SUNY Oswego’s three May 2023 Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13, will feature keynote speakers with a variety of leadership perspectives and experiences.

  • Dr. Juhanna Rogers, Senior Vice President of Racial Equity and Social Impact for CenterState CEO, will speak at the 9 a.m. ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

  • The Honorable Billy Barlow, Mayor of the City of Oswego, will speak at the 12:30 p.m. ceremony for the School of Business.

  • Dr. Robert Simmons, Head of Social Impact and STEM Programs for Micron Technology and the Micron Foundation will speak at the 4 p.m. ceremony for the School of Communication, Media and the Arts and the School of Education.

Leading equity:
Dr. Juhanna Rogers, CenterState CEO

As a member of CenterState CEO’s Corporate Leadership Team, Rogers develops and deploys diversity, equity and inclusion strategies that achieve more equitable outcomes both internally and across the organization’s portfolios of work, including helping members and institutions establish strategic action-oriented plans that drive inclusive change in their respective workplaces.

Previously, she served as vice president of racial equity and social impact, and also director of community engagement and empowerment, developing engagement strategies to drive change in Syracuse. Before working at CenterState CEO, Rogers was the director for health services at Syracuse Community Connections. She also has a background in higher education.

Rogers earned her undergraduate degree in integrative arts from Penn State University-Altoona, and a master of science from Indiana University in higher education and student affairs. While completing her doctoral program in 2016, she and seven of her colleagues were deemed “The Great 8” and were recognized as the largest number of Black women to complete doctorate degree requirements simultaneously. The Great 8 were selected as Ebony Magazine Power 100 Honorees for being changemakers in education.

Rogers is a motivational speaker, commentator, artist and activist committed to social justice, education and the arts. As a critical race scholar, she builds platforms for critical conversations on race, justice and equity. Rogers has worked nationally and internationally to help address equity in higher education, exploring ways through which underrepresented populations can improve their lives and communities.

She is also the creator of “Behind the Woman,” a WCNY television production that shares personal stories from diverse women leaders to empower other women to pursue their goals and dreams.

CenterState CEO is Central New York’s premier business leadership and economic development organization, committed to creating a region where business thrives, and all people prosper.

Leading revitalization:
Mayor Billy Barlow, City of Oswego

Mayor Barlow first got involved in government at the age of 22, running for a seat on the city council, receiving 70 percent of the vote and taking office in January 2014. One year later, Barlow announced his candidacy for mayor of Oswego in 2015, at the age of 24, and took office in January 2016 as the youngest sitting mayor in the state of New York at the time and the youngest mayor in the history of Oswego.

In 2019, he was re-elected as mayor and sworn into his second term in January of 2020.

During Barlow’s tenure, he has effectively worked with several partners to infuse over $100 million in public and private investment over seven years to revitalize downtown Oswego, managed $20 million in projects to further develop the waterfront, created an innovative and aggressive code enforcement program to restore historic neighborhoods, led the community through the COVID-19 pandemic, and much more, while overhauling city government and lowering property taxes and fees for city residents.

In addition to serving as mayor, he serves as the vice president of system development and public affairs for Oswego Health, a healthcare system based in Oswego serving all of Oswego County.

In his spare time, Barlow co-owns and operates Barlow’s Concessions, a three-generation family-run food-concession business open at fairs, festivals and sporting events throughout the state of New York, state of Arizona and Las Vegas. 

Barlow graduated from Oswego High School in 2008 and attended college at Arizona State University, where he received a bachelor of science degree in environmental technology management in 2012.

Leading social impact:
Dr. Robert Simmons, Micron Technology / Micron Foundation

Simmons leads all social impact philanthropy in North America and STEM programming in North America for Micron Technology and the Micron Foundation. As a noted scholar on issues of racial equity, STEM and nonprofit leadership, Simmons also serves as a Scholar in Residence and Scholar of Antiracist Praxis at the School of Education at American University where he continues his research in the education policy and leadership department.

As a member of the Diversity Scholars Network at the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan, his research for the last 15 years has focused on racial equity, STEM education and the lived realities of historically marginalized communities across multiple K-12 contexts. More specifically, he explores the experiences of Black students and teachers, equity in STEM and the lived experiences of Black fathers.

The founding director of the Center for Innovation in Urban Education at Loyola University, Simmons was one of the first African American men to become a tenured associate professor of science education and urban education, with a joint appointment in African/African American Studies, and served as a Research Associate at the Baltimore Education Research Consortium at Johns Hopkins University.

Simmons has authored over 50 publications, focusing on race and racial justice, as well as equity, diversity and inclusion; including “Talking About Race,” a highly acclaimed edited collection of essays. His next book will focus on the experience of Black STEM teachers and Black fathers’ love for their sons identified on the autism spectrum.

A former middle school science teacher in the Detroit Public Schools with a doctorate in education, Simmons was nominated twice as the Walt Disney National Teacher of the Year and once for the Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Foundation Outstanding Educator Award. As a fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation and the Fulbright Memorial Fund, he traveled to Costa Rica and Japan to study educational systems and conduct environmental research in the rainforest.

Selected for the Outstanding Alumni Award from the College of Education and Human Development at Western Michigan University and the BE Modern Man Award from Black Enterprise, Simmons has dedicated over 20 years of his professional life to supporting urban youth, their families and the community.

More about Commencement 

More than 1,400 students are eligible to graduate at the 2023 Commencement ceremonies taking place on Saturday, May 13 in the Deborah F. Stanley Arena and Convocation Hall in Marano Campus Center.

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