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Completing a master's degree, looking ahead

More than 130 Point Park master's degree students participated in the University's annual graduate hooding ceremony the evening of April 27, 2014 at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Slideshow: Graduate Hooding 2014

Click slideshow for larger images.

Graduate hooding speaker and Point Park alumnus Michael Wagner, founder of Target Freight Management, shared his story of overcoming enormous challenges, first as a child, then as an adult, to achieve success as an entrepreneur. He encouraged the new graduates to pursue their goals, despite whatever obstacles they face. (See Wagner profile, The Point, Winter 2014).

"If you take anything out of what I've said today, remember this: Always bet on yourself. Never give up. And if you're lucky enough to find your passion one day, learn how to make money from it," Wagner said. "I wish you all the best of luck in the future."

Student speaker Deandra Williamson described her decision to attend Point Park, far from her home in the Bahamas.

"Graduates, don't be afraid to embrace unknown opportunities that come your way, no matter what people say," Williamson told her fellow graduates. "When you embrace the unknown with faith, you become known, and that is why I stand as a testament to academic excellence."

Related article: Commencement 2014

"What does this night mean to you?"

At graduate hooding, 11 new graduates shared their thoughts about reaching their goal of earning a master's degree, taking a few minutes to answer the question, "What does this night mean to you?" Below are their answers.


Curtis Jackson, M.F.A. in Acting

"It means that we have finished something together, not just myself of course, but the rest of my graduate fellows, my family, my friends. Everyone that I've known from undergrad, all of my teachers from undergrad all know that I'm getting hooded tonight. They're all a part of the journey with me. It means the world to all of us. It means that out of everyone we've all worked with and had wonderful life experiences with, this is a proud moment for us academically."


Anna Kudla, M.Ed. in Secondary Education

"It means the beginning steps of my career. One of the reasons I went into teaching was because I wanted to inspire students in the way that I felt when my teachers inspired me â€Â¦ just the joy of teaching and bringing science into the classroom. It makes me feel distinguished - it makes my family, my sisters proud and it's just a way to show them my achievement."


Ilyas Amanbayev, M.B.A.

"This is a really exciting moment of my life. I've been reaching for this target since I was born. After a really complicated (situation) with a lot of obstacles I'm happy I've been here, and I hope all the knowledge that I acquired at this university I can apply at my future work. I would say this university is a fascinating institution with high quality professors and good students. I've met so many international students. I really hope that later on, we can do some international business with my classmates since we graduated from the international department."


Regina Givi, M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication

"This school just clicked with me. I'm so happy I decided to go here. I learned so much in a short period of time and I honestly kind of wish it wasn't over. I never thought I'd say that. It was just such a pleasure to go to campus. It was such a personable school. It made me love journalism. The professors are amazing. I can't stress enough how personable everyone is. You really felt included."


Marlon Luten, M.S. in Engineering Management

"This is huge milestone in my life. I never really thought I would end up here today, that I would work on a master's degree in engineering management. But as I was working as an engineer, things became more crystal as to what I wanted to do. My manager, who went to Point Park, recommended to me that I go to Point Park. I took her advice, I came here and I've been studying for a year and a half to get my degree. It feels great. It feels like a big burden has been lifted. You're challenged. You know you're going to make it, you just persevere and work hard."


Sebentile Dlamini, M.A. in communication technology

"Oh my goodness, this means a lot of patience, hard work and dedication. It will open opportunities for me to get better employment. All my hard work has paid off, so it's a very good feeling."


Marcel Dufresne, M.B.A.

"I struggled with high school. It wasn't until college that I really took academics seriously, so this night means a lot given where I came from. I was kicked off my high school basketball team because of my poor grades, so to turn things around to this point means a lot to me. A lot of hard work has finally paid off."


Katherine Lancaster, M.B.A.

"To me it's the start of a journey that I'm really excited for. When I first moved to Pittsburgh two years ago, this program to me was not only a way to gain more knowledge but to also find myself. I really found myself through this program, and I feel like I know myself stronger than ever. I feel like I got the tools needed to succeed in life."


Zachery Ambrose, M.S. in Environmental Studies

"Obviously, it means furthering my education within the environmental sciences. My undergrad was a B.A. in environment politics and global studies. This is really to get a little bit more of that more focused science background, and to really dive into the specific environmental issues. The program is very diverse -- it covers ethics, the sciences, communications."


Mia Crow, M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication

"I've always wanted to be a writer, since I was 10 years old. In order to validate myself, I went to Chatham (University) to get my degree in creative writing. I needed to be able to write and also to make money, so I felt I needed to go back to school to get my master's degree in writing. When I came to Point Park I realized that as a writer you need to know a lot of things - creative writing, PR - to be successful. I finally achieved the goal of being a master in my art, so I'm excited. That's how important it is for me -- and it's important to show my children that with a lot of hard work and perseverance you can achieve your goals."


Alaa H. Aqra, M.B.A.

"It starts a different stage of my life. It opens doors. Now I have a family -- we're looking to travel and this will help me get employed overseas. I would like to stay in academia. I'm a translator -- I do a lot of interpretations and translations. With globalization, a lot of companies have different sites and subsidiaries in different countries, and I can help with business negotiations."

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