assembly hall full of graduates in cap and gowns

AHS Convocation 2021

Congratulations Illinois Graduates!

In-person Commencement ceremonies for May have been postponed and will be rescheduled when it is safe to gather again.

Message from the Chancellor

Click here to see the full transcript.

CHANCELLOR ROBERT JONES: To all of you in this graduating class, congratulations on your accomplishments. Today is an enormous milestone. We often say that the Illinois family is made up of people who rise to their very best when faced with a challenge. And during this very challenging year, I'm incredibly humbled to say that this graduating class has done exactly that. Your courses were delivered in alternative ways, at time your research and your scholarship were put on hold, and some of you were separated from friends and colleagues and instructors by a significant distance. I want to be very clear. During a time that it has been nearly impossible to predict, you have shown incredible strength. That is something to celebrate. So on behalf of our entire university community, congratulations. We can't wait to see what you'll accomplished next as alumni.

AHS Convocation Videos

2021 Virtual Convocation for Undergraduate Students

Dean Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell, Kathi Ritten, Kim Shinew, Nancy Cardenas Gonzalez, Cassie Meinert, and Beth Frasca, as well as undergraduates Megan Kalinowski and Molly Mehta, send their good wishes to the undergraduate students in the 2021 Class of the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois.

Click here to see the full transcript.


CHERYL HANLEY-MAXWELL: Hello, class of 2021. I'm Dr. Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell, Dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences, and proud alumna of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Each of you can take pride in the fact that you are graduating from a highly respected university that is recognized as an international leader in research, education, and service, and from a world renowned college has prepared you for the dynamic and challenging field you are entering.

All of us here at AHS are very proud of you. This past year has taught us that while we may not know the exact nature of the curve balls that life is going to grow at us, we not only will survive but thrive through the adversity. You did this in the face of the worst health crisis the world has known in over 100 years, with creativity, flexibility, and enthusiasm. You persevered and accomplished important goals.

I urge you to take these qualities, your passion for your chosen field, and all that you've learned with you during your undergraduate studies to the next step of your life's journey, whether you're going on to graduate or professional school, or a position that will launch you into a long and satisfying career, or taking a gap year to figure out what the next step is, give it everything you have. Be bold. Be brave. And please be sure to carry the AHS commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion into all that you do to make this world a better place.

While we cannot do the celebration to give you your sendoff you so richly deserve, know that you have our deepest admiration and our sincerest wishes for a future that is filled with professional and personal growth and success. Congratulations to each one of you and go Illini.

KATHI RITTEN: Congratulations, class of 2021. I'm Kathi Ritten. And it's been my honor to serve as the undergraduate advisor for the Department of Speech and Hearing Science. As many of you know, you are my last graduating class. I want you to know how proud I am of each and every one of you and all that you've accomplished. It has been such a privilege to get to know you and has meant so much to me to have been a part of your time at Illinois. Although I will miss you dearly, I know that great things lie ahead. And I'm so excited to see what the future holds for you.

Please know that wherever your chosen path may take you, I'm confident that your passion for serving others will allow you to make a positive impact on those around you. Thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your Illinois journey. On behalf of the Department of Speech and Hearing Science, congratulations to you and to your families on your graduation.

KIM SHINEW: Hi. I'm Dr. Kim Shinew, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Recreation Sport and Tourism at the University of Illinois. I wanted to congratulate you on receiving your Bachelor of Science degree from one of the top public institutions and from a program long recognized as a leader in the field. We are so proud of you. And it has been an honor to be a part of your educational journey.

This graduation is bittersweet because we cannot all be together. However, I hope when you reflect on the totality of your experience here, that you will do so fondly. I also hope that you will find ways to celebrate your great accomplishment with your family and friends. As you go into the field during this unprecedented time, know that you are well-prepared. People are eager to return to their recreation, sport, and tourism activities. And you are prepared to lead with passion, creativity, and energy.

After four years of getting to know many of you, I am confident in your abilities. Again, congratulations. I wish you success and happiness in the future. Keep in touch. And know that you will be missed.

