CSM Celebrates 48th Spring Commencement

College Honors More Than 15,000 Graduates During Ceremony

LA PLATA, Md. - The College of Southern Maryland had 391 candidates for degrees and certificates during its 48th spring commencement ceremony. Family and friends gathered to celebrate the 196 participants in the ceremony held May 24 on the lawn of the Administration Building at the La Plata Campus. With this graduating class, the college celebrated its awarding of degrees or certificates to more than 15,000 graduates in its nearly 50-year history.

At the 2007 spring commencement, CSM awarded 382 associate degrees and 149 certificates. Of the candidates for graduation, 73 percent were female; 44 percent were from Charles County, 28 percent from St. Mary's County and 23 percent from Calvert County; 5 percent were from outside of the Southern Maryland region.

Associate degrees were awarded predominantly in the fields of nursing, general studies and business administration. Most of the certificates were awarded in the areas of general studies - transfer, and advanced and basic accounting. The ages of this springs recipients ranged from 18 to 67.

CSM's youngest graduate this spring is 18-year-old Jennifer Davis of Hughesville. Davis chose CSM after graduating from a high school distance learning program in 2005. I didn't feel like I was ready to go to a four-year institution yet. CSM was affordable, close to home, and it gave me the opportunity to test the waters before moving away, said the recent first-place winner in the National Society of Arts and Letters' Career Awards Competition.

Davis, who received an associate degree in art, prefers realism. She likes drawing and painting, and especially enjoys working in watercolor. My instructors were great, especially Dr. Jarvis and Professor Venne, who taught me history and art, respectively. I liked history before, but Dr. Jarvis made it so much fun that I even loved writing essays. Likewise, Mr. Venne was so encouraging and open-minded about art. He encouraged me to play around with different media and I grew more confident in my own abilities, said Davis, whose future goals include earning a masters degree in art and becoming a professor of drawing or painting.

Other graduates included Brad Combs, 22, of Chaptico, who is the first graduate of the colleges new sports management degree program. I have been a sports fanatic my entire life - games, stats, memorabilia, the whole nine yards. I have always liked the idea of being at the top of a career field that I love, so for me getting to stay in the tri-county area and working as a sports director with a local team or recreation center would be ideal, said Combs, who originally attended CSM to become a high school teacher and currently works as a substitute teacher at Chopticon High School.

Student Government Associations Executive Board member Nancy Wickham, 23, of Lusby, received two associates degrees and a certificate as well as earned the colleges academic excellence award of highest honors (GPA of 3.9-4.0).

Recipient of the SGA Presidents Cup, Wickham has demonstrated her outstanding leadership and effort to improve the quality of student life on CSM'S campuses, especially the Prince Frederick Campus where she attended. Wickham helped organize an array of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities for the student association including a Campus Clean Up Day which brought students and faculty together to clear debris and trash from exterior areas of the campus. Wickham also promotes the Cultural Competency Group and various Diversity Office programs. She is a mother and member of Phi Theta Kappa and was named CSM'S Student Assistant of the Year in 2006.

The college paused during the ceremony to symbolically recognize the milestone of graduating more than 15,000 students in its history as Dean of Career and Technical Education Ann Smith presented balloons to nursing graduate Kristen McVerry of Charlotte Hall. This is a special occasion for the College of Southern Maryland. Since the college opened its doors in 1958, there have been over 15,000 graduates and over 100,000 other students who have taken courses at our campuses. We congratulate and salute all of you as we symbolically present our 15,000th graduate, Smith said.

Already in possession of a bachelors degree in biology/pre-med from Pfeiffer University, McVerry received an associates degree in nursing and will be working in the medical-surgery unit at St. Mary's Hospital. She eventually would like to specialize in pediatric oncology work. I always wanted to go into nursing, said the 27-year-old who is a cancer survivor, diagnosed with leukemia when she was 7 years old, and who lost her father to pancreatic cancer a week before starting her nursing studies at CSM.

During the nursing recognition ceremony, held earlier in the day, the following students were recognized for their achievements: Patricia Phares of Hollywood received the Academic Achievement in Nursing Award; Janette Nason of Leonardtown was awarded the Achievement in Nursing Award; and Sherri Collins of Mechanicsville received the Clinical Excellence Award.

Other honorees during the commencement ceremony were CSM Board of Trustees Distinguished Service Award recipients Evie and Vince Hungerford. The award is presented to community leaders who donate their time and resources in support of the college. Evie Hungerford, a native of Charles County and owner of Hungerford Associates Public Relations, has served on the CSM Foundation Board for nine years and has shared her professional expertise with the college by helping the foundation grow into a streamlined fund-raising organization that serves CSM'S three campuses. With her assistance, projects such as the construction of the St. Charles Children's Learning Center at CSM and the creation of the Full Circle Donor Recognition Program have been made possible. She served as the CSM Foundation Board chair from 2003 through 2005.

Vince Hungerford works as a military contractor, a local business advocate and member of the Western Charles County Business Association, recognized for its enhancement of the business community within Charles County and its continual support of the college. The Hungerfords were also recognized for their active support of the regional art scene and their establishment of a CSM endowment fund in honor of their late son, Tony. In tribute, the colleges Tony Hungerford Memorial Art Gallery provides a place for students and local artists to display their work for community viewing.

To date, the Hungerfords have donated more than $40,000 to the CSM Foundation in support of the colleges art, technology, athletic, scholarship and childcare center projects.

The Faculty Excellence Award was presented to Sociology Professor Dr. Maria I. Bryant by Faculty Senate President Ron Brown. This award is peer-nominated and presented to a faculty member who demonstrates instructional excellence and a commitment to the college/community, and who strives for professional development. Bryant, who has taught at CSM for 17 years, was recognized for her commitment to providing her students with the tools they need to thoughtfully engage in conversations about societal issues that affect them, their families and their community.

Dr. Bryant truly represents the standards of the Faculty Senate Excellence in Teaching Award with her outstanding encouragement of learning in the classroom and her high quality contributions to the college, her academic discipline and the community, said Brown.

In addition to her numerous teaching and committee duties at the college, Bryant is a member of American Sociological Association and Sociologists for Women in Society. She is the author of the book Teaching Sociology in the Community College and six modules about Gender Equality and Career Selection for the Maryland State Department of Educations Division of Career and Technology Educations Gender Advisory Council.

The keynote speaker at CSM'S commencement ceremony was Dr. Patricia Stanley, deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education for the U.S. Department of Education. Stanley reminded the graduates that while graduation is a symbol that they have reached their goals, it is an intermediate goal. Commencement means you are starting a new goal.

At the college's May 24 Honors Convocation, 31 students were recognized for achieving highest honors (3.9-4.0 GPA), 43 for high honors (3.75-3.89 GPA), and 60 for honors (3.5 to 3.74 GPA).

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