Kent State Celebrates Its Spring 2021 Graduates With In-Person Commencement Ceremonies

Students wearing graduation caps and gowns will once again grace the campus as Kent State University celebrates its newest graduates and marks the return of in-person commencement ceremonies for the first time since December 2019.

The Kent State alumni family will grow by more than 5,000 new graduates as the university holds its spring commencement. The accomplishments of the Spring Class of 2021 will be recognized with in-person, outdoor commencement ceremonies May 10-15 and a virtual commencement ceremony for all colleges and degrees at 9 a.m. EDT on May 15. All of the commencement ceremonies will be livestreamed at
In total, 5,037 degrees will be conferred this spring, consisting of 807 associate degrees, 3,204 bachelor’s degrees, 863 master’s degrees, 145 doctoral degrees and 18 educational specialist degrees.
More than 2,700 of the graduating students have confirmed their participation in the in-person commencement ceremonies. These students will receive a commencement package so that they are ready to go on their commencement day. The commencement package includes a mortarboard, tassel, alumni pin and honors cords for eligible graduates. 
Commencement packages have been sent to graduating students near and far, including those in Arizona, California, Florida, Brazil, Indonesia and Tunisia. 
During the in-person and virtual commencement ceremonies, graduating students will hear from Kent State President Todd Diacon and Senior Vice President and Provost Melody Tankersley. Graduating students will also receive individual name recognition and participate in the conferral of degrees and tassel turning ceremony.

The outdoor ceremonies for all colleges and degrees on the Kent Campus will be held at the Centennial Court Green, which is located on Midway Drive south of the Centennial Court Residence Halls.

Ceremonies will adhere to safety measures from the Flashes Safe Eight, such as physical distancing and the wearing of face coverings. To participate in the in-person commencement, graduating students had to complete their ceremony RSVP in early April. Each graduating student registered for commencement has four tickets for their commencement ceremony for guests to attend. Due to social distancing and limited venue capacity, graduating students will be seated in pods with their four guests for the ceremony.

Students graduating from a Regional Campus have received an announcement about their ceremony from their campus dean. As always, Regional Campus graduates are welcome to participate in the ceremonies on the Kent Campus as well.

Kent State will also host the College of Podiatric Medicine’s commencement ceremony on May 21 at the Kent Campus Student Green.

Celebrating the Class of 2020

Kent State has invited its Class of 2020 to return to campus for a historic in-person commencement ceremony dedicated to the class during Homecoming weekend in October. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual commencement ceremonies were held for the Class of 2020 with a promise to the graduating students that they would be invited back to campus for commencement when it is deemed safe to do so.

Successful Spring Graduates

Jordan Bigelow and Mattney Yates

Jordan Bigelow of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Mattney Yates of Utica, Ohio, both graduate from Kent State this spring. Both students in Kent State’s School of Fashion, Yates graduates with a degree in fashion design, and Bigelow graduates with degrees in fashion design and fashion merchandising. 

Both seniors were announced this year as Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) 2021 scholarship recipients for their creativity and knowledge in developing case studies combining fashion and current world issues. Bigelow focused on the beauty of Black women through fashion, while Yates’ case study looked at future implications of technology’s strain on the human body, particularly among Generation Z. 

Bigelow’s case study, “The Unbought Collection,” was heavily inspired by Shirley Chisholm, the first Black congresswoman, and her presidential campaign slogan, “Unbought and Unbossed.” 

“I wanted to honor the path and legacy Chisholm left behind with this case study while also acknowledging my community’s desire to be represented in fashion,” said Bigelow. “This is for all the Black kids who grew up not seeing themselves represented in the fashion media like they wanted to.”

Yates, who recently earned third place in Kent State’s annual Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (CEBI) pitch competition, was recognized for her case study, “Outdoor Voices,” which focused on technology-related health issues. In her timely project, she examined how posture-correcting fabric, seam details and adjustable straps could provide support and improve the posture of the wearer.

“As the generation that grew up with technology at their fingertips, it’s difficult to set boundaries and screen time limits,” Yates said. “This is leading to larger issues as research is showing the overuse is negatively impacting the overall health of Gen Z.”

Cameran Cunningham

Cameran Cunningham is a finance major in Kent State’s College of Business Administration hailing from Cleveland, Ohio. During his time at Kent State, Cunningham made sure to take advantage of every opportunity to benefit his growth as a leader, student and professional. 

While at Kent State, Cunningham was involved with several organizations, including the Male Empowerment Network and the Golden Flash Asset Management Group. He traveled abroad to the Cayman Islands, where he studied a range of finance-related topics and developed relationships with other students and faculty members. The experience motivated him to pursue even more for himself. 

“It was an eye-opening experience for me,” Cunningham said. “I was so deeply involved in the class that we took.”

