Wichita State University holds first regular spring commencement ceremony since 2019


Mia Hennen

Graduate Kayla Knoll smiles at her fellow graduates while waiting to walk across the stage to receive a diploma.

For some, college graduation is the final stage one moves onto “real life”. Due to COVID-19, this destination was full of obstacles including quarantines, mask mandates, canceled events and Zoom classes. The class of 2022 went from having a normal college career, to their world being turned upside down.

The university held three ceremonies with a graduating class of over 2,400 students, for the 124th Spring Commencement Ceremony. 

“You possessed a unique set of skills,” Kansas Board of Regents Allen Schmidt said to the graduates.

Schmidt compared their interrupted learning experience to those who went to school during the Vietnam War. The young men and women were shipped overseas to fight for the United States, and then placed back into their old lives to act as if nothing happened. Due to the pandemic, many students fell behind with online learning experience.

The class of 2022 not only struggled with the pandemic, but they witnessed four different university presidents.

“I’m sure we have heard these words before, but this time, don’t just hear them– believe them,” student speaker Rija Khan said. “We did it, and we made it to our own graduation.”

Khan served WSU as student body president from 2020 through 2022. She said she was grateful to be able to speak to her fellow peers during graduation and was amazed at how humble and accommodating the campus has been throughout her process as the student speaker.

The kind atmosphere was one of the many reasons Khan decided to attend WSU all four years of college. The second she arrived on campus for her tour, her decision was made. She knew WSU was her home for the next four years.

“From freshman Rija to now, I have grown a lot, and I have to say it’s been for the best. university has been a great big part of that growth that I have been able to achieve,” Khan said. “So for that, I will always be grateful.”

After Khan finished her speech, the class of 2022 heard heartfelt words from professors and department chairs. For their alumni speaker, the class of 2022 heard from Broadway’s Julius Thomas III. Thomas currently plays Alexander Hamilton in the cultural phenomenon, Hamilton, and he referenced it in his speech. 

“What is a legacy?” Thomas said. “It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see, and that one would be great because for so many of you, this is the end of your college career and the beginning of a fantastic journey of planting seeds of your legacy.”

Thomas gave graduates advice he wished he had heard when he was 21, investing for the future, traveling, continuing to learn, remembering to floss and staying active.

“Now, (staying active) isn’t about being in any particular size or looking a certain way,” Thomas said. “Frankly, it’s about knees because knees are a trap, y’all.”

After his speech, each student smiled and giggled while they walked across their stage to receive their diploma. 

“I am excited to be moving on to the next chapter of my life, and also just relieved to be done with all my classes,” social work and honors baccalaureate major Jadie Chauncey said. “It has definitely been a long journey here.”

Once all the diplomas were received, the graduating class danced with their peers to the WSU Fight Song: the last time they would hear it as students.