Dr. Aminata Touré and JJ Green to Receive Honorary Degrees

Champlain College will celebrate its on-campus undergraduate and Champlain College Online undergraduate and graduate students during its commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13. Honorary doctorates will be awarded to commencement speakers Dr. Aminata Touré, Senegalese politician and human rights activist, and JJ Green, national security correspondent. 

The events will celebrate what it means to be Champlain Ready and the importance of being more human in a digital world. Ceremonies will kick off at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction at 10:00 AM for on-campus undergraduate students and 3:00 PM for students receiving undergraduate and master’s degrees through Champlain College Online. President Alex Hernandez is expected to confer 334 bachelor’s degrees during the on-campus undergraduate ceremony and 133 master’s degrees, 126 bachelor’s degrees, and 19 associate degrees during the afternoon ceremony for Champlain College Online graduates. 

“Commencement is a time to celebrate our graduates and recognize all they have accomplished through Champlain’s career-focused curriculum, experiential learning, and internships,” said Champlain College President Alex Hernandez. “This year, we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Aminata Touré and JJ Green who will share their stories of determination and compassion, inspiring our students to be ready—ready to make a difference and build a better future.” 

Headshot of Dr. Aminata Touré wearing a white blouse, white pearl necklace, and a white head wrap
Senegalese politician and human rights activist Dr. Aminata Touré will speak to the on-campus undergraduate community and receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa.

Dr. Aminata Touré will speak to the on-campus undergraduate community and receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa. Dr. Touré has held several Senegalese government positions, including Prime Minister (2013-2014), Minister of Justice (2012-2013), President’s Special Envoy for Internal and External Affairs (2015-2019), President of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (2019-2020), and was elected to the Senegalese Parliament in 2022. 

As a champion of both human rights and women’s rights, Dr. Touré served as the Director of Gender and Human Rights of the United Nations Population Fund in New York from 2009-2012, during which time she worked with Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center and the Vermont-based non-profit, Population Media Center to produce “BREAKAWAY,” a global video game initiative that educates youth, changing their attitudes and behaviors during critical development ages, and supports them in becoming champions for ending gender-based violence.

JJ Green wears a black suit and square checkered tie, standing in front of a Pentagon sign
National security correspondent JJ Green will address the Champlain College Online undergraduate and master’s graduates and receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa.

JJ Green will address the Champlain College Online undergraduate and master’s graduates and receive a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa. The national security correspondent at WTOP radio reports daily on international security, intelligence, foreign policy, terrorism, and cyber developments. Green provides regular on-air analysis on both radio and TV and hosts the weekly podcast Target USA, which examines threats facing the U.S. He was embedded in war zones with the US military three times and won more than three dozen national, regional, and local journalism awards for his work.

headshot of smiling Olivia Sommerer wearing a tan turtleneck sweater
Degree Design Lab major Olivia Sommerer ’23 is the Commencement speaker for the on-campus undergraduate Class of 2023.

In addition to the honorary degree recipients, student speakers will address their fellow graduates in each of the two ceremonies. Olivia Sommerer, representing on-campus undergraduate students, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science from the Degree Design Lab with concentrations in Communications, Innovation, and Social Justice and is originally from Jupiter, FL. Committed to helping others and our planet, Sommerer plans to make a difference around the world through the Peace Corps and aspires to be a college professor someday engaging the next generation of change makers.

headshot of Denzel Johnson wearing black graduation gown, yellow honors stole, and a navy tie
Army Veteran and current Michigan National Guardsman Denzel Johnson is the Class of 2023 Commencement student speaker for the Online undergraduate and master’s ceremony.

Army Veteran and current Michigan National Guardsman Denzel Johnson will represent Champlain College Online and is graduating with a Master of Science in Information Security. Johnson hails from Detroit, MI, and previously earned his Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity through Champlain College Online in 2021.

We are excited to also welcome two alumni speakers to the stage this year. Accounting alumnus Nick Foss ‘14 currently serves as the Director of Finance at Green Mountain Transit and will share his story during the 10 AM ceremony. Four-time Champlain alumna and Director of Champlain’s Emergent Media Center Sarah Jerger will welcome Champlain College Online graduates to the alumni family during the 3 PM ceremony.

Champlain staff member and alumna Hilary Delisle, along with her a cappella group Root7, will sing the national anthem. 

For more information about our 2023 Commencement ceremonies and to watch livestreams of both ceremonies, visit commencement.champlain.edu.

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