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May 20: Commencement

FREDERICK, Md.— Former policy director to the first lady and the chairman and CEO of Spotluck, Inc. will be the speakers during the 120th Commencement exercises at Hood College on Saturday.

Krishanti Vignarajah, former policy director to First Lady Michelle Obama, will deliver the 2017 undergraduate Commencement address Saturday morning at 10 a.m. At the White House, Vignarajah led the Let Girls Learn initiative, which brings together a number of government agencies to address the range of challenges preventing adolescent girls from attaining a quality education. Before the White House, Vignarajah served as senior adviser at the State Department under Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry. She currently serves as founder and CEO of Generation Impact, a company that helps nonprofits and advocacy organizations achieve sustainable impact.

Vignarajah graduated from Yale College, where she earned a master’s degree in political science and a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology, then studied as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, before returning to Yale Law School.

“Krishanti’s career path is very impressive; she has accomplished much in a very short time,” said Hood President Andrea E. Chapdelaine, Ph.D. “Her passion for women education and empowerment initiatives align so well with the founding of this institution nearly 125 years ago. I know her message will be inspiring to our students and their guests.”

Cherian Thomas, MBA’12, chairman and CEO of Spotluck, Inc. will deliver the 2017 Graduate School Commencement address Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. The Spotluck mobile app provides real-time incentives to the best local restaurants in the community. Thomas took the app from a Georgetown University master’s deliverable to a monetized business currently ranked as the number one app on the iTunes App Store.

After earning his MBA from Hood, Thomas earned an Executive Master of Leadership from Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. In 2013, he co-founded Georgetown’s WASTENOT Initiative in Cape Town, South Africa. WASTENOT is a Georgetown legacy project that links poverty-prone areas to local manufacturers through recycling buy-back centers.

“Cherian has made the Graduate School proud in all that he has accomplished since graduating from Hood,” said April Boulton, Ph.D., Dean of the Hood College Graduate School. “His dining app has become very popular in a variety of large cities, and we are all eager to hear his ‘secrets for success’ as both an accomplished entrepreneur and an alumnus.”

The 2017 Commencement ceremonies will take place on the residential quadrangle. Two hundred thirty-nine students will receive degrees at the undergraduate ceremony, and 232 students will receive degrees at the graduate ceremony. This year’s undergraduate class hails from 19 states and five countries. Students in this class have studied abroad in 15 locations, 79 of them completed internships, and at least seven of them are veterans. The graduate class includes students from 10 states and 11 countries. They earned bachelor’s degrees from 74 national and 31 international institutions, and 35 of them are Hood alumni. At least seven of the graduates are veterans. 

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