New UND grads give big smiles during summer commencement ceremony

More than 600 students were eligible to receive degrees at the UND summer commencement ceremony on Friday, Aug. 5, though the total number who actually walked was smaller.

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David Corbine celebrates receiving his degree during UND's summer commencement ceremony on Friday, Aug. 5, at the Chester Fritz Auditorium. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)
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GRAND FORKS — Big smiles and loud, proud cheers filled the Chester Fritz Auditorium on Friday as UND students crossed the stage at summer commencement and officially became alumni.

More than 600 students were eligible to receive degrees at the UND ceremony, though the total number who actually walked was smaller. According to updated numbers from the UND registrar, expected to graduate were 300 undergraduates, 237 master’s students and 80 doctoral students. UND spokesman David Dodds said the 80 doctoral graduates was one of the highest numbers in recent summer commencement ceremonies.

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Nicole Beston waves to loved ones as she cross the stage during UND's summer commencement ceremony on Friday, Aug. 5. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)

UND President Andrew Armacost presided over the ceremony, with James Mochoruk, Chester Fritz distinguished professor of history, as the guest speaker.

“All of you should be incredibly proud of what you have accomplished, for success at university always calls for considerable sacrifice – in terms of time, effort and, of course, money,” he told the graduating class, which earned a small chuckle from the crowd.

Mochoruk, who has been at UND since 1993, has developed courses in Canadian, Canadian-U.S., British and First Nations history. He became a Chester Fritz distinguished professor in 2013.


Mochoruk has long been an advocate of shared governance at UND and has served on an array of UND Senate committees, task forces, administrative search committees and as chair of his department and UND Senate, the release noted. He currently serves as co-chair of UND’s Strategic Planning Committee.

When speaking of leadership, Mochoruk said he doesn’t use the word “leader” lightly.

“Here at UND, we proudly proclaim that we support the development of ‘leaders in action.’ But all too often when we use the word ‘leader’ we only think of the person who is in charge – the CEO of the company, the commanding officer in the armed forces, the individual who makes the great scientific or creative breakthrough – in short, the person who is at center stage,” he said.

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James Mochoruk, Chester Fritz distinguished professor of history and guest speaker, addresses the graduating class during UND's summer commencement ceremony. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)

He said that while that image is deeply ingrained in everyone’s minds, some graduates may not see themselves as leaders, or even potential leaders, yet. But leadership can look different for everybody in every job, he noted.

“I would urge all of you to think a bit differently and to realize that leadership, like love, is a many-splendored thing,” he said. “As well-educated and engaged citizens of the world it will be both your duty and your responsibility to lead – and I urge you to happily accept the mantle of leadership.”

He encouraged the graduates to lead by example, to foster collaboration and to encourage those around them to “take the initiative and be risk-takers.” That type of leadership is found in almost any setting, even with friends, family and community, Mochoruk said.

“In short, I urge you to exercise your unquestioned abilities to lead – and to do so in the ways and manner that are most comfortable to you, and most useful to our world. I wish you all the best of luck as you lead us forward,” he closed.

The ceremony also featured the induction of Julia Xiaojun Zhao as a Chester Fritz distinguished professor of chemistry. This spring, Zhao was selected for the distinction alongside Glenda Lindseth, professor of nursing, and Sean Valentine, professor of management. Lindseth and Valentine were inducted during spring commencement. The Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Award is the highest honor the university bestows upon faculty.


Zhao is a “preeminent expert in nanoparticles and nanomaterials,” UND said. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, several invited book chapters and a book on the topic. And she has presented on the topic at conferences across the world.

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Julia Xiaojun Zhao, center, is inducted as a Chester Fritz distinguished professor of chemistry during UND's summer commencement ceremony on Friday, Aug. 5. Next to her include UND leaders, Provost Eric Link, left, and UND President Andrew Armacost, right. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)

UND said Zhao is “a tireless advocate for underrepresented groups” and STEM disciplines, continually seeking ways to reach out and connect effectively with others. Her Sunday Academy and virtual learning videos have helped her build relationships among North Dakota’s tribal college student communities.

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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