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Columbia State Celebrates Graduates at Fall 2018 Commencement

(COLUMBIA, Tenn. Dec.15, 2018) - - - Columbia State Community College celebrated 156 degree and certificate candidates as they crossed the stage in front of family and friends during the commencement ceremony in the Webster Athletic Center Saturday, Dec. 15.

Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president, opened the ceremony by welcoming degree candidates, faculty, staff, family, friends and guests.

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

Smith introduced alumna Janelle Williams, industrial engineering lead with The Boeing Company, as the guest speaker for the fall commencement ceremony.

Smith highlighted Williams’s achievements including her involvement at Columbia State as vice president of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Club, being a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, graduating from the President’s Leadership Society program, and being selected as the first female student from Columbia State to participate in the National Community College Aerospace program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as well as her volunteer work in her community speaking to pre-engineering high school students, and encouraging young women to pursue STEM careers.

Williams acknowledged college faculty and staff, the 2018 graduates and their family and friends, and thanked the college for allowing her to deliver the commencement address. She encouraged the graduates to remember this experience as one of accomplishment and reverence.

Williams told the graduates about her experience at Columbia State starting with her first day as a non-traditional student.

“I remember the fear I felt of being a non-traditional student and whether the instructors or fellow students would treat me differently because of my age,” Williams said. “I remember how undecided I was when it came to choosing a major… but I made it past that first semester and thought to myself ‘you’ve got this.’”

Williams recalled how one Friday night science class in her second semester not only led her down a path she never thought she would travel down, but also led her to a life-long mentor.

“Dr. Glenn Hudson constantly offered encouragement while at the same time challenging me and pushing me towards something I never thought I could achieve,” Williams said. “It was Dr. Hudson who inspired me the most, and still does.”

Williams continued to say that Hudson, retired Columbia State associate professor of mathematics, along with other Columbia State mentors, pushed her towards excellence in a profession that fit her. Her inspiration led her to wanting to learn and accomplish as much as she could in a short time.

“For me, Columbia State provided a deeper level of learning than I could ever imagine,” she said. “By taking advantage of everything that was within my reach and timeframe, I far exceeded the goals that I set for myself.”

Williams closed her address with offering a piece of advice to the graduates: “Stay connected with the network of fellow classmates and instructors you have come to know, believe in yourself and act with honesty and integrity.”

Closing the ceremony, the alumni induction of new graduates was presented by Linda Boshers, Columbia State alumna and academic affairs administrative secretary, and fall 2018 graduate, Cody Donnelly.

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Before the commencement ceremony, Smith held a reception for the President’s Leadership Society graduates.

“This program is designed to give students the opportunity to explore new concepts and experience different areas outside of their own major,” Smith said. “PLS also encourages and helps students build and maintain relationships, which are essential to success.”

Formed in spring 2011, PLS is a free leadership training program focused on developing a student’s unique leadership skills from their first semester through graduation. The program focuses on participation in college-sponsored programs that promote educational attainment, career choices, volunteerism and civic responsibility.

During the course of the program, students will attend a leadership retreat, enjoy exposure to the arts, participate in workshops and campus life, develop civic understanding and give back to the community through volunteerism.

2018 Fall PLS Grads
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Students received the President’s Leadership Society medallion for completing all requirements of the leadership training program prior to graduation. Throughout the program, students attend a leadership retreat, enjoy exposure to the arts, participate in workshops and campus life, develop civic understanding and give back to the community through service. (Pictured, left to right): Dr. Janet F. Smith, Columbia State president; Starr Ramsey (Columbia); Alexandria Adair Wallace (Franklin); Cody Donnelly (Columbia); and Adam Robertson, Columbia State director of student engagement and services.

Janelle Williams
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Janelle Williams, industrial engineering lead with The Boeing Company, presented the fall 2018 commencement address.

Jordan Weatherly
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Lewisburg resident Jordan Weatherly earned a university parallel (general transfer) Associate of Science degree. Weatherly is a Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Hope scholarship student – she chose Columbia State because it was convenient to stay close to home and she was able to take advantage of the free tuition through the Tennessee Promise. “My favorite thing about Columbia State is the amazing faculty.”

