Students at CSU's fall 2021 commencement ceremony.
Credit: Cleveland Stater staff
Cleveland State honored more than 1,200 fall 2021 graduates at a morning ceremony on Sunday and then 500 graduates from 2020 that same afternoon.

1,700 graduates walk at CSU commencement ceremonies

Cleveland State honored more than 1,200 fall 2021 graduates and 500 graduates from 2020.

Cleveland State University celebrated graduation Sunday with two in-person commencement ceremonies at the university’s Wolstein Center, honoring fall 2021 graduates in the morning and that afternoon honoring 2020 graduates with the opportunity denied them last year to walk.

The university awarded more than 1,200 degrees in the morning ceremony to fall 2021 graduates of eight of the university's colleges:

  • College of Graduate Studies
  • Monte Ahuja College of Business
  • College of Education & Human Services
  • Washkewicz College of Engineering
  • College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Nursing
  • College of Sciences and Health Professions
  • Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs

Graduates of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law joined 2020 graduates of the above colleges at the afternoon ceremony.



The ceremonies were the first in-person commencements since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced Cleveland State to shut down its on-campus teaching after spring break in 2020.

Campus reopened to in-person education in fall 2021, capped by Sunday's commencement ceremonies which CSU President Harlan Sands described as an opportunity to “honor the hard work, accomplishments and resilience” of the graduates.

“Today is a day of promise and attention, a day where we reflect on where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going,” Sands said.

In addition to the graduates acknowledged, CSU conferred an honorary doctorate on Scott Mueller, CEO of Cleveland-based Dealer Tire, in recognition of his altruism, commitment to the arts and community, and business acumen.


Scott Mueller, CEO of Cleveland-based Dealer Tire, left, and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson at CSU's fall 2021 commencement ceremony, Sunday, Dec. 12.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was the keynote speaker at the morning ceremony. Jackson received his bachelor's, master's and law degrees from CSU.

Jackson said if the next steps after graduation seem elusive, using “education as a tool” and “to be of service and purpose” are the most critical things graduates can do going forward.

The lifelong Clevelander has served four consecutive terms as mayor – the longest tenure for the office in the city’s 225-year history. He did not contest the recent election and will hand off the mayor's role to Justin Bibb in early January.

David Reynolds, chair of the CSU Board of Trustees and an executive at Key Private Bank was the keynote speaker to the 2020 graduates in the afternoon ceremony.

“We are expecting great things from you,” Reynolds said. “You are the first class to live outside the box” he continued, referring to the graduates' experience of the coronavirus pandemic and how it upended their college lives.

University valedictorian Rachel Jablonski, nominated by both the Monte Ahuja College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences as college valedictorian, directed her remarks to the meaning of time.

“The question is not so much what we will do in that time, but what we will do with time,” Jablonski said.

Samantha Paskert, spring 2020 co-university valedictorian embraced the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic in her remarks at the afternoon ceremony.

“Life is messy, but also intentional,” Paskert said. “When we are embracing change, embracing ourselves and finding beauty in our differences, the universe helps us flow through the chaos.”

Ellen Rea, spring 2020 co-university valedictorian, added to those sentiments.

“Each one of us finished our degrees and walked into a world very different from the one we expected,” Rea said. “But in the face of unprecedented challenge, we are all nothing short of exceptional.”

For more on CSU's commencement events, visit here.

About Cleveland State University

Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public research institution that provides a dynamic setting for Engaged Learning. With nearly 16,000 students, ten colleges and schools and more than 175 academic programs, CSU was again chosen for 2021 as one of America’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report, including the #1 public university in Ohio for social mobility. Find more information at