Winter Commencement exercises were held December 10 at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. A total of 398 students graduated, including 74 graduate students.
Approximately 3,000 filled the Jones Athletic Center on a crisp and cold morning for UNCP’s 7th Winter Commencement.
Dr. Nancy Barrineau, a professor of English and winner of the 2005 Board of Governors Award for Teaching Excellence, was the speaker. (View Commencement Address)
Dr. Barrineau said that in two decades of teaching she has never given her students a study guide for exams, but she offered graduates a study guide for the rest of their lives.
“Tip number one: it’s not too late to study,” she said. As one of Dr. Barrineau’s professors advised her: “‘All you know is you don’t know enough. Now go home and learn the rest.’”
Dr. Barrineau noted that some of her students referred to her as “Dr. Barracuda.”
“I’ve been tough on you, and some of the other faculty members you will remember the longest – and eventually perhaps the most fondly – have been, too. We’ve tried to teach you critical thinking skills, how to think for yourselves beyond the earning of the degree; we’ve tried to convince you that your best may lie far beyond what you could ever have imagined for yourself.”
To applause, Dr. Barrineau advised the graduates, “when you get home today, look in the mirror and, if you’ve never done so before, say to yourself, ‘I am a grownup’ and stop expecting your parents’ generation to support you.”
“My last tip is that you find your own (priorities) and use them to live your lives intentionally, not accidentally,” she said. “We’re proud of you. We’re counting on each of you to succeed. And we ask that whatever you do, wherever you go in this wide, wide world, remember to take us with you.”
The institution of Winter Commencement was initiated in 1999 at UNCP to make way for some new traditions in higher education. Few students today finish “on time” and many start college later in life.
Lenora Parker, who graduated Saturday with a degree in psychology, is one of those new graduates. It took Parker, 51, five years to finish her degree.
“It took five years, because I had to work full time and go to school,” Parker said before commencement exercises. “I’m excited, nervous and anxious.”
“Three of my grandchildren are here. I’m showing them that you can do it, no matter how many obstacles you face,” she said. “I’m embarking on a new road.”
It took Ingrid Russ 10 years to graduate. UNCP prides itself on its many first generation college students, but Russ, who is a native of Columbia, South America, was the first in her family to finish high school.
“I am going to apply to law school,” Russ said. “I want to help my community, and I want to help my family.”
A criminal justice major with a minor in Spanish, Russ had a 3.9 GPA and graduated a member of the Sigma Delta Pi honor society in Spanish language studies.
From nearby Laurinburg, N.C., Joel Beachum graduated with his second degree from UNCP. He graduated in 1997 with a degree in mass communications and again Saturday with a degree in sports medicine.
“Every graduation is different, but each is exciting in its own way,” he said. “I hope to teach school and coach soccer.”
And, Beachum said he would take a few more classes at UNCP.
Chancellor Allen C. Meadors, who presided over his 7th Winter Commencement, issued the final piece of advice to the new graduates.
“Once you obtain a college degree, it is permanent – it never goes away,” Chancellor Meadors said. “The burden is now on you to use what you’ve earned. Take this and use to better yourself, your family and the world.”
Winter Commencement may be viewed online at: www.uncp.edu/commencement/.