 specializations and concentrations. Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, It is also one of more than 70 institutions in 25 countries that make up the Laureate International Universities network. For more information about Walden, visit