SOJC’s 101st commencement highlights grads’ grit and collaboration

Story by Emma Oravecz. Photo by Jack Liu. Video by Ryan Lund. 

In the presence of over 4,000 family members, friends and guests, the UO School of Journalism and Communication graduated its 101st class of students in Matthew Knight Arena on Sunday, June 18. With more than 670 eligible graduates, it was one of the largest classes ever and the first commencement ceremony presided over by Edwin L. Artzt Dean Juan-Carlos Molleda.

The ceremony began with a video tribute — written, shot and produced by several SOJC students — to the unique milestones students of the school have shared over their years in Allen Hall.

Marcia Aaron, BA ’86, served as this year’s keynote speaker. Aaron, who graduated with a degree in journalism, urged students to pursue lifelong learning, to give back to their communities and to be flexible in the face of change.

“You came to Oregon to change your life, to grow and learn, to become critical thinkers and responsible global citizens,” she said. “Life often doesn’t go as we had planned, and if you have gained nothing during your time at the U of O, I hope you have developed grit.”

Aaron, who had an illustrious 17-year career on Wall Street, eventually helped found KIPP LA, an organization based in Los Angeles that focuses on providing accessible education to low-income students through nine free, public charter schools. Her dedication to equality in education was a theme throughout her address.

“I want to honor your accomplishments, your hard work and your perseverance,” she said, “as only 34 percent of adults in our country have college degrees — something that I believe is far too low and leads to some of the challenges our country is facing today.”

Advertising major James McAndrew represented the class of 2017 as the student speaker.

“As we embark on our next journeys, it is imperative that we go into our fields the way we came into the SOJC: together,” he said in his speech. “As we go off into our next steps of life, it is important to continuously work together and be collaborative to make the changes we want to see in the world.”

McAndrew served as the director and media planner for Ad Team and has also been involved with ETHOS magazine and Ad Society.

Assistant Professor Brent Walth was also honored at the ceremony with the Jonathan Marshall Award for Innovative Teaching in Journalism and Communication. Lead by former SOJC dean Duncan McDonald, a panel of emeritus professors selected Walth for the prestigious award, stating that, “Brent works tirelessly to guide young writers through the steps of story and narrative development, instilling in them the highest level of ethics in crafting deep, careful reporting.”

In addition to the commencement ceremony, the SOJC also held its annual honors and awards ceremony on June 18 to recognize the academic and creative excellence of the the school’s top students. SOJC faculty presented awards from each undergraduate area as well as awards for graduate students, Latin Honors students and SOJC honors students. This ceremony was also the site of the annual induction into the journalism honors society, Kappa Tau Alpha. Two of the most anticipated awards of the day were the Phyllis Van Kimmell Bell Leadership Award, which went to PR major Maritza Rendon, and the Janice E. Rianda Outstanding Student Award, which was presented to journalism major Erin Hampton.

“After a year of skill building in the classroom, experiential learning in the field and networking at home, around the nation and across the world, our graduates are now joining a prestigious group of alumni who are shaping the future of the advertising, journalism,media studies and public relations industries,” said Molleda. “I have no doubt that, like so many Ducks before them, they will succeed in their professions and, even more important, make positive changes in the world.”

Emma Oravecz is an applied folklorist working as the SOJC’s events manager. She is also a documentary filmmaker and the owner of the photography company Hixie & Co.

Jack Liu is the University of Oregon’s event photographer.

Ryan Lund is a senior double-majoring in cinema studies and journalism, with a minor in business administration. This is his first year as a digital content creator, with a specialization in videography and video editing, for the SOJC Communications office. He has also worked extensively with the Science and Memory project. Follow Ryan on Instagram and Twitter @RynoLund, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at NorthFern Productions.