Commencement Celebrates Diverse Graduates from Adtalem’s Walden University
Among the many things Dr. Patricia Wells liked about studying online at Walden University was that she didn’t need to drive to a campus. But when it came time to graduate, she and 8 family members piled into a van and drove more than 17 hours from Dallas to Orlando to celebrate.
"It was the biggest thing on our agenda this year,” said Dr. Wells. “My husband, my children, my grandchildren have all been my support system since I started this journey. I want them to see you can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish as long as you apply yourself.”
Her co-workers watched the graduation livestream as she was hooded for her Doctor of Business Administration to cheer her on just as they supported her when she reported on her doctoral study, “Strategies to Retain Seasoned Federal Acquisition Employees,” across their organization.
“A major focus for them right now is retention of acquisition employees,” said Dr. Wells. “So, guess who had the research, with the scientific facts attached to it and the findings?!”
Celebrating the Accomplishments of Adult Learners
Dr. Wells was one of the adult learners registered to attend virtual and in-person ceremonies in Orlando, Florida, for Walden’s 69th commencement. The university community celebrated the conferral of more than 6,500 doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees to students in all 50 U.S. states and more than 40 countries.
Some 35% of these recently conferred degrees were from post-licensure nursing programs. More than 50% of those graduates who reported their race identified as being from minority groups.
These graduates—and others from a range of professions—join Walden’s network of 178,000 scholar-practitioner alumni effecting positive social change in their workplaces and communities.
Improving Diversity in Counseling
Dr. Brandon Shurn celebrated earning a third Walden degree—a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision—in his journey to be the change he wants to see in the counseling profession. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022 only 14.9% of mental health counselors were Black. Among the graduating Walden MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling students who shared their race, 34.3% were Black. For PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision, 42.8% were Black.
“Walden helped me get really clear on how I was going to use my degree to have an impact in the field,” said Dr. Shurn, who previously earned an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and an MS in Forensic Psychology at Walden.
“I entered as a mental health counselor, and I noticed there were not a lot of male mental health counselors. And if I drill down deeper, there are not a lot of Black, male mental health counselors in the field,” said Dr. Shurn, owner of EmPower Me Holistic Counseling in Maryland. “I also know that going through my program, I didn’t have a lot of Black, male counselor educators. I thought, here’s an opportunity to take my social change advocacy to another level and put myself through the rigors of a doctorate.”
Social Action Activity
In a heartwarming addition to the traditional commencement ceremony, graduates and attendees participated in a charitable arts and crafts activity. Organized by the Office of Alumni Engagement with Helpertunity, it involved helping prepare plush animals that would go on to lift the spirits of senior citizens.
Founded by two-time Walden graduate and current PhD in Public Policy and Administration student Eileen Callejas in 2001, Helpertunity combines her passion for crafting with her work in healthcare and therapeutic recreation. Callejas has served as an activities director in eldercare facilities and volunteers with a focus on the needs of homeless individuals who have disabilities.
“This whole idea was born from a need to help a community close to my heart,” says Callejas. “I felt like what better way to honor Walden’s commitment to instilling a spirit of social responsibility in its students than encouraging them and their families to create a lasting impact beyond their academic achievements.”
Dr. Shagranda Traveler ’19
Senior Vice President, Global Head of Culture, Communications and Employee Engagement for ISG Operations, Citi
Dr. Traveler is a strategic corporate executive with 20 years of progressive experience driving diversity, equity, and inclusion; global workforce development; operational efficiencies; and organizational change solutions in both the nonprofit and financial services industries. She earned a Doctor of Business Administration from Walden in 2020 and received the university’s Leadership Excellence Award.
“As you embark on the next phase of your professional journey, this is where the true work begins and each of your assignments will be unique and different. In this time of ambiguity in our world, we each have to roll up our sleeves, network, dig in, and dig deeper than ever before. As a lifelong learner, you become what you desire to be.”
Dr. Catherine Holton
Associate Dean, College of Nursing
Dr. Holton has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, serving in executive leadership roles. She is passionate about working with first-generation college students and furthering her work in diversity equity and inclusion. She has been a nurse for more than 35 years with clinical expertise in women’s health and mental health nursing.
“As you leave Walden, know you leave a legacy in our hearts with your stories, with your lived experiences, that we will hold in our hearts and carry with us as we continue the work of developing positive social changemakers like you.”
Dr. Belinda McFeeters
Academic Coordinator, Richard W. Riley College of Education and Human Sciences
Dr. McFeeters is an accomplished educator and scholar with over 20 years of professional experience as a higher education administrator, faculty member, and leadership researcher. She has taught, trained, and provided leadership to a diverse group of students and professionals in doctoral programs and professional organizations.
“As graduates of an online university, you are uniquely equipped to be an ally and help move others toward inclusion. Because your classmates were from diverse cultures, religions, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds, you’ve had opportunities to explore ideas and perspectives different from your own. These are the experiences that help shape inclusive communities.”