BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — About 1,300 University of Bridgeport students marched into the Webster Bank Arena on Saturday to join friends and family in celebrating graduation.
But that celebration extended around the globe: UB streamed the events live online for family and friends who could not attend in person.
It was a fitting way to celebrate: Nearly 40 percent of the members of the Class of 2016 are international students. For many of them, long distances or prohibitive travel costs made it impossible for their families to attend graduation.
“The live video feed will allow families and friends to go online to cross oceans, cover great distances, transcend time zones, and take a virtual front-row seat to watch their children and loved ones receive degrees,” said Provost Stephen Healey. “We’ve been eager to broadcast important events at UB, and now we can.”
For student Trinadh Venna, 22, the live video stream not only included his family back home in Nalgonda, India, it also honored the sacrifices they made to send him to UB.
Venna received a master of science in computer science and engineering with a concentration in Robotics. For the past two years, he’s worked myriad jobs, taught classes as a graduate assistant, built robotic arms, managed drone experiments, and conducted other research projects while keeping up with his studies.
But none of these tasks would have been possible if Venna’s relatives hadn’t agreed to put up the family’s collective property as collateral for a bank loan to pay for him to attend school in the United States.
“I’m from a middle-class-family, but there is no way my father could afford my education abroad,” said Venna, who remembers the day the bank officials came to his home to process loan documents.
“It was a very big thing to see them sign [the loan]. If the loan is not paid, the property will be seized, but no one raised an objection. They did this thing for me,” said Venna. “My grandmother is paralyzed so she had to make a thumb impression [on the documents] as she cannot sign. But it was my grandmother who told my dad, ‘I want Trinadh to go abroad to study.’”
On Saturday, about 30 of Venna’s relatives in India logged onto their computers to watch him receive his degree from UB President Neil A. Salonen.
This year’s commencement speaker was GoECart Founder and CEO Manish Chowdhary, Class of 2000. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Also at the ceremony, members from the Class of 1966 were inducted as Golden Knights on the 50th anniversary of their UB graduation.
It was the 106th commencement exercise at the University of Bridgeport.