The energy inside the Grand Ballroom at the University Student Center was electric Tuesday afternoon as graduating students gathered for the annual senior class toast.
Excited chatter filled the room as students celebrated making it to the finish line to receive their hard-earned degrees. Friends congratulated each other, embraced and took lots of photos with the blue-and-buff décor inside the ballroom to commemorate their important milestone.
Hyatt Aronoff, a public health major, reminisced with two friends he has known since his first year at the George Washington University.
“It's such a great and exciting time, and I’m going to miss this place,” he said. “I think the best part has been being able to meet the best people ever and make friendships that hopefully will last way beyond just the four years. I think I'm feeling [a lot of emotions] as I'm starting to pack up and think about what's next.”
Lilley Kroll, a business major, said the biggest lesson she’ll carry with her from her time at GW is the importance of making meaningful friendships. “This week has been very bittersweet,” she said. “I'm very much looking forward to what I'll be doing in the future. But to say bye to all my friends and spend the last moments with them is something I'll miss.”
The annual event honors soon-to-be alumni and celebrates graduating seniors who have given back to areas of the university that have made a profound impact on their time at GW.
At the toast, senior class gift officers thanked students for the gifts they already have made to GW. Rachel Cohen, a human services and social justice major, said that through the senior class gift campaign about 600 seniors raised more than $8,000.
“We cannot thank you all enough for your support,” Cohen said. “No matter the size of your gift, each one is special and significant because you are helping to create opportunities for students like yourself. Your support now and in the future guarantees that everyone has a chance to experience GW like we have.”
On Sunday, almost 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students will participate in the Commencement on the National Mall. Among graduates, about 74% of the Class of 2023 received scholarship or fellowship support, with students with the highest financial need holding the same record-high graduation rate as all GW undergraduate students.
In the 2022-23 academic year, the university and donors contributed more than $240 million toward undergraduate scholarships and fellowships, with that amount rising to about $335 million when graduate scholarships and fellowships are included.
A majority of scholarship and fellowship students at GW note that they could only have chosen to attend GW because of the financial aid package they received.
Kourtney Buckner, an American studies major, spoke about the challenges the Class of 2023 had to overcome because of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they make Commencement even more special.
“Our class has had experiences like no other,” Buckner said. “Leaving part way through freshman year and coming back after a global pandemic, that’s something I didn’t have on my college bucket list.”
Will Alexander, B.S. ’04, M.B.A. ’06, the president of the George Washington University Alumni Association, told the Class of 2023 that they were about to become part of a worldwide community of more than 320,000 alumni who live in more than 150 countries.
“The one thing that has amazed me since graduating is how deep GW connections can go,” Alexander said. “You and I are now connected through our GW bonds, and I know you will also discover new GW connections as you move along in life and in the years to come. I urge you to stay connected to GW.”
Alexander led the graduating students in a countdown to the toast, wishing them well in their future endeavors.
“To the Class of 2023, I am profoundly inspired by the impact you made during your time at GW,” Alexander said. “As you go on to pursue your dreams, I wish you great success. I can’t wait to learn about the accomplishments I know you will achieve and the positive impact you will make in the world.”