'It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine.'
Saturday was a big day for the UM-Dearborn community — more than 1000 students from August and December graduated. Although there wasn’t a physical ceremony due to the pandemic, the community rallied to recognize the achievements of these 2020 graduates.
Fall 2020 graduate Sharon Harris balanced work, school and her non-profit Lupus Detroit from dawn ‘till dusk (and sometimes later).
She’d start her day working as an administrative assistant in the College of Education, Health, & Human Services. She’d later pivot to her Lupus Detroit director role and review hardship applications from Michigan residents with the autoimmune disease who needed help with medical bills or rent. And then she’d take her Masters in Public Administration and Policy college courses and finish homework.
On Saturday, Harris started her day early too. But this time it was to get the party started – it was graduation day.
In the kitchen with her mom, Harris packaged treat bags with locally made chocolate-covered “Go Blue!” strawberries for loved ones — aunts, uncles, cousins and friends — who came by to socially distance celebrate with her.
“We all know it’s been a challenging year. When there’s good, you need to share it with others,” says Harris, who was diagnosed with Lupus in 2002 and experienced several health setbacks, including a stroke, earlier this year. “There have been obstacles, but we’ve overcome. That’s why we celebrate. It’s a big day.”
Saturday was a big day for Harris and the entire UM-Dearborn community. Although there wasn’t a physical ceremony due to the pandemic, the community rallied to recognize the achievements of the August and December 2020 graduates.
The new Wolverine alumni had a variety of life experiences and their ages spanned nearly five decades — from 20 to 67. Undergraduate students had a class grade-point average of 3.2, and graduate-level students earned masters, specialist and doctorate degrees. Many graduates are featured on celebratinggrads.umdearborn.edu.
Chancellor Domenico Grasso and Provost Sue Alcock sent out a message to all graduating students. Grasso virtually conferred earned degrees and congratulated the Class of 2020’s dedication and resolve.
“Completing your degree during these uncertain times took remarkable resilience. Congratulations on your graduation,” Grasso said. “You are going to become leaders in your communities and in your careers and make UM-Dearborn proud.”
Alcock welcomed the new graduates into the U-M alumni family of more than 600,000 strong. She also said to take enormous pride in the newly bestowed academic achievement.
“This is your graduation day. Celebrate it. Share it with your family and friends. Take time to feel very good about what you have accomplished,” she said. “We are with you today, virtually, as we will be with you forever. And as you will always be a part of us. It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.”
As the evening hours settled in, Harris said the berries were gone. But the memories of her graduation day will be long lasting and her degree is something that she will have forever.
Harris plans to use her graduate education to take her non-profit to the next level.
“I want to get into public policy writing to be in a better position to help people move obstacles in their lives,” Harris said. "Lupus Detroit has come a long way, but there is always work to be done. I’m going to continue to do what I’d been doing — but this degree has given me the knowledge on how to do it better."