NANCY CARDENAS GONZALEZ: Dear community health graduates, both Holly and I wanted to take a moment to express our heartfelt congratulations for your graduation. While we are still new to AHS and to community health, we have been greatly impressed by the hard work and dedication that is evident in your graduating class. Completing your degree at any time is a momentous task. But to do so in such trying times as those we find ourselves in today says a tremendous amount about our collective resilience, perseverance, and potential.

We are honored to have had the opportunity to work with some of you directly over the past year and are excited not only for what the future will bring to you all, but what you will bring to the chosen fields and communities. Congratulations again, for this outstanding accomplishment. And best of luck to you all on the next steps of your journey.

CASSIE MEINERT: Congratulations, graduates. In preparation of this short message, I looked through the list of graduates that I've had the privilege of working with. And consistently the same adjectives kept coming to mind, adjectives like hard working, kind, personable, resilient, motivated, brilliant, compassionate, fun, thoughtful, and determined. It is these qualities that we as educators have missed witnessing this past year. But we know that these are the qualities that you will carry with you with your future endeavors.

We are all so very proud of your academic accomplishments and have faith that you will have a hand at making the world a better place. You have been and always will be a part of our Illinois family. And we wish you the very best. Congratulations, graduates. Go Illini.

BETH FRASCA: Hello, everybody. My name is Beth Frasca. And I'm one of the academic advice for the interdisciplinary health sciences students. I'm so excited for all the 2021 graduates to begin the next step of their journey, especially the students in the I Health program. I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives and know that I have learned something from each and every one of you along the way. I will truly miss seeing your faces as I walk through the hallways of Huff and on my screen every day, all the updates on your progress in your courses and your lives.

And I have really enjoyed all the pop ins on Zoom just to say hi throughout the year. It has been a privilege to laugh, cry, and celebrate with you throughout these last four years. And I want you to know that I am incredibly proud of each and every one of you for your accomplishments and look forward to hearing about your futures. Please continue to keep me updated on your successes. This last year will truly be one that I will never forget, just as I will never forget any of you. I am honored to have known all of you, and wish you the best for your future. Congratulations, and welcome to the Illinois family.

MEGAN KALINOWSKI: My fellow students, families, and faculty, welcome to the commencement for the class of 2021. And welcome to any graduates from the class of 2020. This long awaited moment should be celebrated however you wish. Congratulations to each and every one of you. It truly is an honor to be speaking in front of you here today. I'm not sure I could sum up my feelings other than the immense pride I have for me and my fellow classmates.

Whether it was being the first class to switch to a practically virtual college experience, countless visits to go spit into a tube-- I'm partial to the funnel-- or watching our men's basketball dominating in the Big 10, our time here is a testament to our unity, our resilience, and our passion for the fighting Illini. What I've learned is that we all have our own paths. We all have our own timelines. And frankly, none of us know what's going to happen next. That can be the most terrifying and exciting part.

But what I do know is that we have a community here in Champaign-Urbana that we can rely on as we figure it out and solve the new challenges that await us. This past year has been proof of that as we showed an immense effort to care for one another in a time where no one knew what was happening. We handled each new change, each new policy, each unconventional path not with reluctance, but with enthusiasm. I'm so amazed in our ability to roll with these punches and feel confident that the graduating class of 2021 can handle whatever is thrown at them throughout their lives.

Take this time to appreciate the sacrifices that you have made, and that others have made for you to ensure your success once you leave this campus. Cherish the memories you take as we venture out into the unknown. We may be separated by distance. But we will always be a united Illini. Thank you and congratulations.

MOLLY MEHTA: Deer fighting Illini graduates. My name is Molly Mehta and I'm immensely proud and ecstatic to be here with you today as we come together to celebrate this special milestone in our lives, graduation. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has thrown our way, it only took spit testing, Zoom University, quarantine sessions, and the efforts of an innovative faculty and student body to show me that one life brings us opportunities and obstacles, we Illini pursue the opportunities and we're persistent in tackling the obstacles.

Witnessing the measures put in place to make our last year as normal as possible, we saw an online environment that kept us challenged in learning new skills we did not know we needed. I hope you remember to mute your Zoom sessions or turn off your cameras. I'm sure if you didn't, we all enjoyed some laughs.

