Vienna Commencement Celebrates Classes of 2020, 2021
September 22, 2021
On Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, Webster Vienna Private University held a special commencement ceremony for the classes of 2020 and 2021. After postponements due to the global pandemic, the event was an opportunity for members of both classes to celebrate in person, in Webster Vienna's traditional commencement setting of the historic Hofburg Imperial Palace.
Faculty, staff, proud parents and friends welcomed the over 80 freshly graduated students as their degrees were conferred. Students from 32 countries joined the annual ceremony.
The ceremony began with a welcome given by Johannes Pollak, rector of Webster Vienna, to all attendees. Fellow faculty member Bradley E. Wiggins served as Master of Ceremony, presenting the honors and awards to the class of 2020 and 2021.
Stefano Cantini (MA’94), former president of the Vienna Chapter of the Webster University Alumni Association, and Melanie Smith (MBA’14), vice president of the Vienna Chapter of the Webster University Alumni Association, then presented the Alumni Association Awards. The recipients of these awards this year are Loren Irene Sandoval Arteaga (undergraduate student leadership award), Karim Amr Ibrahim Elatraby (graduate student leadership award), and Julia Zimmerman (Bronwyn K. Mitterecker memorial alumni award).
Wiggins also presented the faculty awards. The recipients of these awards were Katrin Kristjansdottir (Excellence in Teaching award), Marc Mehu (Teacher of the Year 2021), Meng Chen (Teacher of the Year 2021), and Nicholas Simon (Adjunct Teacher of the Year 2021).
Following the honors and awards delivery, Laura Leyser, this year’s commencement speaker, delivered an inspiring speech to all attendees. Her address centered on the value of education, pursuing one’s dream and gratitude for what one has. Leyser is the general director of Doctors without Borders Austria and has years of experience in international development.
Three valedictorian addresses were delivered by graduating students this year. The valedictorians are the undergraduate and graduate students with the highest cumulative GPA of their graduating class. These students are invited to deliver an address to their peers at the Commencement Ceremony. The valedictorians this year are Loren Irene Sandoval Arteaga (BA'21), Karim Amr Ibrahim Elatraby (MSc'21) and Andree Claude Gaudet LaRocque (MA'20).
Following the valedictorian addresses, Prof. Dr. Johannes Pollak conferred the degrees of the graduating students allowing the graduates to move their tassels from right to left and throw their caps, an American tradition. The celebration then continued at the champagne reception prepared for our graduates and their guests.
As all attendees relaxed over refreshments during the champagne reception, many discussed their experience with students throughout their university years. David I. (BA’20) commented, "Webster provided me with a knowledge basis I could never have imagined, as well as with lifelong friendships. It is the place to start your academic career!"
Regarding future plans, Anastasia H. (BSc ’21) commented, "I want to combine management and psychology, both fields which I have studied a lot, and work in human resources. I want to stay in Vienna; I am in love with the city!"
When asked for recommendations for new Webster Vienna students, Loren S. (BA’21) suggested, "I would recommend new students to be active members of the Webster Vienna community."
During her commencement address, Laura Leyser, the general director of Doctors without Borders Austria and this year’s commencement speaker, gave a piece of advice to our graduates, "The world is yours; go and be the change you want to see!"
Liane Hirner, CFRO of the Vienna Insurance Group and member of the Webster Vienna advisory board, also urged graduates to "be yourself, be authentic and find your way - you can’t copy anybody."
Congratulations to all graduates! Webster Vienna faculty and staff are proud of each one of you and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.