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‘Honoring, praising and congratulating’ Appalachian’s graduates at Fall 2018 Commencement

Photo by Chase Reynolds

By Alex Jansen

About 1,600 students crossed the platform during the university’s Fall 2018 Commencement ceremonies held Saturday in Holmes Convocation Center.

Chancellor Sheri Everts presided over the events as family, friends, faculty, staff and classmates looked on. “Today we celebrate as our students leave Appalachian prepared to make real and powerful differences in their communities and beyond,” she said.

“A university campus is an amazing place of confluence where great leaders and ideas emerge for the betterment of society, and Appalachian is a shining example of this work,” Everts said.

University of North Carolina Board of Governors member Philip Byers began his remarks by thanking Appalachian’s faculty. “You do a tremendous job for this university,” he said.

Byers said he and Everts and her leadership team are working to change the funding model at Appalachian. Appalachian is one of the “lowest funded schools in the (UNC) system,” he said, and the change would allow students to “continue receiving the type of leadership and knowledge (faculty) have to share with them.”

Byers told graduates at each ceremony they are “ambassadors of this institution.”

“As a graduate of this institution, you now wield something even more powerful than the diploma you will receive — and that is the power of your example,” he concluded.

Graduating seniors Maya E. Brown-Hughston, a double major in music education and child development: birth–kindergarten from State College, Pennsylvania, and Maleek Loyd, a communication, electronic media/broadcasting major from Greensboro, welcomed attendees at the two commencement ceremonies.

“Let us enter into the spirit of honoring, praising and congratulating our graduates of the Class of 2018,” they each said at their respective ceremonies.

A total of 1,260 undergraduate students and 368 graduate students applied to receive their degrees in December.

The 10 a.m. ceremony featured the presentation of candidates for bachelor’s degrees from the Walker College of Business, Hayes School of Music and College of Arts and Sciences.

The 2 p.m. ceremony featured students from the College of Fine and Applied Arts, Beaver College of Health Sciences and Reich College of Education. Both ceremonies featured the presentation of candidates for graduate degrees from the Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies.

Jeff Merritt ’89, president of the Appalachian State University Alumni Association, echoed those sentiments as he brought greetings and congratulations to graduates on behalf of the more than 126,000 living alumni from all 50 states and many countries across the globe.

“You join almost 120 years of Appalachian alumni and are part of a great tradition of Mountaineers who make an impact all over the globe,” he said.

The Appalachian Brass Ensemble, conducted by Dr. James Stokes, performed during the ceremonies and was joined by vocalist Rachel Tucker, a senior music education major in the Hayes School of Music, who led the singing of the alma mater.

Four graduating students provided remarks, each sharing their experience at Appalachian:

  • Razan Farhan Alaqil, receiving her Bachelor of Science in political science, international comparative politics, with a minor in global studies;
  • Mackenzie Holland, graduating with a Master of Business Administration degree;
  • Eunice McSwain, receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in recreation management with a concentration in recreation and park management and a minor in media studies; and
  • Shawn Clemons, earning a Doctor of Education degree in educational leadership.

Alaqil spoke first at the morning ceremony. Alaqil, from Al-Ahsa, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, told her story of coming to the United States in 2014 as a 16-year-old exchange student.

“Family — I left mine, and I came here to find many people whom I now consider to be my own extended family,” she said.

At Appalachian, Alaqil was an Appalachian Student Ambassador, a Cultural Ambassador, a member of the Chancellor’s Student Advisory Board for Diversity Recruitment, a member in the Muslim Student Association and a Government and Justice Studies Fellow.

She plans to pursue a career at the United Nations or in Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Holland, from Marion, earned her undergraduate degree in health care management from Appalachian in 2014. She returned to Appalachian for graduate school to advance her career.

“An advanced degree will increase your resource capacity in ways you cannot imagine both financially and intellectually, giving you the opportunity to change the world around you,” she told her peers.

“I recognized a need to invest in myself if I wanted more from my career,” she continued. “(Appalachian’s) distance education MBA program makes it possible for me to keep my job and my life while investing in myself along the way. My MBA has already given me the foundation to seek out my strengths.”

Holland plans to work at Mission Health as a post-acute transitions care manager in the McDowell County area.

McSwain told those gathered at the afternoon ceremony, “I know that surrounding me today are individuals who will seek new goals, knowledge and change. People who will … fight for what they believe is right. I know that we will work together to create a space that is open to every gender, race, ethnicity, culture (and) religion and break every boundary that is in our way.”

At Appalachian, McSwain taught swim lessons through University Recreation and served on University Recreation Council as the aquatics representative.

She has earned a position as the special events supervisor of the Town of Cramerton’s Parks and Recreation Department, where she interned over the summer.

Clemons, of Maiden, who currently resides in Lincolnton, spoke of her ancestors, who she said “knew how precious an education was and instilled in their grandchildren the value of being educated.”

Clemons plans to pursue professional opportunities that allow her to improve academic equity for all students. In her address, she quoted Gandhi, encouraging her fellow graduates to be the change they wish to see in the world.

“As we graduate and leave this great university, we have the opportunity to transform our space in the universe,” Clemons said. “With each of us transforming our space, we will begin to transform the world into a safe and inviting space for everyone.”