GGC graduates more than 250 in largest ceremony to date

Crowd of more than 2,500 celebrates students’ achievements

Georgia Gwinnett College graduated more than 250 students today in the college’s largest commencement ceremony to date. More than 2,500 people attended the ceremony, which was held in the Gwinnett Center’s grand ballroom and live-streamed into the Performing Arts Center to accommodate all guests.

“After graduating our first, smaller classes, we are experiencing a dramatic increase in the size of our commencement ceremonies,” said GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman. “We are delighted to see that these ceremonies are true family affairs, and that our students enjoy the support of their loved ones as they embark on bright and productive futures.”

Unlike many institutions, Georgia Gwinnett permits cheering for individual students as they walk across the stage to receive their degrees. In fact, Kaufman personally insists on allowing such exuberance.

“For any student, commencement is a cause for celebration,” Kaufman said. “And for GGC, it is particularly meaningful because so many of our students are the first in their families to earn a baccalaureate degree. More than 40 percent of our students work at least 30 hours a week to support themselves and their families while going to college. Many more come to GGC because our access mission and commitment to student success enables them to obtain a college education. They have every reason to cheer this achievement.”

Kenneth Bernard presented the ceremony’s keynote address. A member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and an attorney, Bernard understands first-hand the challenges faced by many students pursuing a college degree. He overcame academic challenges to become the first member of his family to earn a college degree, and unloaded trucks to pay for his education.

“I understand adversity,” he said. “I remember when my mother could not afford a 10-cent snow cone at a baseball game.” However, he encouraged the graduates to focus less on money, and more on making every moment count.

“Don’t focus so much on building your resume. Let your life be the architect of your resume,” Bernard said. He described how, after realizing that being part of a large Atlanta law firm was not right for him, he decided to start his own law firm in the smaller community of  Douglasville, Ga.

“I spent a lot of years trying to open doors,” he said. He encouraged the graduates to find their own doors and to walk through them with confidence. “Find your own success.”

Bernard also advised the students to develop ways to work with others who have varied backgrounds, echoing the comments of Jordan Arceneaux, who presented remarks on behalf of the graduating class.

“As a graduating class from what is still a young college we have benefitted from collaborating with such a diverse student body,” said Arceneaux, who received a bachelor’s degree in business education in today’s ceremony. “We are cross-generational, multi-national, traditional and non-traditional. These differences have taught us not merely to work with one another, but to obtain the benefit of perspectives and experiences quite different from our own.”

Today’s ceremony brings GGC’s total alumni to about 950, almost twice as many as this time last year, when the college graduated its 500th student. The 2013 spring commencement will significantly surpass the 1,000-graduate mark. In addition to increasing the number of educated and career-prepared individuals in the Gwinnett region, the college also is raising the bar on the level of that education.

When answering a questionnaire about their future plans, 60 percent of the graduates indicated plans to pursue an advanced degree, with several indicating plans to pursue law or doctorates in medicine, veterinary or other field.

“This impressive trend speaks to the fact that GGC has succeeded in helping our students realize that they have the ability to achieve much more than they may have ever thought possible,” Kaufman said. “While we wish every graduate the promising future they and their families deserve, we especially acknowledge those who have set their sights on an advanced degree.”

The application deadline for GGC’s 2013 fall semester is May 1, 2013.

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