This year's theme: The Journey to Success Starts with the Promise of Today
Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC), one of the 11 Maricopa Community Colleges, hosts its annual graduation ceremony; this year the college will award 1,054 associate degrees and 1,008 academic and occupational certificates to 931 students completing between fall 2015 and summer 2016.*
Estrella Mountain Community College places learning first – any way, any place, any time. Collaborating as one, students, instructors, staff, and the community come together to explore a world of possibilities, celebrate diversity, foster growth, and recognize excellence.
This year’s student-selected theme, “The Journey to Success Starts with the Promise of Today,” fosters that mission as it encourages students to be aware of the pivotal moments on their path of learning. Students are encouraged to embrace both their achievements and their challenges, learning valuable lessons with each milestone that is a part of this life-changing journey. The EMCC faculty and staff are dedicated to providing the foundation and support that helps students reach their goals.
Time and Location:
EMCC Commencement Ceremony
May 12, 2016
1938 South Ballpark Way, Goodyear, Ariz.
The commencement ceremony will also be streamed live online on the day of the event.
EMCC Commencement Keynote Speaker
The 2016 keynote commencement speaker is Dr. Maria Hesse, who serves as Vice Provost for Academic Partnerships at Arizona State University (ASU), helping to create and sustain productive relationships with community colleges and other organizations. Prior to joining ASU in 2009, Hesse served as president at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, one of the Maricopa Community Colleges. She holds a Master of Business Administration from Arizona State, master’s and doctoral degrees in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, and is a graduate of the Harvard Institute for Educational Management. She has served as a consultant to colleges from Florida to California, and is very active in a number of nonprofit organizations in the community.
EMCC Commencement Faculty Speaker
Dr. Shannon Manuelito is this year’s faculty speaker; she is currently serving as the Estrella Mountain Community College Faculty Senate President. Manuelito joined the EMCC residential faculty ranks in 2008 teaching biology. Prior to teaching at EMCC, she taught on the Navajo reservation at Dine College in Shiprock, N.M., where she grew up. Manuelito earned a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science from New Mexico State University, where she later earned a Master of Science in Biology. Shortly after entering into the professorate, she earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Education from Arizona State. Throughout her tenure at EMCC, Manuelito has demonstrated a commitment to increasing student engagement and success. She completed a Maricopa Institute for Learning Research Fellowship, has been awarded the NISOD Excellence Award, and was instrumental in establishing the Engage Estrella Mentoring Program at EMCC. When not in the classroom, Manuelito enjoys spending time with her family, glamping, and watching sporting events.
EMCC Commencement Student Speaker
Christine Tran was chosen as the 2016 Commencement speaker, highlighting perseverance, determination, and patience as keys to success. Tran moved to the United States from Vietnam in 2001. She had earned a four-year degree in business administration in Vietnam and worked for major corporations there, but wasn’t fluent enough in English to immediately obtain a similar position in California. Tran immersed herself in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, which helped her acquire a job at a dental office. She liked California but was ultimately drawn to Arizona as “a great place for my future.” Tran continued ESL studies part-time at EMCC while working. “I earned all A’s; getting those good grades really helped my confidence.” In 2014, she ramped up to a full-time class schedule. A member of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society who also participated in the college’s Entrepreneur Club, Tran credits her success to the support she received at EMCC. “It is a wonderful place. I had so many professors who inspired me and made me realize I could achieve my goals and dreams.” Some of her trepidation came from being a bit older than the traditional idea of a college student, even though that’s not uncommon at many community colleges. “My professors helped me to overcome those feelings and I am so grateful for that.” In December 2015, Tran completed her Associate of Applied Science in Accounting. She will transfer to Grand Canyon University in fall 2016 to earn a bachelor’s degree and plans to pursue an accounting career. When she isn’t studying, Tran’s free time is spent with her son and daughter. She is dedicated to being a strong role model, leading by example to highlight the many benefits of having a good education.
EMCC staff- member-and-son graduate together
For the past ten years, Natalie Avila has been an administrative secretary at EMCC, after spending two years working for the Maricopa County Community College District office located in the Perryville Prison. In that position, she was able to work alongside some of the prisoners as they worked towards rehabilitation and release as student assistants. She moved with her husband and three kids from California for the job, not having any friends or family in the area. “It was scary,” she said, “But I was excited for the new experience.” Avila said it was a hard decision to make, regarding taking on a college career on top of a fulltime job and raising a family. She credits EMCC’s Dean of Student Services, Dr. Tanisha Johnson-Maxwell, with giving her the inspiration. She started out with one class, soon added another, and it wasn’t long before she was taking 15 credit hours at a time. She said her family was extremely supportive, and once even surprised her with a laptop computer to help make things easier. Avila will be receiving an Associate of Applied Science in Public Administration and in the fall, she will continue her studies through Northern Arizona University’s online program in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree in public administration. She feels that her success adds authenticity to her relationships with the students she mentors and guides. Adding depth to her exciting story is the fact that her 21-year-old son, Adrian Avila, will be graduating alongside his mom, as he receives his Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Studies. Currently a cook at a local hotel, he is already looking into the next steps to become a teacher so that he can instruct culinary students.
2016 Graduate Successes
“My instructors at Estrella Mountain exposed me to new things, taught me about taking advantage of opportunities and, most importantly, the benefits of continuing my education. EMCC is truly a learning college that continuously tries to provide the most opportunities for students.” - Andres Quintero
“EMCC provided me a supportive and fantastic environment to learn in as an adult re-entry student. I thought it would be one of the most difficult things I would take on, and discovered that with the assistance of the knowledgeable and helpful staff and faculty, as well as their wonderful encouragement, I actually accomplished two associate degrees.” - Lina Luna
*Award estimates are unofficial, based on data and applicants as of 4/20/16.