DeVry University's President Elise Awwad Delivers Commencement Address to Class of 2024

June 9, 2024


Graduates, family members, alumni, trustees, distinguished faculty, and university colleagues - hello and welcome!


What an honor it is to recognize all of you, DeVry University's Class of 2024.


We are here for one purpose--to celebrate each of you; your hard work; your sacrifices; your consistent dedication, all culminating in this momentous occasion.


Each of you contributes individually to a diverse student body comprised of unique learners. To illuminate that point a little further, I ask you to stand and remain standing if you are:


  • The first in your family to earn a degree
  • You are a parent
  • You worked a part-time or full-time job while attending classes
  • You are a veteran or current member of the military
  • You juggled work and family obligations alongside exams, live lectures and homework assignments


Take a look around. Our student body is a diverse group, representing a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences. Each one of you enriches the overall DeVry and Keller student community, making the classroom - virtual or in-person - a more vibrant place for learning, networking, and advancement.


We like to kick off Commencement with that activity because it helps give definition to our wonderful student body.


My own career at DeVry University has been a winding road, filled with unique and rewarding experiences that led to me standing before you today. I started at DeVry 20 years ago as a student advisor. I was fortunate to witness our learners achieve incredible success with both determination and dedication, often in spite of challenging circumstances.  That experience has given me a deeper appreciation for the distinct paths each of you navigated along your journey to reach this very moment.   


I know the countless hours of studying, personal sacrifices, and consistent focus, grit, and perseverance you harnessed to reach this milestone.


When I reflect on what it took each of you to arrive here today, I liken the journey to that of a marathon. As we reflect upon your individual paths to this stage, the phrase, "it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon," comes to mind.


At the start of your educational journey, you were filled with excitement and a touch of apprehension. You had prepared diligently, determined to achieve your personal best along the course ahead. As you took your first steps, you quickly learned that this race would be a long, steady journey that required pacing, patience, and quite a bit of self-motivation.


In the early miles, you found your rhythm, balancing the new responsibilities of coursework with personal and professional obligations. Along the way, there were exhilarating stretches where you took in meaningful mile markers (such as getting the grade you were striving for), the joy of camaraderie (like engaging with students in live lectures and discussion threads), and the satisfaction of overcoming challenges. But inevitably, fatigue set in as you faced late-night study sessions, projects, and exams that may have seemed like an unending, steep climb. If you're inclined to compare all of this to the Chicago Marathon--and know a thing or two about the city itself--you probably realized there were bound to be a few potholes… and random gusts of 50 mph winds pushing against you along the way.


Yet, even during these difficult stretches, you pressed ahead step by step, you drew strength from the encouragement of your champions, whether peers, professors, advisors, mentors or loved ones. You learned to keep running no matter the obstacles - to find motivation from within, and to celebrate the small victories that drove you forward. You discovered that this wasn't just about reaching the finish line but finding joy in the journey - each mile a lesson, every step a testament to your resilience.


Few complete this journey alone. Which is why today is a day to also recognize your cheering section. Those who watched you tackle each mile – they weren't merely passive spectators, but active members of your circle who supported, praised, and fueled your success. Your family, parents, siblings, significant others, your children, friends, and colleagues – they all played an active, integral role in your success and share in your achievements today.


To those here to show support, thank you for standing behind your graduates every step of the way. Let's give this group a well-deserved round of applause.


While today may feel like the finish line, remember that graduation is not about the conclusion of a journey, but rather the commencement of another.


Simply put, finishing this journey is not the end, but the beginning of something entirely new. The certificate or degree you are earning today is your medal, an emblem of your commitment and persistence, and the lessons learned are the fuel for your future successes.


You've faced unprecedented challenges, from global pandemics to economic uncertainties, and yet, you've persevered. Your ability to adapt and succeed in the face of adversity is a testament to your strength and determination and the driving force behind the person you've transformed into.


Our goal at DeVry University is to prepare you to run your own race – to set you on a path to fulfillment and achievement that embraces the richness of life's experiences and opportunities. I'm sure many of you are reflecting on everything you've accomplished.  As a university, we are as proud of your academic achievements as we are of your limitless potential to accomplish more as alumni.


Throughout your time at DeVry University, you have been at the forefront of innovation, interacting with emerging technologies and learning to problem-solve in a world whose only constant is change. Your journey has been defined by a commitment to continuous learning and by the resilience necessary to grapple with your changing realities.


Whether you pursue careers in technology, healthcare, business, or any other field, remember your efforts can and will transform industries, uplift communities, and inspire future generations. As you continue to reflect on your time at DeVry, remember the team that supported you along the way – including those with me here today on stage - will continue to stand by you, ready to support and cheer you on at every turn.


Whether you choose to pursue opportunities to further your education or make the most of our on-demand career support services through the Alumni Association's Career Compact – Know that we are here to help you continue to advance your ambitions as alumni.


As you step into the future, you’ll encounter new terrains. Some paths will be smooth and others rocky. Sprints will be followed by stumbles, and stumbles by sprints. In those times, remember that the resilience and perseverance that has delivered you to this moment will indeed carry you through.


So, if I can leave you with a few things to remember... it's to draw strength from your supporters, adjust your pace as needed, and don’t forget to find some joy in the journey as you navigate the course ahead.


I want to thank each one of you for your contributions to making our university community the special place it is today. You have and will continue to make us all DeVry proud.


Congratulations, Class of 2024!

Contact Us

Hessy Fernandez

Director, Public Relations

Michaela Feldmann

Media Relations Specialist

Alicia McClendon

External Media & Content Specialist

About DeVry University 

DeVry University strives to close society’s opportunity gap and address emerging talent needs by preparing learners to thrive in careers shaped by continuous technological change. Founded in 1931, the university offers undergraduate and graduate programs onsite and online in Business, Healthcare and Technology. DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC, The university’s Keller Graduate School of Management is included in this accreditation. To learn more, visit