On Saturday, May 13, CU Denver graduates crossed the stage at the Denver Coliseum to celebrate a major milestone in their academic careers. From doctorates to master’s and undergraduate degrees, these graduates had a moment to shake hands with CU President Todd Saliman or CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks, PhD, in front of a crowd of supporters, family, and friends cheering them on.
These resilient students, many whom earned their degrees through a pandemic, embody CU Denver’s goal of making education work for all. More than 2,250 students graduated from CU Denver: More than 1,400 earned bachelor’s degrees, more than 800 earned master’s degrees, and 51 graduated with a PhD/EdD. These students came from throughout Colorado, as well as 44 states across the country, and more than 25 nations around the world. Roughly 52% of undergraduate graduates were first-generation students.
And they graduated in a year when CU Denver is celebrating its own milestone: its 50th anniversary.
In two ceremonies, graduates from CU Denver’s seven schools and colleges were greeted by Monique Snowden, PhD, Senior Vice Chancellor for Strategic Enrollment and Student Success. “Time is marked with many transitions, be it from one season to the next, or one phase of life to the next,” Snowden said. “Commencement, with its ancient regalia and pageantry, marks the conclusion of a period of study and the beginning of a new phase of life for the graduates. Today, we honor their past achievements and celebrate their bright futures.”
Marks told graduates that commencement is her favorite day of the year. “It is the result of years of hard work, shared sacrifice, shared experiences—and a palpable desire to pursue your dreams through the transformative power of higher education,” Marks said. “It’s the culmination of millions of little moments that got you to this big moment today.” She applauded first-generation students who endeavor to uplift their families and communities (a reason why CU Denver is ranked #1 for social mobility in Colorado) and thanked veterans for their service and commitment to education.
Saliman offered inspiring words for graduates. “Once you set your sights on something, give it all you’ve got,” he said. “But beware of tunnel vision, too. Always keep your antennae up—and your hearts and minds open—so you don’t miss opportunities that come your way.”
On the stage to applaud the graduates throughout the day were several members of the CU Board of Regents, including Vice-Chair Ken Montera, Nolbert Chavez, Glen Gallegos, Wanda James, Frank McNulty, and Callie Rennison, PhD. CU Denver’s Maryam Darbeheshti, PhD, served as Grand Marshal for the ceremony.
Anna Jo Garcia Haynes was awarded an honorary CU Denver doctorate degree and was joined on stage by Angie Paccione, PhD, who leads the Colorado Department of Higher Education. CU Regent Chavez spoke to Garcia Haynes’ impact, including bringing the Head Start program to Denver, co-founding the Colorado Children’s Campaign, chairing the Congress of Racial Equality during the Civil Rights Era, and so much more. “Her visionary leadership has improved the lives of Colorado’s children,” Chavez said.
Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock, MPA ’95, was the invited guest speaker. He led the crowd in cheers, commenting that he remembered sitting in his CU Denver commencement 28 years ago. Hancock spoke about impact, citing the contributions of leaders that included Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and more.
For the main event, students flowed across the stage—pausing for photos and moments of reflection in front of the packed arena.
Before the undergraduates moved their tassels from the right to left side of their mortarboards, the university debuted its alma mater. (Learn the lyrics here!) At the ceremony, a group consisting of two current music students, Verena Fuentes, Finn O’Sullivan, spring graduate Genevieve Glimp, and Katharine Yeager ’22, an alum and CAM staff member, led the arena in song.
After the two ceremonies, graduates and their guests gathered in front of the iconic Denver Coliseum for photos, videos, and hugs. Congratulations graduates!