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Congratulations, graduates!

In what has become a December tradition, Washington State University Vancouver celebrated the 27th annual winter graduation party and recognized the newest group of WSU Vancouver alumni. On Dec. 16, faculty, staff, families and graduates gathered in the Firstenburg Student Commons to toast the outgoing class of 2016.

ASWSUV Vice President Samy Reel opened the party by congratulating the graduates. “You’ve fought long, you’ve fought hard. Tears were shed and laughs were shared. But congrats! You did it!” She then introduced the first speaker of the evening, Chancellor Mel Netzhammer.

Netzhammer began his speech with a moment of silence for former student Mike White who passed away just days before receiving his degree. (A public celebration of White’s life is planned for Jan. 19; please contact the Office of Student Involvement for more information.) Following the tribute, Netzhammer congratulated the graduates and shared a few words of encouragement before introducing Washington State University’s President Kirk Schulz.

For the first time in university history, the president of WSU gave a speech to Vancouver graduates. Schulz stressed the importance of two things: travel and continued commitment to WSU. “Traveling is the best way to educate yourself and learn how the world works,” Schulz said.

He continued by welcoming the winter graduates to join the 13,000 alumni living in the area and encouraged them to stay involved with the WSU community. The president emphasized that financial involvement is not the only way to stay in touch as an alumnus. Volunteering and attending events also shows support for students and the university, Schulz said, and is equally as important as financial support.

The final speaker of the evening was Max Ault, an alumnus and vice president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council. He told those assembled that success after college should amount to more than just a good paying job. “WSUV graduates should go out into their community and never forget where they started,” Ault said. Like Schulz, Ault emphasized that money is not the only way to stay involved. As graduates become community leaders they should hire WSU Vancouver students as interns, spread volunteer and job opportunities through the resources available on campus and if they can, then send a check to the school, according to Ault.

The event closed with refreshments, a few tears, and hugs among the new alumni, their family and friends.

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