In reality, these measures made our senior year one for the history books. And I realized I wouldn't have it any other way. Think of it as one last exam that we all aced to prove that you can achieve greatness no matter what stands in your way, even a pandemic. My last piece of advice to you as we venture off into the unpredictability of the future is that, it's not about what you're doing. It's about who you're becoming. Highlight what makes you stand out. And make sure to use your background to inspire your perspective.

Be present and ready for the next right thing unique to you. Choose well and embrace the journey in any direction your head and heart leads you. With that, congratulations, class of 2021. Say it with me one last time as a student. I-L-L--


MOLLY MEHTA: Thank you.


2021 Virtual Convocation for Graduate Students

Dean Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell and department heads Carla Santos, Kim Graber and Pam Hadley, as well as graduate students Linnea Sandstrom and Maggie Phan, send their good wishes to the graduate students in the 2021 Class of the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois.

Click here to see the full transcript.



CHERYL HANLEY-MAXWELL: Hello, class of 2021. I'm Dr. Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell, the Dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences, and a proud three time graduate of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. I want to take a moment to congratulate you on completing your graduate studies and tell you that the faculty and I are very proud of all that you've accomplished while you were here.

You worked hard to complete your degrees, and in the past year under extremely challenging conditions, you continued to persevere. With your creativity, your flexibility, and your determination, you adapted to altered circumstances and continued your research, your clinical experiences, and your capstone professional experiences, earning the respect and admiration of the entire college. You are leaving here knowing that you have what it takes to handle whatever life throws at you. You leave here with great memories, lasting friendships, and valuable connections.

An outstanding education is prepared you to make significant positive contributions toward improving the quality of life across the lifespan and throughout a diverse society. I have no doubt that we will hear great things about you in the future. On behalf of the college, I wish you success in your careers and happiness throughout your life. Take pride in joining our diverse international alumni family. Congratulations to each of you, and go Illini.

CARLOS SANTOS: To the RST class of 2021, congratulations. I'm Dr. Carlos Santos, head of the Department of Recreation Sport and Tourism. This year has been full of so many challenges, but you all have persevered and succeeded. Throughout your studies in RST, you have learned that people who are successful in life are flexible, creative, and adaptable. They're problem solvers, ready to pivot at a moment's notice to address new challenges and changing circumstances, and that is what you've been doing as you've taken classes, conducted research, and engaged with community organizations.

As you move forward, use the knowledge you've gained with confidence that you are ready to be the leaders in your fields. I am an optimist, and I do believe that we will use this last year's hard earned lessons to strive to do more, to do better, and to remember that being willing to change business as usual might just make us that much stronger and kinder. No matter what the future holds for that, know we are all very proud of you.

You are brave, you are bold, and you are brilliant. You can handle anything that comes your way. On behalf of the Department, I say congratulations, graduates. I'm extremely proud of each and every single one of you and wish you all the very best always.

KIM GRABER: Hello, graduates. I'm Dr. Kim Graber, Interim Head of the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health. I'd like to offer my deepest congratulations to those completing master's and PhD degrees. In your roles as researchers, scientists, educators, administrators, and health care practitioners, you have made a commitment to improving the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.

As we have been challenged by the coronavirus pandemic this past year, the world has come to understand just how important you are to society. We've always known it, and we are proud of the role we have played in your professional development. Through your work in classrooms, research laboratories, and diverse settings beyond campus, you have demonstrated passion and commitment in your chosen fields and a desire to make health promoting information resources and services accessible to all.

I know you will pursue each of your future endeavors with integrity and respect. On behalf of the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, I applaud each and every one of you and wish you a safe, prosperous, and fulfilling future. Congratulations.

PAMELA HADLEY: Hello, graduates, and warm greetings to your family and friends. I'm Pamela Hadley, Professor and Interim Head of the Department of Speech and Hearing Science. On behalf of the Department, I want to say congratulations, and I also want to thank you for your professionalism as we navigated an uncertain times together. You have overcome many obstacles during your graduate programs.

