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A Personal Reflection on HJI’s 2024 Graduation

by Mrs. Mika Deshotel, Associate Dean of Student Life

This year’s Commencement Ceremony was extra special for our students living nearby to the NYC campus, and who were able to gather for a special Meet and Greet luncheon before many of them took part in the graduation ceremony that day. The informal gathering was organized by the Office of Student Life for the purpose of inviting students to meet together in person, tour the campus, congratulate fellow classmates on their degrees, and recognize the Graduate Student Council for their contributions to the student community this year. We had 13 students in attendance, along with some of their spouses. Five of the thirteen were graduating that day, and three of the students participating were Council members. 

It was a special treat for many of us to gather in person, and to meet face to face with many who had only been virtual classmates up until that point. Somehow, seeing one another in the flesh seemed to cement the relationship of camaraderie further. One of our Council members, who spends much of his time in Ethiopia, happened to be in Maryland when he got the invitation to come to NYC. With the help of another HJI classmate, who is also originally from Ghana but now living in the City, this student felt confident to make the trek up by bus. This was truly a beautiful thing to see and to know that HJI could help facilitate such friendships and support. 

After our brief luncheon on the second floor of the campus, it was time to head downstairs to the main auditorium to prepare for the graduation ceremony. As someone who has previously helped in the dressing room, helping the grads into their robes for the first time, there is always a mixed feeling of excitement and nervousness in the air. This year, it was a palpable emotion. And even the beginning of the ceremony felt very serious and formal. Right at the start, we were missing our singer for the National Anthem, so we stood for a moment of silence instead, which seemed to mark the momentous occasion even further. Fortunately, by the time the degrees were conferred, the atmosphere changed to one of real excitement and jubilation. 

I believe what helped “bring us home,” so to speak, throughout the entirety of the service was in large part due to a consistent reminder of our name, recently changed to better fit our mission, reflecting the nature of this institution and subsequent degrees into which we invest so greatly. Ambassador DeTrani’s speech also helped to drive home the point of the importance of our work at HJI. He made one thing very clear to us: constant and deliberate dialogue is crucial to the success of peacebuilding. I believe his message was a practical and important one for all of us in our continued efforts towards peace. 

In addition to Ambassador DeTrani’s message and the reiteration of our role as seminarians and peacemakers, seeing the graduates walk across the stage with pride and joy, and hearing from some of them on behalf of their class was the icing on the cake for the whole event. It was evident that whether students could be present in person, via Zoom, or were represented in absentia, it was certainly the culmination of a tremendous amount of blood, sweat and tears. Added to that, this year, the number of family members who wanted to join in with the formal photos of the students, faculty and staff, was a testimony of how much pride they had for our graduates. 

Congratulations to the Class of 2024, along with the families, friends, faculty, and staff at HJI who helped them to achieve such success.