Amid celebratory cheers and applause, members of the class of 2015 graduated during ceremonies held Dec. 12 at Appalachian State University. Nearly 1,730 students who completed degree requirements this summer and fall were invited to participate in the ceremonies.
“Today, we celebrate the achievements of our students as they leave Appalachian prepared to make real and powerful differences in their communities and beyond,” said Chancellor Sheri N. Everts. “We celebrate the amazing academic relationships students have developed with faculty and staff who have served as teachers, fellow researchers, mentors and role models. We also join together to celebrate the relationships with family, fellow students and friends who have supported and sustained them throughout this transformational journey.”
Everts spoke of what lies ahead for the new graduates and of their future contributions to society. “Students come to Appalachian, continue to develop and grow into amazing individuals who go on to touch hundreds and thousands of lives throughout their professions, civic engagement and service,” she said. “Thank you for being part of our community. You will always be part of this great university and you are our most enduring legacy.”
Among the student speakers were Kory K. Bannon and Nichole M. Gross, who spoke during the morning ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences and Reich College of Education.
Bannon told graduates that there are two questions they should continually ask themselves: Do I truly care about what I’m doing and am I challenging myself?
“If we commit a serious amount of time and thought to these questions, no matter the uncertainties of life, things will fall into place,” he said. “Hoard experience, make mistakes, embrace confusion and seriously consider how you want to spend your time on this earth.”
Gross, who earned a master’s degree in public administration, also spoke of the value of her education. She has already begun work as a data compliance specialist with the North Carolina Department of Commerce-Rural Division in Raleigh.
“Today I have a career that is meaningful and I would not be in this position if it was not for my Appalachian family, she said. “My graduate degree has given me the professional development, network, confidence and skills to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Speaking to graduates of the Beaver College of Health Sciences, College of Fine and Applied Arts, Hayes School of Music and Walker College of Business were Christopher J. Mayhew, a percussionist who graduated with Bachelor of Music degrees in music education and performance, and Christopher N. Schoonover who earned a master’s degree in appropriate technology.
Mayhew joked about being able to get a degree in being loud and hitting drumsticks. But while he perfected his skills as a percussionist, he was also learning important life skills, he said.
“Out of all the skills and all the lessons, the one thing that really stuck with me has been the idea of building a relationship with another individual,” he said. “Every opportunity that I have been granted was not because I was a great musician or had a great GPA. I just happened to take the time and get to know the person either I was working for at the time or performing with. It seems like such a simple life skill, but one that you can take for granted.”
Schoonover spoke of the transitions that students navigated as they earned their degrees and the ones that will follow as they begin careers.
“Although the accomplishments change, the transition from one journey to the next is a guarantee in life,” he said. “The key is to face the uncertainty boldly, and remember that the greatest joys are found along the journey.”
He advised graduates to remember to take a moment to pause when things become overwhelming. “Remember that this journey is yours. It doesn’t belong to your parents, your friends or the rest of society. Think about how you are going to take the journey and not so much about the next destination.”
About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.