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Bittersweet emotions shared at Woodbury University graduation

Jubilant graduates are all smiles as they walk to their seats for the start of the Woodbury Universi
Jubilant graduates are all smiles as they walk to their seats for the start of the Woodbury University’s graduation ceremony at Woodbury University on Saturday morning.
(Photo by James Carbone)

Levity and tears, nervousness and joy were just a small array of emotions shared by hundreds of students, faculty, staff, administrators, parents and family members who participated in the 135th Woodbury University graduation this past Saturday.

In all, 222 undergraduates and 63 master’s students took part in the ceremony, which also included honorary degrees, a few speeches and a graduation address by NBC weather forecaster Fritz Coleman.

“It’s surreal,” said Ashley McFadden, a Crescenta Valley High School graduate who transferred to Woodbury from Pasadena City College. “People keep asking if I’m excited for graduation, and it doesn’t feel like it’s happening.”

She added, “The last week leading up to this, I was getting emotional looking at the campus in a different way and noticing things that I experienced as a freshman here and getting sentimental.”


McFadden, who graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, wasn’t the only participant with mixed emotions.

“You work so hard for something and then the day comes here, and you don’t really expect it to feel the way it does,” said Riverside native Carlos Lozano. “It doesn’t feel real, but I think it’s time I accept it.”

Class speaker Madeline Andrieu, who earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, spoke about how being academically involved with supportive professors and internships in the private sector turned her from a dispassionate student into a believer in her school’s mission.

“Because of the amazing opportunities Woodbury University has given us, we don’t need to get ready for the ‘real world,’” she said. “The ‘real world’ needs to get ready for us.”


Coleman spoke for a little more than 15 minutes and immediately opened with an ice-breaking joke.

“I want to address the elephant in the room right off the bat,” he said. “I can hear your parents thinking, ‘We spent all this money for four years, [and] they give us a weatherman on graduation. Really? They couldn’t find an Uber driver? The pit boss at the Commerce Casino was busy today?’”

Coleman, who devotes much of his free time to charitable pursuits and community outreach, encouraged the graduating class to not only focus on their careers, but also to give back.

“I just want to suggest to you today as you start your careers… those moments when you have shared your gifts to make someone else’s time on this planet better will be the moments of greatest satisfaction,” Coleman said.

Coleman and Greg Lippe, president of the university’s board of trustees, were awarded honorary doctorates in public service.

Those were the first of many degrees handed out.

“It’s been a lot of late nights and a lot of hard work,” said Van Nuys resident Fausto Funes, who earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture. “At the end of the day, it feels surreal. It feels like a dream.”

Christina Babikian, Preni Barseghian and Anita Karapetyan were recognized as the top students in the accounting department, along with Megan Pinkston in animation, Mohamed Abdul Hasan in architecture, Laura Gutierrez Rojas in communication, Amber Luke in fashion design, Tuan Nguyen in fashion marketing, Brian McDevitt Jr. in filmmaking, Rafik Vardanyan in game art and design, Ashley Lowe in graphic design, Andrieu in interdisciplinary studies, Christian Esparza in interior architecture, Gladys Castro in leadership, Sorin Huh in management, Maria Khachatryan in marketing, Matthew Gonzalez in media technology, Gigi Manukyan in political science and Shushan Oktanyan in psychology.


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