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Robert Boos
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Metropolitan State University celebrates 102nd commencement

May 9, 2018


Saint Paul, Minn.— A classmate’s enthusiastic appeal to Metropolitan State University students to seize upon their success and to “make the best out of your struggles” brought the audience of 2,000 to its feet as student Kossi Ayigah addressed the graduating class.

“Many of you sitting here have a story to tell. Throughout our educational journey, we have all overcome many obstacles and life challenges, but we made it,” Ayigah said.

Approximately 1,058 students received their bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees this semester, with 785 students participating in Metropolitan State University’s 102nd commencement exercises Saturday, April 28, 2018, at the Minneapolis Convention Center. To accommodate Metropolitan State’s growing student body, the spring commencement ceremony took place as two programs. The ceremony was live-streamed and is archived for viewing at

From French-speaking Togo, Ayigah came to the United States in 2013. As a non-native English speaker, he struggled through his classes at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Speaking up in class was impossible, raising his hand was a “no-no.” He had to search the dictionary for words to understand the context of his reading assignments; it took him nearly three hours to get through five pages. He had yet to learn that growth requires patience. Ayigah’s scholarly pursuits demanded even more from him when he transferred to Metropolitan State University in December 2016.

“Along my educational road, life got harder. But regardless of my struggles and what was happening around me, I refused to be discouraged. I woke up every day with my head up, my chest out, a smile on my face, and I made sure that I took advantage of every opportunity,” Ayigah told the graduates from the College of Liberal Arts, College of Management, College of Sciences, and the School of Urban Education. His speech can be viewed at this URL:

Ayigah graduates with his bachelor’s degree in accounting, having won a scholarship from the American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants along the way. He is a recipient of the President’s Outstanding Student award, representing the College of Management.

As the ceremonies opened, President Virginia Arthur addressed the graduates with the promise that their preparation at Metropolitan State University has equipped them to become leaders, both in their careers and in their communities. She reminded them that, under Metropolitan State’s unofficial credo as the “University without barriers,” learning and pursuing a degree is possible in spite of obstacles, and education extends beyond a student’s life spent in the classroom.

“As one alumnus recently put it,” Arthur said, “We allow students to find their own passion and purpose and help them become lifelong learners, taking responsibility for the direction of their programs of study, and encouraging their active engagement in their community.”

Metropolitan State University first admitted students in 1972. To date, 46,115 students have graduated over its 47 years as a higher education institution. At its founding, there were few options for students who did not fit the traditional mold: recent high school graduates seeking a residential experience. The founders were determined that Metropolitan State should be a “college for those who have no college,” and that it would honor the knowledge that learners brought with them to the University.  Metropolitan State now enrolls approximately 11,500 students and has a national reputation for innovative programs that empower students.

“Presidents often wish they had a crystal ball to see into the future. But as I stand before you today, and look into your faces, I can see the future—and I see that it is a bright and promising one,” President Arthur said.

Aaryka Pederson, President’s Outstanding Student award finalist, delivered the afternoon address to the graduates from the College of Community Studies and Public Affairs, the College of Individualized Studies, and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Her speech can be viewed at this URL:

“When you meet a challenge in life, think back to how you persevered while earning your degree and you pulled yourself through. Be proud of yourself and of what you have accomplished,” Pederson said. She graduates with summa cum laude honors, with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

“You have already shown how strong you can be by making it here today, and I know that that strength will flow into the rest of your lives, to help empower you to do great things,” Student Senate President Heather Moenck said, addressing the graduating classes. “Whether you are going into a new career, graduate school, or just opening up a new chapter of your life, you are influential and powerful. Going forward, do phenomenal things, challenge opinions and create a positive change in the world.” Her speech can be viewed at this URL:

Outstanding Student honorees recognized at commencement are: Kossi Ayigah, College of Management; Stacy Buschmann-Ford, College of Nursing and Health Sciences; Christopher Sugden, College of Liberal Arts; Cynthia Yoder, College of Sciences; Genevieve Calvillo, College of Individualized Studies; Jennifer Cannon, College of Liberal Arts; Raelene Caswell, College of Community Studies and Public Affairs; Rodrigo J. Sanchez, School of Urban Education; Tess Spence-Sing, College of Community Studies and Public Affairs; Jessica Stewart, College of Nursing and Health Sciences; and Taskin Hague, College of Management.

Other commencement participants included:

  • Amy Gort, provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs
  • Cheryl Tefer, trustee, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees
  • Michael O’Connor, president of the Metropolitan State University Alumni Board
  • August Hoffman, president of the Inter-Faculty Organization
  • Kristine Hansen, director of Alumni Relations