Graduates Told: Expect Change, Rely on Merrimack Values

Keynote speaker Jeff Selingo advised graduates at Merrimack College’s 69th Commencement exercises May 19 to expect unexpected career paths that that will lead them to surprisingly rewarding opportunities.

  • Merrimack College held its 69th Commencement exercises for 770 undergraduates and 486 graduate st...
    Merrimack College held its 69th Commencement exercises for 770 undergraduates and 486 graduate students May 19, 2019.
    David M. Barron

“In this new world, individuals can have two, three or half-dozen careers before age 40,” he said. “Searching for and pursuing new dreams is an advantage, not a liability.”

Selingo’s own career path has been circuitous, highlighted with the publication of a best-selling book and his regular column for the Washington Post.

Merrimack awarded bachelor’s degrees to 770 undergraduate students and master’s degrees to 486 graduate students inside Duane Stadium. Altogether, students were from 32 states, and 67 were legacy students (those with family who had preceded them at Merrimack).

Selingo talked about the need to be flexible in future career goals, but undergraduate speaker Paige Sorenson, Plymouth, Minn., who majored in music and environmental studies with minors in biology and social justice while playing for the women’s hockey team, reflected on how the past four years have shaped her classmates and prepared them for the twists and turns in their futures.

“As we close this chapter of our lives and begin to craft a brand new one, there will be many more firsts to come,” Sorenson said. “Whether you are furthering your education, pursuing a professional career, or choosing to take an alternate path in life, it should be comforting to know that Merrimack has prepared us to be successful in our pursuits.”

Graduate speaker Samantha Guerra, of Groton, Mass., who earned a master’s degree in mental health counseling, urged her schoolmates not to downplay their personal challenges and to look for help when they feel pressure building on themselves.

As a graduate student she had a full-time internship matched with a full-time courseload at Merrimack, as well as a job, and tried to squeeze in a social life. Guerra was admittedly slow to ask for help from others when feeling overwhelmed.

“However big or small you deem your challenge to be, it is valid and deserves to be heard,” said Guerra who did her undergraduate work at Merrimack, too. “Embrace the village of family, friends, professors, advisors, and the like to gather around you to support and encourage you.”

Caitlin Callanan, of Walpole, Mass., earned a master’s degree in community health education from the School of Health Sciences and worked as a teacher’s assistant for undergraduates. As part of her graduate work, Callanan did a fellowship at Wellesley College’s health services department.

“The experience of getting to work outside the classroom in the work environment was key,” Callanan said.

Her professional goal is working with underserved communities that lack access to healthcare and has already begun interviewing for jobs.

Adriana Raneri, of Peabody, Mass. graduated with a degree in accounting and a master’s in management. She is going to work for an accounting firm in Charlestown, Mass.

Merrimack had a profound influence on her, Raneri said. She started as a shy freshman in 2015 but through clubs and social activities that took her out of her comfort zone, Raneria grew more confident. “It changed me a lot,” she said. “It’s such a welcoming community.”

Albert Devinent, a finance major from Dracut, Mass., is beginning his career as an entrepreneur. Merrimack’s learning and community environments were essential to his personal development, he said. Anybody can get information by reading books or go to school online, but living in a tight-knit community on campus teaches how to communicate with others and know yourself better.

“You go for academics but the value is in communicating with people, understanding people,” Devinent said. “You get a deeper perspective. I think that is priceless.”