Photos courtesy of MTSU News
The first weekend of May wrapped up the Spring 2019 semester for all Middle Tennessee State University students — but for many students, this weekend wrapped up their journeys spanning years of dedication.
The annual spring graduations on May 3 and 4 saw the graduation of over 2,500 MTSU students and the commissioning of 19 MTSU seniors as U.S. Army second lieutenants.
“Everything you can ever imagine for yourself in this moment is only a tiny fraction of the possibilities that await you,” said Christine Karbowiak, a member of MTSU’s Board of Trustees and executive vice president, chief administrative officer and chief risk officer of Bridgestone Americas Inc., during the Saturday commencement ceremony.
“Real life is so much more interesting than the plans we make,” she continued. “In my experience, it’s the people who believe this and embrace it and are willing to pivot in the face of either opportunities or challenges who find the most success and satisfaction along the road. Not only that, they wind up deeply, deeply grateful for the detours they face.”
It is no question that there were countless students who were deeply grateful to graduate. But a few student’s stories stood out as particularly encompassing of the awe-inspiring passion that drives students to such hard-won success.
One example of this exemplary drive is Mary Prieskorn, an art education graduate from Murfreesboro who certainly understood the detours Karbowiak spoke of.
As the fourth in her family to attend MTSU, Prieskorn’s academic plans were derailed when a serious car accident left her with a brain injury. Although in an interview with MTSU News Prieskorn said that she “never thought I would get to this point,” she continued to place on the Dean’s List and graduated magna cum laude on Saturday from the College of Liberal Arts with a bachelor’s degree.
On top of teaching, she also held two student-teaching jobs in the Rutherford County school system, and she’s anticipating a job with the Francis Schaeffer Study Center in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.
“This gives me pride that I can finish something,” Prieskorn said. “It’s surreal it’s actually happening. I’m never one to relax, and I thought there’s no way I would finish school.”
A student filled with a similar sense of awe, and who also embodies an unfathomable amount of determination, is Perry Louden Jr. of Woodbury, Tennessee. Louden accepted a prestigious doctorate in literacy studies on May 3 — which is now his fourth degree from MTSU. This graduation completed his 30-year academic journey sprung from ”the gritty determination of a high school dropout who is now a veteran Rutherford County Schools teacher,” according to MTSU News.
“Looking back to where I was to where I am now, it’s just night and day,” said Louden, one of 384 graduate students who received advanced degrees in the College of Graduate Studies.
“I enjoy teaching reading and tutor on the side,” Louden said of his choice to enroll in literacy studies. “I’m not a great reader myself. It took me a while, so I’d like to kind of give back a little bit to the younger students I have to help them get better at reading so that they can enjoy it.”
Read about Louden’s complete educational adventure here.
Speaking of adventure, Alexis Wynn of Ramer, Tennessee, knows quite well how to turn academia into adventure. After her busy undergraduate schedule including a study-abroad trip to London, working with MTSU’s TRiO Student Support Services and serving as an intelligence analyst intern with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, all while remaining on the Dean’s list, Wynn is already setting her compass to new destinations. She plans to continue her education in graduate school and find a job in the field of criminal justice, preferably fitting her homeland security-focused studies.
“It has been four hard years, but I have enjoyed my time at MTSU,” Wynn said in an interview with MTSU News. “I appreciate how MTSU focuses on its students. It helped me to grow and get out into events and organizations, and faculty were there to try to push you to branch out.”
On the ROTC side of events, the leader of the Department of Military Science Lt. Col. Carrick McCarthy oversaw the ceremony of commissioning the 19 MTSU seniors as U.S. Army second lieutenants on May 3.
“This is a phenomenal group that’s highly talented,” said McCarthy, who joined MTSU last August.
“This is the first group I’ve seen all the way through. It’s equal parts National Guard, Army Reserve and active duty. Each component of the Army is going to receive quality individuals,” he said.
Notable stand-outs in this group include Jason Gurch, an engineering major from Murfreesboro, who is the first active-duty commissionee from MTSU to McCarthy’s knowledge. Gurch will join the Army’s Cyber Command, which “integrates and conducts full-spectrum cyberspace operations, electronic warfare, and information operations, ensuring freedom of action for friendly forces …while denying the same to our adversaries,” according to their mission statement.
McCarthy also noted the immense pride that the program holds for journalism senior and Sidelines alumna Amber Cetinel’s recent receipt of the Women’s Army Corps’ Veterans Association Pallas Athene Award, presented each year to the top two female cadets in the U.S.
To sum it all up, MTSU chemistry professor and Career Achievement Award winner Judith Iriarte-Gross, who was the graduate commencement ceremony speaker, echoed Karbowiak’s thoughts, saying “Asking questions leads to success. To date, you have asked the right questions and your reward is your graduate degree. Congratulations!”
The Spring 2019 Commencement Brochure, with a list of graduates, is available here.
The full list of ROTC commissionees is available here.
To contact Editor-in-Chief Angele Latham, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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