Photo caption: Chancellor Ken Iwama
By Ken Iwama, Chancellor, IU Northwest
As I recently stood before the Class of 2023 at Indiana University Northwest’s 57th annual Commencement ceremony, hearing the celebratory cheers from our students, I was transfixed by all the voices that defined the 743 graduates who had earned their world-class Indiana University degree.
I heard the voices ranging from 20-year-old students to a 64-year-old graduate.
I heard the tenacious voices of working students, approximately 88 percent of the class, who navigated the stresses of life while also earning their world-class IU degree.
I heard the hopeful voices of the first generation, almost half of the class, who were the first in their family to attend college.
I heard the beautiful voices of one of the most diverse graduating classes in the state of Indiana.
Within the chorus of these voices, each student has their own remarkable story to tell, like Shariss Hindman of Gary, Ind., who graduated with her Master of Social Work from the College of Health and Human Services.
Shariss faced many challenges along her journey, including having been a young mother while additionally assuming the responsibility of the children of her best friend who tragically passed away, caring for her ailing father who also passed away just three years ago, and nearly facing homelessness with her 14-year-old son.
Yet, through it all, Shariss was motivated to give, in combatting the same homelessness she nearly faced by recently helping a teenager she found on our campus who had no money, no home, and no food, but who came back a few months later just to tell Shariss his life was getting better; by volunteering with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Point-in-Time initiative to assess the number of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness; and by celebrating her birthday on August 24, as she does every year, by volunteering to help the same people in need.
And there is the inspiring story of Kristopher Kritikos of Cedar Lake, Ind., who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Arts. Kristopher’s first loves are hockey and graphic design and thus, his dream was to design for a National Hockey League team.
Even though Kristopher is relentless in his passion, we know that attaining the dream is always easier said than done. Email after email, job lead after job lead, interview after interview, without success, Kristopher began to doubt his dream – until he got the call from the Pittsburgh Penguins
offering him a coveted graphic design internship. He followed this major achievement with internships with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Florida Panthers, paving his professional path.
The stories of Shariss and Kristopher represent what is so special about our graduates. They are already great, even before they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. Our students now have the opportunity to build upon their remarkable accomplishments, and the milestone of commencement, to dream anew, and achieve more, guided by the noble purpose to help all of us do better and be better.
Back in 2020, we adopted the rallying cry, “We are in this together”, to address the pandemic, the crisis of our time. In my closing remarks to our graduates, I left them with a new phrase reflecting just how far we have come.
“We are IU Northwest, and you are now RedHawks for life.”
I could not have been prouder to present the IU Northwest Class of 2023.
Ken Iwama was appointed the seventh Chancellor of Indiana University Northwest on August 1, 2020. He holds a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire, an MA in Labor and Employment Relations from the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, and a JD from Seton Hall Law School.