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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Graduates of Rivier University in Nashua urged to use new skills to globalize New Hampshire

LOWELL, Mass. – Saturday was a day of firsts for a school almost eight decades old.

Rivier University graduated its first class since the transition from college to university status, and also celebrated new programs and teaching methods during its commencement ceremonies. ...

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LOWELL, Mass. – Saturday was a day of firsts for a school almost eight decades old.

Rivier University graduated its first class since the transition from college to university status, and also celebrated new programs and teaching methods during its commencement ceremonies.

Aside from three honorary doctorates, one of which was presented to Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, Rivier saw its first doctoral candidates since gaining university

Donna Straight, Nancy Keane and Kathleen Burnham received their degrees before a large crowd at the Tsongas Center, each graduating with an Ed.D. in leadership and learning.

Straight, of Hudson, N.H., a Rivier College graduate with two prior master’s degrees, returned to New Hampshire from her position as director of special education for the Battle Creek School District in Michigan to take part in the school’s Ed.D. program.

She said she was proud to take part in the university’s new cohort program, citing the cohesion that the model of teaching provided for her and her classmates and the work of Dr. John Gleason as the catalysts for success.

“He has provided a great amount of support for those in the doctoral program,” Straight said. “His presentation during the classes really has a way of shifting your paradigm or way of thinking. He really opens your mind.”

Prior to graduation and submitting her dissertation, Straight said she moved back to Michigan, which showed some of the changes that came about from Rivier’s transition from college to university, including the progression of technology as part of the learning environment.

Along with the general progression of new teaching and meeting methods, Straight said her professors were willing to meet with her via Skype while she was in Michigan to help her complete the program.

“It just showed forward thinking,” Straight said.

Straight said she was pleased with the doors that will be opened in her field by having a doctorate.

“Particularly in the field of education, to become a superintendent, there is definitely a preference for those who have a doctorate,” Straight said.

Straight said her best tip would be for people to continue learning even after they complete their time at Rivier.

“You can only benefit from increased learning opportunities, and they can only benefit your students,” Straight said.

“Once you get in those classrooms and see those little faces, it becomes real and you have to start to put into practice what you learned,” said Straight, recalling her first foray into the working world after her first graduation from Rivier. “You gain an awareness that your students are individuals.”

Even though it was her third time walking across the stage at Rivier, Straight said she still has the same amount of excitement as the first.

Chloe Landon, 22, of Strafford, Vt., who earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology, said graduation marked a bittersweet time in her life.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Landon said, adding that Rivier has “become my home, and the faculty and staff have become my family.”

Landon said she hasn’t noticed many physical changes at Rivier since it became a university, but she said the campus has a different feel.

“I think it now has a better sense of itself. Now every student on campus knows ‘Transforming hearts and minds to serve the world,’ ” said Landon, citing the university’s mission statement.

Along with the college’s heightened awareness of self, Landon said she has gained her own personal awareness.

“The best tool that the university has given me would be awareness,” Landon said. “Awareness of myself, my surroundings, and of what I can do and those around me can do.”

The commencement speaker, Dr. Philip G. Altbach, director for the Boston College Center for International Higher Education, also received an honorary degree. He urged the graduates to do more than they were aware of to enable a global education initiative.

“Because the great university systems of the 21st century will be those that have a global initiative,” Altbach said.

Altbach’s address consisted of the definition of two terms. The two points, globalization and internationalization, constitute a part of what Rivier strives to achieve as a university and what Altbach believes will bring success in a globalized world.

“This institution and we as individuals must also have an international sensibility,” he said. “We must keep an open mind. We must understand different cultures. Sometimes we have those international sensibilities, and sometimes we don’t.”

Altbach urged the graduates to think about how they could use “international knowledge” in order to succeed in what Altbach called “a vision for our own key development in an increasingly, and I would say exciting, globalized world.”

Altbach then posed one last academic challenge before the ceremonies proceeded to the conferring of degrees.

Altbach urged Rivier to continue on the path to globalization and internationalization.

“That is the challenge for this school, for you and for your families,” he said.

William Wrobel can be reached at 594-6589 or at wwrobel@nashua Also, follow Wrobel on Twitter (@Telegraph_WillW).