At commencement, students celebrate their accomplishments and officially become Spartan graduates. From May 5–7, Michigan State University’s spring commencement ceremonies honored more than 9,500 graduates in the Class of 2023.
This year, more than 330 advanced-degree graduates and 990 undergraduates from the Broad College of Business crossed the stage, ready to inspire the future of business.
“The greatest superpower isn’t flying, x-ray vision or leaping over tall buildings. . . . The greatest superpower is serving others,” Erik Qualman (B.A. Marketing ’94), bestselling author, said in his address to undergraduates at the Broad College’s ceremony on May 6. “We are all superheroes, and the meaning of life is about discovering our superpowers, our gifts, and our purpose is to give these gifts, these superpowers, away to make the world a better place.”
Through his books and keynote speeches, Qualman has reached 50 million people across 55 countries, and he’s worked with brands like Starbucks, Raytheon, Chase, Sony, IBM and Disney. From the Breslin Center podium, Qualman encouraged the Class of 2023 to step into their story, find their superpowers and embrace being flawsome.
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“Those moments that don’t defeat us define us,” he said. “You will fail at something, you will lose, you will suck. The question is, how high will you bounce up when you fall?”
Leaning into his superhero theme, Qualman led the students through a power pose they can use to boost confidence and reduce stress throughout the body. Qualman also distributed a pair of neon green sunglasses for each graduate — a nod to his own signature superhero look as Equalman.
“If you never take that step forward, then you’re always in the same place,” he said, noting how it took him 15 years to embrace being Equalman and stepping into his own story. “Have the courage to step into your story. It’s uncomfortable at first but the most comfortable in the long term.”
Broad alumnus Jerry Jonckheere (B.S. Accounting ’81) was also recognized at the ceremony for the profound impact he has had on the college and the community where he lives. Jonckheere, retired partner at PwC, received the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award, recognizing his career successes and his dedicated involvement and leadership with West Michigan Spartans.
Many students in the Class of 2023 accomplished exceptional things during their time at MSU and especially throughout their senior year. A record 34 business students received Board of Trustees Awards for completing their degrees with a 4.0 GPA, and finance senior Sean Gordon received the 2023 Saber Award, making him the top Army ROTC cadet in the state of Michigan.
In the world of golf, supply chain management senior Valery Plata spent her senior year competing in the LPGA and crossed the stage as a professional golfer, graduating finance senior Parker Jamieson earned MSU Athletics’ President’s Award — its most prestigious academic honor — and finance and psychology senior Andrew Hendren finished his time at MSU with the James D. Standish Award for his outstanding efforts as an Evans Scholar and caddie.
Supply chain management senior Carlos Conrad highlighted the determined spirit of the graduating class as he addressed his peers as this year’s student speaker.
“Our entire college experience has been unconventional,” he said, noting specific challenges like a fully remote learning environment during the pandemic. “Throughout it all, we proved that we are strong together. Resiliency is the recurring motif for the Class of 2023, and Spartans will be resilient no matter where our lives take us.”
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Throughout his four years at MSU, Conrad was active in numerous student organizations both within the Broad College and across the university. He was a resident assistant and pursued two minors in environmental and sustainability studies and peace and justice studies. Across the board, Conrad enjoyed making connections with fellow Spartans and said that was a big part of his journey.
Kindness was a running theme emphasized in both Qualman’s and Conrad’s speeches, reminding the newly minted Spartans to make the world a better place by treating others well.
“Choose kindness. I believe, if everyone on this planet was a little nicer to each other, the world would be a better place,” Conrad said.
As we share well-wishes with the Class of 2023 for their milestone achievements, take in the celebration by watching our video recap of the spring 2023 commencement ceremonies.