Ashley Tyson’s decorated mortarboard summed up her years at ECU this way: “I can do trauma and drama.”
Tyson of Washington, N.C., was one of many boisterous College of Nursing graduates celebrating Friday during commencement exercises at Minges Coliseum. She completed her bachelor of science in nursing degree.
She also holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from ECU, which she earned in 2008.
Tyson plans to work in nursing for the next two years to pay off her student loan debt and to fulfill her requirements as a N.C. Nursing Scholar, then she plans to head to New York City to put her musical theater degree to work.
“I would like to thank my theater faculty at the School of Theatre and Dance for the professionalism that they have prepared me for to be able to get my nursing degree,” she said.
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After the ceremony, Trey Sloan of Deep Run gathered with his family and his doctorate faculty advisor, Dr. David A. Brown of the Department of Physiology and an adjunct professor in bioenergetics. Sloan earned his doctorate in bioenergetics and exercise science for his research on the connection between heart attacks and diabetes.
“People with diabetes are more susceptible to die from heart attacks and we wanted to know why,” Sloan said. “We found some things at the mitochondrial level.”
Brown noted that eastern North Carolina has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the nation, not just the state. “Anything we can do to identify how we can help people, especially diabetics with heart disease, we think has huge clinical potential,” he said.
As he earned his doctorate Friday, Sloan was also celebrating completing his first semester as a medical student at ECU. Brown added that Sloan is also a UNC Board of Governors Scholar at the Brody School of Medicine.
Sloan is not the only ECU graduate in his family; his wife Kristi earned her degree in nursing in May. She also has a business degree from ECU.
Trey Sloan’s mother smiled and said, “He has wanted to be a doctor since he was three years old and he would walk around the house in his little scrubs.”
The family joked that they have one more ECU graduation on their calendars – in three and one-half years when Trey graduates from the Brody School of Medicine.
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It would be hard to say who was smiling more Friday morning: Jerry Bartz or his wife, Loretta.
Jerry Bartz, who works at the Brody School of Medicine, earned his bachelor of science degree in information technology. Bartz earned his associate degree at Pitt Community College and then completed his bachelor’s degree at ECU.
The father of three said it was tough some weeks juggling schoolwork and family responsibilities, but he had a goal.
Bartz wanted to graduate before their oldest daughter completed college. She is slated to graduate from UNC-Pembroke in May.
“And he did it!” Loretta exclaimed.
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Erionna Skinner said the reality of graduating college didn’t sink in until well after Friday’s ceremony began. Even lined up in the hallway before proceedings began, cloaked in a purple robe and mortarboard, Skinner, of Pittsboro, said the occasion didn’t feel too special.
“It kind of felt like high school again,” she said. “But when they actually had us stand up for our departments, it just all hit me. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is a really big deal.’”
With a dual degree in accounting and Spanish, Skinner is the first in her family to graduate college.
Deneen Ascenzo stood with Skinner, her first-born, outside Minges Coliseum, her eyes welling up with joyful tears.
“I’m extremely proud,” said Ascenzo. “She’s the first (of three) to graduate and it’s just awesome.”
She said she isn’t worried about her daughter finding work, even in the current economic climate.
“She’s a type-A personality with good grades, sports, work, the whole thing,” Acenzo said. “It’s amazing. It’s nice to have a graduate in the family.”
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Surrounded by nearly 20 family members and friends, Tayloria Kesler of Salisbury posed for photo after photo Friday outside Minges Coliseum.
“(I’ll remember) the school spirit, the clubs I was in,” she said, “my friends, the long hours in the library studying chemistry.”
Kesler plans to apply for and attend pharmacy school in 2013. Until then, she’ll move back home and look for work as a pharmacy technician in that city or the nearby Triad.
Even with more school to come, she said Friday’s graduation felt like a defining moment.
“I’m finished,” she gushed. “I’m done. That’s all I can think about.”
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