Kent State to Celebrate Its Newest Graduates With Virtual Commencement on Dec. 19

The Kent State University alumni family will grow by more than 2,500 new graduates as the university holds its fall commencement. The accomplishments of the Fall Class of 2020 will be recognized with a virtual commencement recognition ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 11 a.m. EST, in accordance with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s order to prohibit mass gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kent State students, faculty, staff, parents and friends are invited to tune into the virtual commencement at www.kent.edu/commencement. On the site, there will be two commencement ceremonies – one for graduates receiving undergraduate degrees and one for graduates receiving advanced degrees – that recognize all colleges and campuses of Kent State.

In total, 2,552 degrees will be conferred this fall, consisting of 590 associate degrees, 1,572 bachelor’s degrees, 353 master’s degrees, 35 doctoral degrees and two educational specialist degrees.

More than 1,300 of the graduating students have confirmed their participation in the Dec. 19 virtual commencement. These students will receive a commencement package so that they are ready to go on commencement day. The commencement package includes a mortarboard, tassel, alumni pin, diploma cover, honors cords for eligible graduates and hoods for doctoral graduates. 

Commencement packages have been sent to graduating students near and far, including those in Arizona, California, Florida, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. 

During the virtual commencement, 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.

Successful Fall Graduates

Finding Endless Opportunities

Among the graduating students this fall is Claire Weihe, a public health major with a concentration in global health. A native of Akron, Ohio, Weihe said that during her time at Kent State, she developed a passion for reducing health disparities, specifically racial health disparities. She expressed her passion for serving women in all of their intersections of race, gender, class, ability, sexuality and religion with hopes to establish health equity and become a community of care.

“I would say my experience at Kent State was full of opportunity and growth,” Weihe said. “I was pushed outside of my comfort zone and grew to be a better leader, student and citizen. I had incredible experiences with the Women’s Center and Undergraduate Student Government that taught me so much about leadership and how to make meaningful change.”

During her college years, Weihe was able to travel to Rwanda, work as a tour guide and sing in multiple choirs. 

“Kent State gave me a diverse community that I will be forever thankful for,” Weihe said. 

Weihe is currently applying for her Master of Divinity for next fall and plans to begin an internship with Global Ministries virtually in January. She hopes to be able to eventually travel to Budapest, Hungary, to serve a refugee ministry in the Reformed Church of Hungary. In the future, she wants to serve in a leadership position at a global nonprofit, a church pastor within the United Church of Christ or an elected public official.

“With my experiences I have had at Kent State, the opportunities seem endless,” Weihe said. 

Seeing the World

Another student who is graduating this fall is Scott Wintrip, a senior educational studies major. Originally from Canton, Ohio, Wintrip shared that he was happy to return to Kent State “a few decades later,” this time remotely, to complete his degree. 

“I have enjoyed the experience, especially the world religions and history courses I took,” Wintrip said. “Given my nomadic lifestyle, both classes added to those travel experiences.”

So far, Wintrip and his wife have traveled to about 45 different countries. Since the pandemic started, the two have lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, enjoying the “vibrant and diverse city.” After graduation, Wintrip will attend the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, where he will pursue his master’s in interfaith studies. 

Returning to Complete College Degree

Elise Szabo of Canfield, Ohio, will be receiving her degree in philosophy. She said she really loved her experience at Kent State. She became interested in student organizing and activism, and she found a home in that space at the university, leading her to accept a job in Oakland, California, before graduating. She worked in drug policy reform, youth drug education, student activism and prison abolition.
 
“I came back to Kent to finish my degree after about three years out there, and I’m really glad I did,” Szabo said. “Kent State’s philosophy department is really eclectic and special, and my professors have been so supportive and engaging, even while navigating online instruction. It’s bittersweet to be graduating and leaving my program here, but I know I’ll stay curious and keep learning throughout my life, and I’m excited to discover what’s next for me.”

Szabo plans to put more energy into advocacy and community organizing, but the pandemic makes it difficult to say for sure what her plans are after graduation. 

“I feel confident, though, in my ability to navigate and shape the world,” she said. 

Engineering a Career

Among those receiving their doctoral degrees from Kent State this fall is Jessica Krieger. She will receive her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences. Through her dissertation work, she wanted to learn the basics of how to grow meat in a lab.

“I’ve learned so much from the Kent State community, and their support has meant everything in me developing a new type of revolutionary food product that can be applied to the cultivated meat industry at large,” said Krieger, who also earned two bachelor’s degrees from Kent State.

While at Kent State, she gained experience working with cell lines and learned tissue engineering techniques that can be applied to different kinds of meat products, like beef or pork. Krieger said that eventually, we’ll be able to use this meat to create entire cultivated meat products and feed people all over the world. She took all this knowledge and research experience from the lab to the marketplace as the co-founder and chief scientific officer of Artemys Foods in the San Francisco area.

She became interested in figuring out how to grow meat without the animal 10 years ago upon learning that the animal agricultural industry is unsustainable and contributes to climate change, greenhouse gases and deforestation of the rainforests.  

“I knew that the demand for meat was going to double by 2050,” Krieger said. “It’s really important for us to find a solution where we don’t have to use animal agriculture to produce the meat products that we love.”

Additional Information About the Virtual Commencement

The virtual commencement does not replace the in-person commencement ceremony. All students who graduate this fall will be invited back to campus for commencement when it is deemed safe to do so.

For more information and to watch the Dec. 19 virtual commencement, visit www.kent.edu/commencement

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Media Contacts:
Eric Mansfield, emansfie@kent.edu, 330-672-2797
Emily Vincent, evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Monday, December 14, 2020 - 11:25am
UPDATED: Friday, January 15, 2021 - 11:17am
WRITTEN BY:
University Communications and Marketing