UNE graduates pose at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland

Congratulations, Class of 2024!

UNE honored the next generation of innovators with the conferral of over 1,500 degrees on May 18

The University of New England awarded more than 1,500 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees at its 189th Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18, at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, representing the fields of medicine, dental medicine, pharmacy, the allied health professions, marine and environmental sciences, humanities, the social sciences, education, and business.

The University welcomed Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont and the longest-serving independent member of Congress in U.S. history, who delivered the University’s Commencement address. Sanders and Arthur “Art” P. Girard, whose vision and generosity have been instrumental to UNE’s growth over the past decade, were both awarded the honorary Doctor of Laws during the ceremony.

A crowd of UNE graduates smiles for a photo
UNE graduates watch the ceremony from their seats
A graduate watches the ceremony from her seat
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at the podium
Two graduates take a selfie with a smartphone

UNE awarded more than 1,500 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees to graduates at the Cross Insurance Arena on May 18, 2024, capping a weekend of festivities celebrating the Class of 2024.

Sanders is serving his third term in the Senate after winning reelection in 2018. He gained strong support during his two runs for president, coming in second in both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries. He used his address to speak to the need for increased education of health care professionals to address persistent nationwide workforce shortages and systemic inequalities in access to care.

“You are doing what far too few universities are doing,” Sanders said, referring to UNE’s status as the No. 1 provider of health care professionals for the state of Maine. “This university is taking a look at the crises facing our country and are saying, ‘How do we get our young people out into the world to address those crises?’"

You are going to have the strength, the energy, the vision, and the morality that will turn this nation around and make it the beautiful nation that we know it can become.” — U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders


UNE has Maine’s only medical college, dental college, and physician assistant degree program and boasts some of the highest nurse licensing exam pass rates among B.S.N. programs in the state. UNE health professions students additionally study on the only integrated health sciences campus in northern New England.

“A key part of what we have to do as a nation is train the next generation of doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and others to provide the highest quality of care that the people in Maine, Vermont, New England, and the country desperately need, and that is exactly what you are doing,” Sanders told graduates and their families.

View Highlights from the 2024 Commencement. View the entire ceremony on YouTube

Sanders has twice called on UNE President James Herbert to testify before the before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security in Washington, D.C., about the health care workforce shortage and methods to improve it

During the Commencement ceremony, Herbert said Sanders’ leadership in advocating for health care reform directly reflects UNE’s educational mission.

UNE President James Herbert smiles at the podium

UNE President James D. Herbert congratulated graduates and complimented their innovative spirit.

“Sanders’ commitment to being an innovator aligns with UNE’s history of thinking outside the box in terms of the programs we develop, the partnerships we pursue, and the education we provide our students,” he said. “When we say, ‘Innovation for a Healthier Planet,’ we are signaling to the world that we are committed to preparing graduates who are ready to apply innovative solutions to the problems we all face … through programs specifically tailored to empower students to support the health of the world’s people, communities, and natural environment.”

In his speech, Sanders acknowledged that the U.S. faces several hardships, political gridlock, and socioeconomic burdens among them. He called upon graduates to apply their education and innovate to create meaningful societal meaningful change.

"You are entering the workforce at a very difficult time in American history,” he said. “But we are depending on you, with full confidence, that you are going to have the strength, the energy, the vision, and the morality that will turn this nation around and make it the beautiful nation that we know it can become.”

News of the 2024 Commencement ceremony has been featured in the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Yahoo! News, WGME CBS 13, Fox 23 Maine, and USA Today.