After making the most of his Kent State experience, Cunningham is eager to take on the next chapter of his life at JPMorgan Chase, where he has accepted a full-time position.

Gianna DaPra

Gianna DaPra, from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, will receive her degree in journalism. A student in Kent State’s School of Media and Journalism, DaPra earned national recognition from the Hearst Journalism Awards, widely known as the Pulitzer Prizes of Collegiate Journalism, for two stories she worked on from 2019-2020.

DaPra credits her Top 10 recognition to her experience with TV2, Kent State’s student-run television station that serves the university and Portage County.

“TV2 is run so close to a real news station, and that’s where I feel like Kent separates us from the rest,” she said. “We learn as if we are already in the professional field, and it couldn’t be more helpful.”

DaPra completed an internship with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019. After graduation, she would like to be a reporter in news or entertainment. Her Top 10 recognition by Hearst has affirmed that she is on the right path.

“Seeing that other people and professionals thought this way of my work has made me realize that journalism is the right major and place for me,” she said. “I feel so honored and grateful that I was able to learn from such great leaders because I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Kent State.”

Grace Dillard

Grace Dillard of Bedford, Ohio, graduating with a degree in entrepreneurship, has already built a successful business from the ground up while still a student. During her time in the College of Business Administration at Kent State, Dillard created Touched By Grace (TBG) Bodycare, which she plans to grow even further after graduation. 

TBG Body Care offers all-natural, clean beauty and skincare products with an emphasis on sustainability.

“When you get a product from me, it’s packed with biodegradable packing peanuts and includes a sustainability card describing how to recycle your package and encouraging you to recycle the jars the products are in,” Dillard said. 

Dillard recently won first place in the annual CEBI pitch competition, earning $10,000 to put toward her business.  

Dillard said that she always knew her business would be prosperous, noting that she has the drive and determination of a successful entrepreneur. However, she credits much of her business knowledge and growth to the support she has received from Kent State.

“There are so many resources available for entrepreneurs at Kent State,” Dillard said. “Kent has supported my journey so much. Being in the entrepreneurship program and just generally being a student here, we have so many opportunities to take advantage of.”

Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis of Rocky River, Ohio, will be graduating with a degree in journalism from Kent State. A student in the School of Media and Journalism, Lewis has big plans to become a sports journalist. Earlier this year, he was recently featured on OOD Works, a podcast by Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities that interviews students with disabilities looking to be more independent. 

Lewis talked to OOD Works about his future career goals and how he met Jessica Vass, a College2Careers rehabilitation counselor at the university.

College2Careers is a partnership between OOD and Kent State that provides career services to individuals with disabilities. Vass, who works in Kent State’s Student Accessibility Services (SAS) office, runs the program. 

Along with being an author of “Brandon’s World” in The Kent Stater student newspaper, Lewis is the general manager for Kent State’s Black Squirrel Radio. He stresses the importance of seeking out help while looking for jobs or internships.

“If you have a disability, reach out to SAS, reach out to Jessica directly and just get started because no matter what industry you’re in, no matter if we’re in COVID or not, it’s hard,” Lewis said. “I will say, right now, I feel like I’m on the right path. If it wasn’t for Jessica and it wasn’t for OOD, I would more than likely still feel lost.”

Anne Ritts

Anne Ritts of Burton, Ohio, graduating with a degree in finance from Kent State, has built an outstanding resume packed with influential experiences during her time at Kent State and its College of Business Administration.

Throughout college, Ritts maintained membership in multiple finance organizations and a sorority, studied abroad and held multiple internships. Her next adventure will begin this summer in her career with PNC Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Through her involvement in the finance organization Golden Flash Asset Management Group, Ritts has had the opportunity to participate in the CFA Institute Research Challenge, visit the New York Stock Exchange and go to the Cayman Islands to study money laundering. In 2019, Ritts’ team brought home first place for its fixed income portfolio at the Quinnipiac Global Asset Management Education Forum, which is the largest student finance competition in the country. 

“Going to New York City and getting to represent Golden Flash Asset Management was something I’ll always remember,” Ritts said. “It meant a lot knowing we had put so much time and effort into this portfolio, and I got that opportunity because I put myself out there.”

Though Ritts’ time at Kent State is coming to an end, she is grateful for the many opportunities and memories Kent State has given her, and she is excited to see where the future goes.

“Looking back, I don’t think I could have picked a better school,” Ritts reflected. “If you’re willing to put in the work and put yourself out there, people want to help you. If it weren’t for my professors in finance supporting me and spending extra time with me, I really wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Additional Information About Commencement

For more information about the in-person and virtual commencement ceremonies, including a schedule of the ceremonies, visit

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Media Contacts:
Eric Mansfield,, 330-672-2797
Emily Vincent,, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Wednesday, May 5, 2021 02:07 PM
UPDATED: Friday, December 09, 2022 02:59 PM
University Communications and Marketing