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UNCW Class of 2023 Officially Lifts Off

Graduates Celebrate During Commencement Exercises
Graduates Celebrate During Commencement Exercises

“The view from here really is impressive – you, the Class of 2023, are an extraordinary group of Seahawks,” remarked UNCW Chancellor Aswani K. Volety from the stage of Trask Coliseum during the first of four ceremonies that marked UNCW's one-hundred-and-fourth commencement exercises May 12-13.  

This was the first commencement he presided over since being formally installed as UNCW’s seventh chancellor on March 31.  

“Graduates, today is about you and your accomplishments. It has not been an easy road to get here, and that makes your success even more special. In true Seahawk style, you rose above the hurdles life has placed in your path, and you earned the degree we are celebrating with you today,” he said.  

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The 3,183 graduates* officially honored with degrees hailed from 33 states as well as the District of Columbia. In addition, 21 international graduates from 11 countries were represented. Chengze Li, a math major, is the first graduate from the 3+1 dual degree partnership between UNCW and the Chongqing University of Arts and Sciences in China. Li will begin his graduate studies at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University this fall.  

Other cohorts this was a milestone commencement for include:  
Bachelor of Respiratory Therapy Program: The program accepted its inaugural class in fall 2021 during the Covid pandemic. Its first graduating entry into practice cohort of 15 students (all with job offers) created the Association for Respiratory Therapy student organization to promote co-curricular service.  

BSN-DNP Program: The more than 70 graduates in this cohort include students in both the Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner concentrations. They began their DNP studies in the fall of 2020. 

MFA in Filmmaking: The program began in fall 2020 at the height of the pandemic and graduated eight in its first cohort. According to program director Dave Monahan, two other students have delayed graduation to this fall to complete their thesis projects. Each MFA candidate directs three motion picture projects during their coursework for the terminal degree program.   

Student-Athletes: A total of 47 Seahawk student-athletes completed their degrees (see list by sport). 

More in-depth profiles of our new alumni

During each ceremony, Terry Artis ’23 sang the National Anthem and Provost James J. Winebrake presented special distinctions and honors.  

“You have taken our Seahawk motto ‘Discere Aude - dare to learn’ to an entirely new level,” said the provost in his remarks. “You have adapted and ‘dared to learn’ no matter what. Know that you do not walk alone. If there is one take-home message from this commencement weekend, it is that your journey with UNCW does not end today. The faculty and staff with whom you worked, and shared your life’s stories and dreams, and talked to about your passions and goals – we will be here for you throughout your lifetime.” 

Greetings were delivered by Henry E. “Hank” Miller III ’85 on behalf of the UNCW Board of Trustees, M. Nolan Byrd ’23 from the UNCW Senior Class. Alison Baringer ’04 welcomed the new graduates to the alumni community of more than 100,000 on behalf of the Alumni Association.  

Wanda Coley ’96, Vice President of Strategy for UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement, gave the commencement address during Friday’s ceremonies. Linda B. Sayed ’78, ’85M, Certified Family Law Specialist and partner at Block, Crouch, Keeter, Behm & Sayed, LLP, was the guest speaker for Saturday’s ceremonies. 

“As you lift off from UNCW and fly toward a new year and new opportunities, I challenge you to pursue your next set of goals with the same determination that you applied to earning your degree,” said Chancellor Volety in closing. “You are part of a powerful teal network of alumni, faculty, staff, friends and donors who believe in this university and support the UNCW experience. Class of 2023, UNCW is proud of you and all that you have accomplished.” 

It is estimated more than 14,000 trekked through Trask to watch the ceremonies in person. The ceremonies were also available for viewing via livestream. 

* The ceremonies included 176 summer 2023 graduates who were approved to participate. Numbers were provided by the UNCW Division of Student Affairs and were current as of May 2, 2023.