Celebrating 2020 and 2021 Graduates in One Weekend
Otterbein held five Commencement ceremonies to honor both the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on May 1 and 2. The weekend was a delayed celebration for the Class of 2020, 96.1% of whom were employed, enrolled in graduate school, or serving in the military within six months of graduation. For the Class of 2021, it marked the end of a difficult year full of obstacles they successfully overcame.
The decision to hold a ceremony for the Class of 2020 was an easy one. “The Class of 2020 was surveyed regarding an in-person or virtual commencement. Overwhelmingly, the class supported an in-person experience. Students wanted this special opportunity for family to see them walk across the stage and be recognized for their individual accomplishments,” said Steve Crawford, executive director of alumni and family engagement.
By Madelyn Nelson ’23
More than 750 graduates from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 crossed the stage in Memorial Stadium on May 1 and 2. President John Comerford (pictured) presided over the five ceremonies.
The celebration kicked off with annual events leading up to the weekend, including Lavender Graduation to honor LGBTQIA+ students and allies, Noble Transitions to celebrate multicultural students, and the Baccalaureate Ceremony, an opportunity for spiritual reflection before commencement. All of these ceremonies are available online at Otterbein Commencement Recap.
The graduate and undergraduate students of the Class of 2020 and the graduate students of the Class of 2021 were celebrated at two ceremonies on May 1. The undergraduates of the Class of 2021 were honored at three ceremonies on May 2.
With Memorial Stadium open at 30% capacity, each graduate received four tickets for immediate family to watch the ceremony in person, seated in pods with social distancing and facial coverings. All friends and family were invited to watch the special day via a livestream.
The weekend closed a chapter for the Class of 2020 and gave them the proper, formal Otterbein farewell that they deserve — a day that was a whole year in the making finally came to life.
After a year of challenges, the Class of 2021 celebrated the culmination of their time at Otterbein. They persisted through guidelines, adjusted to online formats, and took the monumental steps across the graduation stage. Now, diploma in hand, they are ready to take on the world.
The 2021 Undergrad Student Speakers
“The pandemic does not define our college experience; we have spent the last four years joining and leading sports teams, clubs, and other organizations while using our various skills to make a difference. We helped pave the way for future student leaders while also being molded into the ones we are today; we asked questions and we demanded change.”
Psychology and criminology and justice studies major Angel Banks has been a student leader and strong advocate for issues of social justice and racial equality, serving as vice president of Student Government and president of the African American Student Union. Her ideal work is “building equitable and sustainable environments where people of minoritized backgrounds feel safe and are set up to succeed in life.
“Otterbein has given me such a strong foundation in every aspect of my life that I know I will only continue to grow and be a lifelong learner. It has given me a clear path to my dream career; has made me critically think not only in my classes but in my everyday life; has given me a support system that I will take with me after college; and has given me an opportunity to meet people who are different than myself and challenge my current beliefs.”
Biochemistry and molecular biology (pre-med) major Gabby McGeorge will be attending medical school to pursue a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon. On campus, she was president of the CardinalCorps Leaders, a group of students who excel academically and in service to others.
“I am not here to tell you that with hard work and dedication you can accomplish even the most unimaginable dream you may have. I am here to prove it to you. We have grown a lot and we will continue to grow. We will continue to take opportunities, but now we will also be able to create opportunities.”
Spanish and Latin American studies major Alex Natividad will be teaching Spanish in Columbus City Schools after graduation. His career hopes include, “being the best teacher in the world.” He wants to know his students as human beings and help them to find or create their own paths towards their goals.
GRADUATES BY THE NUMBERS
Inspiring Graduates of 2020 and 2021
“I started the Black Student-Athlete Union for the purpose of bringing support and security of the valuable experience Black student athletes have in this community now and in the future. I wanted to build an allyship in sustaining an inclusive athletic environment that takes contribution from all involved with Otterbein athletics.”
Phanawn Bailey ’21
Finance major Phanawn Bailey played midfield for the men’s lacrosse team for four years. He used his position as a student-athlete to advance equality on campus.
“My most valuable experience has been the time spent with knowledgeable, compassionate, and dedicated nursing professionals. My graduating peers and the Otterbein faculty have not only supported my education and learning, but have become treasured members of my family.”
Francesca Bryan-Couch DNP’21
Dr. Francesca Bryan-Couch is a care coordination chief for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her Doctor of Nursing Practice project was titled, Evaluating VA Nurse Acceptance of Virtual Healthcare Technology during the Coronavirus Outbreak.
“I’m excited to finally cross that stage, especially as the first woman in my family to do so. I’m thankful to Otterbein for not giving up on seeing graduation through for the class of 2020.”
Kaitlyn Brooks ’20
Despite the upended job market due to the pandemic, Kaitlyn Brooks turned an internship at TMH Solutions, LLC, into a full-time job after graduating in May 2020 with bachelor’s degrees in marketing and business administration and management. She served as a student trustee on Otterbein’s Board of Trustees, and she’s already giving back to her alma mater as a member of the Young Alumni Board.
“I chose to continue my education at Otterbein because they offered the 4+1 program for accountants. This allowed me to get my undergraduate degree in four years, then complete
my CPA exams and MBA in the following year. I was able to earn all three of the designations I wanted in my career in just five years because of the opportunities at Otterbein.”
Nick Hassinger ’20, MBA’21
Nick Hassinger is a back-to-back graduate, earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2020 and his master’s degree in 2021.
“Being a nursing major and growing up in a family full of healthcare workers, I wanted to shed light on what they were doing [during the pandemic]. With the virus, it was so much more than ordinary care, and being outside looking in, I didn’t feel that frontline workers had a voice. Writing Frontline was my attempt in giving them that voice.”
Devin Henry ’21
Nursing major Devin Henry wrote an original song to honor frontline workers fighting the pandemic. He aspires to work in a critical care unit with hopes of one day becoming a pediatric nurse anesthetist.
Class of 2020 Student speaker
“Amidst so many unknowns in the past year, I am beyond grateful that the Class of 2020 is being honored this May. While this might not be the graduation we expected, I am so excited that my classmates and I have been given the opportunity to return to Otterbein to celebrate together. I think this is the perfect example of Otterbein’s dedication to students and alumni.”
Biology alumna Katie Exline is enrolled in The Ohio State University College of Optometry where she serves as the president of her optometry class.
Where are They Now?
Class of 2020 student speaker finalists are making their mark.
Maya Venkataraman ’20 is currently taking part in the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education’s online master’s degree in teaching with a concentration in K-12 English education. She hopes to teach English education in international high schools, primarily in Southeast Asia and Europe. She graduated with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and English creative writing.
Mina Zaky ’20 is currently enrolled in The Ohio State University Mortiz College of Law. He graduated from Otterbein with bachelor’s degrees in sociology and criminology and justice studies.
Mathematics alumnus Dakota (DJ) Brown ’20 turned an internship into a job at Grange Insurance, where he now works as an actuarial analyst. He is pursuing an Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS) designation.
Philosophy alumnus John Posey ’20 is currently on active duty with the National Guard, serving in central Ohio.
Learn more about his story >>
Madelyn Nelson ’23 is a public relations major from Coshocton, OH. She is involved with the Student Alumni Board, Host and Tour Program, and Sigma Alpha Tau. She is an intern in Otterbein’s Office of Marketing and Communications.
Class of 2020
Undergraduate and Graduate Commencement
Class of 2021
Undergraduate Commencement ceremony 2
Class of 2021
Class of 2021
Undergraduate Commencement ceremony 3
Class of 2021
Undergraduate Commencement ceremony 1