13 Things to Know about Commencement 2019

Here are tips, info, and some amazing student stories for MBU’s 177th Commencement Weekend. Congratulations to our graduates and their families from the #MBUfamily!

1. Be there for the Biggest Celebration of the Year

The 177th Commencement ceremony is at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 19, on Page Terrace in front of Grafton Library. Head here for all the Commencement info: the schedule of events for the whole weekend, where to park, what to wear, rain plan, and more.

2. Keynote speaker Dorie Clark ’97

Marketing strategy consultant Dorie Clark ’97 is the author of Entrepreneurial You and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review. She consults and speaks for clients including Google, Microsoft, and the World Bank. Clark attended MBU’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted for two years before graduating from Smith College.

“What I loved most about Mary Baldwin was the tight-knit community.”

Dorie Clark ’97, Commencement speaker

3. Fingers crossed, no rain

In the event of bad weather, the ceremony will move to 10:30 a.m. at Augusta Expo in Fishersville. (The student lineup will start at 9:30 a.m.)

MBU will make the call at approximately 6 a.m. Sunday. A web alert will be posted on marybaldwin.edu. Signed up for outreach messages through BAM? You’ll also receive a text.

4. Can’t make the ceremony?

Tune into the live stream at marybaldwin.edu/live.

Both the main Commencement ceremony and the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences hooding and pinning ceremony will be available.

5. Congressman on campus

Congressman Ben Cline, who represents the 6th District of Virginia, will be the keynote speaker at Change of Command, a ceremony saluting the achievements of Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership graduates.

Hear him speak at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, on Lower Athletic Field, MBU’s main campus (rain location: Physical Activities Center).

6. For the first time

Commencement 2019 marks the first-ever awarding of the master of healthcare administration and the master of science higher education.

7. So proud of you

Andrea Lee and her son Aarian are both celebrating graduations this year.

Numerous responsibilities? Balancing work, life, and school? Andrea Lee does not back down from the challenge. She works two jobs: helping adults with mental illnesses as a case manager for Valley Community Services Board, and also as a part-time hair stylist, continuing a career she started 20 years ago. She’s a single mom of three children and also helps look after her 1½-year-old granddaughter. And she’s been earning her master of healthcare administration (MHA) for four years through MBU Online. All of her hard work is culminating in two times the celebration this spring. Both she and her son, Aarian Brown, are graduating (he’s a senior at Robert E. Lee High School). With her new degree, Lee hopes to find a position that aligns well with her education.

“Creating a culture of safety and quality not only for patients, but also for employees is a goal I would like to implement in organizations in the future.”

Andrea Lee ’19, mom, grandmother, healthcare professional, and MBU graduate

8. First generation, brilliant futures

Graduates (clockwise from top left) Katerin Monserrat Collazo, Theresa Danielle Jones, and Emma M. Rhodenizer

Katerin Monserrat Collazo plans to use her history degree (plus a triple minor in public history, art history, and anthropology) to help others provoke thought and explore ideas. The first in her family to attend and graduate from college, she is headed to Baylor University to earn her master of arts in museum studies. A champion of inclusivity, Collazo wants to bring authentic representation and participation to the museum industry. “I hope to be a museum curator in order to design and create more exhibitions about people of color, including them in the whole process and having them take the lead with their perspectives and voices on their own history, culture, and traditions,” she said.

“I am so excited to cross the stage! But it will also be very emotional because all of my hard work for the past four years will pay off and I will be saying my farewells to my beloved friends and professors.”

Katerin Monserrat Collazo ’19 from Dallas

Theresa Danielle Jones wanted to be a veterinarian ever since she was a little girl, but her path at MBU took her to thinking big about some of the smallest forms of life on earth. Now she’s on her way to the PhD program in microbiology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, with a full fellowship. “I’ve always wanted my career to focus on research for zoonoses (diseases that are transferred between human and animal species) and contributing to veterinary medicine research overall in terms of pathogenesis and preventative medicine,” said Jones, a biology major who is the first on her mother’s side of the family to earn a college degree. Her ultimate career goal is to become a professor, but she also wants her work to reach outside of the research lab and inspire others. “I want to do anything I can to bridge the minority achievement gap in STEM at the post-secondary education level, and plan to do so by teaching and serving as an example for students like myself,” she said.

“It will be such a relief to walk across that stage and receive my degree. I know I’ll feel a sense of completion and validation along with happiness and a lot of emotions overall.”

Theresa Danielle Jones ’19 from Atlanta   

“From her first weeks here, Emma stood out because of her genuine fascination for science topics and her ability to spread enthusiasm for the sciences to others around her.” That’s how chemistry professor Maria Craig feels about biochemistry major Emma M. Rhodenizer’s academic talent. And she’s not alone. Virginia Commonwealth University has not only accepted Rhodenizer into its School of Medicine, but the university has also awarded her an $80,000 scholarship over four years. She is the first in her family to graduate from college, and she says she’s wanted to be a doctor her entire life. “I think the most important part for me will be to advocate for my patients and especially support women, since lots of doctors tend to dismiss women patients,” she said.

