The first U.S. ambassador to hail from Guam, Yuri Kim, addresses University of Guam graduates from her post in Albania. Her message was the keynote address of the university’s virtual commencement ceremony on June 18.

The University of Guam conferred degrees to 360 graduates at its Fañomnåkan Commencement Ceremony on June 18. The number marks the university’s second largest graduating class in history, following last May with 375 graduates. It also marks a record-high number of master’s degrees conferred by the university within an academic year with a total of 144.

The ceremony was held virtually due to safety precautions with the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 1,000 people tuned in live for the ceremony on Facebook, and the video has had 32,000 views overall. Following a processional, anthems, invocation, and speeches that were recorded on a decorated stage in the Calvo Field House, each graduate’s name was called while their graduation photo and title of their degree showed on screen.

The largest number of undergraduates came from the School of Business & Public Administration, which conferred 95 bachelor’s degrees, over half of which were Bachelor of Business Administration degrees. The School of Education graduated the largest number of graduate students conferring 30 master’s degrees.

“This class of graduates of the University of Guam has been resilient and flexible and supportive in the spirit of our CHamoru values of chenchule’ and inafa’maolek,” said UOG President Thomas W. Krise in his remarks. “I am proud of your academic achievements and even prouder of your character. Take what you’ve learned with us and help make the world better for us all.”

Former Guam resident U.S. Ambassador Yuri Kim delivered the keynote speech from her post in Albania. Kim is the first Korean-American woman and the first person from Guam to be a U.S. ambassador.

“There will be more hardship coming your way,” she said. “Life is like that. It spares no one. … You will have to decide what to do about it. Do you surrender to the hardship? Let it derail you? Let it stop you in your tracks? Or do you get back up and find a way over, under, through, around the obstacles that will inevitably come between you and your dream? I hope you choose the latter.”

The graduates also heard from Class of 2020 Valedictorian Megan Yan Gimmen. A Merit Scholar from Okkodo High School, Gimmen graduated with dual degrees in biology and chemistry. She has been accepted into a selective two-year premedical program at Johns Hopkins University, where she will gain mentorship and research experience prior to applying to medical school.

“Realize that your newly earned education equips you with the knowledge and skills to address local problems,” Gimmen told her fellow graduates. “… Guam may face many issues, but that does not mean we should look elsewhere for an already developed, invested-in community. Our very own ‘brain drain’ — where those who are equipped to build our community leave and instead build the communities of others — is not the solution. Our fellow islanders are what make this island special, and we are worth building up.”

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