While many East Carolina University graduates view commencement as the ending to their recent academic pursuits, they were reminded Dec. 19 that it’s really the university’s way of saying, “You are ready to begin.”
More than 2,270 students began their next adventures at the 106th fall commencement as approximately 1,565 bachelor, 45 doctoral and more than 660 graduate degrees were conferred at Minges Coliseum.
Following warm congratulations from ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard, faculty chair Andrew Morehead and senior class officer Madison McGraw, UNC Board of Governors representative Henry Hinton told his fellow alumni, “As you go forward, we hope you’ll continue to dream big and find a way to make a difference.”
Forward progress was a theme underscored throughout the ceremony.
“You are ready to begin a new position, take on a new assignment, start a new job or embark on an advanced degree program,” said commencement speaker Abbie Brown.
Commencement speaker Abbie Brown began his presentation by taking a selfie, shown above. (Contributed photo)
Brown, recipient of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for Teaching Excellence and a professor of instructional technology in the ECU College of Education, opened his comments by taking a selfie with the class of 2014.
“At the end of this ceremony you’ll have a few extra letters you can add to your name,” Brown told the graduates. “But the most important outcome of earning your degree is not the letters others see; it’s the change within yourself that comes from greater experience and knowledge.”
Graduates were eager to talk about their experiences at ECU, celebrating their accomplishments with family and friends.
Sixty-two-year-old graduate Wally Tucker of Wilmington sees his new degree in communication as the realization of a lifelong goal. He started his studies in the early 1970s at a college in Virginia before a full-time job and family became his priority.
“I decided the number one item on my bucket list was to finish my bachelor’s degree,” Tucker said. “I never felt like a good student as a younger man, but I decided I would be as an older man. Number two on my bucket list: moving to Costa Rica and serving as a volunteer teacher there.”
Byron Anderson of Wilson is certain about his career path, too. In the months prior to graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and industrial engineering, he received nine job offers.
“The learning experiences outside of the classroom have helped me grow as a person,” Anderson said. “My professors have helped me assess characteristics and factors that go beyond my academic performance. I'm not the person I once was, and I owe a lot of that to the engineering department.”
He accepted a position with GKN Driveline, a supplier of automotive driveline components and systems.
Marquicia Turner of Greenville also starts a new job in January. With her bachelor’s degree in clinical lab science in-hand, she’ll begin working with Vidant Beaufort Hospital in Washington, N.C. “I’m so overjoyed, it’s hard for me to keep from jumping up and down right now,” she said. “It was a lot of hard work and tears to get here.”
From left are graduates Carrie Elks, Marquicia Turner and Amanda Buss.
Turner and her friends, Carrie Elks of Greenville and Amanda Buss of Fayetteville, went through the same clinical lab science program together.
Elks and Buss both have interviews lined up and say they’re not worried about job prospects.
“When I called the registrar’s office and she confirmed that I would definitely be graduating, I actually teared up on the phone,” Buss said.
Five fall 2014 graduates were the first to complete a brand new nursing program at ECU. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) features a three-year curriculum that focuses on development of nursing experts in translating and applying research conclusions within a clinical setting.
Many students expressed their emotions creatively with displays like the one above on their mortarboards.
The College of Nursing also celebrated its largest class of “RN to BSN” students – registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing – to ever graduate from ECU, with 118 students total.
Brown reminded all graduates that their commitment earned them a new perspective and clearer view of humankind. “When the university accepts you, you make a commitment to complete a program of study that includes attending classes, completing projects, conducting research, writing papers, collaborating with peers and passing exams,” he said.
“And today we celebrate your ability to perceive the world with increased clarity and understanding.” That’s a great way to begin, he said.