May 6, 2023

More than 1,400 graduates celebrate their ‘comeback’ during Purdue Global commencement ceremonies

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Lauren Castrinos Bradford had a short, simple thought as she navigated Purdue Global’s Master of Arts in psychology. “In a year, you’ll wish you had started now,” she told herself.

But then, Bradford, who is a huge fan of country music superstar Luke Bryan, had a different thought: “Some dreams you chase, some dreams you catch,” as her own dream became reality when she completed her master’s degree program with a concentration in applied behavior analysis (ABA) in November 2020 and passed South Carolina’s behavior analyst exam.

“I knew a year later I would look back at whatever decision I had made with either regret or pride,” Bradford said. “My boys were watching me study, respond to discussion posts, take exams and often struggle with no sleep because the option to do all of those things while they were in school was gone. But whether I succeeded or failed, they were watching.”

That is the message Bradford delivered Saturday (May 6) when she keynoted Purdue Global’s commencement at Purdue University’s Elliott Hall of Music. Bradford, from Anderson, South Carolina, spoke to 1,414 graduates during two ceremonies.

Bradford shared her own story of raising two children – one of whom was born with medical complications that required therapy, surgeries and doctor visits. Seven years later, her oldest child would be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. With her background in ABA, she was determined to be her child’s biggest advocate and cheerleader.

“Today, you all have caught your own dream you have been chasing for two years. Four years. Maybe even longer. But don’t stop here. Keep chasing more of those seemingly impossible dreams, because in a year, you’ll wish you had started now,” Bradford said.

The graduates attending the ceremony reside in 49 states – including 290 from Indiana – as well as the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, China, Guatemala, South Africa and the United Kingdom. There are 251 graduates affiliated with the military. Fifty-three systemwide Purdue University employees are among those who earned a Purdue Global degree or certificate via the Purdue Global education benefit.

Frank Dooley awards a degree Purdue Global Chancellor Frank Dooley awards a degree to a graduate during the Spring Commencement in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Purdue Global photo/Kelsey Lefever) Download image

"Graduates, you continually persisted in your pursuit of completing your studies and earning your degree,” Chancellor Frank Dooley said during the two ceremonies. “The stories that you share with us show that. You have had your ‘comeback’ and are on to the next chapter of your lives and careers.”

Purdue University President Mung Chiang also addressed the graduates.

Kerry Bruso of Windermere, Florida, who received her Master of Business Administration, performed the national anthem during the first ceremony. Gabriela Navarette of Round Lake Beach, Illinois, who received her Bachelor of Science in health care administration, sang the anthem during the second ceremony.

Purdue Global continues to serve people from all walks of life, ages and career levels. It also serves as an educational avenue for the military. As of May 1 the Purdue Global student body includes more than 5,100 active-duty, National Guard and Reserve military members serving around the globe; more than 1,400 military family members; and more than 3,000 veterans.

Currently at Purdue Global:

  • 60% of students are 30 years of age or older.
  • 42% of students are underrepresented minorities.
  • 51% of students have a child or other dependents.
  • 50% are first-generation college students.

Saturday’s ceremonies marked Purdue Global’s 17th commencement since its formation in 2018.

Purdue Global is Purdue’s online university for working adults and is an expansion of Purdue’s 21st century land-grant mission to provide educational access to all people. Purdue Global helps prepare students for what’s next in their lives and careers by offering programs that lead to a degree backed by Purdue University.

Purdue Global recently launched a new brand platform and marketing campaign called “This Is My Comeback” that highlights the fact that there are nearly 40 million Americans who have earned college credits but have not completed a degree. Purdue Global has many partnerships with Fortune 500 companies or through organizations like Guild to become one of the leading options for employee education benefits.

The next Purdue Global commencement is scheduled for Oct. 21 on the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette. 

Writer/Media contact: Matthew Oates, 765-496-6160,, @mo_oates

Sources: Frank Dooley, Beth Smith, Lauren Castrinos Bradford

Note to JournalistsPhotos and clips of speeches from Purdue University President Mung Chiang, Purdue Global Chancellor Frank Dooley and the keynote speaker. along with the national anthem performance are available via Google Drive.

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