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Norwich University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies graduated over 580 students representing 11 online master’s programs and three online bachelor’s degree completion programs at a commencement ceremony held Friday, June 23, at 10 a.m. in Shapiro Field House.
The ceremony concludes a weeklong annual residency conference full of culminating academic work, including capstone presentations, several programmatic and interdisciplinary sessions and experiential learning activities. The students gathered from across the country and around the globe under the theme of “Leading Today, Inspiring Tomorrow.”
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, an award-winning international human rights activist and Master of Arts in Diplomacy graduate, delivered the university’s 2017 Commencement address.
Afshin-Jam illuminated the week’s theme of leadership and inspiration by recalling the story of her quest to save the life of a young girl, also named Nazanin, who was sentenced to death in Afshin-Jam’s home country of Iran. “I empathized with her story so much it moved me to action,” she said. The Herculean effort, involving petitions, meetings, marketing campaigns and even a song written for and about the girl and performed by the speaker, eventually led to the girl’s retrial, release, and the founding of an organization to focus exclusively on the issue of child executions.
Afshin-Jam urged the graduates to ignore “the negative voices that say you can’t,” to “be the leader you were meant to be,” concluding: “If you have a dream, make it a goal.” As a fellow CGCS graduate, she also reminded graduates to stay in touch with each other.
Winner of several human rights awards, Afshin-Jam is co-founder of the Stop Child Executions to halt the practice in Iran and in the handful of other countries where it still continues. She is also the co-author of “The Tale of Two Nazanins,” and she has released a multilingual album “Someday,” charting hits in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. She was appointed to the board of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to help eliminate racism and discrimination in Canada.
Prior to graduation, over 300 students were recognized and inducted into eight professional honor societies. Other ceremonies recognized students receiving their master’s hoods from staff and faculty and graduates receiving their Norwich University class rings.
This residency conference also marked the 5th Annual Leadership Summit, an event that pairs a multi-disciplinary group of students with an organization to confidentially tackle leadership challenges identified by each organization. The Leadership Summit was developed as the first offering of the Norwich University Leadership and Change Institute.
The keynote presentation for the week was delivered from best-selling author and futurist Peter Warren Singer, a strategist and senior fellow at New America. The author of multiple award-winning books, he is considered one of the world’s leading experts on 21st century security issues. Singer presented his address on Wednesday, June 21, on the Norwich campus as part of Norwich’s Todd Lecture Series, a program that invites distinguished speakers to campus to engage the Norwich academic community in diverse dialogue.
Students attending the residency conference represented all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and nine international countries. Forty-two students earned their second degree from Norwich.
From serving their communities and the nation to leading organizations, the 2017 graduating class exemplifies the Norwich guiding value of service to others. The Class of 2017 graduates include 30-year veterans of the military, CISOs, founders of non-profit organizations, published authors, law enforcement leaders and special agents, vice presidents of companies, individuals actively serving in the armed forces, educators, healthcare professionals, and CEOs.
Norwich University is a nationally recognized leader in online graduate and undergraduate education and its residency conference, often cited as a highlight by CGCS graduates, is unique among online programs.