The coronavirus pandemic upended so many things we took for granted. Things like being surrounded by peers in the classroom, seeing clients in person, traveling to conferences to present research and to network. You not only persevered through the crisis, you demonstrated remarkable resilience.

You embraced new ways of teaching, learning, providing services and conducting research, and you did so with grace and enthusiasm. You maintained your commitment to academic and professional excellence, and you demonstrated your determination to help individuals across the lifespan secure effective communication. A fundamental human right.

I have no doubt that each and every one of you will go out into the world and represent the Department of Speech and Hearing Science with distinction. We are so proud, and we wish you a bright and successful future. Congratulations to the class of 2021.

LINNEA SANDSTROM: Graduates of Applied Health Sciences, congratulations to each and every one of you. I'm so proud to be part of the graduating class of 2021. Now, many of us are looking for jobs during a global pandemic, but we'll be fine. We'll be fine, because this last year has challenged us, strengthened our resolve, and made us more resilient than ever.

We are Applied Health Science students. We're in these majors to connect with others. We study how people's bodies move, the structures of our health care systems, preventative medicine, wellness, and communication. All of us care deeply about the world.

That's why this last year has been especially hard to navigate. We want to be out there socializing, learning, and most of all, helping people. Luckily, our health care colleagues around the world have developed solutions, and we are slowly getting back to normal. With the world so imbalanced, now is our chance to reshape the way we want our fields to look.

We can redesign research, come up with new approaches to intervention, and reorganize medical care. Above all, we can advocate for our clients, our colleagues, and ourselves. Whether you study dialectal differences of English, inequalities in health care, mental well-being related to exercise, or community-based interventions for preschoolers, I want you to talk about it.

I want you to not shut up about it. I want you to challenge the way that people think about health. We are so lucky to have this education, and now, we get to share it. Congratulations.

MAGGIE PHAN: Hello, fellow graduates, parents, and Applied Health Sciences faculty and staff. My name is Maggie Phan, and I'm so honored to address all of you today for this convocation. I had completed my master's in public health several years ago here in AHS and have just finished my PhD in Recreation Sport and Tourism this spring. First, I would like to say congratulations to my fellow graduates, wherever you are, not only for completing your degree at the University of Illinois, but for persevering during this time of transition towards a future post pandemic and a new phase in your upcoming careers.

I am so proud of all of you for devoting a large chunk of your life on Zoom, showing up for semi-weekly saliva COVID testing, wearing masks, and diligently following health safety guidelines. You have all contributed to maintaining the success and stability of the University of Illinois. The past 12 months have been a very isolating experience for many of us may have been deprived of in-person internships, research collaborations, and even studying.

As for myself, a PhD program can already be an isolating process, and not being able to see others in person only magnified the isolation and gave me feelings of uncertainty, doubt, and surrealism. However, I thought deeply and thought about the important things that I learned from my experiences while continuing my MPH and my PhD in Recreation. I recall learning about self care and reaching out to other people and began reconnecting with people in my life and wishing them encouragement during such a stressful time.

I thought of new ways of engaging in leisure activities, which is the core of my study in recreation, and made the best of an isolating experience to keep pushing and keep working on my dissertation research and writing. I would like to share encouragement with the student body and instill a sense of confidence, resilience, and fortitude to embrace our future challenges. While we may not have pomp and circumstance or be together in person, we can still celebrate because we are now Illinois alumni.

We did it! Remember, we're part of something special. We'll always be connected. Let's move forward, seize those opportunities with the values, skills, and knowledge we have gained as Illinois graduates. Thank you.


AHS Convocation Program

variety of students wearing caps and gowns

You can see an online version of the College of Applied Health Sciences 2021 Convocation Program here.


variety of students wearing caps and gowns

You can download a pdf of the Convocation program here.


Congratulations from faculty and Staff

Greetings from KCH | Department of Kinesiology & Community Health at Illinois, including Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

Greetings from RST | Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism at Illinois

Greetings from SHS | Department of Speech & Hearing Science at Illinois

Greetings from CVC | Chez Veterans Center

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