Columbia State Holds Spring 2016 Commencement, Features Student Speaker

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A spring 2016 Summa Cum Laude graduate of Columbia State, Hillary Allen is earning her general transfer Associate of Science degree and will be transferring to Lipscomb University in the fall, where she will major in computer engineering with an emphasis in information security. She ultimately plans to attend law school at Stanford University and become a patent attorney. While at Columbia State, Allen served as president of the Tennessee region for Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges, while concurrently serving as chapter president of Beta Kappa Theta, Columbia State's chapter of PTK. Allen is also a President’s Leadership Society graduate, a tutor in the Teaching and Learning Center, and Student Government Association vice president. Allen is also a Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise scholarship recipient, a NASA STEM Grant recipient, and one of eight Lipscomb University Trustee Scholars. Allen is a graduate of Brentwood High School and currently resides in Williamson County.

(COLUMBIA, Tenn. – May 7, 2016) - - - Columbia State Community College celebrated 227 degree and certificate candidates as they crossed the stage in front of family and friends during the 50th Anniversary celebration commencement exercises in the Webster Athletic Center Saturday, May 7. 

With extra pomp and circumstance in honor of its golden anniversary, Columbia State added the Nashville-based 17th Lancers Pipes and Drums to its processional. The traditional Scottish band led faculty, staff and graduates into the gym as they played “The Battle of Waterloo.”

Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president, opened the ceremony by welcoming graduates, faculty, staff, family, friends and guests, thanking them for celebrating the accomplishments of the students. 

“Today is a special day,” Smith said. “It is a day of recognition that these graduates set a goal and accomplished it.” 

Dr. Margaret D. Smith, executive vice president and provost for academic and student programs and services, then recognized the Distinguished Faculty Award winner, Shelly Ganter, associate professor of English.

President Smith followed with a presentation of the President’s Medal winner, Sharon Bowen, director of records for Columbia State.

Both were recently recognized at Columbia State’s annual Employee Honors and Awards Convocation.

As part of Columbia State’s golden anniversary celebration, spring 2016 graduate Hillary G. Allen delivered this year’s commencement address.

Allen, a Williamson County resident, expressed her gratitude at being chosen to be the commencement speaker for the college’s 50th Anniversary ceremony.

“It’s not every day we get to celebrate a fiftieth,” Allen said. “When a college reaches a milestone, it’s especially unique because we get to share our triumphs together.” 

Sharing her story of being diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder after high school and the stigma attached to it, Allen said stigmas, like stereotypes, are hard to break. She added that she believes that they are nearly impossible to shake off by yourself.

“All I ever needed was someone to believe in me,” Allen said. “Someone who, when I said, ‘When I grow up I want to be a famous author,’ they would simply respond, ‘And I’ll be your biggest fan.’”

Allen said what makes Columbia State so special is that at the heart of education is a deep and profound sense of responsibility for the community and those in it. 

Extending kudos to another student for recently starting a club on campus designed to educate students on abuse, Allen said that students at Columbia State are taught to use their talent, drive and dedication to make a difference in the world.

Allen noted that whatever challenges Columbia State students carry with them, graduation is a milestone recording of the incredible odds they defied while trying to balance hardships and life while being a student.

“I know you looked back, because we all did. We never forget where we came from. It’s something we’re known for here at Columbia State,” Allen said. “The reality is that life doesn’t get any easier; you just get better at it. I think after today, however, we can all say we’ve gotten a little better at this game called life.”

Following Allen’s speech, President Smith recognized the seven President’s Leadership Society graduates for their participation in the program that focuses on helping students develop and apply their unique leadership skills. 

“We established the President’s Leadership Society in the spring of 2011, based on the belief that leadership is inherent to our lives and that we all have leadership roles,” President Smith said. “PLS is open to all students at Columbia State and requires only their commitment to involvement for learning, participation and helping others.”

During the course of the program, students attend retreats, enjoy exposure to the arts, participate in workshops and campus life, develop civic understanding, and give back to the community through service. Today, there are more than 200 PLS members.

Closing the ceremony, the alumni induction of the new graduates was presented by Mariolive Landon, President’s Leadership Society graduate, and Ken Horner, Columbia State vice president of financial and administrative services and active Columbia State alum.

*Updated 5/12/16: This article incorrectly identified this year’s commencement speaker as being the first student speaker. The first student speaker was Gayle Mathis. This article has been corrected. We apologize for the error.

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The President’s Leadership Society graduates. Pictured, left to right: Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president, Aleta Fowler (Lawrenceburg), Jason Howell (Leoma), Eric D’Ambro (Franklin), Hillary Allen (Williamson County), Marlene Garcia (Franklin), Mariolive Landon (Marshall County), Guadalupe Garcia (Franklin), and Cady Denton, President’s Leadership Society and Student Government Association coordinator.

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Spring 2016 graduate and member of the Chargers baseball team, Dyshawn Proudlove earned his Associate of Science degree and plans on continuing his education at either the University of Memphis or the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. A member of the dean’s list, Proudlove plans on majoring in economics and eventually attending law school to pursue a career as a real estate attorney. Proudlove is a graduate of Ajax High School in Ajax, Canada. He currently resides in Maury County. 

