By Chris Casey | University Communications
DENVER - The magnitude of her accomplishment in earning a bachelor's degree in psychology didn't really hit Cassandra Dreyer until she put on her robe and joined her classmates at Fall 2012 Commencement.
"At first it was just like, well, I'm going to continue on (with school) and it wasn't a big deal," Dreyer said as she held the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) banner in the Colorado Convention Center before the start of Saturday's ceremony. "But now that I'm here and everybody is congratulating me, it's really exciting."
The University of Colorado Denver conferred 1,338 degrees this fall -- 727 undergraduate degrees, 597 masters and 14 doctorates.
Scenes from Fall 2012 Commencement:
The festive occasion was touched with an air of somberness, as graduates and their families took a moment to reflect on the events in Newtown, Conn. "Today is obviously a day of great celebration, but I think we would be remiss to not begin with a moment of silence in remembrance of our fellow citizens in Connecticut who suffered such a tragic loss yesterday," said Chancellor Don Elliman.
The graduating class included 100 veterans and one ROTC student who will be commissioned next week. "They've added another link in the long chain of honorable and self-sacrificing service to our country for which our military is known," Elliman said.
The chancellor also noted that the class represents a microcosm of the world. "Graduates with us today represent many states from across our great nation as well as 20 other nations whose flags are displayed behind me," he said.
The 2012 Alumni Leadership Award was presented to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, a 1995 CU Denver alumnus with a master's in public administration. As mayor, Hancock has emphasized educational opportunity, launching the Denver Educational Compact, which aims to improve the educational pipeline from cradle to career.
Provost Roderick Nairn introduced the 2012 Excellence in Teaching award winners as well as outstanding graduates.
Dreyer was among the outstanding graduates in CLAS, as was Daniel Smafield, who earned his bachelor of arts degree in international studies. "I'm going to look at different master's programs in Latin American studies," Smafield said. "I'm going to do that after a well-deserved break -- well-deserved."
Erin Christensen and Cassie Hayter, both holding bachelor's degrees in psychology, chatted outside the convention hall after the ceremony.
"I know I want to go further (in school), but I just want to celebrate and take some time to relax and travel," Hayter said. Christensen added: "I'm super-excited. I'm just looking forward to the next step. We're both looking toward PhDs, so we'll be back. We want that hood."
Many graduates expressed a sense of relief at reaching such an important milestone.
"All that work -- it's finally done," Dreyer said. "I just feel a huge burden off my shoulders. It was worth all that work."