AMID a global pandemic shaking education systems across the globe, Northern Marianas College on Friday conferred over 400 degrees to its Class of 2020, whose commencement exercises last year were canceled, and the Class of 2021.
To comply with Covid-19 social distancing guidelines, the commencement ceremony was held at three different locations: Saipan World Resort, Crowne Plaza (the former Fiesta Resort), and Hyatt Regency Saipan.
Only the graduating students and key administrators, faculty, staff, and other officials were allowed to participate in-person, while loved ones watched the ceremony online via NMC's Facebook page.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, first lady Diann T. Torres, Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan, NMC Board Chairman Charles Cepeda and other regents were among those physically present for the ceremony.
After the ceremonial posting of colors and singing of the national and CNMI anthems, a benediction was given by Bishop Ryan Jimenez of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa.
NMC Interim President Frankie M. Eliptico, in his final presidential address, thanked the students for being a source of inspiration for the community, other students, and for him.
“Graduates, you aren’t just living through these back-to-back catastrophes of typhoons, pandemics, and economic fallout; you thrived through them,” he said.
“If time were limitless, I would highlight all of our students and their inspirational and moving stories…. There are students who are single moms and dads taking a full load of classes while having to care for families and working full time. There are students who were juggling three jobs, students who worked through sleepless nights, tiring lab hours, and remote study groups. Yet they persisted and they succeeded.”
Eliptico also recognized the NMC administrators, faculty, and staff for supporting students on their academic journey and helping to grow the college.
“It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to work alongside all of you,” he said.
He likewise thanked the IT team and graduation committee, led by Director of Enrollment Services Manny T. Castro, for putting the ceremony together in-person and online.
NMC Board Chairman Cepeda, for his part, said, “To achieve this important milestone in your life, despite the challenges that were placed in front of you from having to transition to virtual learning, it is a trial no one has ever been tasked before.”
He recognized the college faculty and staff for being there for the students every step of the way, ensuring that there were no delays in achieving their goals.
The Board of Regents presented an honorary degree to interim president Eliptico for displaying a level of exemplary achievement deemed worthy of the singular recognition conveyed by the conferral of the degree.
Several awards to students were presented, including:
• Excellence in Service Award - Isabel Matsunaga (BS in Business Management - Class of 2020) and Victoria Matsunaga (BS in Education: Rehabilitation and Human Services Concentration - Class of 2021)
• Excellence in Leadership Awards - Daniel Brown (BS in Education: Rehabilitation and Human Services Concentration - Class of 2020) and Maia Pangelinan (BS in Education: Rehabilitation and Human Services Concentration - Class of 2021)
• Class of 2020 Excellence Awards (Students who earned 4.0 GPA) - Audrey Jan Samson Afable (AA in Liberal Arts: Education), Aysha Shania Palacios Cabrera (AAS in Business Administration: Business Management), Keandre Iruguin Deseo, (AA in Liberal Arts), Lili Duan (BS in Business Management), Ellie G. Eichenberger (BS in Education: Elementary Education), Marijean Frank Fernandez (AA in Liberal Arts: Educatio), Do Hnyeon Kwon (BS in Business Management: Accounting), Patricia Joy Santos San Nicolas (AA in Liberal Arts: Education), and Dennis F. Tababa (AAS in Business Administration: Business Management and AAS in Hospitality Management)
• Class of 2021 Excellence Awards (Students who earned 4.0 GPA) - Kaylene Camacho Alepuyo (AA in Liberal Arts), Aldwin Ray Tarroza Batusin (AA in Liberal Arts), Jan Emmanuel Dela Cruz Bobadilla (AA in Liberal Arts), Mica Atienza Camacho (AAS in Business Administration: Accounting), Soledad Cecilia Adelbai Camacho (AA in Liberal Arts), Annel Louise Pulido Ligaya (AA in Liberal Arts: Education), Querida Mesngon Maratita, AA in Liberal Arts: Education), Jeiel Christia G. Montilla (AAS in Business Administration: Business Management), Jenine Stephanie Cunanan Pereña (AAS in Business Administration: Accounting), Victor Manuel Ramirez (AAS in Business Administration: Computer Applications), Jobelle Y. Tabuena (AA in Liberal Arts), Marylyn Yumul Tabuena (BS in Education: Elementary Education), Dino Junior Rafael Taitano (AA in Liberal Arts: Education), and Yijia Zhao (BS in Education: Elementary Education)
Associate degrees were awarded in business; liberal arts; business administration with a concentration in accounting, business management, or computer applications emphasis; criminal justice, hospitality management, natural resource management, and nursing.
Bachelor degrees were awarded in business management or business management with a concentration in accounting; and education with an emphasis in early childhood education, elementary education, rehabilitation and human services, or special education.
Bachelor of science degrees in criminal justice were awarded for the first time by the University of Guam, with Dr. Ronald McNinch and UOG President Tom Krise physically and virtually present to confer the degrees.
The commencement addresses were given by Eun Ho An of the Class of 2020 and James Kennedy Benjamin of the Class of 2021.
An received an associate degree in business administration while Benjamin received an associate degree in business.
“The diploma you receive today is the fruit of your hard work and elaboration,” said An.
Benjamin, for his part, said, “What matters is that we made it and we made it together in achieving our personal goals of becoming college graduates... We remain determined, we persevered, and we have come out stronger.”
He placed great emphasis on servant leadership, noting that each of the graduates are compassionate leaders called to be men and women for others, in light of their mistakes, mentorship, giving back, and being grateful for what they already have
Conferral of degrees were given by key officials at World Resort for business and nursing graduates; Crowne Plaza for criminal justice, liberal arts, and natural resources management graduates; and Hyatt Regency for education and liberal arts graduates.