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315 earn degrees at University of Guam commencement

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

The University of Guam conferred degrees to 315 graduates at its Fañomnåkan 2024 Commencement Ceremony in the Calvo Field House Sunday.


Of 269 bachelor’s degrees conferred — a 15 percent increase from last spring — the largest programs were business administration, biology, primarily in the bio-medical track and nursing, the latter with a near-record number of 31 graduates.

Of 46 master’s degrees conferred, the largest program was the Master of Arts in Teaching for secondary education with 17 graduates.


UOG President Anita Borja Enriquez acknowledged that this graduating class endured Typhoon Mawar, the pandemic — many who missed out on their high school graduation ceremonies — along with personal struggles. “But we exercised our island cultural strengths of community, faith, and resilience — our minesgnon — to ensure comfort and safety across our flotilla of canoes to get us through these challenges,” she said.


This commencement includes several firsts and highlights:

·         The Health Science Program conferred a record number of degrees, doubling its average, with 41 total for the academic year. The graduates are primarily in the public health concentration with nearly equal numbers in the pre-physical therapy and exercise science concentrations. School of Health Dean Yvette Paulino said many of these graduates are planning to pursue an advanced degree in occupational therapy.

·         Nine Bachelor of Social Work alumni from UOG earned their Master of Social Work through a partnership program between UOG and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Since 2012, the partnership has produced 45 graduates, who work within the region in an administrative capacity for agencies and organizations that assist the vulnerable.

·         The cooperative 2+2 Computer Science Program between UOG and Guam Community College, launched in 2019 to elevate the level of IT education in the region, had its first seven graduates cross the stage. Students in the program complete a two-year associate degree at GCC, then transfer to UOG for two years to complete advanced-level courses and earn a bachelor’s.


Mary Therese Perez Hattori, a native of Guam who now serves as director of the Pacific Islands Development Program of the East-West Center in Honolulu, delivered the commencement address.

With a doctorate in education, she has focused her academic work on culturally sustaining education and leadership, leadership development, and indigenous research methodologies.


She shared her struggle to adapt culturally when she moved from Guam to Hawaii to attend college in 1989. She said the Western values of individual achievement, competition, status, and material wealth were not compatible with her CHamoru values.


“I needed to find academic programs, jobs, and careers that allowed me to honor the CHamoru cultural values of knowledge being used to serve others — and using learning to improve life — before my pathway was clear,” she said.


She said one practice that Pacific Islanders can model for the benefit of others is inclusion and creating a sense of belonging. “I was taught that there is no need to earn a place in your family or community. Each person is a valued member of society simply by virtue of being born,” she said.


She challenged the graduates to model Pacific Islander ways, wisdom, and values to help an American culture that is materially rich yet suffers a poverty of spirit and relationships.

Two students were selected as class valedictorians, both under the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences: Hunter Sidell, a philosophy major, and Lidio Fullo, a psychology major with a military science minor.


Sidell delivered the class address, sharing how he lost his way while attending high school in Washington after a series of setbacks. Then his dad, who was living in Guam, invited him to move to island for a fresh start at finding his purpose.


“I was immediately struck by everyone’s exceptional hospitality and the strong sense of community and mutual support for one another. “[It] made me feel not just welcomed, but truly embraced as part of the community,” he said.


Seeing Guam’s need for medical professionals has given Sidell a renewed purpose. He has taken the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), scoring in the top 92 percent, and now plans to apply to medical schools and one day return to Guam as a physician.


Sidell concluded by encouraging his fellow graduates not to fear failure. “There are far, far, better things ahead than any we leave behind,” he said.


Fullo found his purpose as an undergraduate at UOG as well. He joined the Army ROTC program after concluding that the world’s greatest problem was poor leadership.


“If the problem in this world and its future is poor leadership, then I feel a sense of duty to become the leader of leaders,” he said.


Fullo excelled as an ROTC cadet and was named a Distinguished Military Graduate — a designation given to the top 20% of Army ROTC graduates nationwide based on scholarship, character, aptitude, and demonstrated leadership. He will soon head to Georgia to complete the Signal Basic Officer Leader Course and serve as an officer in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.


The UOG Board of Regents bestowed a special honorary Doctor of Business Management upon Paul Yin-lien Chen, former director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Guam and now a representative of the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji. Honorary degrees are awarded to individuals who embody the values of the university and who have made significant contributions to UOG and the community.

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