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Get ready world, the BW class of 2024 is like no other

With the college commencement season now behind us and as graduates enter the workforce, consider the extraordinary journey of the Class of 2024.

BW Commencement May 2024

Employers: welcome these 2024 graduates with open arms. I witnessed their impressive determination and persistence in my role as chief marketing officer at Baldwin Wallace University. They are diamonds forged under pressure.

Abrupt change marked the final months of their senior year of high school as the world struggled with a pandemic, and their schools had to be shut down. Most missed out on the quintessential high school experiences of prom and graduation.

In the fall of 2020, those high school graduates who chose to attend BW were welcomed with a very different college experience. The summer before their arrival, BW retooled to accommodate pandemic restrictions. Classes were in session but also online, meals were mostly take-out, and events and social gatherings were greatly restricted.

We distributed thousands of masks and required students to conduct daily health check-ins. Students signed a pandemic code of conduct and endured relentless email warnings about not attending parties. There were lots of rules and signs everywhere — to this day, you can find sticky spots on the floor where a distancing dot used to be. The University provided isolation protocols, housing and meals for those who tested positive. It went on and on.

Yet, during a year when it seemed attending college was just too difficult, they held on to their dreams. The pandemic tried to wear them down, but this class had a quality that will serve them well for the rest of their lives — resilience. They refused to let a 6-foot radius, a debate on which masks worked and constant health checkups stop them.

They embraced outdoor tents as classrooms, dining spots and places to hang out. They earned BW BE SAFE prizes for being spotted following protocols. There were bikes and iPads — and Instagram Live announcements of the weekly winners. They rolled their sleeves up at campus vaccination clinics and soldiered on. 

In fact, this class didn't just survive the pandemic; they thrived. Amid strict protocols and after pandemic restrictions gradually receded, they excelled.

  • With performance stages dark, they mounted virtual productions, with BW music theatre earning New York Times recognition, while the opera program garnered two national awards.

  • Varsity teams returned to competition and won multiple OAC championships and post-season events.

  • After a pause, these students relaunched study abroad, relishing the chance to learn across the globe.

  • And, over the past four years, they surpassed the average BW retention numbers, meaning more of them stayed all four years than previous classes! 

They faced it all and persisted. They stood on the floor dots to keep their distance, masked up, and got poked, swabbed, and tested over and over again because they had a bigger goal in mind. They were determined to have an extraordinary college experience and to earn their degrees.

At BW, distancing dots were replaced with a closeness that comes from an unprecedented, shared experience. Their story is one of a great generation of college students. This class will go down in BW's 179-year history with the likes of classes that have faced wars, civil unrest and uncertainty. They embody resilience, and we are so very proud of them.

Look out, employers; these job candidates bring an unapologetic drive. Get them on your side, and there will be nothing that can stand in the way of achieving the goals you set before them.

Dan Karp is assistant vice president and chief marketing officer at Baldwin Wallace University. A version of this column first appeared on cleveland.com and in the SUN Newspapers. 

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