UMKC Graduates Headline Downtown Arena

New Roo alumni celebrate graduation in the heart of Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City celebrated its graduates in a new downtown location fitting of Kansas City’s university. 

UMKC Provost Jennifer Lundgren acted as grand marshal of the winter commencement ceremony at T-Mobile Center.

“We are delighted to be here today at the beautiful T-Mobile Center to continue our new tradition of celebrating our graduates at iconic Kansas City locations,” Lundgren said, referring to ceremonies last spring which were held at Kauffman Stadium.

Chancellor Mauli C. Agrawal congratulated the graduates and recognized their accomplishments.

“Earning a university degree is a significant accomplishment even under the best circumstances,” he said. “The class of 2021  has done so while overcoming  a lifetime of challenges, starting with the great recession that arose when most of you were children, and continuing through to the ongoing global pandemic.”

Agrawal recognized the graduates’ resilience, perseverance and grit in the face of these challenges.

“That is something that you can carry proudly with you for the rest of your lives. Let it be a source of strength for you to draw on when you face the challenges yet to come.”

Olympic silver medalist and UMKC alumna Courtney Frerichs (B.A. ’15) congratulated the more than 1,000 new UMKC graduates. Frerichs rewrote the Roo record books in track and field and became a world-class competitor and Olympian in the steeplechase event, winning the silver medal in 3000 meter steeplechase at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. She is the first American woman to break the nine-minute barrier for the event.

In preparation for her commencement address, Frerichs mined her recent Olympic experiences.

"Graduation is in many ways like a starting line, and I'm making a living knowing all about starting lines." 

She said learning how to pivot and adjust her expectations has been an important part of her success, especially leading up to her silver medal race. The pandemic postponed her participation in the 2020 games and her dreams felt like they were being put on hold. But she found value in having one more year to train and prepare for the Olympics in 2021. She pulled her silver medal from around her neck to show the crowd.

"It paid off," she said to the cheering crowd.

Following Frerichs’s address and the recognition of individual graduates the class enjoyed taking part in the tradition of moving the tassels from the right of their caps to the left to symbolize the individual's movement from candidate to graduate. During the ceremony Chancellor Agrawal also recognized the supportive role family and friends have played in the lives of the graduates. 

“Our part was easy. We provided them the knowledge and helped them to hone the skills they need to go to work and change the world for the better. You made them the outstanding people they are today.”


He noted that the graduates’ years at UMKC resemble the opening chapter in a good book.

“You just know there are a lot of great chapters to follow.”

At the conclusion of the program blue and gold confetti fell from the ceiling showering graduates seated in rows on the floor of the arena. An indoor pyrotechnics display launched near the stage as the crowd erupted in applause for this grand send-off for our 2021 Roo grads.

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