GGC awards bachelor’s degrees to more than 300
College surpasses 3,000 alumni; commissions U.S. Army officer
More than 300 students received their bachelor’s degrees at Georgia Gwinnett College’s fall commencement ceremony, held today at the Infinite Energy Forum (formerly the Gwinnett Center) Exhibit Hall. The final students to graduate during GGC’s 10th anniversary year, this group included the college’s 3000th graduate.
“This milestone is one of many we have encountered during GGC’s amazing, first 10 years,” said GGC president Stas Preczewski, as he discussed the college’s innovative approach. “Georgia Gwinnett challenges the conventions of higher education – it is a game changer. Everything we do revolves around our students and getting them to this point. Our graduates are living proof that the GGC model works, and are the very reason we celebrate this important milestone.”
The ceremony’s keynote speaker, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, recalled voting on the bill that formed the college in 2005. During his 2002-2006 service in the Georgia Senate, he served in committee leadership roles including chair of Public Safety and Homeland Security and vice-chair of Higher Education. He has been secretary of state since his January 2010 appointment by Governor Sonny Perdue.
Kemp offered the graduates encouraging words about Georgia’s current economic and employment environment, citing examples illustrating the many opportunities before them. He urged them to set goals.
“If you really appreciate the support and sacrifice that others have made for you, you must demonstrate it by seizing every opportunity to excel,” said Kemp. “Set high goals and aspirations. Work hard every day to achieve them in your office, your classroom, your home and in your community. There is literally no goal too big to shoot for in America.”
Olivia Mugenga, originally from Rwanda, presented the graduating senior remarks, and reflected on the support students receive while working toward a college degree. She paid tribute to her father, Joseph Mugenga, who raised four daughters on his own after losing his wife in the Rwandan genocide.
“My father values education. He walked 11 miles to school when he was young, and graduated with an MBA from a U.S. college. He was determined to give us an education,” Mugenga said. “Because of the unrest in our country, he was wrongfully imprisoned for two years, but during that time, he sent us to school in Belgium. Then later, we came to the U.S. for college. One of my sisters, Sandrine Irankunda, graduated from GGC in 2012 and is now the college’s residence director.”
In her speech, Mugenga evoked Isaac Newton’s words, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
“We all have our giants who have made this day possible, and who have enabled all of us to see further … to college, to receiving our degrees, and to embarking on our futures,” she said to the crowd. “My giants have included my professors, my friends, my family, and most of all, my father.” She then greeted her father, who was watching the ceremony from Rwanda via GGC’s live stream.
Mugenga grew up speaking French and had to master English when she enrolled at GGC. She co-founded African Voice, a service-oriented student organization promoting African heritage, and served the Student Government Association as a senator for the School of Business. She is a member of the GGC Honors Program and an honors graduate. She worked as a resident assistant and in the library to pay for her college expenses. Now that she has received her bachelor’s degree in business administration, Mugenga plans to go to law school and specialize in human rights.
The GGC commencement ceremony also included recognition of its 3,000th graduate, Rodica Kajanovic of Lawrenceville. A political science major and honors graduate, Kajanovic served as president of Sigma Iota Rho, the national honor society for international studies and as a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, and the National Society of Leadership and Success. She participated in the 66th Student Conference on U.S. Affairs at The U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Kajanovic plans to pursue a master’s degree in negotiation and conflict resolution.
The ceremony concluded with the commissioning of the college’s fourth U.S. Army ROTC graduate, in affiliation with the University of Georgia ROTC program. Second Lieutenant Cole Albers of Lawrenceville, an exercise science major, will soon report to Fort Benning to begin training as an infantry officer.
All 2015 graduates received a special, commemorative “GGC10” tassel in honor of the college’s 10th anniversary year, which has been celebrated throughout the year.
Since commencement, the video recording of Mugenga's speech has gone viral on Facebook. View the speech online.