University of Vermont

05/19/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/19/2024 21:51

Their Time to Shine: A Celebration of UVM Graduates’ Commitment to People and Planet at Commencement 2024full story >>>

Under sunny skies the morning of Sunday, May 19, the University of Vermont Class of 2024 celebrated the culmination of four extraordinary years of accomplishment at the university's 223rd commencement, held in front of an overflow crowd of parents, relatives, friends, and other well-wishers on the historic University Green in Burlington.


"You, your achievements, and your future accomplishments… those are the reasons we have all gathered and what we celebrate and reflect upon today," said UVM President Suresh V. Garimella, as he began his remarks at the ceremony.


"Despite calling today your 'Commencement' it is hardly the beginning of your life's journey," Garimella said. He noted that members of the class traveled from 75 nations and every region of the nation to join the UVM community.


And the path to this day for the entire Class of 2024 had its own unique twists and turns-not all of them welcome. Four years ago, in the spring of 2020, as they made their plans to come to UVM and prepared for their high school graduations, a worldwide pandemic suddenly locked down daily life. Instead of inspiring celebrations with friends and family, this class had to make do with graduations over Zoom, or distant drive-by recognitions in parking lots or, in many cases, no ceremony at all.


Garimella praised the graduates for their part in dealing with these complications and joining an academic community of people who "know that acting together -together-as a campus community is the way we make our impact for a healthy planet. During the crisis brought on by Covid, we set a national example at UVM of cooperation and determination, prioritizing a healthy community and sustaining our precious learning environment under the most challenging conditions," he said. "This class, which lost so many experiences to the pandemic, made a commitment to look out for one another. You understand what it means to act for people."


"Over the five years since I came to UVM, I've thought long and hard about what sets this university community apart from most other schools," Garimella said. "And it comes down to that one simple concept: our universal commitment to people and planet."


This idea, Garimella said, drives the university community in its work in Vermont, the region, and beyond to build a healthier, greener, more sustainable world, and a more responsible and just society.


"This year, likewise, you and the people of UVM set an example for acting as a community that wants a better, more peaceful planet," he said. "Even when the world seemed strained to a breaking point, and peace a distant goal, in this community we modeled a way to engage, to discuss, and to disagree, that valued dignity, that respected difference, and that left room for all the many voices willing to speak up for people and planet."


"You can make a difference and you must," he told the assembled graduates. "We simply cannot hope that others will take the lead. Catamounts, you must lead, and you must succeed!"


UVM Student Government Association President Olivia Eisenberg '24, in her remarks, underscored the task ahead for her class.


"We move out into the world with more knowledge, compassion, and understanding than we had when we first stepped on to campus four years ago," said Eisenberg. "And we have our robust circles of friends and mentors to guide us as we seek to make the world a better place."


All told, 3,412 graduates from 33 countries and 46 U.S. states had degrees conferred upon them on May 19. This included approximately 2,638 bachelors, 493 masters, 133 doctoral, and 122 medical degree recipients. The undergraduate Class of 2024 includes roughly 969 Vermonters and 464 students of color.


A poignant moment in the commencement ceremony was the conferring of a posthumous Bachelor of Science degree on class member Madie Christine Saltsburg, an agroecology and landscape design major and UVM Army ROTC member who died in a back-country skiing accident in March.


"Madie will forever be held in the hearts of her friends, instructors, and the entire UVM community," said Leslie V. Parise, Dean of UVM's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, as the posthumous degree was conferred.


Honorary Degrees

The university conferred honorary degrees upon two exceptional individuals, Wolfgang Mieder and Beverly Rubenstein.


Mieder is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of German and Folklore at UVM. He is a widely recognized scholar of international folklore, the history of the German language, the Middle Ages, and especially the study of proverbs. He is a celebrated author of more than 200 books on proverbs, German literary matters, fairy tales, and folk songs.


Rubenstein, along with her late husband, Steve, has made a huge impact on UVM's national reputation as a leader in innovative research and education on the environment. In 2003, the Rubenstein's made a $15 million commitment to support environmental education and research at UVM, a gift that resulted in the renaming of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.


"Today's honorary degree recipients have both demonstrated a lifelong commitment to people and planet, as a teacher-scholar and a philanthropist," said President Garimella. "As their lives of impact show, working for people and planet is not limited to any specific profession or discipline."


More extensive information about Mieder and Rubenstein is available here.



Outstanding Faculty and Students

During the ceremony the university recognized three of its faculty members by conferring upon each of them the rank of University Distinguished Professor- the highest academic honor that the institution bestows upon a member of the faculty. Holders of this title are recognized as not only having achieved international eminence within their respective fields of study, but for the truly transformative nature of their contributions to the advancement of knowledge. Those honored were:


• Kirk Dombrowski, University Professor of Anthropology and Vice President for Research and Economic Development.


• Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, University Distinguished Professor of Geography and Geosciences and the Vermont State Climatologist.


• Pramodita Sharma, University Distinguished Professor and the Schlesinger-Grossman Chair of Family Business.


UVM also honored six members of the Class of 2024 with the Outstanding Student Leader Awards. These graduates were nominated by fellow members of the campus community, including students, faculty, and staff, for their leadership, scholarship, and service to the University. The 2024 awardees were:


• Téa van Linde, an English and Sociology major with a Theater minor, who received the Keith M. Miser Leadership Award.


• Samantha Bjorklun, an Environmental Sciences major, who received the Class of 1967 Award.


• Anja Samsom, a Computer Science and Information Systems Major in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences and a graduate of the Patrick Leahy Honors College with a minor in Business, who received the Mary Jean Simpson Award.


• Soham Mehta, a Wildlife and Fisheries Biology major and Zoology minor, who received the F.T. Kidder Medal.


• Evan Siegel, a major in Business Administration in the Grossman School of Business with a minor in History, who received the Elmer Nicholson Achievement Prize.


• Tiffany Mai, a double major in Chinese and Health and Society in the College of Arts and Sciences, who received the Katherine Anne Kelly Award