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Graduate smiling following Commencement

Long before crossing the stage at Commencement, Artemii Stepanets ’23 knew he came from a Pioneering family — brave, selfless, and ready to explore the unknown. 

Stepanets left his home in St. Petersburg, Russia, six years ago to come to the United States, hoping to fulfill his family’s dream of attending college. Moments before receiving his diploma from Interim Provost Chuck Stinemetz and shaking President Bill Ruud’s hand, Stepanets took a few minutes to reflect on this moment. 

“It’s surreal to me now,” he says. “It’s been six years since the last time I’ve been able to see my mother. This was a huge sacrifice for both of us — me leaving her and her allowing me to come to the United States to study.” 

Since Stepanets, who is one of the inaugural Charles Sumner Harrison Scholars, arrived at Marietta College in 2019, the world experienced a global pandemic, and now Russia is at war with Ukraine. Thankfully, he reunited with his mother, Janna, and his brother, Max, who also studied in the U.S. and hadn’t seen their mother for years. 

“Due to the restrictions in Russia, my mother had to fly from St. Petersburg to Moscow, Moscow to Istanbul, Turkey, from Istanbul to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam to New York,” says Stepanets, who will be moving to San Jose, California, to be an Associate Technical Account Manager for Adobe. “Despite her two-and-a-half-day journey, she was ready to explore New York and be here for my graduation. She has sacrificed so much for us, so for her to be able to be here for such a pivotal moment of our lives is phenomenal.”

The 2023 Commencement Ceremony welcomed 276 new graduates to The Long Blue Line. Before the ceremony, Marietta College Alumni Association Council members hosted The Long Blue Line Brunch for students and their families. Vice Chair Christine Zernick Suter ’84 says the brunch allowed members to speak with the newest class of graduates about staying connected to the College. 

“When I graduated, I don’t think I had any interaction with alumni,” she says. “I was the youngest of six children, and actually, all of my family came, so Commencement was more of a time for being with my family and other graduates I spent the last four years with. Being here today to support the new graduates is a great opportunity to introduce ourselves to the students as they become alumni.” 

During the brunch, Christian Saunders ’14 addressed the guests and congratulated the students on their achievements thus far, adding that they are welcome to be a part of the MCAAC and have their support as they begin their lives after graduation. 

The Commencement ceremony included a welcome from Trustee Michael Moffitt ’91, Professor of Law and former Philip H. Knight Chair in Law at the University of Oregon. It was the final Commencement at Marietta College for Ruud. Washington State Community College President Dr. Vicky Wood gave the Commencement Address.

Both the Jewett Oration winner, Natasha Didytch ’23, and second place finisher, Marissa Jerina ’23, gave heartfelt and memorable speeches directed to their graduating class.  

“Call it fate, an act of God, or a competitive financial aid package, but somehow, despite applying to 36 schools that year, Marietta ended up being the right place at the right time — even though it couldn’t have felt farther from the truth back then,” says Didytch in her speech, If One Door Closes, Pry Open a Window, which gave a deeply personal insight into her mental health and how Marietta helped her to find new passions and friends for life. 

 Chasten Coleman ’23 was surrounded by his parents, grandparents, and two sisters — and plenty of his Marietta College family — to celebrate his achievements. 

“I’m a first-generation college student, so to be able to graduate in four years and have my family here to celebrate with me is something that I’ve dreamed of since I was younger,” Coleman says. “I’m working for Marietta College’s Office of Admission as an Admission Counselor and the Coordinator of Diversity Recruitment, and also, I will be assisting with our women’s basketball team. I feel like the way that I came into college — go, go, go — is going to make starting out seem a little easier because I won’t have classes on top of everything else I’m trying to accomplish. I’m so lucky to have been able to attend Marietta College. It has prepared me for whatever I want to do in life, and it’s also given me so many friends for life.”