Inaugural Commencement Set for GGC and its Pioneer Grads

The pioneer students who have helped set the foundation and shape the future of Georgia Gwinnett College—the nation’s first public, four-year college founded in the 21st century—will graduate Sat., June 28 at 10 a.m. with Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle delivering the inaugural commencement address.

The pioneer students who have helped set the foundation and shape the future of Georgia Gwinnett College—the nation’s first public, four-year college founded in the 21st century—will graduate Sat., June 28 at 10 a.m. with Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle delivering the inaugural commencement address.

One of GGC’s graduates, Andrea Ide, a psychology major from Suwanee, has been accepted at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., where she will pursue the master’s of education degree in human development and psychology. Other GGC graduates will be running businesses, working with at-risk youth, pursuing careers in corporate finance and possibly even working overseas.

In all, 17 students will make history as part of GGC’s charter graduating class next Saturday, just two years after the institution opened its doors on Aug. 18, 2006. GGC was the first new four-year public college created in Georgia in more than 100 years.

One of the reasons there has been such an influx of students at GGC—from 119 in the fall of 2006 to approximately 3,000 this coming fall—is because so many have relished the idea of getting in on the ground floor of a campus community where they could start new clubs and put their unique imprint on an institution that is starting from scratch.

“Just knowing that you have the ability to do something so huge promotes a sense of responsibility that I don’t think is present on many campuses,” says the Harvard-bound Ide, who helped found GGC’s Student Government Association (SGA) and Psychology Club. “It’s great to be involved in a culture where we’re able to do such monumental things.”

In just two years, GGC students have taken ownership of “their” college by founding numerous new clubs, setting out on the school’s first-ever academic study abroad trip (to Europe), choosing their “Grizzlies” mascot and participating in an array of community service projects. Clubs they’ve created include the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), Georgia Gwinnett Golden Guild (Four G’s), Biology Club and SCRUBS (Starting Careers and Research Using a Bachelor of Science). Civic engagement is a paramount focus of the clubs, and GGC requires all of its first-year students to give back to the community by participating in a local service project.

“To me, the most meaningful thing is seeing new students come in and be inspired by the things GGC is doing,” says graduate Rico Torres, a business major from Grayson and a driving influence behind many of the clubs started at the college. “Being a charter student means laying the groundwork for clubs and organizations, building the college, and giving them something to take and run with in the future.”

Torres, who earned an associate’s degree from Georgia Perimeter College before transferring to GGC, plans to pursue his master’s degree while continuing to work as a systems support specialist at the Publix distribution center in Atlanta.

The graduating class is comprised of traditional-age students, as well as non-traditional—like Sharon McGregor, a married mother of two from Lawrenceville who will graduate with a degree in psychology. With years of professional experience in IT and corporate personnel, Sharon was ready for a change.

“GGC was really flexible. I was able to get excellent classes at times that were conducive for me,” says McGregor. “I don’t think I could have done that at another school. That’s why GGC will always have a special place in my heart.”

McGregor’s coursework at GGC enabled her to intern with an organization that provided counseling and mentoring services to homeless single women. “I had never done that sort of volunteering before, but I found that there is a need for people like me to go into those situations and help.” The experience changed her life, she says.

Business graduate Daryouch Aziz insists GGC has changed the way he does business. Aziz owns four Subway restaurants in Gwinnett, Hall and Forsyth counties, and is preparing to launch a fifth. His classes at GGC helped him better track his accounting and financial practices.

“The education has helped me run the businesses more efficiently and with a real knowledge of what I’m doing,” Aziz says. “I was surprised how available the faculty and staff were. They were always there to help us and it’s something I will never forget. GGC is working hard to bring leaders to our community and society.”

An air of excitement and camaraderie surrounds the inaugural commencement, which will take place outside of Building B. Family and friends of the graduates will gather for the event, as will faculty, staff, administrators and GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman.

Casey Cagle, who will deliver the commencement address, was the first Republican ever elected to the state’s second highest office of Lt. Governor. Born in Hall County, Cagle graduated from Johnson High School and attended Gainesville College and Georgia Southern University. After purchasing his first business at age 20, Cagle went on to become a leader in the banking and real estate industries of northeast Georgia. He was elected to the state Senate in 1994 where he served 12 years representing the 49th District, and was elected Lt. Governor in 2006.

Return to News and Events

View our News Archive by Year