CSM Observes 54th Spring Commencement

CCCC) first faculty and one of the region’s most enduring and admired educators. “[A professor’s job] is to make people want to learn about new things and experiences and do things – take chances.”

College Awards 852 Degrees, Certificates to Largest Class Ever

The College of Southern Maryland celebrated 571 candidates for 852 degrees and certificates during its 54th spring commencement ceremony held May 16 at the La Plata Campus.

“Every one [of our graduates] has a story that I can tell. Every one has their own dreams and aspirations; every one has had their trials and tribulations and I wish that I could mention every single one of them,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried. The graduating class, CSM’s largest ever, consisted of students who while working, raising families and supporting their communities through volunteer efforts earned academic honors, said Gottfried.

In addition to work and other responsibilities, students with disabilities face various challenges that may impact their ability to navigate the education arena, but are able to successfully do so through assistance from Disabilities Support Services. This spring, CSM had its largest cohort of graduating students with disabilities, said Gottfried. Their majors included engineering, history, information technology services and general studies with students receiving honors to highest honors.

CSM awarded 584 associate degrees and 268 certificates: 40 percent of the students receiving awards were from Charles County, 34 percent from St. Mary’s County and 21 percent from Calvert County with 5 percent from outside of the region.

Associate degrees were awarded predominantly in the fields of general studies, business administration and nursing arts and sciences, while general studies: transfer, and general studies accounting: basic and advanced were the most predominant certificates. CSM’s spring graduation produced the first graduates of the college’s Hospitality Management and Medical Laboratory Technology programs. Of the graduates, 62 percent were female. The ages of this spring’s associate’s degree candidates ranged from 15 to 63.


Youngest Graduate Stephan Wolski

The youngest candidate for graduation is Stephan Wolski, 15, of Dunkirk, who earned an associate’s degree in applied science and technology.

Wolski, as with his older siblings Joseph, CSM Class of 2012, and Olivia, CSM Class of 2011, is the youngest graduate in his class. “I am the youngest in my family so that means that this is the end of a dynasty,” said Stephan Wolski. Just as his siblings had been, Stephan Wolski was nervous when he began taking classes at CSM at age 13 through a gifted and talented program. But the nervousness faded after a few weeks, he said. “I had so many great classes but one of my favorites was philosophy with [Professor] Timothy Desmond,” he said, adding that he enjoyed sharing his opinions with his classmates. Stephan Wolski could count on being the youngest in class, but he marveled at the range of ages and life experiences including a student who was in his 60s and taking classes that matched his interests.

In the fall, Stephan Wolski will pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Maryland College Park, a degree he hopes to complete when he is 17. Right now he is happy to celebrate graduating from college and to take driver’s ed when he’s old enough.


Oldest Graduate Connie Shepherd

The most senior candidate for an associate’s degree is Connie Shepherd, 63, of Lexington Park, who earned associate’s degrees general studies: communication and general studies: English.

Shepherd started her academic pursuits at the University of Washington in 1967. “From the age of 6, I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. After one year of college she quit to marry and to start a family.

In 2009, Shepherd’s husband, a disabled Vietnam-era veteran, passed away and his educational survivor’s benefits transferred to her. “I look at this [educational opportunity] as a gift from my husband because he always encouraged me to return to college,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd wasn’t concerned about her academic abilities in returning to the classroom after so many years away—instead she was concerned about being accepted by the other students. “I was worried that if we had to do group projects, no one would pick me to be in their group. It was not that way at all. Everyone was so wonderful and the professors respected my opinions,” she said. During the course of her studies at CSM, she attended classes on all three campuses but mainly online, she said, because of the convenience.

One of her favorite professors was Professor of Languages and Literature Wayne Karlin. “I was concerned about the material that would be covered in his course on Vietnam because of my husband’s service, but I learned so much. I am so grateful that I took that course,” she said.

Even though Shepherd could have tested out of some of the required courses in her degree due to years of managerial retail work experience, she chose not to. “I intentionally took every course I could because I came back to school to learn—not just get the credits and degree,” she said. This fall Shepherd will continue her education for a bachelor’s degree in communication at the University of Maryland University College.


Mother, Daughter Graduates Brenda, Sophia Minshall

A mother and daughter from Mechanicsville graduated with honors. Brenda Minshall earned an associate’s degree in general studies and her daughter Sophia Minshall earned an associate’s degree in environmental technology.

