UMSL honors new grads and young alumni at second annual New Grad Celebration

Four UMSL graduates stand together holding red and gold letters that spell out UMSL

UMSL graduates Jenitha Khatri, Ravali Maganti, Prokshitha Polemoni and Kusuma Sri pose for photos during the Alumni Association’s New Grad & Young Alumni Celebration at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. (Photos by Derik Holtmann)

After graduating with her master’s in social work from the University of Missouri–St. Louis last week, Tashina Jemmott was ready to kick back and celebrate all her accomplishments.

On Thursday evening, Jemmott – who has accepted a full-time position at Barnes Jewish Hospital – was able to do just that at UMSL’s second annual New Grad Celebration. On a sunny evening in the terrace lobby of the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, Jemmott and other recent UMSL graduates who earned their degrees in December 2022 and May 2023 mingled with board members of the Alumni Association and other members of the UMSL community over food, drinks and live music.

New Grad Celebration 2023

The event offered new graduates the opportunity to connect with other alumni.

The event was conceived last year by the Alumni Association’s engagement committee both as a way to honor recent graduates who missed out on big celebrations due to the pandemic and to get more young alumni involved with the organization.

“We wanted a lot more young alum and new graduate engagement on the board,” Elle Bianchi, chair of the engagement committee, said. “I feel like a lot of students don’t really know that this organization exists. They get a little slip of paper in their graduation folder, but other than that, they don’t get a face-to-face interaction with anybody. So we thought this would be a great way to get them engaged early on and then also celebrate all their accomplishments.”

All registered alumni received a free gift of an ear buds case and had the chance to win prizes including a 50-inch LED smart TV, JBL wireless speaker and Roku streaming stick. In addition to fostering connections between all ages of alumni, the event gave recent grads a chance to unwind after a busy semester and celebrate their achievements with friends.

New Grad Celebration 2023

Attendance prizes included prizes a 50-inch LED smart TV, JBL wireless speaker and Roku streaming stick.

Jenitha Khatri, who served as president of UMSL’s Indian Student Association and received her master’s in biology this month, enjoyed goofing off in the Louie the Triton-themed photobooth with a group of friends. She felt like the event was a great way to wrap up her UMSL career and plans to continue to engage with the Alumni Association if she decides to stay in St. Louis long-term.

“It’s very nice to see and connect with a lot of people, and I really appreciate the efforts,” she said. “UMSL has made me a totally different person. I remember that first day, when I came in, I felt so blind, like ‘I don’t know what to do.’ UMSL has given me a lot.”

New Grad Celebration 2023

UMSL graduates Akaolisa Ezenwa and Yemi Davies pose for Joe Cavato, UMSL assistant director of alumni communications, during the New Grad Celebration.

Bianchi and other members of the Alumni Association hope that the New Grad Celebration can give new graduates like Khatri a chance to celebrate and reflect on their UMSL experiences while also building connections for their futures.

“By having a whole bunch of people getting together and talking, they can find commonalities and linkages that might be helpful further down the road in their careers,” Bianchi said. “I just want these graduates to have a better connection with the university and, even though they’ve graduated, to know that they always have a home here. They have a great network in UMSL.”


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