Jackson State University Awards More Than 1,000 Degrees During the Spring 2022 Commencement Celebration

JACKSON, Miss. , May 3, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Proud family, tearful friends, and optimistic graduates gathered for the sacred celebrations of Jackson State University's Spring 2022 Commencement Ceremonies on April 29th and 30th. During the two days of celebration, President Thomas K. Hudson, J.D., saluted the 414 graduate students and 641 undergraduate students as they crossed their respective stages to culminate their educational journey from students to alumni.

"Today is all about you. I encourage you to enjoy this milestone you've achieved, for it is a tremendous accomplishment in your life and a major step in elevating your career path," said Hudson. "As you prepare to leave your Dear Old College Home, may you leave with confidence knowing that you have been well prepared at a highly esteemed institution and that you are now equipped to change the world."

TIAA President and CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett served as the keynote speaker for the graduate ceremony. She shared several life lessons with the graduating class, advising them always to remain intellectually curious.

"It is important to understand and recognize that within your career when you take your shot, there will be highs, and yes, there will be lows. Even then, ask the question, 'what's the lesson here?'" urged Brown Duckett. "Ask it even when it's painful. Be thankful for those learnings. Those tough times that will set you up for something great."

She also encouraged the graduates to seek out mentorships, which can come from people of various backgrounds and professions. She warned them not to limit their scopes to CEOs or fancy titles because a mentor could be anyone of great character.

"When I interned in the halls of Corporate America, it was the secretaries, the janitors, and the cooks that exposed my melanin and my gender to Corporate America, and here I stand making history. So make sure you see everyone," said Brown Duckett, who is the third Black woman to be named CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Lastly, Brown Duckett encouraged the graduates to take advantage of every opportunity to close the wealth gap for their own families by paying themselves first. After accomplishing her own higher educational goals, she recalled having a heartbreaking conversation with her father to let him know that he had never contributed to his company's 401K plan. He was not ready for retirement, but with her guidance he made the necessary changes to begin making up for lost time.

"We all have to start talking about savings. Because yes, our country is facing a crisis when 83 percent of Black Americans do not have enough to retire. So how will we close the economic gap when the daughter and the son have to take care of mom and dad, to take care of daughter and son and still have to take care of themselves? We need to close the wealth gap for people of color," said Brown Duckett. "Historically black colleges and universities have long been economic engines and generators of black wealth so yes, it is our collective responsibility to do our part to break the cycle. We must right this economic injustice. If we don't, another generation of children will have to carry that burden. So yes, we can and we will do better."

On Saturday, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment Homer Wilkes, Ph.D., addressed Jackson State University's undergraduate students. The proud alumnus received his bachelor's degree, master of business administration, and Ph.D. in urban higher education from JSU. 

"I am delighted to be back here in Jackson, Mississippi. More importantly, I am humbled and honored to be able to come back to Jackson State University. Thee I love," said Wilkes, who is the first African American to serve in his current role. "JSU not only gives you a good education but an education that does good." 

Wilkes centered his address on the fundamental principles of life that guided him through his JSU tenure and into his current position as Under Secretary. He reflected on his humble beginnings growing up in rural Mississippi, instilling in him the principle of being a "good steward of the land."

He then gave the graduating class their first call to action by challenging them to take what they've gained at JSU and move forward throughout the world boldly, reaching and teaching in every space and life they encounter. 

Lastly, the Under Secretary left the Class of 2022 with three salient points to carry throughout their lifelong journey of personal, professional, and spiritual development:

No. 1: Self Awareness – always strive to know thyself, both internal and external. 

No. 2: Create a path and define their purpose. 

No. 3: Stay in touch with one's spirituality. To be rooted in one's faith shall be what sustains them throughout life. As the world presents unexpected shifts and turns, they must remain intentional about the quality of their mental and physical health.

One by one, the excited graduates lined up to walk across the stage with a smile, a wave, and sometimes, a dance step, signifying the closing of one pivotal chapter of their lives.  

"My overall JSU experience has been nothing short of amazing. I have gotten everything I asked for and then some," said Halle Coleman, the 82nd Miss Jackson State University. "A big staple in my JSU experience has been the culture – the warm family atmosphere has truly made me feel at home."  

Prior to commencement, Coleman jump-started her career as a multimedia professional by accepting a public relations specialist position for the Jackson-based and minority-owned marketing agency, Fahrenheit Creative Group. 

"I have gained tangible and intangible skills from the campus that will help me in my new role. My department, the Blue and White Flash [student newspaper], and my internship with University Communications prepared me for writing, editing and storytelling," said Coleman. "I am grateful to have gotten that hands-on experience from JSU prior to entering the workforce." 

About Jackson State University: Challenging Minds, Changing Lives
Jackson State University, founded in 1877, is a historically black, high research activity university located in Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi. Jackson State's nurturing academic environment challenges individuals to change lives through teaching, research and service. Officially designated as Mississippi's Urban University, Jackson State continues to enhance the state, nation and world through comprehensive economic development, healthcare, technological and educational initiatives. The only public university in the Jackson metropolitan area, Jackson State is located near downtown, with five satellite locations throughout the area. For more information, visit www.jsums.edu.

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