Brenda Minshall did not graduate with her high school class but pursued and earned a General Education Development (GED) diploma and took classes at Seminole State College before taking a break to raise her family. “Not having an education can hurt you and I was constantly reminded that I didn’t have a high school diploma when I went on job interviews. It made me feel defeated. It was discouraging and [having no high school diploma] made it hard to get a job. That is why we pushed education so strongly for Sophia,” Brenda Minshall said.

When Sophia Minshall began attending CSM, she encouraged her mother to attend as well. “Sophia became my advisor, suggesting classes that she had taken and that I might enjoy. We shared books and saved some money,” Brenda Minshall said, adding that her husband was very supportive and is excited about her accomplishments. Brenda Minshall is most proud of passing college algebra. She always struggled with math, she said, but added that with the help of math professor Pat Nickerson and adjunct professors Kimberly Lukus and Orisha Brown she persevered. “Having a transferable math course is a sign from God for me to keep going to school for a bachelor’s degree,” she said.


Student Speaker Christina Rasmussen

Christina Rasmussen, of Hughesville, the first graduate in the Hospitality Management Program, was the student speaker for CSM’s 54th Commencement.

“Christina’s infectious smile and passion to succeed has become the ‘face’ of our program to enrolled majors and the hospitality trade in Southern Maryland. She made significant contributions as a student in the classroom, as the first student to receive a national internship with Drury Hotels of Missouri and as our ‘go-to leader’ for the student chapter of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality here at CSM,” said CSM Hospitality Management Program Coordinator William Williams.

Rasmussen told her fellow graduates of her challenges in finding a career that she felt passionate about. “I decided to attend CSM in the fall of 2009 and I changed my major eight times in the next three years until I discovered Hospitality Management. As cliché as it sounds, I found my calling. I fell in love with the hotel industry and everything hospitality-related. I remember running home after my first class to tell my mom and dad how much I loved this. Which, of course, they had heard eight times before,” Rasmussen said.

“As we learned here at CSM, it’s not about luck, it’s about what you are willing to expose yourself to and how far out of your comfort zone you are willing go. If your goals and dreams don’t scare you – they are not big enough. ‘There is always something better around the next corner’ they say. But you will never know what’s around that corner if you don’t get up and go look,” Rasmussen said.


Keynote Speaker Calvert County Circuit Court Associate Judge E. Gregory Wells

            The keynote speaker was Calvert County Circuit Court Associate Judge E. Gregory Wells, who told students that as they go on to the next stage of their lives, “Cherish your relationships with others and expand them in a more meaningful ways.” He urged students to be more civil to one another. “As a judge, I see a lot of bad behavior; I see a lot of people who come into the court and act in ways that are not well, not good and sometimes it is that behavior that brought them in to court and now they are facing justice with me. In this day and age, when technology has made communication and information readily accessible, please remember that there is really no substitute for actual physical interaction with other people.”

               (For more on Judge Wells, visit http://www.csmd.edu/news/archive/2013/2698d8e028402e974111f011f77d026783868161.html)   

Honorary Degree to Michael Besche

An Honorary Degree was presented to Michael Besche by CSM Board of Trustees Chair Joseph Austin Slater Jr. for his loyalty and friendship to the college. “We recognize an individual who played a vital role in shaping and growing this college for more than 25 years,” Slater said, adding that Slater’s vision for the college included transforming Charles County Community College into a regional College of Southern Maryland. Besche served as a trustee for 15 years including terms as vice chair and chair, and served as a foundation director for 10 years including a term as chair.

“[Besche’s] leadership and dedication ultimately helped raise more than $7 million during CSM’s first capital campaign, the ‘Campaign for the Next 50 Years,’ allowing the college to fund programs and initiatives such as trades and transportation training, ISTEM (Institute for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), nursing and healthcare, the Fund for Educational Excellence, and an Endowed Scholarship for Student Access and Success. Mike Besche, you have done so much to advance this institution, and for this reason, it is my great privilege to bestow this honorary degree to you this evening,” said Slater.


Annual Faculty Excellence Award Honoring Permanent Faculty to Professor Wayne Karlin

The Annual Faculty Excellence Award Honoring Permanent Faculty was presented to Languages and Literature Professor Wayne Karlin by CSM Faculty Senate President and Economics Professor Michael Green.

