Graduates look toward meaningful, engaged futures during UM-Flint's Spring 2024 Commencement

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A female student receiving her diploma cover from Donna Fry.
UM-Flint hosted four commencement ceremonies, April 27-28, celebrating graduates from the university’s five schools and colleges.

Commencement is a day of celebration – for graduating students first and foremost – but also for friends and family who supported learners throughout their journey, and for faculty and staff who worked alongside scholars to create an environment that fosters curiosity, growth and resilience in the face of a myriad of challenges. It's a day to reflect on the efforts of years of study, late nights, transformative coursework, and lifelong connections gained. 

Commencement is also a valuable opportunity to consider how students' efforts have prepared them for what comes next.

"The challenge now is to take the knowledge, skills and sense of civic responsibility you've learned at UM-Flint and utilize them to improve your life and make your communities and the world a better place for all people to live and work," said Donna Fry, University of Michigan-Flint interim chancellor, in her remarks during the university's Spring 2024 Commencement Ceremonies. 

"On average, you're smarter and better educated than any generation before you. You know more about the world and different cultures. You're more diverse. You care about sustainability. You have all the tools you need to succeed and foster change."

Joslynn Ridley (left), a health science major, and Riley Walsh (right), a biology major, were married on April 26. The couple from Grand Blanc walked in the same ceremony on April 27 and were presented with a wedding gift from Fry (center).

UM-Flint's Spring 2024 Commencement took place April 27-28 at the Riverfront Conference Center. It was divided into four ceremonies that recognized graduates from each of the university's five schools and colleges. More than 1,000 students were eligible to participate in the ceremonies. 

In addition to Fry, the event's speakers included Yener Kandogan, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs; Michael Behm, U-M regent, who addressed the crowd of graduates and their guests via a recorded video message; and student speakers who shared the lessons learned throughout their UM-Flint education and visions for the next chapters of their lives. 

Regental Remarks

Behm urged graduates to remember their U-M education as they go out to do good in the world. 


"Today, you leave UM-Flint as the leaders and best, equipped to contribute to and transform your respective fields, communities and society. I hope, as you go out into the world, you remember the lessons the University of Michigan has instilled in you, including searching for the potential in every opportunity and working to overcome roadblocks that may arise along the way," Behm said. In addition to serving as a U-M regent, Behm, who resides in Grand Blanc, is president of the Flint-based Behm & Behm law firm. 

Student Speakers

Each ceremony included remarks from student speakers, who offered their perspectives on the life-changing experiences they had at UM-Flint and priorities for the next phase of their lives. 

Taylor Culinski

Taylor Culinski speaking at the podium

Culinski, a psychology major from Swartz Creek, has been highly involved in research during her time as an undergraduate. She is the second author of three peer-reviewed and published articles and a research assistant (through UM-Flint's Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program) in the public health department, where she is involved in research regarding telehealth use among teens. 

Her remarks emphasized the impact UM-Flint graduates can have thanks to their degrees and the skills gained from their education. 

"Because of your life, you can inspire others to grow and seek a greater destiny, one that leads to fulfillment and joy. Every part of your life, the good, the bad, the challenging, and the wonderful, has all led to you being here in this moment with me today, celebrating an accomplishment that less than seven percent of people worldwide have accomplished," Culinski said. "Use it to show kindness to those around you, value the perspectives of others, and be a changemaker in your communities and beyond."

Joseph Bujak

Joseph Bujak speaking at the podium

A history and political science double major from Fenton, Bujak is now applying to law schools while working as a clerk in the Oakland County 6th Judicial Circuit Court. He was president and founder of the Pre-Law Society, captain of the moot court competition team, and was instrumental in bringing Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein to campus for a recent event.  

He, too, spurred fellow graduates to do great things with the skills and opportunities afforded to them by UM-Flint. 

"Find an issue you're uniquely passionate about, and work towards its fixing," Bujak said.

"If each of us makes a small difference, then we will have made a big difference, for our families, for our friends, for our children and for our children's children. It is our responsibility to create a better world for them. And the talent, intellect, morality, compassion, and education to create this change are right here in this room." 

Zoiya Morrell

Zoiya Morrell

A self-described "aspiring doctor, a constant writer, and maker of really cheesy puns," Morrell is a biology major from Metamora. She thought back to what the younger version of herself needed to hear at the outset of her college studies and arrived at three points. 

First, lean into fear. "I can't promise you won't be afraid, but I can promise that it doesn't have to stop you from doing incredible things," she said. 

Second, remember the power of interpersonal connection. "Professors are people, students are people. I have a sneaky suspicion that we're all people. So ask your professor how their day is going, sit in the front row, join the student who is sitting alone, and keep your Zoom camera on … It will build relationships with your peers and professors that can change your life."

Finally, she urged a younger Morrell to stay curious. "When I learned to ask creative and, yes, even silly questions, it opened up a whole new world. Even my current project in DNA sequencing with Dr. (Jerry) Sanders and Dr. (Halil) Bisgin is thanks to silly questions about bringing computers into microbiology," she said.

Elaine LaFavor

Elaine LaFavor

As a mother of four from Woodland, LaFavor let her speech be guided by what she would want her own children to hear during a graduation ceremony. The business administration major with a concentration in marketing emphasized the importance of self-belief during her time on stage.

"There's an overall theme within my speech. Perseverance, tenacity, resiliency, perspective, hard work, priorities, kindness, morals, ethics, integrity, character, and confidence are all interconnected and will help build a very well-rounded person and future employee or employer. Find your strength and be ready to tackle the world! Most things, within reason, are not impossible. Defy the odds! We must remember to ask ourselves, no matter how small or large, what legacy do we want to leave?"

Event recording and photos

The recorded live stream of each ceremony is available online:

Photos from each ceremony are available on our Flickr page.

Congratulations to the Class of 2024 and Go Blue! 

Logan McGrady is the marketing & digital communication manager for the Office of Marketing and Communication.