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Appalachian State University Commencement Ceremonies Underway Today; Classes Resume January 13

By Nathan Ham

A new group of college graduates from Appalachian State University will celebrate earning their degrees today with commencement ceremonies. Over 1,300 students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree today. 

The first group of graduates from the College of Arts and Sciences, Hayes School of Music and Walker College of Business took the floor at 10 a.m. at the Holmes Convocation Center. The next group of graduates from Beaver College of Health Sciences, College of Fine and Applied Arts and Reich College of Education will have their ceremony at 2 p.m. inside the convocation center. 

Both ceremonies will feature a student speaker from the college that they are graduating from. 

Student Speaker Background

Walker College of Business

Luis Eduardo Abreu Messina is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He has been a North Carolina resident for the last 10 years, working in the telecommunications industry. He is graduating from Appalachian with a Master of Business Administration. While attending Appalachian, Messina became a lifetime member of Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society. After graduation, Messina will continue working at Corning Optical Communications in product line management in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Beaver College of Health Sciences

Koria Johnson was born and raised in Pinehurst, North Carolina. She is receiving a Bachelor of Social Work with a minor in sociology. While at Appalachian, she worked at Plemmons Student Union. In fall 2019, Johnson served as a full-time intern at Appalachian’s Blue Cross NC Institute for Health and Human Services, where she assisted with coordinating clinical services, outreach and research related to holistic health and well-being for individuals in Boone and the surrounding area. Following graduation, Johnson plans to gain professional employment experience before pursuing her Master of Social Work.

College of Arts and Sciences

Panagiotis “Pete” S. Lagusis, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, has called North Carolina home for the last 15 years. He is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in history with minors in Africana studies, philosophy and political science. During his time at Appalachian, he has earned membership to both Pi Sigma Alpha (National Political Science Honor Society) and Phi Alpha Theta (National History Honor Society). When not on campus, he spends his free time volunteering as a youth basketball coach during the winter and summer leagues with the City of Lenoir Parks and Recreation Department. Following graduation, he plans to apply to graduate school and will pursue his Ph.D. in philosophy. Eventually, he plans to teach.

Reich College of Education

Juan E. Ramirez ’13 is from Medellin, Colombia, and Hickory, North Carolina, and is earning a Doctor of Education in educational leadership. He works as a program manager for App State Online and site coordinator for the Appalachian Center at Caldwell in the Division of Educational Outreach at Appalachian State University. As an educational inspirator and critic, Ramirez sheds light around the intersection of race and ethnicity with higher education and advocates the cultivation of collaborative spaces in which all are teachers and learners. Ramirez also serves on UPCEA, an international leading professional organization for professional, continuing and online higher education in the diversity and inclusive excellence efforts, and the South Region Emerging Leaders Leadership Program as co-chair. He is excited about being part of the reimagination of higher education. In his spare time, he cherishes time with family, friends and the community, traveling, adventure and good food, and he is exceptionally passionate and curious about learning.

College of Fine and Applied Arts

Nora Smith, of Spartanburg, South Carolina, is graduating from the Honors College at Appalachian with a B.S. in communication, journalism, and a minor in graphic arts and imaging technology. During their time at the university, they served as editor-in-chief and graphics editor of The Appalachian, the campus student-run newspaper. In 2019, Smith was selected as a Dow Jones News Fund multiplatform editing intern and worked on the copy desk at the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia. They were also awarded the David L. Adams Apple Award for Copy Editing from the College Media Association. As a student, Smith was also a member of The Peel literary arts review, worked on The Appalachian Weekly News for AppTV, was an officer for the Appalachian Honors Association and served on the Student Affairs Leadership Advisory Council.

Hayes School of Music

Miriam F. Tart, MT-BC, completed her undergraduate degree in music performance at Corban University in Salem, Oregon. Her primary instrument is piano. Prior to entering the equivalency/Master of Music Therapy program at Appalachian State University, Tart worked in the audio/visual industry as an analyst and project manager for five years before returning to school to pursue her master’s degree in music therapy. Tart completed her music therapy internship training at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. She views the opportunity to work with her clients as a gift and finds joy in being with clients as they move toward their goals. Her clinical experience includes working with children with communication and developmental delays, older adults in a rehabilitative center, adults in acute psychiatric care, at-risk youth in the community and adults in substance abuse treatment programs.