Nearly 900 Eagles Earn Diplomas at Embry-Riddle's Fall Commencement Ceremonies

A total of 852 students from the fall 2023 graduating class walked the stage this past week to earn their diplomas at Embry‑Riddle Aeronautical University commencement ceremonies, held in Daytona Beach, Florida — on Thursday, Dec. 14 — and Prescott, Arizona — on Saturday, Dec. 16.

“As you face whatever comes next, be confident in your ability to solve complex problems, and to find success in dynamic and challenging environments,” Embry-Riddle President P. Barry Butler, Ph.D., told the graduating class at the Daytona Beach Campus event. “As you move into this exciting new phase of your lives, you become part of an elite community of Embry-Riddle alumni, who continue to support and guide one another as professionals.”

A total of 31 graduates who participated in the week’s festivities were students from Embry‑Riddle’s Worldwide Campus. Earlier this month, another 55 students, all of whom are members of the United States military, graduated in a commencement ceremony held in Tokyo.

Daytona Beach Campus

A total of 667 students earned degrees in the Daytona Beach Campus commencement ceremonies held Thursday, Dec. 14: 524 as undergraduates, 112 who received master’s degrees, 13 who earned doctoral degrees, and 18 graduates from the Worldwide Campus who walked in the Daytona Beach ceremony.

Daytona Beach campus commencement
A first-generational student originally from Mongolia, Student Class Council President Burtegeljin Gombosuren was the featured class speaker at the Daytona Beach Campus commencement ceremony. (Photo: Embry-Riddle/Bernard Wilchusky)

Student Class Council President Burtegeljin Gombosuren served as the event’s featured student speaker. An Aerospace Engineering graduate with a concentration in Aeronautics, she is a first-generation international student originally from Mongolia. When she took the stage, she explained that her mother had traveled nearly 7,000 miles from home to attend the ceremony in person — and that she had no idea that her daughter would be the day’s featured student speaker.

“Mom, I made it!”  Gombosuren said. “Your unwavering love was my guiding light.”

When Gombosuren started at Embry-Riddle as a freshman, she says felt “lost and disconnected” in an unfamiliar land. “I was all I had,” she said — until a stranger noticed her struggling to open a stubborn door and stopped to help. Then, everything changed.

The stranger was a university advisor who introduced Gombosuren to various campus organizations. That kindness “opened the door to communities” that transformed her college experience, she said.

“Home isn’t defined by location,” Gombosuren told her fellow graduates. “It’s defined by the connections we share — especially here at Embry-Riddle. This is more than just an educational institution. It’s a home. … We are all part of the class of 2023.”

During her time at Embry-Riddle, Gombosuren founded the Sigma Kappa sorority and served as vice president of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers campus chapter, in addition to her involvement in many other organizations and activities.

Another first-generation student, Emily Burrus, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, served as vice president of the Student Class Council, along with Gombosuren. She is from Long Island, New York, was recognized earlier this year as a Patti Grace Smith Fellow, and has interned at both NASA and Blue Origin.

Bobbi Wells, vice president of safety systems, efficiency and compliance for American Airlines, as well as director of Safety on Embry-Riddle’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Operating Certificate, delivered the undergraduate keynote address. She also serves as chair-elect for the Flight Safety Council, is the past president of the International Aviation Women’s Association and previously filled high-ranking roles at FedEx and in the U.S. Army, among other distinctions. Her community-outreach efforts are also impressive, as she serves on the Board of Governors for the Flight Safety Foundation, and on the Department of Transportation’s Women in Aviation Advisory Board.

Dr. Joseph Keebler, Embry-Riddle professor of Human Factors, delivered the keynote at the graduate hooding ceremony.

Thirty ROTC cadets from Embry‑Riddle also commissioned into the U.S. Army at the event, seven commissioned into the Air Force, 14 into the Navy and nine into the Army.

Prescott Campus

A total of 185 graduates walked the commencement stage at Embry‑Riddle’s Prescott Campus ceremony Dec. 16, including 175 bachelor’s degree earners, eight master’s and two doctoral candidates: Kellie Ault and Brett Michael Watts. Of that total, 13 students — four of whom are master’s students, eight are bachelor’s and one is an associate’s degree earner — are from Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus.

ERAU Prescott commencement speaker
Anna Fudenberg served as the Prescott Campus graduating class speaker and won the Chancellor’s Award. (Photo: Embry-Riddle/Connor McShane)

That total also included eight cadets commissioning into the military: seven Air Force ROTC cadets and one Army ROTC cadet.

The class speaker was Aeronautical Science graduate Anna Fudenberg, a Las Vegas, Nevada, native who also was awarded the Prescott Campus Chancellor Award, which is the highest award bestowed upon a graduate, recognizing exceptional academic and leadership achievements.

“We have been able to overcome a global pandemic, succeed through extremely hard academic classes and balance responsibilities such as traveling for sports, flight training, capstone, volunteering and tutoring,” Fudenberg told her classmates. “As new Embry-Riddle alumni, we have a unique responsibility in our industries. We are the next generation of aviators, engineers, meteorologists, biologists and more. … You will be affecting and changing the very framework that defines our country and world.”

A multi-engine commercial pilot, Fudenberg graduated with a minor in Aviation Business Administration, played on the Embry-Riddle Women’s Golf Team and co-founded Athletes in Aviation, meant to help students efficiently juggle their academic and athletic lives. She also served as president of the campus’s Women in Aviation chapter, in addition to graduating in three years instead of the traditional four, and with a 3.9 grade point average.

Mike Madsen, recently retired president and CEO of Honeywell Aerospace’s Aerospace Business Group, delivered the event’s keynote address. A nearly 40-year industry veteran, Madsen began his career at Honeywell as an engine performance engineer. As president, he led the company through the Covid-19 pandemic and, in the process, increased the company’s operating margins and launched its Urban Air Mobility and Unmanned Aerial Systems departments, which has since secured over $7.5 billion in new business revenue. He also oversaw the launch of the firm’s next-generation flight deck, among many other projects and community-outreach initiatives.

“Commencement represents two important milestones for our graduates,” said Dr. Anette M. Karlsson, Prescott Campus chancellor. “The first is a culmination of all the dedication and hard work our students have put into their education over the years. The second is the beginning of what is sure to be a promising career bringing critical skills to the areas of aviation, aerospace, cybersecurity and the other fields for which our graduates are eminently qualified.”

Posted In: Institutional News