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Graduation 2020: A Time, Class Like No Other

A still image from a video featuring a message from Dean Jeff Braden Play Video
View a special message from College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jeff Braden.

A sincere tip of the mortarboard to our college’s 1,207 undergraduate and 292 master’s and doctoral degree graduates.

We’ll all remember this as a year like no other. But our amazing and resilient 2020 graduates should take great pride in what they were able to accomplish, despite it all. With perseverance, grace under pressure — and with support from friends, family, faculty, donors and others — members of the class of 2020 truly earned their degrees.

Chloe Whealan is one such student. A Spring 2020 psychology graduate, Whealan will serve as one of two student speakers at NC State’s Dec. 4 virtual commencement ceremony celebrating all 2020 graduates.

Whealan recalls feeling devastated when she learned she wouldn’t be returning to campus after spring break in March. “The last few months of senior year is the time to celebrate with your friends and enjoy the final moments of college,” she says. “But what helped me most was knowing I wasn’t going through it alone. All my classmates were struggling with the transition to online classes, with being isolated from friends. It was really hard, but the entire country was experiencing every weird COVID-related issue together. That’s what got me through.”

Chloe Whealan in front of the 1911 Building. Photo courtesy of Chloe Whealan.

Looking back over her four-year career at NC State, Whealan recognizes just how resilient she’s become. “I’ve learned to accept the situations life throws at me with grace. … I also think that showing up for yourself in uncertain times shows just how strong you can be, and we all had to do that when COVID hit.”

She’s also leaned on concepts she learned in her psychology coursework to get through the last year. “Taking time to validate my feelings and giving myself breaks when I felt overwhelmed was crucial,” she says. “When we’re overwhelmed, we can forget to let our bodies rest and recuperate and we keep pushing until we break. No one can run on an empty tank.

You’re doing the best you can given the circumstances. Give yourself some grace.

“We’re all living in uncharted territory right now, and it’s okay to take time for yourself. Know that you’re doing the best you can given the circumstances. Give yourself some grace.”

At every commencement ceremony during his 11-year tenure as dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Jeff Braden has asked our college’s graduates, “What can you do with a degree in Humanities and Social Sciences?” And the graduates respond, “Anything we want!”

This year, the sentiment is the same. But the stakes seem higher than in previous times. “Now more than ever,” Braden says, “we need to have people in this world who can understand others. We are on the same small planet adrift in a universe devoid of sustenance.

“This moment cries out for those who can understand and unite through a deep comprehension of languages and cultures, through empathy gained by study and through experience. You are among those who are poised to do this critically important work.”

By the Numbers


  • 198 undergraduate degrees
  • 12 graduate degrees


  • 100 undergraduate degrees
  • 45 graduate degrees

Foreign Languages and Literatures

  • 73 undergraduate degrees
  • 10 graduate degrees


  • 81 undergraduate degrees
  • 22 graduate degrees

Interdisciplinary Studies

  • 161 undergraduate degrees
  • 14 MALS degrees
  • 16 CRDM degrees

Philosophy and Religious Studies

  • 19 undergraduate degrees


  • 242 undergraduate degrees
  • 27 graduate degrees

Public and International Affairs

  • 160 undergraduate degrees
  • 22 MIS degrees
  • 29 PA degrees

Social Work

  • 50 undergraduate degrees
  • 83 MSW degrees

Sociology and Anthropology

  • 123 undergraduate degrees
  • 12 graduate degrees