Ezekiel Thoma
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Spring Hill (Maury) resident Ezekiel Thoma earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in computer information technology: programming. Thoma is going straight into the workforce – he has accepted an information technology position at Tractor Supply Company and plans to save up funds to attend Middle Tennessee State University to earn a bachelor’s degree. “Through my experience at Columbia State, I have had many opportunities as a student and student worker in information technology,” Thoma said. “Along the way, I have made many close connections and learned so much – my experience has been exceptional.”

Robert Stephens
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Fairview resident Robert Stephens earned a university parallel (general transfer) Associate of Science degree and is planning to enter the workforce directly after graduation. Stephens said his favorite thing about Columbia State was the small class sizes.

AJ and Gena Torres
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Columbia residents and married couple Abdel “AJ” and Gena Torres both earned Associate of Applied Science degrees – Gena’s in business management and AJ’s in computer information technology: cyber defense. AJ served as a peer leader and student ambassador on top of working at the college full time in the admissions department. Gena went to school while raising their two children and taking care of her family. “Her persistence drove her to graduating,” AJ said. “She is my inspiration and without her I’m not sure where I’d be.” The couple said they both want their children to grow up and go to college like they did: “Between our love for each other and keeping our spirits right we are confident that our children will follow in our path.”

James Washington
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Columbia resident James Washington earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in computer information technology: programming. He is a Phi Theta Kappa and Tennessee Promise graduate. During his time at Columbia State, he was a member of the STEM and game clubs and was nominated for the Technology Student of the Year Award in spring 2018. In addition, Washington completed a capstone course with Tractor Supply Company where he had the opportunity to research emerging technologies. He plans to continue his education at the University of Alabama, Huntsville to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.

Starr Ramsey
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Columbia resident Starr Ramsey earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in nursing. Ramsey is a President’s Leadership Society graduate, and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the Student Nurses Association. She chose Columbia State because of the great faculty and staff. Ramsey plans to continue her education to earn her bachelor’s degree in nursing and hopes one day to become a nurse practitioner.

Victor Garcia
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Franklin resident Victor Garcia earned a university parallel (general transfer) Associate of Science degree. He said that his favorite thing about Columbia State is the knowledge and experience faculty bring to the classroom. “All of the faculty and staff that I have interacted with do a great job in trying to build a strong foundation for the material for the success of their students,” Garcia said. “The faculty make you feel at home.” In addition, Garcia studied sociology and traveled to India in 2018 through the study abroad program in partnership with the Tennessee Consortium of International Studies.

Cody Donnelly
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Chapel Hill resident Cody Donnelly earned a university parallel (general transfer) Associate of Science degree. Donnelly, the second in his family to attend Columbia State, graduated from Forrest High School in spring 2018 having earned 53 credit hours towards an associate degree through Columbia State’s dual enrollment program. Donnelly attended Columbia State full-time during the fall 2018 semester to complete his associate degree. Donnelly is a PLS graduate, and has been involved in other student organizations including the Student Government Association, Phi Theta Kappa, Sigma Kappa Delta National English Honor Society, PRISM, Charger Activity Board and the Game and Film clubs. Donnelly is a two-time Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature delegate, and won the Carlisle Award, which is TISL’s oldest and most prestigious award and is presented to ten outstanding student legislators each year. He recommends the Columbia State dual enrollment program to others because it “really prepares you for what you’re actually going to be doing when you graduate, and it sets you up for a better future.”

Alexandria Adair
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Franklin resident Alexandria Wallace Adair earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in business administration. Adair is a President’s Leadership Society graduate, and has been involved in other student organizations including Phi Theta Kappa and Sigma Kappa Delta National English Honor Society. Adair works full time along with being a wife and mom. She chose Columbia State because of the college’s inviting atmosphere.

Emma Jane Farmer
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Columbia resident Emma Jane Farmer earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in nursing. Farmer was a member of the inaugural Columbia State Women’s Soccer team, and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa and the Student Nurses Association. Farmer plans to continue her education through the University of Tennessee, Knoxville online RN-BSN program while she begins her nursing career at Maury Regional Medical Center. “Columbia State is an amazing school,” Farmer said. “The athletics program is really great and I have enjoyed being on the Women’s Soccer team tremendously.”

Angel Craig
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Dickson resident Angel Craig earned a Technical Certificate in emergency medical technology. Craig plans on going directly into the workforce as an EMT in Maury County.

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