UConn’s Neag School of Education held its undergraduate commencement ceremony at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday morning, celebrating 158 Bachelor of Science graduates from its Sport Management and Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Teacher Education programs.
A day filled with sunshine and joy began with a beloved Neag School tradition: the procession of graduates down Glenbrook Road from the Gentry Building to the Jorgensen, led by UConn’s mascot Jonathan the XIV. Once inside the auditorium, the Class of 2023 was greeted by cheers and applause from hundreds of family, friends, and other guests. The Neag School of Education banner was presented and placed onstage by Katherine Sheridan, the class’ representative. Lead Marshal Megan Staples, associate professor of mathematics education, then opened the commencement ceremony before welcoming Dean Jason G. Irizarry to the podium.
“What a journey it has been for all of you,” Irizarry said to the Class of 2023. “None of us could have imagined, in the Fall of 2019, what your undergraduate years would entail. You have persevered through a global pandemic, online and hybrid learning, and emerged as stronger, more compassionate individuals. Through it all, you have continued to pursue your dreams with enthusiasm and vigor and never given up hope for a brighter future. I am in awe of your resilience and could not be prouder of every single one of you.”
This year’s commencement speaker was Amanda Slavin ’08 (ED), ’09 MA, co-founder of CatalystCreativ/CatalystU, a creative agency that empowers brand success by forging deep audience engagement. Slavin’s work has merited Cannes Lion Awards, and the business of such clients as Google, the New York City Ballet, NPR, the Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL, and more.
“Whatever profession you get into, whether it’s as an educator, sports manager, entrepreneur, marketer, salesperson, or creative director, you will be set up for success because of your Neag degree,” Slavin said to the graduates. “You have the ability to shape the minds of the next generation, to drive innovation, and to leave a lasting impact. It is a profound responsibility and a remarkable privilege.”
Slavin is a marketing strategist fostering impactful engagement with innovative brands. She does this by using her well-tested proprietary method for quantifying and scaling engagement for employees and customers, which was adapted from her thesis work at the Neag School. Known as the Seventh Level Engagement Framework, it has been released as a book, quickly becoming an Amazon bestseller in multiple categories.
“Amanda is an exemplary model of educational innovation, creative thinking, and community engagement,” Irizarry said.
Another beloved Neag School commencement tradition is a performance by the graduating music education students. This year, 14 graduates performed an arrangement of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, prompting the entire room to stand up and dance.
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Anne D’Alleva was in attendance to congratulate the graduates and confer the Bachelor of Science degrees.
Irizarry closed the ceremony by honoring the late Carole Neag, benefactor of the School who died April 16. Neag and her husband Ray are among the most prominent figures in UConn’s history. In 1999, they donated $21 million to the School of Education. At the time, it was the largest gift UConn had ever received and the University renamed the School in their honor.
“The Neags believed fervently in the transformative potential of education and leveraged their resources to create opportunities for others,” Irizarry said before asking the audience to join him in a moment of silence in Carole’s memory. “Carole’s legacy lives on in all of our graduates here today. I could not be prouder of the work you will go on to do to live out her and Ray’s vision.”
The UConn Neag School of Education commencement ceremony was also livestreamed and is still available for viewing.