“Professor Karlin brings his experiences as a published writer, a novelist, an editor and a veteran to his classrooms. In his ‘Vietnam War in Film and Literature’ course, Professor Karlin’s goal is to emphasize the ways in which examining the intense experience of war through literature crystallizes and allows us to examine basic behavioral and moral dilemmas, and—by utilizing the Vietnamese work—to reinforce the ability literature has to nurture the capacity for empathy by allowing a personalized entry into the mindsets of those who were once our enemies—a powerful way of achieving  an understanding of the similarities and a respect for the differences in the prisms through which human beings see the world. Professor Karlin encourages students to see writing and the study of literature not as abstract, but rather connected to other disciplines and to their lives and growth,” said Green.


Nursing Recognition Ceremony

            During the nursing recognition ceremony held earlier in the day, Michelle M. Parrott, of Prince Frederick, was recognized with the Academic Achievement in Nursing Award, given to the graduate with the highest grade point average in the nursing class. Tiffani C. Pendleton, of Mechanicsville, was recognized with the Achievement in Nursing Award, presented to the graduate who demonstrates academic achievement, clinical competence, community service and leadership potential. This spring’s nursing program graduated 39 students.


Honors Convocation

At the college’s May 15 Honors Convocation, 20 students were recognized for achieving highest honors (3.9-4.0 GPA), 27 for high honors (3.75-3.89 GPA) and 65 for honors (3.5 to 3.74 GPA).

            Divisional awards were presented to the following students: Business Programs Student of the Year, Thomas E. West, of Loveville; George Flynn Memorial Accounting Award, Loretta L. McGrath, of Port Republic; Outstanding Engineering Technology Student, David W. Barnes, of Mechanicsville; Outstanding Computer Science Student, Matthew Allen Cox, of Waldorf; Outstanding Information Services Technology Student, Mark A. Ledbetter, of Waldorf; Freshman Chemistry Award, Nicholas A. Makrakis, of Leonardtown; Excellence in Chemistry Award, Angela L. Wilt, of Mechanicsville; Excellence in Biology Award, Brigette M. Morton, of Waldorf; Distinguished Honors in History, Mary C. Gmaz, of Bryans Road; Distinguished Honors in Music, Alyssa L. Carman, of St. Leonard; Outstanding Art Student of the Year, Barbara Hance, of Huntingtown; Outstanding Physical therapist Assistant Graduate, Elizabeth A. Durik-Ha, of Waldorf; Outstanding Massage Therapy Graduate, Rebecca M. Tatro, of Prince Frederick; John Lamiman Writing Award, Ashton Meilinger, of Waldorf; Outstanding Music Student, Yonis I. Nur, of Waldorf; Outstanding Engineering Student, William R. Hamel, of Mechanicsville; Outstanding Physics Student, Alan M. Long, of Lusby; Mathematics Progress Award, Arthur W. Ellis, of Bel Alton; Outstanding Achievement in the Social Sciences Award, Lucille A. Rattliff, of Upper Marlboro; Criminal Justice Award, Christina L. Graf, of Chesapeake Beach; and Academic Achievement in teacher Education Award, Reva Joyce Smith, of Lexington Park.

            During Honors Convocation, Professor Emeritus status was awarded to former faculty members Daniel L. Williams, Dr. William Klink, Dr. Barbara Stephanic, and posthumously to Larry Chappelear.


National Society of Leadership and Success Induction Ceremony

CSM held an induction ceremony for 27 students to the CSM Chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) on May 15. Special awards included Excellence in Teaching to Bruce Fried, Daphne Morris and Theresa Tipsword; Excellence in Service to Students to Nellie Pharr-Maletta and Heather Zeolla; Student Assistant of the Year Award to Jasmine Wade; Vice President’s Cup Award to Deveraux Smith and President’s Cup Award to Tia Dickerson. There were 32 students receiving national recognition as 2012-13 Who’s Who Among Community College Students.

For complete coverage on CSM’s commencement activities, including NSLS induction, honors convocation and nursing recognition, visit http://www.csmd.edu/News/MediaResources/13maygrad.html.

            The following students were recognized as candidates for associate’s degrees or certificates at the spring commencement ceremony;

Calvert County



Jason Patrick Carrico


Broomes Island

Shannon Aubrey Lahn

Jennifer B. Zinn


Chesapeake Beach

Donna Shenise Cole

Robin Ameris Fellows

Tiffany M. Freeman

Amanda Renee Lawrence

Jason Montalvo