Fall graduates commence to new part of their lives

There were roughly 600 graduates at the ceremony. Photo by Ceillie Simkiss.

Western Carolina University now has a new crop of alumni to spread the word around the world about their Alma Mater after their fall commencement ceremony in the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center on Dec. 14.

WCU’s fall and summer class includes about 700 students who completed academic requirements to receive their degrees, and approximately 600 of those students took part in WCU’s commencement, according to WCU Office of Public Relations. The ceremony began with a performance of the WCU Faculty and Student Brass Quintet and singing the national anthem.

Chancellor David O. Belcher presided over the ceremony, welcoming family, friends and graduates. Belcher presented Kathryn Stripling Byer of Cullowhee with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.

Byer is a Georgia native, joined the WCU faculty in 1968 as an English instructor. She served as the poet-in-residence from 1990 through 1998 and as North Carolina’s poet laureate from 2005 to 2009. She is the North Carolina’s first female poet laureate and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2012.
Byer spoke to the audience about what Western Carolina meant to her, the importance of reading and education and treated audience members to a reading of one of her award winning poems.
The dean of the Honors College, Brian Railsback, introduced the commencement speaker, T’Shana Marie McClain.

T'Shana Marie McClain gave the commencement address at the ceremony. Photo by Ceillie Simkiss.

McClain graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in sociology and psychology during the ceremony. She was a member of the Feminist Club, the Sociology Club and the Alpha Kappa Delta international honor society for sociology students. Her history research project, “North Carolina’s Amendment One: Making History” was accepted to the National Conference of Undergraduate Research, though it was never presented there due to an unfortunate timed hit of the ‘snooze’ button, as she explained during her speech.

McClain talked about how much she enjoyed her time at WCU, where she was an honors student for the entirety of her three and a half years there. She also spoke about particular professors and how she, and the rest of the graduates, can’t wait to start the next portion of their life.

After McClain’s speech, the deans of all of WCU’s colleges presented their graduates to Chancellor Belcher.

“Chancellor Belcher made the ceremony enjoyable with his dedication to the students and his wit,” said Kirsten Simkiss, who graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Art. “It’s nice to be done with college, and to be recognized for all of the academic work I put in during my four years at WCU.”

Our own, Jamie North, who graduated with a B.S. in Communication and a minor in Art, thought the ceremony was “intense and there were just a lot of feelings and emotions involved. It was awesome seeing all the people who came out to support all of us.”

Everyone in the audience laughed when Belcher pulled air horns out from his podium after all of the students had crossed the stage, because air horns were the one device named as being unwanted.
The ceremony was about two hours long in total, but everyone seemed to be having a great time.

About Ceillie Simkiss

Ceillie Simkiss is a senior at Western Carolina University in the Communications program focusing on Journalism, with a minor in art. Currently enrolled in Features and Magazine Writing, she works as Editor-in-Chief for The Western Carolina Journalist. She also works for the Western Carolinian as a Photographer and News Designer. She can be found on Facebook (Ceillie Simkiss), Twitter (@CandidCeillie) and LinkedIn (Ceillie Simkiss).