“It’ll feel very exciting and overwhelming for me to walk at graduation knowing how much support it took from my parents and husband for me to accomplish that!”

Emma M. Rhodenizer ’19 from Waynesboro

9. Youngest and Oldest 2019

Youngest and oldest graduates this year include (l-r) Bella Cascarelle, Sage Wyatt, and Bettijo Coffey.

Three teenage siblings will share a special bond as they all walk across the Commencement stage on Sunday:

  • Psychology major Ariel Cho is one of the three youngest graduates this year at 17.
  • Her sister, Katriel Cho, is earning her degree in biochemistry at 19.
  • Their younger brother, Gabriel, who is 16 years old, is majoring in performing arts, music emphasis, and will be walking at Commencement.

“It’s been really nice going to the same college as my siblings!”

Ariel Cho ’19, age 17

Sage Wyatt is earning her BS in biology at the age of 17. (She got her acceptance letter to MBU’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted on her 13th birthday.) After graduation, she will attend a global health master’s program from Duke University in Kunshan, China.

“People like to think I’m some kind of genius. It’s not true. Intelligence alone does not means success. Every stride I’ve made has been thanks to my incredible support system. I’m able to receive my diploma because so many people believed in me and invested in me for the last four years.”

Sage Wyatt ’19, age 17

Bella Cascarelle is also one of the youngest graduates this year, earning her BA in psychology, and she plans to continue her education at the University of Maryland and earn her MS and PhD in industrial/organizational psychology.

“The Program for the Exceptionally Gifted at Mary Baldwin has allowed me to pursue an educational path which I never imagined would be possible.”

Bella Cascarelle ’19, age 17  

The oldest 2019 graduate is Ruth Thornton, who will earn her BA in sociology at 61. Her close compatriot healthcare administration major Bettijo Coffey, 60, reminds the class of 2019 to keep learning, no matter what your age.

“Acquiring knowledge, at any age, opens so many doors and makes it easier to explore the many opportunities that life has to offer. I find learning new things fun and it makes my life less boring.”

Bettijo Coffey ’19, age 60

10. Upward Mobility

International Affairs major William Rinaldo worked a good job at QualX Corporation in Washington, D.C., as a declassification analyst and archivist. But he decided to set his sights higher. “The pay was decent,” he says, “but without a degree, my chances of upward mobility in the city were limited.” After moving back to Staunton, he looked to MBU to earn his degree in a personalized setting with small class sizes. He has also been able to use his GI benefits towards his MBU education, after serving in the Marine Corps for five ½ years as a meteorology/oceanography analyst. Next up for Rinaldo? A new job search, potentially starting a career as a congressional staffer or with a non-governmental organization, or applying to graduate programs. All with his degree in hand.

“The GI Bill benefits have been incredibly beneficial in my school success.”
— William Rinaldo ’19, former Marine Corps sergeant

11. Follow the leader

Professor of Theatre Terry Southerington ’72, who is retiring this year after 42 years of service at MBU, will serve as a special faculty marshal at the Commencement ceremony, leading the line of graduate students onto Page Terrace.

She joins Professor of History Amy Tillerson-Brown, university marshal, and Professor of Economics Amy Diduch, associate marshal.

12. Front and center

Wondering who gets to be on stage for Sunday’s Commencement ceremony? That would be the platform party, and they are:

  • Pamela Fox, university president
  • Ty Buckman, university provost
  • Dorie Clark ’97, keynote speaker
  • Jane Eng ’83, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors
  • Katherine Low, university chaplain
  • John A. Nolde, Jr., MBU Trustee

Plus the academic deans, who will read graduates’ names as they cross the Commencement stage:

  • Deb Greubel, vice president of Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences
  • Paul Menzer, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts
  • Rachel Potter, dean of the College of Education
  • Joe Sprangel, dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies
  • Martha Walker, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

13. By the numbers

Here’s a breakdown of the number of students graduating during Sunday’s ceremony.


Residential colleges = 94

MBU Online = 136


College of Education = 46 (24 Master of Arts in Teaching, 21 Master of Education, and 1 Master of Science Higher Education)

Master of Business Administration = 11

Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences = 103 (36 Doctor of Occupational Therapy, 34 Doctor of Physical Therapy, 26 Master of Science in Physician Assistant, and 7 Master of Healthcare Administration)

Shakespeare & Performance = 33 (17 Master of Letters and 16 Master of Fine Arts)

Total MBU graduates for 2019 = 423

*as of 5/15/19