Celebrating More Than 1,000 Graduates During BSU’s 102nd Commencement

Socially distanced Commencement 2021

Commencement 2021

On May 7, students, family members, faculty and staff joined to celebrate Bemidji State University’s Class of 2021. This year, the university acknowledged graduates’ commitment to their education and the campus community in three, in-person ceremonies – one for each of the university’s colleges.

The ceremony to honor the graduates from the College of Arts, Education and Humanities began at 9 a.m. and was followed by the ceremony for the College of Business, Mathematics and Science graduates at noon. The College of Individual and Community Health graduates closed the day with a 3 p.m. ceremony.

Each ceremony was live-streamed on Facebook, Vimeo and YouTube.

Of BSU’s 1,013 graduating students:

  • 67 students who were eligible to receive master’s degrees: six master of science in biology degrees, eight master of science in environmental studies degrees, one master of science in sport studies degree, 13 master of arts in teaching degrees, 21 master of special education degrees, two master of arts in English degrees and 16 master of business administration degrees;
  • 946 students who were eligible to receive undergraduate degrees, including 222 graduates from BSU’s College of Arts, Education & Humanities, 341 from the College of Business, Mathematics and Science and 450 from the College of Individual & Community Health;
  • 440 undergraduates who graduated with honors: 143 Summa Cum Laude honorees, 159 Magna Cum Laude honorees and 138 Cum Laude honorees;
  • 63 American Indian graduates;
  • 29 military personnel or veterans; and
  • at least 14 international students.

Following performances of the national anthem by Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Jennifer Olson and Associate Professor of Music Dr. Cory Renbarger, along with a flag song performance by Ojibwe Nation, Provost and Vice President Dr. Allen Bedford welcomed all attendees to the events in Bemidji’s Sanford Center.

Bedford began by reciting Bemidji State’s new land acknowledgment that recognizes the Indigenous peoples who have been dispossessed from the homelands and territories upon which an institution was built and currently occupies and operates.

President Faith C. Hensrud

President Faith C. Hensrud

President Faith C. Hensrud, Bemidji State University Commencement 2021

President Faith C. Hensrud congratulated the class of 2021 and commended the hard work it took to reach the end of the year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Congratulations for persevering during what may have been one of the most challenging times in your lives,” she said. “Faced with the uncertainty and complications of a global pandemic was enough, but our country also faced a time of increasing racial violence and social injustice that impacted each of us. Throughout it all, you stepped up and supported one another.”

Hensrud concluded her opening remarks by asking each graduate to continue facing challenges head-on and seeking the opportunities presented in hardship.

“Graduates, you have earned the degrees you are about to receive. From here, the next steps are yours,” she said. “As you prepare for this adventure, I ask you to heed the words of Nelson Mandela who said ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’”

City of Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince

City of Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince

City of Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince, Bemidji State University Commencement 2021

Bemidji State University alumnus and City of Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince ‘94, virtually congratulated each class of graduates on their achievements and applauded their dedication to the betterment of themselves, the community and the world.

“Your tenure at BSU has taught you about confidence, how to learn and ask questions, the importance of setting goals and determining success,” he said. “You led and participated in important conversations and have incorporated the qualities of inclusion and change into the curriculum of your life.”

He went on to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and the tenacity each graduate displayed in a year of perpetual change.

“The past 12 months have been unlike anything any of us have ever experienced in recent history,” he said. “But your story is so much more than just the past pandemic-filled year. Throughout your time at Bemidji State University, you have not only been students, but you have also been valuable members of our community. Each of you has created relationships within our community and have positively impacted our city. We are all better because you were here with us.”

Prince closed his remarks with advice to never underestimate one’s ability to change the world and offered additional congratulations from one alum to another.

“As I consider your graduating class, I am excited for your future. Some of you will remain in Bemidji helping us build a stronger and more diverse community. Some of you will be called away to places all over the world,” he said. “Nevertheless, as a Bemidji State alumnus from the class of 1994, I know that wherever you go, you will continue to represent all that is good about Bemidji State and our community. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there for others. Be a force for good and leave our world just a little bit better than you found it.”

Student Speakers

Through a competitive application process, three students were selected to address the graduating classes from each college.

  • Jartue Kroma, master of special education student from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota; College of Arts, Education & Humanities.
  • Kristin Farris, a sports management and mass communication graduate from Goodridge, Minnesota; College of Business, Mathematics & Science.
  • Ashley Martin, a psychology and political science graduate from Soldotna, Alaska; College of Individual & Community Health.