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Spring 2016 graduate and NASA aerospace scholar Eric D’Ambro is earning his Associate of Science degree and plans on continuing his education at Lipscomb University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. A legacy graduate, D’Ambro’s mother is an alumna of Columbia State. Upon his own arrival, D’Ambro became a member of the STEM club as well as the President’s Leadership Society. In addition, D’Ambro was involved with the 3-D printing program at Columbia State’s Northfield location as well as the drone project and the LEGO robot competition. He said he enjoyed the small class sizes and the strong teacher-to-student relationships. D’Ambro is a graduate of Spring Hill’s Independence High School and currently resides in Williamson County.

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After earning a general transfer Associate of Science degree, Jason Howell plans to continue his education this fall at Middle Tennessee State University where he will major in public relations. Ultimately, he plans to work in media relations. During his time at Columbia State, Howell has been involved in numerous projects and organizations like the President’s Leadership Society, as well as being the only peer leader on the Lawrence County Campus. He is currently involved in a campaign that will promote healthy eating habits in Lawrence County. Howell is a recipient of the Peer Leader Scholarship and was awarded the Lawrence County Campus Leadership Award as well as the Peer Leader Award. Howell is a graduate of Lawrence County High School and currently resides in Leoma. Also pictured: Cady Denton, President’s Leadership Society and Student Government Association coordinator.

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Spring 2016 graduate and peer leader, Jorge Mota earned his Associate of Science degree and plans on continuing his education at Tennessee Technological University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Originally from Acuña in the Mexican state of Coahuila, Mota was an active member of various organizations at Columbia State including STEM Club and SGA. Mota said he’s met a lot of great people at Columbia State, and he enjoyed the friendly atmosphere. He is a graduate of Spring Hill High School and currently resides in Maury County.

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Justin Haynes-Booth, Columbia State systems administrator, earned his Associate of Art degree in foreign language and plans on continuing his education to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science and linguistics. Currently employed in the information technology department at Columbia State, Haynes-Booth worked full time while still managing to graduate Magna Cum Laude. Haynes-Booth is a graduate of Richland High School in Giles County and currently resides in Maury County. 

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2015 dean’s list member, Mariolive “Harley” Landon has earned her Associate of Science degree in pre-allied health and plans on pursuing admission in Columbia State’s radiology technology program this fall. Landon was the recipient of the Brentwood Women’s Club Scholarship, as well the Non-Traditional Student Scholarship from the Tennessee Economic Council on Women and the Marshall County Adult Education Scholarship. In addition to being a mother of two, Landon has been actively involved with the “Cops for Kids” organization in Lewisburg, as well as volunteering with the Bridges and New Beginnings domestic violence shelters in Franklin and Lewisburg. Landon is a graduate of Capital High School and currently resides in Marshall County. 

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Marlene Garcia is a 2015 dean’s list member and has earned her Associate of Science degree in mechanical engineering. She plans on continuing her education at Lipscomb University where she will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Garcia was a recipient of the Tennessee Community College Space Grant and has been a member of various organizations such as Columbia State’s Phi Theta Kappa, the President’s Leadership Society and STEM club. She said chose Columbia State for its proximity to her home and small class sizes. Garcia said she is especially thankful for Dr. Glenn Hudson for his support and encouragement. Garcia is a graduate of Centennial High School in Franklin and currently resides in Williamson County. 

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Three-time NASA STEM grant recipient, Tabatha Carter has earned her Associate of Science degree in biology and plans on continuing her education at Middle Tennessee State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology and subsequently a master’s degree and teacher’s licensure. Upon enrollment, the Conroe, Texas native was involved as much as possible on campus. The former peer leader was a student worker in the biology department, as well as a Sigma Kappa Delta member, a Student Government Association senator, a volunteer for the annual STEM GiRLS event, and active with the Chargers in Solidarity group, an organization advocating sexual assault awareness and prevention. Carter is a graduate of Columbia Central High School and currently resides in Maury County. 

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Braxton Bonds, a guard for the Columbia State Chargers basketball team, earned his general transfer Associate of Science degree. He is still deciding on where he will transfer, but Winston Neal, Columbia State head basketball coach said he has his pick of Old Dominion University, Towson University, Vanderbilt University, or Brown University. Bonds is a Brentwood resident.

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The Nashville-based 17th Lancers Pipes and Drums leading the commencement processional.

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Hillary Allen delivering the spring 2016 commencement address.

Columbia State is a two-year college, serving a nine-county area in southern Middle Tennessee with locations in Columbia, Franklin, Lawrenceburg, Lewisburg and Clifton. As Tennessee’s first community college, Columbia State is committed to increasing access and enhancing diversity at all five campuses. Columbia State is a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, one of the largest higher education systems in the nation. For more information, please visit www.columbiastate.edu.

Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. We offer associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, please visit us online at tncommunitycolleges.org.

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