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CUNY SPS Hosts Joyous In-Person Tribute to Class of 2022
Classes of 2020 and 2021 Are Also Honored at First In-Person Commencement since 2019; Graduates Celebrate with Their Families
The CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) celebrated the Class of 2022 with a moving, occasionally tearful, and jubilant Commencement ceremony held on June 1 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens. Students from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 were also honored in this first in-person graduation since 2019, which was also livestreamed on YouTube.
As students, faculty, staff, and friends and families converged, the day’s energy was exuberant and emotional. Hosted by S. Brian Jones, an MA in Applied Theatre alum, the ceremony kicked off with a performance of the national anthem by Katherine Swede-Taillon, who was graduating from the MA in Museum Studies program. This was followed by speeches, both live and prerecorded, from CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Interim Dean Jorge Silva-Puras, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs George Otte, and families and friends of the graduates. In a main highlight, new graduate John Prince delivered the keynote address.
With 1189 graduates, the Class of 2022 stood out as the School’s largest graduating class ever, a remarkable statistic that offers a testament to the dedication and resilience of so many college, graduate, and certificate students who completed, and in many cases also started, their programs during a global pandemic. Adding to these exciting numbers, over 400 undergraduates from the Class of 2022 were also granted academic honors, with more than 200 of those earning summa cum laude, the highest honors.
Throughout the ceremony, speakers focused on the impact COVID had on CUNY SPS students and how they overcame this challenge to reach the finish line.
Interim Dean Silva-Puras delivered a spirited address to the graduates. “Today we honor the new you…The one that has achieved so much. The one that forged ahead to get your degree in the midst of—and in spite of—these seemingly insurmountable trials. The one that has taken to heart the realization that we must seize the day, every day.” He continued, “And today, I give you this charge…To take your new self—and your new degree—and all the vision, talent, wisdom, and experience that you have honed over the past couple of years to help make the world a better place.”
John Prince, who graduated magna cum laude with a BA in psychology, shared his story about the many ups and downs that led him back to college and to his current work running Breaking the Cycle NYC, a non-profit organization focused on young boys between the ages of 12 and 17 from at-risk communities.
Throughout his remarks, Prince noted that underlying all his success—and that of all graduates celebrating this big day—was perseverance.
“It would have been easy to give up when the world was in chaos and confusion, but you kept going. All the long nights of studying, writing papers, doing research, and having to respond to all those discussion board posts finally paid off,” Prince reflected. “I say all this to remind you that you are no regular graduate. You are the chosen few who should never forget the perseverance and sacrifice it took to reach your goals, so please give yourselves a round of applause.”
Prince concluded his words with a stirring call to his fellow graduates. “Twenty years from now, I want to hear about my fellow classmates going on to be engineers, scientists, supreme court judges, billion-dollar business owners, and even presidents of the United States…So let's make this SPS graduating class of 2022 prolific and legendary, so much to the point people will have no choice but to wonder what was so special about us. If we can accomplish such a feat despite the adversities of the last two years, that means we can do anything we set our minds to.”
Graduates Mark Big Day with Family and Friends
Surrounded by family and friends, graduates at the 2022 Commencement also had a chance to reflect back upon their accomplishments at CUNY SPS and plan for the future ahead.
Tiffany Fosmire-Mathias, who received her BA in human relations, attended the event with her husband, children, and grandson, with other family and friends watching online from as far away as Alaska, South Carolina, Florida, and California.
For Fosmire-Mathias, a writer, entrepreneur, and business professional, the day marked a period of professional growth.
In 2020, Fosmire-Mathias decided to go back to college when her work scheduled changed, choosing CUNY SPS’s online human relations program since she knew she wanted to work with people.
While completing her coursework, Fosmire-Mathias also made time to connect with other CUNY SPS students and share her expertise. At the 2022 Student Leadership Conference and the Entrepreneurial Thought & Engagement Conference, she led workshops and spoke about her nonprofit experience, including her efforts to start The Phoenix Center for Youth Development, a program that provides underserved youth with life skills and social development workshops. She also found time separately to contribute to two women's anthologies, and is currently touring with her writing group to promote their books.
As Fosmire-Mathias observed, her CUNY SPS degree is one step in her efforts to make a difference in the world. “I want to use my skills and the knowledge I gained here at SPS to help others. I want to heal my hurts and break trauma bonds,” she shared.
It is this goal that gives her graduation day an even deeper resonance. “I look forward to my daughter showing [my grandson] my name on the big screen as I walk across the stage. I am a 1st generation graduate,” said Fosmire-Mathias. “As I said, I am here to heal and break generational curses. I want him to see, to know, that he can be anything he wants to be and it's never too late to pursue your dreams and make them your reality.”
For Bryan Burgos, who earned a BS in business, the CUNY SPS 2022 Commencement will always be remembered as the place where he celebrated his passage from student to graduate—and also where he got engaged.
Burgos, who is planning to pursue a master’s degree in business management, decided to propose to his girlfriend of three years, Xiomy Rodriguez, after the ceremony.
“What inspired me to propose to my girlfriend this day is that I had my family come together for this special moment,” said Burgos. “I wanted to make it more memorable and share this special moment of mine and make it ours.”
To time the proposal perfectly, Burgos coordinated it around his family. “At the end of the ceremony, I told my family I wanted to give a speech to them where I thanked them for the support and help I have received all these years from them. Xiomy was recording it because she had no idea what was about to happen,” he explained. “When I told [my family] that this is a very special moment for me but I wanted to make it even more special, that’s when I got on one knee and asked Xiomy if she wanted to be with me for the rest of our lives. She was speechless, shaking, and started crying right away and came to hug me.”
The happy couple, pictured above with their 19-month-old son Bryan Santiago Burgos, are already planning the date for their wedding.
“We talked about it and will probably do our civil wedding in the next couple of months,” Burgos noted. “For our religious wedding, we will hopefully do it in Ecuador where I’m from, or Venezuela, where she is from, so that we will have all our family with us.”
About the CUNY School of Professional Studies
As New York’s leader in online education since 2006, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) offers the most online bachelor’s and master’s degree options at the City University of New York, and serves as the University’s only undergraduate all-transfer college. With 24 degrees and numerous other non-degree and grant-funded workplace learning programs, CUNY SPS meets the needs of adults who wish to finish a bachelor’s degree, progress from an associate’s degree, earn a master’s degree or certificate in a specialized field, and advance in the workplace or change careers. Consistently ranked highly by U.S. News & World Report for its online offerings, and noted for its soaring growth and enrollment, CUNY SPS has emerged as a nationwide leader in online education. The School’s renowned and affordable online programs—which offer in-state tuition to all students regardless of where they live—ensure that busy working adults may fulfill their educational goals on their own time and schedule.
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