Jartue Kroma

Jartue Kroma, master of special education student from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

Jartue Kroma, master of special education student from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota

While completing her master’s degree online, Kroma excelled in her professional and personal life.

She held a career as a special education teacher, parent and community engagement coordinator and co-athletic director at the Excell Academy for Higher Learning in Brooklyn Park. She also acted as site coordinator for the Lutheran Social Services Imhotep Freedom School in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In addition, Kroma participated with the Children’s Defense Fund and was the assistant varsity cheerleading coach with Brooklyn Park’s Park Center High School.

In her speech, she celebrated the challenges grads face this year, naming them as the obstacles they now know they can overcome.

“Congratulations graduates, you’ve reached not another level of Jumanji, but in fact another chapter of your legacy. This accomplishment is a stepping stone to your next endeavor you wish to embark upon,” she said. “Today I not only congratulate our 2021 Bemidji State University graduates, but I also implore you all to commit to yourselves that you will design a future encompassing your passions and attainable goals. Commit to yourselves that you will not deny or shy away from possibilities that you are more than deserving of, commit to visualizing and manifesting who you want and need to be, commit that you shall not compromise your values or morals, commit to taking care of you and commit to the belief that you are uniquely made and destined to fulfill a purpose.”

Kristin Farris

Kristin Farris, a sports management and mass communication graduate from Goodridge, Minnesota

Kristin Farris, a sports management and mass communication graduate from Goodridge, Minnesota

Initially attending Bemidji State to pursue a career in forensic science, Farris quickly discovered her passion for sports management and began working in the Bemidji State Athletic Media Relations office.

In addition to her role with athletics, Farris has interned with the Bemidji State football team, was the president of the university’s relay for life and shooting sports clubs, and has been involved with the health, sport and exercise and integrated media clubs.

Harris has held a position on President Hensrud’s Student Leadership Council and was named Bemidji State’s Outstanding Sport Management Major for both the 2020 and 2021 academic years. She also received the SHAPE America Sport Management Major of the Year honor in 2021.

In her speech, Farris highlighted the three words that best describe her experience at Bemidji State – passion, perseverance and grit.

“Passion and perseverance, have gotten us into these caps and gowns. Put them together along with everything else that has gotten us to where we are, and you get grit,” she said. “Grit, in its simplest state, is a combination of passion and perseverance. I firmly believe that if you have all these rolling through your mind, you will be able to handle whatever the real world throws at you. I am completely convinced that this graduating class can and will do great things”

Ashley Martin

Ashley Martin, a psychology and political science graduate

Ashley Martin, a psychology and political science graduate

Hailing from Soldotna, Alaska, Martin is a member of Bemidji State’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success, joining hundreds of students nationwide who have been selected for membership based on their academic standing and leadership potential.

Martin has also been an active member of the university’s Student Activity Allocation Committee and was appointed chair for the 2020-2021 year.

In her address, Martin detailed the life of a college senior, praised the hard work of her fellow graduates and applauded the dedication of the university’s faculty and staff.

“However great our accomplishments are, behind the scenes, answering every 3-AM caffeine-induced email, there were our wonderful professors and advisors who have continually offered us the support we needed to get us here,” she said. “I wouldn’t be standing in front of you today if it wasn’t for the faithful guidance of these individuals and the knowledge that they have passed on to me. So, from my heart of hearts, thank you to all of those who have invested in me, and my fellow graduates.”

Cum Laude Honors

The practice of recognizing outstanding academic achievement with Cum Laude honors dates to the earliest European college and university practices in the 13th century. Summa Cum Laude denotes graduates with cumulative grade point averages of 3.90 or higher, Magna Cum Laude recognizes those with GPAs between 3.70 and less than 3.90 and Cum Laude recognizes those with GPAs between 3.50 and less than 3.70.

Alma mater

Dr. Dwight Jilek, associate professor of music

Dr. Dwight Jilek, associate professor of music directing the Bemidji Choir

The Commencement ceremonies were all brought to a close with a performance of Bemidji State’s Alma Mater by the Bemidji Choir led by Dr. Dwight Jilek, associate professor of music and director of choral activities.

The Alma Mater is performed at each freshman Convocation ceremony and again during Commencement to symbolize the  completion of graduates’ degrees.

Online Supplement

In addition to the May 7 in-person program, Bemidji State University’s Class of 2021 was addressed virtually by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor Devinder Malhotra; Jay Cowles, chair of the MinnState Board of Trustees; and Cynthia Cashman ’85, president of the Bemidji State Alumni and Foundation board on behalf of the university’s more than 45,000 alumni.


Photo Gallery – May 7, 2021

Grad Caps