Meredith College celebrated its newest class of graduates at the College’s 2014 commencement ceremony, held on May 3, 2014, in Dorton Arena.
Zawadi Africa Founder and Coca-Cola Executive Susan Mboya delivered the commencement address. An executive and philanthropist, Mboya serves as the group director of the Eurasia Africa Group (EAG) for women’s economic empowerment at Coca-Cola, and as the president of the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation.
Mboya is also the founder and president of the Zawadi Africa Educational Fund, a 501c (3) non-profit organization that provides African young women with scholarships at over 65 top universities in the U.S. and Canada, including Meredith College.
Rodda Ouma, ’14, of Nairobi, Kenya, is the fourth woman to attend Meredith through the Zawadi Africa program.
Mboya's speech was about empowerment. She said she wants to instill in her Zawadi students the same strong values that Meredith College instills in its students. "I love Meredith's new "Going Strong" brand," Mboya said. "This phrase captures for me the true essence of women's empowerment, something I have dedicated my life to over the years."
Mboya told the graduates that empowerment is best defined by the individual. "Empowerment is only realized when you are no longer defined by what others think about you, but rather, are defined by your own values and beliefs," Mboya said.
According to Mboya, the corporate ladder for most women is more of a corporate lattice. "Your life is not linear, it takes many twists and turns," Mboya said. "Empowerment is about having the choice to define for yourselves what your version of success looks like at any stage of your life ... make your own choices, and by witholding judgment, give permission to others to do the same."
President Allen Calls Graduates “Bright New Lights in the World”
At the closing of the commencement ceremony, Meredith’s new graduates circled around the arena floor while holding candles that symbolized “Lux” or light, which is a prominent part of the Meredith College seal.
“We charge you now to take the Meredith light into the world, shining it into the darkness of ignorance, despair, evil, and weakness. As you have gained confidence, knowledge, courage, and strength, we charge you now to put those qualities to work to improve our world. Finally, we charge you to remember—for all time— the light and the legacy that is Meredith College,” said President Jo Allen.
Allen reminded the graduates that they are members of an exclusive group – the one percent of the world with a college education.
“You are ready for this challenge and bound by this honor,” Allen said. “You are a bright new light in the world. Take that giant step forward into that world and shine.”
About the Graduates
Approximately 450 degrees were conferred by Meredith College during the ceremony.
Meredith conferred Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music, and Bachelor of Social Work degrees upon graduates of the undergraduate program, as well as master’s degrees in business, education and nutrition. These include degrees completed in August 2013, December 2013 and May 2014. Undergraduate programs at Meredith are for women only, while graduate programs are coeducational.
Graduates were represented by two student speakers.
Regina Elizabeth Henline Bryson, who received her Master of Education, spoke on behalf of graduate students. Bryson encouraged her classmates to "seek further opportunities to reflect excellence, be extraordinary, be exquiste" and in a shout-out to Meredith's brand, "go strong."
Senior Class President Yailyn Polanco spoke on behalf of the undergraduates.
“Meredith taught me be bold ... Meredith College made me strong, and confident in my abilities,” said Polanco, who will attend Appalachian State University to pursue a program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Family and Marriage Therapy.
Polanco said Meredith College had done the same for her classmates.
“I hope that every single one of you looked in the mirror today and perceived the reflection as an intelligent, strong, Meredith woman,” Polanco said. “Know that you are more than ready to show the world how strong Meredith women really are.”
Success After Meredith
Meredith 2014 graduates have been hired by SAS, Uncharted Play, Converse, public school systems including Wake County and Guilford County, and Disney World. Others will pursue graduate degrees at universities including The University of Pennsylvania, UNC-Chapel Hill, George Washington University, the Medical University of South Carolina, Pfeiffer University, Appalachian State University, Colorado State University, and East Carolina University.