MSNBC President Rashida Jones Tells 2024 Graduates ‘You Belong’ in Any Room You Enter

MSNBC President Rashida Jones Tells 2024 Graduates ‘You Belong’ in Any Room You Enter

MSNBC President Rashida Jones Tells 2024 Graduates ‘You Belong’ in Any Room You Enter

UDC President Maurice D. Edington presents MSNBC President Rashida Jones with an honorary degree.
President Edington and MSNBC President Rashida Jones

Late-night study, class projects, assignments and internships have paid off as students joyfully participated in the regalia procession at UDC’s 47th Commencement Ceremonies, where 775 graduates from 6 academic colleges and schools marched with pride. The graduating class included 9 Ph.Ds. and 70 David A. Clarke School of Law Juris Doctorate recipients.

This year’s graduates included a plethora of success stories, including the oldest graduate at 69 and the youngest being 19 years old. The graduation was held on May 11 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, where parents, spouses, children and friends gathered to cheer on the graduates.

Keynote speaker Rashida Jones, president of MSNBC and the first Black woman to lead a major cable news network, reminded students they are well prepared for the opportunities that lie ahead. Jones oversees all programming, editorial units, business development and technical operations of the network.

She has won two Emmy Awards, three Edward R. Murrow Awards and the 2022 Radio Television Digital News Association First Amendment Award.

“I encourage you to walk into any room as if you are supposed to be there, because you belong there,” Jones said. “UDC helped to prepare you to move in confidence. You are ready.”

Once graduates have accomplished their goals, they should also strive to give back, Jones said.

“Hold the door open behind you and make sure in any move you make that you are finding a way to pull others along the way,” Jones said. “There are a number of people looking at you right now, wishing they could be where you are because you have had life experiences they dream of. So, hold that door open.”

Jones also encouraged students to build community and to understand that pressure comes when you break barriers.

“The pressure you feel now will continue to compound as the stakes get higher, but it is a privilege to be in spaces where you are expected to rise to [a certain] level. Be open to pressure that helps you become better at what you do or to become a better person.

“Add to any space you are in by being you. That is your superpower. Don’t diminish that. Don’t hide that,” Jones said.

Jones, an alumna of Hampton University, was inducted in 2019 into the university’s Scripps Howard Journalism Hall of Fame and has launched a scholarship for future journalists at the school. Jones is also a recipient of the inaugural Media Leadership Award from Montclair State University in New Jersey for the national impact her work has had on the media industry.

UDC’s Board of Trustees Chair Christopher D. Bell, Esq., and President Maurice D. Edington, Ph.D., presented Jones with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of her achievements.

As the 10th president of UDC, Edington preceded over his first UDC graduation, which included uplifting songs from UDC’s Chorale and pageantry including the Presentation of Colors by the members of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department Ceremonial Honor Guard.

“This day marks the culmination of countless hours of time and effort you logged toward your growth and your future,” Edington said. “Each of you should feel immensely proud, as well as excited for the next steps of your journey.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser offered graduates words of encouragement in a recorded message.

“As the daughter of a UDC graduate and now as mayor of my hometown, I’m proud to be a part of the university’s great legacy in our city,” Bowser said. “I’m excited to see how each of you will build on that legacy.

“As you start this next chapter, know that our city and the world need your leadership more than ever. Thank you for being fantastic ambassadors for our city and once again congratulations to the University of the District of Columbia class of 2024.”

Graduates also heard an inspirational message from Student Commencement Speaker Odessa Barker, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Finance. She is the recipient of a fellowship from PricewaterhouseCoopers International Limited and has been admitted to Northeastern University to pursue her M.S. in Management with a concentration in Accounting Analytics this summer.

She encouraged students to have a plan and a back-up plan, which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. She reminded graduates that plans don’t always go the way you want, and to make sure that you have a support system in place.

“It is the sense of camaraderie and community that I believe will continue to serve us well as we navigate the complexities of the world beyond UDC. The world awaits, and I have no doubt that we are ready to conquer it together.”