ByJohn Crawford and Hillary Chabot
May 18, 2023
Behind every cap and gown, there is a story—a story of hard work and dedication, of good friends and good times.
In this second installment of a two-part series, we look back at Babson College’s 2023 Commencement ceremonies and tell a few stories found on that glorious May day.
A Moment of Zen
Oscar Sanchez MBA’23 is at ease, sitting alone in the back row of a seating area set up in the Len Green Recreation and Athletics Complex (LGRAC). His arms are stretched comfortably across the backs of the chairs on either side of him.
“I’m very happy. I feel relaxed, and I’m enjoying the moment,” Sanchez said. The 53-year-old has been protecting this bubble of calm all morning.
“To be honest, I was kind of selfish,” Sanchez said about his morning activities. He, his wife, and his two daughters traveled from Miami the day before the Commencement ceremony.
“I told them, ‘I’m going to be ready, and if you are ready and in the car, fine. If not, take an Uber, because I’m not waiting for anyone.’ ”
Sanchez has his youngest daughter to thank for introducing him to Babson.
“I decided to go back to school while my two daughters were in college. My youngest daughter mentioned Babson, and I started looking into it,” Sanchez said. He earned his undergraduate degree in Mexico City, so he wasn’t sure what to expect when he was accepted into Babson’s Blended Learning MBA in Miami.
“In Miami, I was the oldest student, and the youngest student was about the same age as my oldest daughter, so that was a surprise for me,” Sanchez said. “But, my age was never an issue. I never felt that I was left behind or not included.”
Like many graduates, Sanchez said the program ended faster than he expected.
“I remember the last day of classes, I was looking around and thinking, ‘This is amazing.’ I had classmates from Brazil, Argentina, even Morocco, and I may never see them again,” Sanchez said. “So, I’m just trying to get some mental images in my head that I can always remember. I’m enjoying the moment, and I’m grateful to be here.”
There were days, Riya Regi MSBA’23 admits, when she wondered if earning her graduate degree was worth it.
She had come a long way to Babson, leaving behind her family in India and traveling internationally for the first time. She also faced a punishing schedule.
Every day, because she didn’t have a car and had to leave plenty of time for a long commute, she was leaving her Newton, Massachusetts, home by 6:30 a.m. “The commute was really bad,” Regi says.
Classes were in session from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and after taking a study break, she then did a shift at the Dunkin’ in the Reynolds Campus Center. For four hours, she served up coffee and bagels, sandwiches and donuts, alongside co-workers she grew fond of. “The people there are so nice,” she says.
After another long commute, she returned home and was back at her schoolwork by 9 p.m., often not going to bed until 2 a.m. Then she woke just a few hours later to do it all again. “It was difficult,” she says. “It was much to manage.”
But now, with graduation day here, Regi gathers with her fellow graduates in the LGRAC and reflects on all those long days. “I feel like the hard work I did was worth it,” she says. “I am finally here.”
Richard Battista MBA’23 always wanted to earn an MBA, and specifically, he always wanted to earn an MBA from Babson.
But life has a habit of getting in the way of plans. Through the years, he became involved in various startups, and time passed.
Still, he never forgot about the MBA. “I am a lifelong learner,” Battista says. “I always wanted the experience of getting an MBA degree and learning more.”
At the age of 74, he finally has fulfilled his wish. As he stands in a cap and gown, waiting for the Commencement ceremony to begin, Battista offers nothing but praise for his Babson experience, saying how relevant and up to date his skills and knowledge now feel.
Not that the learning is ending. In July, Battista is headed to Oxford University to earn a certificate in artificial intelligence, a topic that fascinates him. Battista sees learning as part of living a healthy life, as important as exercise or eating a good diet. “I’ll never stop learning,” he says.
The Water Break
Janine De Leon MBA’23 and Sarah Vujisić MBA’23 sought momentary refuge from the congratulatory chaos of pre-Commencement at the far corner of the LGRAC. Only steps away from the last-minute student registrations and family well-wishers, the two friends sipped water and took a breath.
“This whole day has been exhilarating. There’s so much energy as soon as you step onto campus, it’s crazy,” De Leon said. “Everyone is in high spirits, and it’s such a great day to celebrate.”
Seeking a career change, De Leon had looked at several business schools and chose Babson because of its entrepreneurial edge. Vujisić, however, always knew the Wellesley campus was the right place for her.
“This was the only grad school I applied to,” Vujisić said. “It was a lot to juggle working full time and going to school, but it helped me realize I’m capable of so much more than I thought.“
Commencement is just the first event in a packed weekend ahead, which Vujisić said will end with a family-wide celebration on Mother’s Day.
“My sister actually had her undergraduate commencement ceremony last week, and my brother just finished the last chemotherapy treatment for his Hodgkin’s, so my mom is pretty happy,” Vujisić said. “She’s like, ‘You don’t need to buy me anything. This is the best Mother’s Day ever!’ ”
Just before the graduates file out and head toward the tent, Krati Srivastava MBA’23 and Mariana Vasquez MBA’23 take time for a photo together. They’re both pregnant. “We’re MBA moms,” Vasquez says.
Srivastava is due in 20 days. “I am graduating double,” she says.
Vasquez is due in two weeks. “I was afraid I wouldn’t make it,” she says. “She could come any time.”
This baby will be Vasquez’s third. When people question how she could find the time to pursue an MBA with two children, and a third on the way, Vasquez tells them about her mother, who earned a master’s degree at the age of 38 as a widow with six children.
“I remember my mom studying at night,” Vasquez says. “She was a super mom.”
Vasquez can’t help but think about her mom, who has come from Mexico to be at Commencement. She also keeps thinking about a Maya Angelou quote, one that calls out to all the people who came before, whose work and struggle paved the way. “I come as one,” Angelou wrote, “but I stand as 10,000.”
It’s just minutes before Dr. Ellana Stinson MBA’23 will join her fellow graduates for the official procession, a march that stretches from just outside the athletics complex through the upper athletic fields, ending at the Commencement ceremony tent.
Stinson, an emergency room doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the ceremony is part of a weekend loaded with events celebrating her hard work.
“It’s been a big weekend professionally as well, so everything is kind of coming together at once,” Stinson says. “I was awarded yesterday with the Barbara A. Rockett, MD Early Career Physician Leadership Award, recognizing my work in medicine, patient advocacy, and mentorship.”
“I came here to learn the language, and the knowledge that I gained and professors that I’ve met have been really impactful as far as how I think about moving forward with any future career decision.”
Ellana Stinson MBA'23
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stinson served as medical director of the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center’s vaccine administration site in Boston. The award also recognized Stinson for advocating for change at the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS).
Dr. David Rosman, past president of the MMS, said Stinson, “laid out the need for the MMS to do better and become the organization that our Black and Brown colleagues and patients deserve.”
Saturday’s Commencement ceremony marked Stinson’s fourth college graduation. After she earned her undergraduate degree and completed medical school, she earned her master’s in public health.
When it came to earning her MBA, Stinson says she was charmed by Babson’s personal touch.
“The interview process was what really got me. It was very warm and welcoming,” Stinson says.
“I came here to learn the language, and the knowledge that I gained and professors that I’ve met have been really impactful as far as how I think about moving forward with any future career decisions.”
And her future? After Commencement, Stinson says she’ll be promoting her small business, a plant-based, natural hair care line called Safo Hair.
“I’m trying to be a little disruptive to the industry right now,” Stinson says.
Read this Commencement series’ first installment, which focuses on Babson’s graduating undergraduate students.
Tagged Commencement, Babson College's Class of 2023, Graduate, Student Life
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