Ninety-eight students received their masters degrees and oak saplings at Elon University’s graduate commencement ceremony May 17. 

Held in Alumni Gym, the commencement ceremony recognized graduates of Elon’s six graduate programs — masters of science in accounting and in business analytics, master of business administration, masters of arts in interactive media and higher education and master of education. 

Jason Smith, who received his Master in Business Administration at the ceremony, delivered the message of appreciation. Smith urged students to take pride in the degrees they earned and the work they have done to get there.

“This day marks tremendous accomplishments, given that few Americans obtain a graduate degree,” Smith said. “Each one of you is a high achiever and high performer.”

The commencement speaker for the ceremony was David Young, an Alamance County native and the CEO of a global education organization based in Chapel Hill called Participate Learning

In his speech, Young reflected on summers spent working at Elon while growing up nearby. Now, Young continues to be involved on campus by serving on the board of the Jo Watts Williams School of Education. 

“Elon showed me the world. It showed me the power of community of kindness, engagement, and empathy,” Young said.

As a CEO who frequently reviews job applicants, Young said the value of a graduate degree from Elon is impressive to employers. 

“Elon is, and has always been, committed to lifelong learning and has provided you with everything you need to be a continuous and curious learner for decades to come,” Young said. “When I look out at you, that's what I see. Dozens and dozens of future leaders ready to enter the world and make a positive impact.”

Graduate student Aleah King received her Master in Business Administration. King said the program was more challenging than her undergraduate experience and she feels proud to have completed her degree.

“I feel amazing,” King said. “I feel relieved and like a load has been lifted off my shoulders. It’s been a long two years and I’m really excited.”

Graduate student John Bowen received his Master of Science in Business Analytics and said the ceremony recognized all the work students put in to get to this day.

“It’s such an accomplishment. I feel so proud of myself, I feel so proud of everyone here who worked so hard,” Bowen said. “We’ve given countless hours, sacrifices. It’s just so great to see the culmination of it all.”