The 870 excited new graduates of Middle Tennessee State University are “well-rounded, resourceful and have the incredible characteristics of being both tenacious and amazingly adaptable,” one of their professors told them today.
Those traits, Dr. Michael Arndt said, will enable them to meet the challenges and grab the opportunities that await them.
“Everybody in this room believes in you. Believe in yourself,” Arndt, the outgoing 2012-13 president of the university’s Faculty Senate and MTSU’s summer 2013 commencement ceremony guest speaker, told students seated inside Hale Arena in Murphy Center.
“You don’t have an easy road ahead of you. Your mission is to go create some luck for yourself.”
Arndt, who is a professor of trumpet in the MTSU School of Music, praised the new grads for their perseverance in earning a university degree and encouraged them to continue to embrace education.
“I would like each of you to be a lifelong learner. It keeps life interesting and keeps you relevant,” Arndt said. “And, once you have found your way, consider giving back.
“People have worked hard on your behalf: parents, grandparents, teachers, spouses, friends. You can honor their contribution to your success by paying it forward in a way that only you will recognize.”
Of the 870 accepting their degrees from MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee in today’s ceremony, 665 were undergraduates and 205 were graduate students, including 183 master’s degree recipients, five education-specialist degree recipients and 11 doctoral recipients. Six graduate students also received graduate certificates.
As she prepared to get in line with classmates inside Murphy Center, Carolyn Jones, 24, of Centerville, Va., reflected on her journey to earn her Master of Science degree in aerospace management.
“It’s quite a relief,” Jones said with a wide grin. “It’s been a long two years, and it’s great to finally be done and use what I’ve learned in the real world and get to the fun part of it all.”
Jones, who earned her undergraduate degree at another school, said she was attracted to MTSU’s nationally known aerospace program. She’s currently a flight instructor for MTSU and hopes to become a commercial pilot for a regional carrier.
“I’ve had really supportive staff and teachers,” she said, noting the challenge of completing her thesis. “I absolutely couldn’t have done this without them. … Their support was exceptional.”
Three different universities and three majors later, 24-year-old Branden Miller of Fisherville, Tenn., called earning his bachelor’s degree in aerospace from MTSU “a huge relief.” He also plans to move from being a university flight instructor into a commercial pilot career.
“I love the field I’m in. I’m excited and ready for the future,” said Miller, whose brother also is an aerospace program graduate.
Joshua Buck, 22, of Memphis, Tenn., earned dual bachelor’s degrees today in psychology and sociology. Though he said he initially came to MTSU for the recording industry program, he discovered once here that he had other interests and passions.
“I really want to help make a difference in the world,” Buck said, adding that while he still plans to pursue his love of soul music, he also plans to pursue opportunities within the Midstate’s juvenile justice system.
“This is the biggest accomplishment of my life thus far,” he admitted. “It still hasn’t quite hit me yet, but it feels great.”
You can watch more students discuss their graduation day in the video below.
Students weren’t the only ones proud of their accomplishments.
Lisha Jordan of Nashville, Tenn., was on hand to support her “baby,” daughter DonTicia Robinson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood development. Today’s ceremony was particularly special for the family in the wake of a medical emergency earlier in the week that threatened to keep Robinson, 24, from attending the ceremony.
Jordan said her daughter wants to open her own daycare center.
“She’s been a wonderful student through everything,” Jordan said of her new graduate. “We had some stumbling blocks along the way, but working together as a team, it all worked out according to God’s plan.”
While expressing his thanks to family, friends and other supporters of the new graduates, McPhee also noted the university’s appreciation for the students.
“We are grateful that you have honored us, entrusted us, with something so important as your education,” the president told the newly minted alumni, “and we are confident you are ready to take on the ever-increasing challenges to come.”
MTSU’s 2012-13 recipients of the Distinguished Alumni and Young Alumni Achievement Awards also were recognized at today’s ceremony. They are:
- The late Dr. Larry Needham (B.S. ’68) of Lilburn, Ga., a renowned chemist who spent 34 years working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. He is the posthumous recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement, and his wife, Doris, accepted the honor on his behalf.
- Deanna Meador (B.S. ’04), of Gallatin, Tenn., a noted research coordinator who has developed a money-saving, paperless data collection system at Vanderbilt’s Peabody Research Institute. She is the recipient of the Young Alumni Achievement Award.
- Maria Salas (B.S. ’85) of Nashville, a former MTSU Lady Raider basketball player who owns her own bankruptcy law firm. She is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award for Service to Community.
You can learn more about these alumni at http://mtsunews.com/summer-commencement-honors-distinguished-alumni.
And you can watch a video from today’s ceremony below.