By Curt Yeomans
Clayton State University got a head start on its fall commencement ceremonies Wednesday night, by recognizing 38 soon-to-be master's degree recipients during two pre-commencement ceremonies held at the school.
Thirty-six of those graduate students were recognized during a graduate hooding ceremony in the ballroom of the school's Student Activities Center, while two master's degree-in-nursing recipients were recognized during a nursing ceremony in Clayton State's Spivey Hall.
"With this event [graduation], your identity changes," Clayton State Interim Provost Michael Crafton said during the graduate hooding ceremony. "You go from being our students, as knowledge consumers, to being our colleagues, as knowledge producers."
Today, those graduate-level students will be among the 420 Clayton State pupils upon whom degrees will be conferred during two commencement ceremonies, held at 4 p.m., and 7:30 p.m., in the school's Athletics and Fitness Center. This year is the 10th anniversary of the first fall commencement ceremony at Clayton State.
The first commencement ceremony today will be for graduates of the College of Health, College of Information and Mathematical Sciences, and the School of Business. According to a university press release, 180 students will participate in the ceremony. Coca-Cola Company Senior Vice-President Jerry Wilson is expected to address the graduates.
The second ceremony will be for 241 graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences. Fulton County State Court Judge Brenda Hill Cole is slated to address the graduates at that ceremony.
"The doors will open 45 minutes before the ceremonies start, which would be 3:15 p.m., for the first ceremony, and 6:45 p.m., for the second ceremony," University Spokesman John Shiffert said. "We do encourage everyone to come early to get a good seat."
Shiffert said overflow seating for people without tickets will be available in the ballroom of the Student Activities Center, which will have room for 550 people, and in room 272 of the James M. Baker University Center, which can seat 150 people.
While all the degrees will be conferred during today's commencement ceremonies, the graduate students received a new addition to their academic regalia during the small ceremonies on Wednesday -- their graduate hoods.
The hoods are black drapes, with multi-colored strips, that hang around the neck of someone receiving a graduate-level degree. In Clayton State's case, the colors include orange and blue, the school's colors, as well as a third color around the collar to recognize the graduate student's field of study.
That third color ranged from white, for arts-and-sciences graduate students, to turquoise for recipients of the master's degree in health-care administration, to tan for recipients of a master's degree in business administration.
"What we do is have each graduate student come up with the faculty member who oversaw his or her course work, and that faculty member actually takes the hood and places it over the student's shoulders," said Clayton State School of Graduate Studies Dean Thomas Eaves.
"Also in our [graduate hooding ceremony], each student has an opportunity to write a short piece beforehand, about 75 words in length, about what this degree means to him or her, and a reader reads it as the student is being hooded," Eaves added. "It's a little more personal than it would be during a regular commencement ceremony."
Some of the graduate students said they were glad to see a road filled with studying, reading books and writing papers end with their receiving graduate degrees.
"It feels great," said Fayetteville resident, Christopher Madura, who will be receiving a master's degree in business administration as part of a MBA cohort at Clayton State's campus in Peachtree City. "I've worked very hard to get here. I had been out of the education environment for a few years, but I want to thank Clayton State, who was outstanding in providing an education to me by providing an MBA cohort in Peachtree City."
Clayton State Director of Development Reda Rowell, who is receiving a master's degree in liberal studies, said working on a graduate-level degree has been a "wonderful opportunity." Rowell now has three degrees from Clayton State, having previously picked up an associate degree in general studies in 1993, and a bachelor's degree in business management in 1998.
She has been working on a master's degree since the fall of 2006.
"I'm glad to have my Sundays back," Rowell said after the graduate hooding ceremony. "It's been the equivalent of reading a book a week. There has been a lot more work outside of the classroom, than inside of it. It feels wonderful to graduate, though. For me, since I work in external relations, I can talk to people about what it's like. When I say I know what it's like in the classroom, I really know what it's like."