“Having the Mass is a beautiful tradition and I felt blessed to be a part of it. It’s an intimate event and a beautiful way to be recognized — in Founders Chapel and in front of God,” said Hibbs, who attended USD’s annual Mid-Year Graduation Celebration Mass. The event, while not an official graduation ceremony, takes place for students who complete their studies in December or will do so in January.
Hibbs, who assisted fellow mid-year graduate Vincent Padilla with the Prayers of the Faithful portion of Mass on Thursday, is actually graduating for the second time from USD. After earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in May 2009, Hibbs entered the Master of Arts in Peace and Justice Studies program three months later through the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. On Wednesday, she presented her capstone research, titled, “Discrimination against Widows in majority-Hindu communities and societies in South Asia,” to become one of seven graduates of the school’s inaugural 17-month track cohort.
Her many experiences at USD, she said, helped shape who she is. “One of the best things about my education at USD were the values it instilled in me as a Catholic and the Catholic woman I feel it calls me to be. I want to take that out into the world, all that I’ve learned — peace building, equality and justice — and I hope to find a vocation that works for all of these things.”
Kelsey Harris, meanwhile, is the last of Michael and Becky Harris’ four children to graduate from college. Kelsey, 22, double majored in finance and sociology at USD. Her parents, though their older children graduated from three different colleges, said their youngest daughter’s experience at USD was wonderful.
“We love the school,” said Michael who, along with Becky, served four years on the USD Parent Board. He added that they’d fly out from their Minnesota home three or four times a school year to visit Kelsey. “We really like the wholesomeness and healthiness of the school. We love the excellence that it shows here.”
Their daughter, admittedly not a fan of the cold Minnesota weather, said she enjoyed USD because of its small, tight-knit campus community that enabled her to build strong connections, experience community service-learning projects such as visiting a Tijuana orphanage, working with teens in Juvenile Hall, volunteering at Linda Vista’s Bayside Community Center and participating in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. She also credits faculty members in both disciplines, both for their accessibility — “I was treated like a person, not a number,” she said — and their ability to push her to greater academic heights. The atmosphere at USD was so enjoyable, Kelsey said, she also did something that might make other college students uncomfortable.
“She welcomed our presence and wasn’t embarrassed at all to take us with her to class when we’d come visit,” Michael said.
Thursday’s event was also unique. The university did not hand out degrees and students did not attend mass wearing caps and gowns, though they were congratulated during the Mass by Msgr. Daniel J. Dillabough as well as congratulatory words from USD President Mary E. Lyons and USD Alumni Association President Josephine Bennett. Students were able to have pictures taken in cap and gown at the post-Mass reception and some (pictured above) were joined by family and friends.
And, as what always happens at graduation, both Harris and Hibbs were asked about their post-college plans. Harris has aspirations of working in law enforcement and her dream job is to work for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Hibbs said her immediate plan is to remain an active part of the USD campus community. She has accepted part-time jobs in both the Women’s Center and University Ministry offices.
“It’s just so hard for me to leave USD,” she said with a big smile on her face.
— Ryan T. Blystone