New Beginnings: Celebrating 2022 JWU Charlotte Commencement

Facing an excited crowd at Charlotte Commencement, Haley Chaykowski-Jewett '22 summed up the unique challenges faced by her graduating cohort: “As the class of 2022, we have adapted roughly half of our education to online learning, all while facing a global pandemic, racial injustice, and what felt like the world disintegrating around us.”

“Wherever life takes you, you will always be a member of the JWU community. We are forever Wildcats!”

In spite of these obstacles, she noted, “we each made commitments to finishing our education no matter what was thrown in our path. Today, we celebrate more than just getting a degree. We celebrate our drive, power, and dedication that helped us overcome the barriers we faced during what were supposed to be the ‘best years of our lives.’”

Wildcat Willie making an appearance at Charlotte Commencement.Go Forth & Change the World

The Class of 2022 emerged from these trials all the stronger, concluded Chaykowski-Jewett: “The next time we feel like we’re not doing enough, or we’re never going to get through something, we need to just remember all that we’ve fought through and all that we have fought for. Let’s look back with pride and look forward with passion. We are amazing, we are worthy, and we have a strong mind. … We are a part of a generation that is changing the world.”

That Wildcat grit – that sense of determination, community, and pride — was also on full display in the next speech, as William “Ted” Watkins ’15 invited the new graduates to become involved alumni: “Wherever life takes you, you will always be a member of the JWU community. You are what makes Johnson & Wales a truly unique university. Congratulations, graduates. We are forever Wildcats!”

‘Take Calculated Risks’

For honorary degree recipient Charles Bowman '22 Hon., Commencement marked the end of one journey – and the beginning of another. “As I thought about my remarks for today, I thought of some of the parallels between your transition point in life — leaving the university — and my own — retiring from Bank of America after 25-plus years. I have experienced some of the emotions you may have — as I, too, have had a journey end and another begin.”

“Today is a day to celebrate your achievements and take pride in all you have accomplished.”

Outlining the wide range of emotions during this transitional period — elation, sadness, excitement — Bowman realized it was also an incredible opportunity to reassess “the constant question of what are you going to do, what is your plan, what’s next?” He urged students to be bold, to take calculated risks, and to embrace change.

In her opening address, Vice Chancellor Sandra Affenito summarized the excitement and outsized emotions of the day when she said, “Today is a day to celebrate your achievements and take pride in all you have accomplished. The world today is a different place than it was at the beginning of your academic journeys. It is complex and ever-evolving. It requires resolve and determination. Simply stated, it requires a Wildcat grit.”

And it’s that grit that will sustain our graduates on their next great adventure.

Degree Stats


Includes Summer 2021, Fall 2021 and expected Spring 2022 graduates.

  • A.A.S. Degrees: 235
  • B.S. Degrees: 157
  • B.S.B.A. Degrees: 15


  • John Hazen White College of Arts & Sciences: 3
  • College of Business: 46
  • College of Food Innovation & Technology: 269
  • College of Hospitality Management: 89

JWU Charlotte student Commencement speaker Haley Chaykowski-Jewett '22

Group shot of new grads at Charlotte Commencement.

Group hugs as Charlotte Commencement is about to start.

A decorated mortarboard reading, “It always seems impossible ’til it’s done.”