Utah State University Tooele celebrated its class of 2022 with commencement exercises taking place on Saturday, April 23. Comprising 74 individuals, the Class of 2022 earned 20 associate, 41 bachelor’s, 13 master’s degrees and three certificates.
USU Tooele celebrated graduates with a ceremony at Tooele High School. Sonja Jensen, USU Tooele Director of Students, welcomed the graduates and guests.
“We are here for one reason — to celebrate the achievements of you, our students and our leaders of tomorrow, as you close this period of your life and begin your new journey,” Jensen said in her opening remarks.
Jensen then introduced the student speaker, Shana Nelson. Nelson received her bachelor of science degree in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in English and Mental Health Awareness and Advocacy. In her speech, Nelson shared the story of growing up in a Louisiana trailer park and, as a child, one day dreaming of owning a two-story trailer like the one she used to pass.
“This was a dream of humble beginnings, but dreams show us a yearning for a brighter future and inspire the goals we set before ourselves in life,” Nelson said. “All of us once had small dreams that continued to grow, leading us here today.”
Nelson then shared the experiences of her family and the different circumstances her mother, father and even she herself faced, and how those circumstances shaped each one to become who they ultimately became.
“While all of our stories are different, we have all had to sacrifice and have determination to be here today,” Nelson said. “We have risen above to become more than we imagined for ourselves. We have made our dreams a reality.”
Jensen then introduced the commencement speaker, Richard Gonzales, assistant commissioner for Access at the Utah System of Higher Education and a former first-generation USU Tooele graduate. Gonzales shared his story of finding himself without a job after 14 years of working at a warehouse, and how he changed his career path with the help of USU Tooele.
“I was told on a Friday that I was getting laid off; I whined and moaned over the weekend, but I was inquiring about admissions on Monday morning,” Gonzales recalled. “I was not sure what I was going to study. But one thing I knew for sure, I needed more education.”
Gonzales started with the intention of doing a few classes, then fell in love with the education and wanted to inspire his two high-school aged children. His goal grew to getting an associate degree, and continued to get grander as he continued at USU. He would go on to earn his bachelor’s degree and go on to get his MBA and start a career in higher education. He challenged the graduates to thank those who supported them through their journey, to keep on learning and to embrace being role models to others.
“I challenge you to keep on learning and share your knowledge by helping those around you,” he said. “Do not dismiss that opportunity to help others grow, because you will grow in the process.”
USU President Noelle E. Cockett then provided a virtual message and conferred upon the students their degrees, and the graduates received their diplomas. The celebration concluded with a welcome address from Steven L. Palmer, president of the USU Alumni Association.
Located in the valley of the Oquirrh Mountains, Utah State University Tooele offers students the personalized attention and small class sizes of a small-town college with the resources of a large university. With degree options ranging from associate to doctorate degrees, plus technical education offerings, USU Tooele offers programs that help fuel local economies and empower individuals and their communities. Learn more at tooele.usu.edu.
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Jennifer Van Cott
Associate Vice President for the Tooele Region
USU Statewide Campuses
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