May 13, 2024

Great Bay Community College celebrated its 78th commencement on its Portsmouth campus over the weekend. Three hundred and thirty-two degrees and certificates were conferred with one hundred and sixty students walking during the ceremonies held on Saturday at the College’s Portsmouth campus.

Associate degree and certificates were awarded to graduates of the Accounting, American Studies, Automotive Technology, Biological Science, Biotechnology, Business Administration, Leadership & Management, Sales and Digital Marketing, Computer Numeric Control, Computer Technologies, Programming, Software Development, Criminal Justice, Cyber Security Infrastructure, Digital Media Communications, Early Childhood Education, Educator Preparation, Engineering, English, Environmental Science, Fine Arts, History, Homeland Security & Emergency Management, Hotel, Restaurant & Event Management, Information Systems Technology, Liberal Arts, Massage Therapy, Motorcycle Maintenance & Repair Technology, Nondestructive Testing, Nursing, Psychology, Surgical Technology, Technical Studies, Veterinary Technology and Welding Technologies programs.

The college began in 1945 as the State Trade School at Portsmouth and has become one of northern New England’s leading two-year institutions of higher learning, offering over 50 degree and certificate programs in the sciences, technical studies, and liberal arts while serving as an educational and career hub for students, businesses, and the community.

Distinguished members of the College Community and honored guests represented on the platform at both ceremonies included GBCC President Cheryl Lesser, Great Bay Advisory Board Past Chair Christine Carberry, Community College System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees Chair Katharine Bogle Shields, Community College System of New Hampshire Trustee Steven Slovenksi, Community College System of New Hampshire Chancellor Dr. Mark Rubinstein, Vice President of Academic Affairs Lisa McCurley, Community College System of New Hampshire Trustee Donnalee Lozeau, Student Speaker and graduate Abigail Wagner, Community College System of New Hampshire Trustee Alison Stebbins and Student Speaker and graduate Melissa Shortt.

Dr. Cheryl Lesser, President of GBCC, welcomed the class of 2024 and crowd of close to one thousand family and friends on hand to cheer on the graduates. “The faculty, staff and administration, the entire Community College System of NH are so proud of you for overcoming challenges, persevering, and getting to this next phase of your life” she said. Referring to the quote by Justice Louis Brandeis, ‘fight for the things you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you,’ Lesser continued, “I can’t emphasize enough that you have been prepared to fight for the things that you care about. Use the knowledge gained at Great Bay from the classroom to the conversations with fellow students, faculty, and staff. Go out into this world and strengthen it, repair it, give it a future that will enable us to have sustainable, joyful lives.”

Dr. Mark Rubinstein, Chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, offered remarks and recognized the 2024 Chancellor’s Award Recipients for Teaching Excellence and Service Excellence.

Dr. Lesser announced the recipient names for the 2024 President’s Awards for Outstanding Adjunct Faculty and Outstanding Student and Award for Special Contributions. This year’s Outstanding Student Award was presented to graduate Volodymyr Lysianskyi, originally from Ukraine who came to the U.S. seeking an opportunity to obtain higher education and experience a different part of the world. After graduating with an associate degree in Engineering Science and earning a G.P.A of 3.99, he plans to transfer to the University of New Hampshire.

Lisa McCurley, Vice President of Academic Affairs, announced the recipient names for the 2024 Academic Department Awards.

The Class of 2024 Student Speakers included Abigail Wagner, graduate of the Business Administration program and Melissa R. Shortt, graduate of the English program.

In her address, Abigail spoke about her practice of referring to her program of study as a “project” with each class being a small step culminating to her degree. “It made me sit back and reevaluate how to explain why I was studying the subjects required” she said, “and realized that everything in a project has a purpose. Class of 2024, I hope that we take this experience with us as we continue our project of lifelong learning.”

Student Speaker Melissa Shortt shared the story of, after a discouraging day, receiving a personal and timely note from a faculty member that simply read “you can do hard things.”

A wife and mother of four, with a full-time job, and unsure of her path, her decision to attend GBCC was not an easy one. “It didn’t take me long to realize however,” Shortt said, “that nobody actually cared how old I was.  I began to realize that it is in the moments where I do not have all of the answers that I can learn the most.” At the end of her address she closed by saying, “Remember this, Class of 2024: We can do hard things!”

After graduation from GBCC and receiving his associate degree in Surgical Technology, Gerardo Montes of Dover will be working as a surgical technologist for Mass General Brigham in Boston. “Great Bay impacted my life by helping me understand the importance and value of obtaining an education degree” he said “as well as share and expand my knowledge and be a better person than supports and contributes to the community.”

Megan McCombie, also from Dover, received her degree in Early Childhood Education and will be working at a childcare center as a Toddler Teacher. “The most valued part of GBCC for me was how the course times and schedule are flexible for students like me who work full time while going to college.”

Emily Solomon, who completed her associate degree in Business Administration with a certificate in Leadership and Management, is currently employed at Service Credit Union where she would like to continue with an added goal of helping out in the community.

Three out of six graduates who completed a certificate in Motorcycle Maintenance and Repair attended the ceremony. All report having jobs in their field at Seacoast Harley Davidson, Laconia Harley Davidson, and Monadnock Harley Davidson.

After starting the program in 2021, graduate Amrit Singh of Newmarket earned a certificate in Computer Numeric Control taking classes while working full time and supporting his family. Singh, who came to the United States from India in 2017, also had to overcome a language barrier, learning English while earning his certificate. Adept at learning technology, he has always embraced education. “If you have learning capabilities, then you can learn something new every day,” he said. “For every new problem, there is a new solution.”