Graduation 2017 Wrap-Up

NCU Graduation 2017

Congratulations to the 2017 Northcentral University Graduates

Northcentral University honored its 2017 graduates with a day of celebration at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix, Arizona on July 8, 2017. This year’s graduating class included 1,885 graduates—more than 500 of whom flew from around the world to attend the ceremonies in Arizona.

In his welcoming speech, NCU President George Burnett quoted Nelson Mandela in what was the weekend’s overwhelming theme: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Poster Sessions Highlight Dissertation Success

Saturday morning began with the poster session, where graduating doctoral students showcased their dissertation studies.

There was a diverse mix of students. Dr. Debra Mims, a former police officer who received her DBA with a specialization in criminal justice, highlighted her dissertation, “Forensic Investigators’ Perceptions of Animal-Assisted Intervention during Investigations of Child Sexual Abuse: An Exploratory Study.” She has seen positive results of animals helping children, and police departments are already adopting her suggestions.

Dr. Carol Claypool, who received her EdD in curriculum and teaching, showcased her dissertation, “The Perceived Effectiveness of Balanced Literacy Strategies Gleaned from a Professional Development Workshop Provided for Resource-Poor Guatemalan Village Schoolteachers.” Claypool related how the experience changed her own life as much as it changed that of the Guatemalan villagers.

Dr. Angel Evans, who received her DBA, beamed in front of her poster spotlighting her dissertation titled, “Long-Term Sustainability of Surgical Operational Improvements Post Consultancy: A Multiple Case Study Analysis.” She was appreciative of the help received from her dissertation chair, Dr. Henry Luckel.

The recipient of the 2017 Poster of the Year was Dr. Surinder Sharma, who received his PhD in Business Administration. He proudly presented his dissertation “U.S. Government Program Managers’ Competencies to Manage Satellite Acquisition Programs.”

Renee Squier, PhD, and Captain in the United States Navy, was selected as the 2017 Dissertation of the Year winner—one of 41 students nominated this year. Dr. Squier completed her PhD in Business Administration with a specialization in organizational leadership. Her dissertation is titled: “Hiring for Performance and Retention: Examining the Relationship between Cognitive Fit and Employee Turnover in the U.S. Navy.”

Commencement Ceremony

The afternoon was filled with excitement as graduates and their friends and families anticipated the ceremony. It was a light-hearted afternoon as students posed for photos. One young girl excitedly told everyone that her father, James Misoka, was now Doctor Misoka. It was typical to see multiple generations posing—sometimes the grandchild was the student, but just as often it was the grandparent who was the day’s graduate.

Burnett, looking out over the sea of students, summarized NCU’s graduates in his opening remarks:

  • 1,885 graduates comprised the Class of 2017
  • 45% received a degree in education
  • 38% received a degree in business administration
  • 11% received a degree in psychology
  • 6% received a degree in marriage and family therapy
  • The oldest student, from Merritt Island, FL, received a PhD in Business Administration
  • The youngest student, from Thief River Falls, MN, received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
  • Class of 2017 graduates represent 45 U.S. states and 11 countries around the world
  • The graduate who traveled the farthest to attend graduation was Dr. Liep Van Truong from Vietnam
  • 62% of the graduating class of 2017 were women

Burnett also pointed out that NCU students, no matter which degree they walked on stage to receive, had a lot of support. “These graduates did not arrive here solely on their own,” said Burnett. “It is not only their intellect, dedication, and determination that have brought them here today. I would like to recognize parents, partners, spouses, siblings, significant others, relatives and friends of our graduates.” That met with roaring cheers from the students seated in the ballroom.

2017 Commencement Speaker Bakari Sellers

The Class of 2017 welcomed Bakari Sellers as the commencement speaker. Sellers made history in 2006 when at just 22 years old, he defeated a 26-year incumbent State Representative to become the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the nation. In 2014, he was the Democratic Nominee for Lt. Governor in South Carolina. Today, he is an attorney, political analyst for CNN, and a passionate speaker on civil rights, equality, education and faith.

Sellers pointed out that graduating with a degree from Northcentral University shows dedication and perseverance. He reminded the audience that no one arrived at the NCU graduation because they’re fans of a football team or because their parents knew someone. Every student who enrolls at NCU, dedicates themselves to their studies and works hard to get to graduation, does so for a reason. “You do it because you have jobs and responsibilities,” said Sellers. Then he challenged the audience of graduates. “Purpose brought you here today, but where will it take you next? Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

As the Class of 2017 moves forward to the next stage in their lives, we at Northcentral University wish you the best of luck. We are honored to have been a part of your educational and lifelong journeys.

To continue to stay connected with Northcentral University, graduates can visit our Alumni page at to learn about our ambassador program, sign up to become an alumni mentor, watch videos, read our quarterly Higher Degrees magazine, and more.