Radford family gathers for winter commencement ceremonies

For the Radford University family, the 2017 Winter Commencement ceremonies enriched the holiday season with a sense of pride and achievement.

Radford University celebrated the academic achievement of almost 600 undergraduate students and 75 graduate students from across Virginia and the world during six ceremonies Dec. 15-16.

Sawyer Guest, an interdisciplinary studies graduate from Hopewell, Virginia, was surrounded by friends and family after the ceremony for students receiving degrees from the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences and Waldron College of Health and Human Service.

“This has been the best experience of my life so far,” said Guest.

Veronica and Skip Guest, Sawyer’s parents, looked on and basked in Sawyer’s exuberance.

“Not only has she had a good experience here, but we have, too,” said Veronica. “She found great teachers and inspiring mentors at Radford, good friends and a caring community. We are so pleased at how she has been treated and grown.”

Before an overflowing Bondurant Auditorium, Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill explained to the Class of 2017 the vital role that they will play in society.

“The value of an education goes so far beyond preparation for a career. It develops our ability to make good judgments and listen with a critical ear and open mind,” said President Hemphill. “It is the role of educated people – those who seek knowledge and develop superior thinking skills – to support people and champion ideas of substance.”

While awaiting the ceremony at which he would accept his degree, Jeremy Rosario, a criminal justice and psychology major from Hopelawn, New Jersey reflected on the moment.

“Today is just one more highlight of so many during my time here at Radford,” Rosario said. “I am a first-generation college graduate. I am proud of the accomplishment and look forward to the opportunities in the future that await me.”

Anthropology Professor and Faculty Senate President Jake Fox spoke on behalf of Radford’s faculty, saying, “It is our greatest hope that no matter how varied your future might be, each of you will take from your Radford experience something of tremendous value . . . the habits of the mind.”

Julianna Stanley, President of the Student Government Association, congratulated her fellow students.

“You have changed. You are not the same person you were when you started here,” Stanley said. “You are now a combination of every professor, friendship, challenge and frustration of the last four years. Your Highlander experience has prepared you for a bright future.”

On Dec. 15, the university recognized graduate students and nurses. At the Winter 2017 Hooding Ceremony for the College of Graduate Studies and Research, 75 graduate students donned the academic regalia signifying their achievement.

“Tonight, we celebrate you – our dreamers and our doers,” said Laura Jacobsen, acting dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research.

Kenna Colley, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, challenged and assured the newly-hooded graduate students.

“As you go out into your respective professions and, by the virtue of the advanced degree that you have earned, your co-workers and colleagues will have high expectations about your performance and preparedness,” Colley said. “Rest assured, you will live up to their expectations and go beyond.”

Zachary Higginbotham, of Radford, said the defining experience of his MBA program was entrepreneurial.

“We pulled from every single course that we took to develop a product, service, guides, business plan – you name it,” Higginbotham said. “It was a unique experience where we could actually do everything that we learned. We are going to move the business plan forward and see where it takes us.”

Among the other graduate degrees conferred were from disciplines such as special education, social work, education and psychology. Popular undergraduate degrees were from the disciplines of psychology, liberal arts, criminal justice, nursing and management.

The U.S. Army also commissioned a new first lieutenant – Radford’s Colleen Talbot, a biology major.

Optimism, and relief, marked the ceremony during which 33 Bachelor of Science-Nursing (BSN) and Registered Nursing-to-BSN students were pinned by family or professional mentors.

Rebecca Rogers was pinned by her grandmother, Annette Haggerty, whom she will soon join as a colleague in the emergency room at a Winchester hospital.

“I guess I can retire in a couple of years,” said Haggerty, a nurse who has been practicing for 60 years. “My advice to her is to keep patients and their care THE priority. They are the reason you, I mean, we are here.”

“I so look up to her for her ability to always care,” said Rogers.

Sgt. Cristian Morgan recently returned from an overseas deployment with the U.S. Army to join his children – Junior, Mark and Ava – for the pinning of Logan Manley-Morgan, his wife and their mother.

“It is amazing. It is awesome.” Morgan said of his wife’s achievement. “I am so proud of her. She worked very hard.”

“The day has finally come,” said Morgan-Manley, who will soon join a cardio/thoracic stepdown unit at a Fort Bragg, North Carolina hospital. “I feel unexplainably good.”

Twenty Master of Occupational Therapy students also proudly joined their profession with a pinning ceremony. Julia Jennings echoed the happiness of her classmates and then shared the credit.

“We had the support of our faculty who graciously answered our late night emails, opened their doors for us to deflect our fears of failure and shared smiles while reminding us that it is all ‘part of the process,’” Jennings said.

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