Philip Merrill College of Journalism students were urged to relentlessly seek truth and follow their passion during the college’s commencement ceremony Wednesday morning at the University of Maryland.

Full video of the hour-long ceremony at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park, Maryland, is available on the Merrill College YouTube page.

Merrill College Dean Lucy Dalglish told the audience she always thinks commencement is “inspiring and up-lifting.” She said that while college faculty and staff were sad to see students go, they were also pleased to see students’ “excitement to get on with the next stage in their lives.”

Students were celebrated for completing bachelor’s, master’s and graduate certifications in journalism. Several students received special recognition during the ceremony:

  • Alexandra Simon was named Outstanding Broadcast News Senior
  • Katishi Maake was named Outstanding Multimedia News Senior
  • Julie Depenbrock was named Outstanding Master’s Student

Summer Breeze Bedard, a founding member of the college’s first satirical news class, Laughing Matters, was selected by her peers as the commencement’s student speaker.

Bedard told classmates to embrace outside-the-box ways to tell stories and to stand up for the truth.

“We’ve reached a point in a politically polarized, post-truth America where facts seem biased,” Bedard said. “Facts are said to have a liberal political angle, and you need to be willing to stand up and say that is wrong. … The core of journalism is just honesty and authenticity.”

The college also recognized members of the faculty and staff who plan to retire.

Associate Dean Olive Reid, who started full-time work as an adviser at the college in 1992, plans to retire this month. She said during the ceremony she was struck by the way so many college students she advised grew into successful professionals. Many have now become her advisers, Reid said.

She noted that around 90 percent of Merrill College students find jobs within six months of graduation.

“But I can tell you 99.9999 percent of you will go on to use your hard-won skills in wonderful and lucrative ways,” Reid said. “I can say confidently that if you follow your passion, you’ll stay on the right path.”

Professor Carl Sessions Stepp, who joined the Merrill College faculty in 1983, gave the commencement address. Stepp plans to retire after the spring semester.

Stepp urged the graduates to find motivation not just from their thoughts, but their feelings and all the places they’ve been.

“Journalism faces serious challenges, our country faces serious challenges, our world faces serious challenges,” Stepp said. “And we’re counting on you, and people like you, to help us fix things — to seek and tell the truth when it’s not always easy, and it’s not always appreciated.”