EKU Graduation Speaker Emphasizes the Importance of Community

Published on May 16, 2024

By Ethan Sirles

During Eastern Kentucky University’s (EKU) spring 2024 commencement ceremony, Emma Thomas took center stage to address her fellow graduates, praising the community that she said, “pushed us to become educated, professional and resilient to whatever may come our way.”

While speaking to her classmates, Thomas, who is an Ewing, Kentucky native and a first-generation graduate, emphasized the importance of finding a community. 

Likewise, EKU President David McFaddin welcomed students to a community of alumni during the commencement ceremony.

“Today, you become part of something greater than yourselves—the International Alumni Association, also known as the Colonel family,” McFaddin said. “Embracing this community means joining a network that extends far beyond borders, connecting you to a diverse network that shares the common bond of an EKU degree.”

Thomas said her college experience was excellent because of the people and places that helped her find herself during her time at EKU.

“Looking back on these four remarkable years I have had at EKU, I cannot help but think about the people who have helped propel our lives and education forward,” said Thomas. “Professors who have supported us through difficult classes, family members who have encouraged us to continue when we felt like giving up, and friends who were first random strangers that we now could not imagine our lives without.”  

While Thomas showed gratitude for the people who helped her achieve what she set out to accomplish, she gave special thanks to her sorority family in Chi Omega.

“When I came to EKU in August of 2020, I had no idea what my life would look like four years later; but I knew that I did not want that feeling of discomfort and uncertainty to hang around for long. I knew I wanted to find somewhere that felt right,” she said. “I found a community in Chi Omega—I found my community.” 

Thomas said Chi Omega was one of the places where she could be her authentic self while in college. She emphasized the importance of having sorority sisters who helped keep her accountable and encouraged her in academics, making her college experience “the most memorable four years.”

Thomas added that EKU helped build a community around her during her time as a Colonel. 

“This feeling is for a lifetime, and if it wasn’t for EKU, I would not have received this group of intelligent and kind women,” she said.

Thomas graduated on Friday with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, with a minor in innovation and entrepreneurial thinking and a sales certificate. While a student, Thomas was promoted in her off-campus job as a result of skills learned in the College of Business. She is also heavily involved in volunteer work within the Irvine, Kentucky, community.

In all, EKU recognized 2,217 graduates: 213 certificates, 47 associate degrees, 1,552 bachelor’s degrees, 377 master’s degrees, 14 post-master’s certificates and 14 doctoral degrees.

​​Learn more about the degree programs offered within the EKU College of Business at eku.edu/business.