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By Megan Nash

Many, if not most, of VCU School of Business’ newest graduates began their higher education journeys in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. But these Rams are fully prepared to rise to any challenge they face – and lead others to do the same.

An estimated 414 undergraduate and 194 master’s students became members of the VCU Business spring Class of 2024 on Saturday, May 11, at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Interim Dean Brian Brown, Ph.D., welcomed the graduates with a message of perseverance and pride, saying, “This is the best time in history for the underdog. Because what sets underdogs apart is their innovativeness, resilience and capacity to thrive in uncertain times and spaces.”

Chief Technology Officer at United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and three-time VCU Business alumni Ankit Mathur (B.S. ’03, M.B.A. ’12, M.S. ’13), served as keynote speaker for the ceremony.

Mathur has had a diverse career spanning entrepreneurial ventures and significant roles in public service. He co-founded Roundtrip Health, a healthcare tech startup designed to remove transportation as a barrier to care and also served as chief delivery officer for the U.S. Digital Service at the White House, where he was responsible for strategic technology and policy-related improvements across federal agencies.

In his opening, Mathur reminded graduates that their journeys, like his own, are rarely alike.

“As I thought about what I would share with you today, I’ve come to realize that life rarely lays out a clear path,” said Mathur. “There is no predefined route. Instead, it’s a series of circumstances, mishaps and opportunities that shape our journey.”

Mathur talked about three lessons he’s learned along the way and shared experiences from his latest hobby of gardening to illustrate resilience and growth.

“I recently picked up gardening,” he shared. “As I started learning more about growing plants, I came across the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree. For years, there are no visible signs of growth, but then suddenly, it can shoot up to 80 feet tall. This story challenges us to embrace the journey of growth and resilience.”

Mathur emphasized the importance of authenticity and resilience, especially in a world filled with inauthentic interactions. “Your core values and inner voice will guide you to a truer path than anything social media or AI could produce,” he advised.

He also recounted his entrepreneurial journey with Roundtrip, sharing a pivotal moment: “I distinctly remember the fourth ride that came through our system. It was a 7-year-old who was critically sick and needed to go from Delaware to Pittsburgh for a heart transplant. Using the power of technology, we were able to get a ride for the child and their family within hours. That level of impact kept me going through difficult times.”

Mathur encouraged graduates to seize opportunities with a “why not?” attitude, sharing his own unconventional career path. “In all of these instances, I took a chance and said, ‘why not? What’s the worst that could happen?’ Do something unexpected and unconventional. Take the risk.”

Reflecting on his time at the White House, Mathur described it as “a surreal experience to be part of a team of top-notch technology professionals working to strengthen technology services for the American public.”

“Tonight, I challenge you to pursue authenticity, stay resilient and ask ‘why not?’ Engage in public service to strengthen the fabric of our democracy. Choose work that inspires you and most importantly… dream big.”

Continue the celebration by viewing the online photo gallery of the VCU Business spring 2024 commencement.

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