GGC graduates 69, including first charter students

Georgia Gwinnett College graduated 69 students at today’s winter commencement ceremony, including its first four charter students. Also graduating were the first three students to complete their degrees with only GGC credit hours.

Georgia Gwinnett College graduated 69 students at today’s winter commencement ceremony, including its first four charter students. Also graduating were the first three students to complete their degrees with only GGC credit hours.

The ceremony’s keynote speaker was Larry R. Ellis, a member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. He became the first featured speaker to appear in the college’s newly opened Student Center. Financed by the GGC Foundation, the building is home to student organizations, a dining hall, a bookstore and recreation rooms.

“This new student center and the entire campus of Georgia Gwinnett College represent an important investment in Georgia's future,” Ellis said to the graduates. “Be proud to be a part of this institution.”

Ellis was greeted by an enthusiastic standing ovation when GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman mentioned during his introduction that when he retired from the U.S. Army as a four-star general, Ellis was the military’s highest-ranking African-American.

Ellis’ inspiring presentation encouraged the graduates to persevere.

“Focus on the future. Never quit. Believe you can make a difference. Commit yourself in word and deed. Just do not quit. Your training will kick in. Welcome the challenges and uncertainties that await you,” Ellis said.

“The demand for leadership is all around us in Georgia and across the nation,” said Ellis. “Our society needs young, energetic men and women who are able to face problems head on. If you don't quit, you can achieve and if you can achieve, you can make a difference.”

In his comments, Kaufman echoed similar thoughts about leadership.

“Each of you has completed a unique journey,” Kaufman said to the graduates. “You have accomplished what you set out to accomplish, but you can't declare victory. Now you need to renew yourself to a lifetime of learning. You cannot be self-satisfied with what you have accomplished. Rededicate yourself. You are leaders. This world needs leaders who can think systematically and analytically, and who are comfortable with uncertainty.”

Today’s commencement brings GGC’s total alumni to 207. Degrees conferred included biology, business administration, information technology and psychology.

The college opened its doors in August 2006 to 118 juniors, all of whom came with transfer credits from other institutions. Among them were Valerie Claire Allen, Darren L. Ford, Joanna B. Ortega and Brandon M. Witt – the first charter students to complete their degrees, all in business administration.

“As one of the first three students to enroll, I chose to believe in the dream of Georgia Gwinnett College and I am so glad I did,” said Ortega, who spoke on behalf of her graduating class during the ceremony. “As pioneering risk-takers, we are all moving on to the next phase of our lives. We leave behind a college of which we can all be proud, and one which we helped to build, alongside its dedicated faculty and visionary administrators.”

GGC admitted its first freshmen in August 2007, and three of them graduated today, having finished their degrees in less than four years. They include Chaand K. Chawla, Adam Joseph Holder and Marijana Suria, all business administration majors. Holder and Suria completed their course work in 10 semesters, while Chawla finished hers in nine semesters, making her the first student to complete an all-GGC degree.

Chawla also took full advantage of the leadership development opportunities at GGC, one of the institution’s four core values.

“GGC gave me the opportunity to show leadership skills by being one of the five founders of two student organizations, the Spanish Club and Fight Back for Children,” she said. “The most important aspect of GGC that means a lot to me is that a student’s opinion and input can make a difference. I had several opportunities to meet with President Kaufman and share my thoughts about the college and future improvements.”

The first charter graduates and first all-GGC degreed graduates represented important milestones for the college, said President Daniel J. Kaufman.

“In many ways, these seven students symbolize the entire GGC student body,” Kaufman said. “Some are married with children and pursuing a career change, or finishing an incomplete goal while working full-time, while others are on a traditional path and moving on to a job or graduate school. They represent the diverse hopes and dreams we all work to help our students achieve, and we’re proud of every one of them.”

Georgia Gwinnett College continues to grow dramatically, now offering 40 areas of study through 12 degree programs. About 8,000 students are expected to enroll for the fall 2011 semester.

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