UNH graduates share thoughts on race relations, student debt

  • Shawn Gorman, UNH class of 1989, executive chairman of L.L. Bean Inc. and great-grandson of the company’s founder gave the commencement address Saturday in Durham. JACOB DAWSON / Monitor staff

  • Graduates listen to a speaker at the start of the UNH graduation ceremony in Durham on Saturday. JACOB DAWSON / Monitor staff

  • UNH President Mark Huddleston looks out at the graduates during the university’s commencement ceremony Saturday morning at Wildcat Stadium in Durham. This is Huddleston’s 11th and last ceremony as president of UNH making him the longest serving president in the university’s history. JACOB DAWSON / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 5/19/2018 9:27:58 PM

As a resident of Maine, Courtney Shaw knew an undergraduate degree from the University of New Hampshire would cost a pretty penny.

The Granite State’s flagship research institution boasts one of the highest out-of-state tuitions in the nation, and receives limited funding from state government.

But with a fresh diploma in hand, the 22-year-old from Lincoln said she was proud of her investment – even despite the years of loan payments that awaits her.

“I couldn’t have found a better way to go $40,000 in debt,” said Shaw, who graduated with a degree in business administration. “Lots of counting pennies.”

Shaw was one of more than 2,500 undergraduate and 511 graduate students from 39 states and 32 foreign countries celebrated at the 148th UNH commencement ceremony Saturday.

New Hampshire native Keegan Tanguay, 22, graduated with a degree in business administration with a concentration in finance. And like Shaw, Tanguay quickly turned his attention to student loans after receiving his diploma.

“Enough debt, right?” Tanguay asked. “It goes up to about 50 grand.”

Tanguay said he paid for his time at the university through student loans and “a little help from my parents.”

Tanguay was member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, where he held a leadership role within the chapter and another on the interfraternity council. Tanguay said his greatest takeaway from college was his ability to “have a greater perspective on the world.”

Debt wasn’t the only issue on the minds of those gathered at the Durham campus Saturday.

Outgoing UNH President Mark Huddleston touched on a series of racist incidents that set off a firestorm of criticism from students spanning a range of nationalities and was widely reported by local media outlets. Huddleston, the university’s longest tenured president, is retiring next month after 11 years at the school.

“Despite what seems like a relentless assault of depressing news from our various media outlets, the fact is we are living at a remarkable time in human history,” Huddleston said to the crowd of more than 20,000. “You worked to help UNH live up to its ideals of being a truly supportive and welcoming place for all Wildcats, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or national origin.”

Henry Edwards, 22, of Grafton, Mass., who graduated with a degree in communications, said he doesn’t think racial tensions are isolated to UNH, rather, it’s an issue grappling the entire nation.

“Our campus has spoken up a lot about it, but our country is in a time right now where race relations are high and we just need to open up a dialogue about it,” he said.

Jaylyn Eaton, 22, of Exeter, graduated with a degree in business with a concentration in marketing and management. Eaton said she felt as though the university has been doing a good job responding to racial tensions.

“We get emails like every week about something new that’s happening to help out on campus,” she said. “I think we’re all at a point in our lives where we’re learning how to interact with different people in a more professional setting. We’re all learning about different cultures here. ... There’s a lot of stuff going on, but I think we’re figuring it out.”

Tanguay agreed.

“I think (the administration has) done a lot,” he said. “I really do. I see a lot of events they’ve put on. They have a team that goes around and tries to prevent racial biases.”

Huddleston acknowledged that more work – both on campus and nationwide – needs to be done to create a more inclusive environment for all.

“Is there more work to be done? Absolutely,” Huddleston said. “And you are just the group of talented, compassionate and hard-working young people to do that work.”

(Jacob Dawson can be reached at 369-3325, jdawson@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @jaked156.)

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