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A new hill to climb: Record 1,600 UWG graduates take the stage at Spring commencement

by Abby Grizzard

The turning of one’s tassel signifies academic accomplishment but also holds profound personal significance as a celebration and reflection on an outcome achieved and future opportunities ready to launch.

Nearly 1,600 graduate and undergraduate students – a new record for the institution – commemorated these testaments at the University of West Georgia’s Spring 2024 Commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11, respectively.

All graduates from UWG’s Graduate School celebrated their commencement on Friday at 6 p.m. Commencement ceremonies for the Richards College of Business, School of Communication, Film and Media, and Tanner Health System School of Nursing began at 10 a.m. on Saturday, followed by the College of Education and University College at 2 p.m. and the College of Arts, Culture and Scientific Inquiry at 5:30 p.m.

This was also the first time in the institution’s history that Commencement required four separate ceremonies. All ceremonies, taking place in UWG’s Coliseum, were live-streamed and are archived online.

UWG President Dr. Brendan Kelly began the ceremony by sharing a brief video comprised of graduates’ loved ones, highlighting their impact on this year’s graduating class and emphasizing the importance of support systems and community.

Kelly continued to unfold the transformation from student to graduate, referencing Nelson Mandela’s quote that, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

“As a public university, we serve many constituencies and communities, but our laser focus is on getting you to where you sit today with the opportunity to launch or advance your career tomorrow,” Kelly told graduates. “When you arrived as a student at the University of West Georgia, you all brought unique perspectives and experiences to our institution. But you all shared one thing in common, too: you faced a great hill in which you were challenged in your academic pursuits and supported throughout your experience. You have climbed this great hill. Now, it is time for the next one.”

Student Government Association President Tyler McCoy reflected on the inherent need for support systems, particularly in the unique, evolving journey of the Class of 2024 as many embarked on their newfound paths shortly after the global pandemic of COVID-19 in 2020.

“To paint an accurate picture, we must acknowledge the challenges and obstacles we faced during our time at UWG,” explained McCoy. “In 2020, the world plunged into darkness and uncertainty. The transition from high school to college was markedly different for us all. It fell upon our shoulders to chart a new course, redefine traditions and reshape the college experience. Today stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of the Class of 2024. Against all odds, we have achieved the impossible.”

Christopher Sanders ’03, chair of the UWG Alumni Association Board of Directors, encouraged graduates to persevere through life’s testing nature by relying on their experiences and community to weather the storm.

“As you venture away from here, remember that life is unpredictable,” he declared. “More than likely, you will be headed to a storm, in a storm, or coming out of a storm. Life is all about the journey. Embrace the challenges, embrace the uncertainty, embrace that uncomfortable feeling. You must fight for the life that you want. Tap into the vast network of over 77,000 alumni who are cheering for you during this transition.”

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