The East Tennessee State University/Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center was a busy place Saturday as students at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels walked across the stage to receive their degrees.
ETSU awarded just more than 1,700 degrees, with 445 students graduating with honors.
One master’s degree recipient at the afternoon graduation, while a long way from his home in Cameroon in West Africa, said he has enjoyed his time in Johnson City.
“Initially, it was kind of a culture shock, because, I mean, the cultures are pretty much different. I had to adjust to the food and the climate, but after like six months, Johnson City became like a home to me,” Collins Binda said.
Graduating with a master’s in biological sciences with a concentration in biology, Binda said he originally heard about the program after speaking with ETSU faculty members visiting his undergraduate university, the University of Buea in Cameroon.
Binda said he hopes to secure a job as a research assistant in a laboratory setting or possibly even working with a biotechnology company.
“I’ve made good friends here and I’m really going to miss the place if ever I have to leave Johnson City,” Binda said. “It’s been a good 30 months here.”
Deidra Gaus, a native of Knoxville, can easily call ETSU home after having attended the college for her undergraduate degree and now a master’s in social work.
As the mother of a 17-month-old and due for her second child in just three weeks, Gaus said she has reached an important educational goal in receiving her master’s.
“I set out to do it in a year and I accomplished that,” she said. “I’ve always known that I want to go on and get my master’s and eventually get my LCSW (licensed clinical social worker certification).”
While Gaus plans to take some time off to raise her children, she hinted that she may not be done with her educational aspirations.
“I am really hoping that they come back with the Ph.D. program when I get ready for that,” she said.
The commencement speaker for the morning and afternoon graduations was Dr. Richard G. Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
Rhoda stressed to graduates that higher education is the key to a prosperous state and nation.
“There is no question that you did the right thing by pursuing your college education at this time,” he said. “While the rewards may not be as immediate as we would like, there will be rewards.”
Rhoda said today’s graduates have bigger responsibilities and must learn to connect with ideas and events outside their immediate surroundings.
“I am confident that in your able hands, today’s graduates will rise to the occasion, as have past generations,” he said. “To the Class of 2012: Congratulations for a job well done.”
ETSU President Brian Noland welcomed graduates, their families and friends to the ceremony, as well as introducing Rhoda as the commencement speaker.
Musical arrangements were performed by the ETSU Wind Ensemble, conducted by Dr. Christian M. Zembower, and ETSU 12BucsWorth, led by retiring Dr. Thomas S. Jenrette Jr.