Utah State University Blanding presents degrees and certificates to 134 graduates

Utah State University Blanding is proud to have celebrated its class of 2023 on Friday, April 28. The class of 2023 consists of 134 individuals earning 52 associate, 18 bachelor’s, three master’s degrees and 83 certificates.
“It is truly an exciting occasion to be here with you today—to celebrate the achievements of our graduates in the presence of so many family members and friends,” said Kristian Olsen, associate vice president of USU Blanding.
“Through your accomplishment today, you have shown you can accomplish your dreams. When you decide to do something, you make it happen.”
USU Blanding celebrated graduates with a ceremony at San Juan High School. Olsen welcomed the graduates and Hunter Warren, student body executive vice president, gave a greeting from the student association. Warren graduated with a master’s degree in social work.
Class valedictorian Debra McKee was then introduced as the student speaker. McKee, who graduated Summa Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in social work from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, shared thoughts on perseverance as she made it to the graduation stage.
“We have all overcome extreme obstacles and barriers,” McKee said. “We have felt like quitting at times, but we’ve done it. We made it through a pandemic, we were persistent and dedicated. We were steadfast and even conquered our desires to procrastinate. I love you all and I’m so proud of you for making it here.”
Olsen then introduced the commencement guest speaker, Dustin Jansen, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs. Jansen shared his background as a Navajo and his experience in becoming a judge right out of law school. He spoke about the importance of the relationships people make and how those relationships are a responsibility.
“Being in a relationship is a connection between people, but relationships also bring responsibility and accountability,” Jansen said. “You take care of each other.”
He then went on to share a story about a Special Olympics race he once attended as a spectator. At the start of the race, the participants rushed out of the start line. However, one of the racers fell.
Instead of finishing the race, all the other participants stopped and went back to help their fellow racer. They interlocked arms and finished the race together.
Jansen encouraged the graduates to build relationships and work with others, because ultimately, people need others.
“Sometimes winning means we have to stop and turn around,” Jansen said. “Sometimes it means we pick up a couple of people along the way. Sometimes it means we get there a little slower than we thought.
“But in the end, when we cross that line together, it feels so much better. We are going to continue to need each other.”
USU President Noelle E. Cockett then provided a short message and conferred upon the students their degrees. Once the graduates received their diplomas, Steven L. Palmer, president of the USU Alumni Association, delivered a welcome address.
The ceremony closed with a special presentation from Rich Etchberger, interim vice president and vice provost for Statewide Campuses. Etchberger and Olsen presented President Cockett with a gift from the region, a handcrafted piece of pottery made by Rodney John, a father of one of this year’s Blanding graduates.
This gift symbolizes the region’s gratitude for President Cockett’s support during her seven years as university president.
“I speak for all of us when I say thank you President Cockett for your support of students and USU in San Juan County,” Olsen told President Cockett. “We have truly been blessed by your leadership. You will be missed. President, thank you for all you have done to support USU in the Four Corners area.”
Offering residential campus housing and dining, Utah State University Blanding gives students the personalized attention and small class sizes of a small-town college with the resources of a large university, all while providing award-winning education.
With degree options ranging from associate to doctorate degrees, plus technical education offerings in Business, Technical Trades and Health Professions, USU Blanding offers programs that help fuel local economies and empower individuals and their communities.
Learn more at blanding.usu.edu.

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