Graduating students and their families celebrated the culmination of their education at Wright State University May 4 at the 2019 spring commencement ceremony at the Wright State Nutter Center.
Wright State University President Cheryl B. Schrader addressed the class by focusing on many of the graduates’ achievements in the last year.
“Class of 2019, each of you has left your own unique mark on our Wright State family and community,” said Schrader.
Schrader shared unique stories of achievement from three standout graduates and praised students from the university’s Model UN team and athletics teams, among others, for their extraordinary accomplishments.
Wright State also awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to Amanda Wright Lane, great grandniece of Wilbur and Orville Wright and an enthusiastic supporter of the university. Read more about Wright Lane.
“My message to you today is this is a launch from the family that got you here, whether it was your biological family, your community family, your Wright State family,” Wright Lane said. “…This is the day you begin to discover your future family, to meet the individuals who will continue to support your dreams, and if they are worth their salt, the folks that will challenge your dreams as well.”
In her address Wright Lane spoke at length about her great granduncles Orville and Wilbur Wright.
“Earlier I mentioned that Uncles Orv and Will knew you,” Wright Lane said. “They were always looking at the horizon when they flew, they always saw promise in what was ahead. Uncle Will stated, ‘We have seen the future, and it is magnificent … only let us hurry and open all roads.’ He saw you. The Wright brothers saw you. They saw the boundaries you will break with an avalanche of ideas that you haven’t even had yet.”
Graduates hail from 63 Ohio counties, including 1,913 from the 16 counties anchored by Wright State’s Dayton and Lake campuses. Graduates come from 27 total states. The class includes 146 international students from 34 nations, with India boasting the largest number of foreign graduates with 55. A majority of graduates, 1,118, are women. Graduating students range in age from 19 to 70.
Graduates by college:
- College of Education and Human Services: 372
- College of Engineering and Computer Science: 410
- College of Liberal Arts: 487
- College of Nursing and Health: 110
- College of Science and Mathematics: 311
- Raj Soin College of Business: 314
- Boonshoft School of Medicine: 31 (master’s degree only)
The Lake Campus held its commencement ceremony on May 2 at Romer’s Catering in Celina. One hundred seventy-seven degrees were conferred upon the Lake Campus class of 2019, with 75 participants. The Lake Campus ceremony recognized students completing Lake Campus programs of study and the programs of study authorized by the Ohio Department of Education to be offered at Lake Campus.
Meet three graduating students who shined during their time at Wright State:
As a freshman, Katelyn Howard was inspired to pursue a career as a physical therapist when her health professor said: “Any area in the medical field is about teaching people to live better lives.”
As a sports science major, Howard interned with and was hired full-time at Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, which provides free exercise, nutritional guidance and fellowship to cancer patients.
Most of her patients see a drastic increase in strength and endurance after only three months of exercising. That coupled with mental and emotional support sends their confidence soaring, she said.
“Exercise is medicine,” she said. “Physically we’re there to help them get stronger, regain their balance, regain their strength and mobility. But mentally and emotionally is where it goes deeper.”
Howard also interned at the NeuroRehab and Balance Center at Southview Medical Center, working with stroke, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s patients. She spent a lot of time in the Wright State Physicians Building, where many athletic training classes are held, and researched arthritis of the knees, exploring how exercise can improve range of motion.
“I learned how important physical therapy is in managing illnesses or doing rehabilitation after a surgical procedure and prehabilitation before a procedure,” she said. “I learned how important the work is in serving the community. The need for it is so high.”
She has also taken advantage of opportunities to pursue leadership roles at Wright State. Howard was an honors student, served as president of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board in the College of Education and Human Services and the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and was director of philanthropy for the ’67 Society. She also played co-ed basketball and other intramural sports and was a campus tour guide for two years.
“Acting as the face and voice of the university was a really great experience,” she said.
After graduation, Howard plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy.
‘I am a warrior’
Nerissa Jheanele, a theatre studies major who has cerebral palsy, has created a dazzling array of work during her time at Wright State. She has written a play that was produced as a staged reading, conceived a dance piece, created a movie script and written the book and lyrics for a musical.
Stuart McDowell, professor and artistic director of the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures, said Jheanele has created a body of work unlike any other he has seen in his two dozen years as teacher and administrator.
“In each of these creations — a play, a dance, a movie, a musical — this remarkable young lady has found a voice that is both insightful and profound,” said McDowell. “It’s a voice that speaks to us, to challenge us, to bring us to a greater understanding of something that is beyond the experience of most of us. It goes to the heart of what creative expression should be — something quite extraordinary.”
Jheanele hopes to pursue a career as an actor and entertainer.
Her autobiographical drama, “I Am A Warrior,” was staged as a reading in the fall of 2017. The following spring, she created a dance piece, “Becoming a Skyscraper Again,” which was brought to life by senior dance major Halle Augenstein. The dance was turned into a video by motion pictures major Jeff Gardina.
Jheanele collaborated with theatre studies major Monica Impson on Jheanele’s original musical “The Purpose of a Warrior Princess,” which received a staged reading in the Directing Lab in the Creative Arts Center.
In “I Am A Warrior,” Jheanele created the character of Nunu, a 22-year-old woman with cerebral palsy who is unflagging in her quest to discover who she is and where she came from. In the final scene, Nunu says to the audience: “I overcame a lot and I know why God has given me a place on this earth, to give each of you this message: No matter what, you can overcome obstacles and challenges. I am living proof of that. I am a warrior.”
Brody Beaver, a mass communication major, is determined to become an Air Force pilot.
He enlisted in the Air Force helping flight crews with logistics, earned his private pilot’s license, has written articles on aviation history and even has his own photography business using drones.
“I’m continuing to set myself up for success to be a pilot for the Air Force — my childhood dream,” he said.
A first-generation college graduate, Beaver is glad he attended Wright State. “Wright State and the Dayton area have been instrumental in my education and passion for aviation, especially the Special Collections and Archives, Wright Brother photos/items around campus, the Air Force museum and the C-17s flying over the university,” he said.
While his dream is to become an Air Force pilot, Beaver believes having a mass communication degree is beneficial to becoming a leader and officer.
“I think being a mass communication major has enabled me to relate to people and better understand where people come from, especially when it comes to their backgrounds and effectively communicating with everyone,” he said.
Beaver says Wright State has set him up for success in communication. “My professors have been very caring, and it’s genuine. They really care about my success,” he said. “They are the ones referring me to the right people for these job opportunities. And they are the right mentors to help guide me. It’s great to have that support system.”
Beaver worked with Wright State’s Special Collections and Archives, writing articles about artifacts found in the archives. “We have the largest Wright brothers collection in the world,” he said. “I would love for people to just check it out. When you’re an aviation junkie, you pretty much live in the archives.”
Beaver also volunteered at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, helping teach children the basics of flying in a flight simulator. After earning his commercial drone license, he started his own business called Just Drone It, taking aerial photos and videos for real estate agents’ listings and for weddings and other family functions.
After graduation, he plans to further his career in the Air Force and will apply for pilot positions. He hopes to fly C-17 transport aircraft at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base or KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft out of Columbus.