The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication celebrated its Fall 2021 convocation ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 14 at the Arizona Federal Theatre in downtown Phoenix. Graduates processed into the event amid the cheers of faculty, families and friends.
The ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of 465 students who received their diplomas during the first in-person ceremony in two years. The event was also live streamed on YouTube.
Cronkite Dean Battinto L. Batts Jr. led the ceremony, his first as dean of the school. Batts thanked the graduating class for the spirit and energy they contributed during their time at the Cronkite School. “You inspired us each day. You are the reason Cronkite is such a special place,” Batts said.
Student convocation speaker Angelica Olivas reflected on her experience at Cronkite and encouraged her classmates to remember the small moments and relationships created during their time at the school.
“It’s important to realize, that in the future, when you’re asked about your time at Cronkite, you’re probably not going to remember all of the things that you thought were so life-altering, like that really tough group project you had to work on, or the time you got an E on an assignment,” she said. “Instead, you’re going to think about your experiences and the relationships we formed, both personal and professional. You’ll think about the small moments of every day that mean the most to you.”
William C. Rhoden, columnist and editor-at-large at ESPN’s The Undefeated, encouraged Cronkite graduates to remain hopeful and willing to persevere as they embark on their careers.
Rhoden, a visiting professional at the Cronkite School, addressed the students as the keynote speaker
Rhoden acknowledged the obstacles faced by this year’s graduating class, who spent most of the last two years attending class virtually or through hybrid instruction that mixed virtual classes with in-person instruction.
“COVID has necessitated a unique spirit of collaboration and connectivity between faculty and students. The virus has inspired innovative approaches to teaching and learning and for those of us in the field, COVID has altered the way we do our jobs. It’s given me a deeper appreciation of face-to-face interactions,” Rhoden said.
The pandemic has forced journalists to change the way they tell stories while focusing on issues that were exposed by the pandemic, such as income inequality and disparities in access to healthcare.
“In sports, COVID has had an unintentionally positive impact. Too many of us had become lazy and complacent, piling into clubhouses and locker rooms, being part of a scrum, mindlessly sticking our microphones into the faces of athletes and subsequently writing routine ho hum stories. The lack of access has forced us to dig deeper, cast a wider net and find creative ways to tell routine stories,” he said.
Journalists also have to contend with a polarized environment where people live in their own silos and only surround themselves with people who think alike and won’t even consider another point of view, he said.
Rhoden called on the graduates to figure out how to “bring order out of this chaos.”
“You will have to be fluent in speaking the language of multiple realities in order to get to the truth or at least establish a common denominator,” he said.
Rhoden said he’s encouraged by the new generation of journalists who readily embrace certain causes and want to use journalism to make a difference.
In the end, Rhoden assured the students that “everything’s going to be OK” and encouraged them to find sources of hope and strength.
“The source of my hope is my ancestors. Some of them never drew a free breath in their lives, yet they believed there was going to be a future and that future was going to be better,” he said. “Every day they found a reason to move forward, to live, to stay alive so that they could pass the torch.”
In total, 465 students received degrees, including 125 with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Media Studies, 56 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication, 47 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Journalism and 66 with a Bachelor of Science in Digital Audiences.
The Cronkite School also awarded 169 master’s degrees. That includes 112 Master of Science in Digital Audience Strategy, 12 Master of Science in Business Journalism, 16 Master of Mass Communication, 15 Master of Arts in Sports Journalism and 14 Master of Arts in Investigative Journalism. Two students were awarded a Ph.D. in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Outstanding Graduate Students
Prince James Story
Outstanding Undergraduate Students
Highest GPA in Journalism and Mass Communication and Sports Journalism
Highest GPA in Digital Audiences and Mass Communication and Media Studies
Outstanding Graduate Online Students
Outstanding Undergraduate Online Students
Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society
The ASU Alumni Association presents the award at the university commencement ceremony to undergraduates with a cumulative grade point average of 4.0 achieved during eight-consecutive fall and spring semesters.