The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) celebrated 585 candidates for 669 degrees and 287 certificates during its 59th spring commencement ceremony held May 24 at the La Plata Campus.
“We recognize that many of you have completed your studies while working, raising families and volunteering in your community,” said CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy to the graduates, sitting in rows in front of family and friends. “Some of you were able to register as full-time students and finish your degree requirements within a two year window but the majority of you have attended only part time — taking only one or two classes a semester — so it has taken maybe even five years or more to earn this degree. Your determination and persistence has paid off. We hope that the learning you were a part of here at CSM will help you fulfill a lifelong sense of purpose.”
Of the students receiving awards at the ceremony, 36.8 percent of the students receiving awards were from Charles County, 30.9 percent from St. Mary’s County and 25 percent from Calvert County, with 7.3 percent from outside of the region.
Associate degrees were awarded predominantly in the fields of general studies, arts and sciences, nursing and business administration, while general studies: transfer, cybersecurity, accounting: basic, business management and criminal justice were the most predominant certificates. Participating in the May 24 ceremony was a apprenticeship completer who met all requirements to sit for his journeyman license exam, including four years of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Of the graduates, 65 percent were female. The ages of this spring’s associate degree candidates ranged from 17 to 67.
“The degrees and certificates that will be awarded tonight will have a ripple effect on our community that many people may not realize or recognize. This ripple effect can go on for years,” Murphy said.
Spring commencement’s youngest graduate was Olivia Baumann, 17, of Hollywood. It was a big spring for Baumann. Not only did she earn her high school diploma from the Churchville Homeschooling Program in March, she graduated from CSM just two months later with two associate degrees, one in general studies and the other in arts and sciences.
Baumann plans to attend CSM for an additional semester while continuing to work at Southern Maryland Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery as a surgical technician to save a little bit more money. Then she would like to attend the University of Maryland to continue her education in public health. Eventually, she hopes to become a dentist or dermatologist.
CSM was a good place to start her undergraduate work, Baumann said. “I chose CSM because I believe that I go to school to learn. … [At CSM] I get work that challenges me and actually helps me retain the information. It is wonderful.”
Baumann especially appreciated her ENG 2050 Business and Technical Writing class at CSM. “That class was one of the hardest classes I have ever taken, but one of the best at the same time,” she said, noting that she generally is more drawn to math and science classes.
Baumann also noted several of her math teachers for being particularly helpful in her young college career, naming in particular adjunct faculty members Marianne Veitch, Kevin Harris and Andrew Felker. “All of my math teachers at CSM have been really fair,” she said. “The math teachers that I have had have been awesome. They work with (your)… but, most of all, they understand that math is hard, and they don’t want (you) to fail.”
This spring commencement’s oldest graduate was Edward S. Hill Jr., 67, of Indian Head. He graduated with an associate degree in social sciences.
Hill is already a college graduate. He grew up in Southern Maryland and served four years in the U.S. Navy. Then he headed south to the University of Alabama, Birmingham, where he earned a bachelor’s degree while working and helping raise his family. He worked for the U.S. Department of Social Security for 30 years, retiring in 2013.
At retirement, Hill took his chance and just took nine months off to relax. “But I was bored silly,” he said. He started thinking about going back to college. “To be honest, I was never happy with my grades at UAB. I was working two jobs and trying to raise three children,” he said. “I sort of made a promise to myself that I would go back [to college] when I didn’t have any distractions and see how I could do.”
He said he feels like he has accomplished that goal. “I haven’t done too badly,” Hill said. “I’m graduating with just short of a 3.5 (grade point average).”
“I find it exciting,” he said. “The instructors kept me on task, and I want to give a shout-out especially to Professor Beth Settle and Professor Dr. Suzette Wright.”
Convinced that more education will only add to this period of his life, Hill has already started his studies at the University of Maryland as of May 21. And once he earns his second bachelor’s degree, he plans to start studying education in graduate school.
“The older you get, the more active you’d better be,” Hill said. “Just keep going.”
Student speaker was Dillon Mandley, 21, of Charlotte Hall, who received an associate degree in electrical engineering at the ceremony. During his education at CSM, Mandley was a member of the CSM’s robotics team, the Talons, competing in the team’s work at the VEX U World Championship last year. Mandley also served as president of the CSM Engineering Club.
“I chose CSM because I knew I could receive a quality education and be connected to a valuable exposure at an affordable price,” Mandley said. “What has made my experience at CSM so amazing is the opportunities outside of the classroom due to [the college’s] partnerships and ties to employers and the community. The knowledge that is shared by the faculty and staff concerning job, volunteer and extracurricular activities results in paths to success that were not thought possible.”
Mandley said he particularly appreciated learning about programming concepts of various programming languages “because of its usefulness and direct translation to the workforce,” adding that the most interesting thing he studied was discrete signal analysis and quantum physics.”
Mandley plans to continue his education at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of education. “My ultimate career goal is to work for NASA and operate my own business that has a strong community presence and positive impact.”
In his speech to the spring graduates, Mandley said he wanted to encourage his classmates to continue to work toward lofty goals. “I hope to inspire students to create new possibilities for themselves and the world and to think of education or a degree not as a destination but as a journey towards something greater,” he said.
“As we reflect on our time here at CSM, we think about the lessons we will take with us,” Mandley told graduates. “Three lessons I will take with me beyond my time here that I believe make anything possible are a long-term mindset, a willingness to try new things, and assembling our own personal board of directors…whether it be professors, friends or family. Leon on them, work together and synergize.” Mandley received financial assistance during his career at CSM from the Faculty Senate Scholarship, St. Mary’s County Government Endowed Scholarship, C.T. Wilson Delegate Scholarship and Sally Jameson Delegate Scholarship.
The ceremony’s commencement speaker was Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H., the United States Surgeon General. A Southern Maryland native, Adams grew up in Mechanicsville and graduated from Chopticon High School. He has bachelor’s degrees in both biochemistry and psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, a master of public health degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine.
“Never did I imagine giving a commencement speech in my home town, much less as the 20th U.S. Surgeon General,” Adams said. In congratulating the graduates, he acknowledged the college’s alumni, including his mother who is a 1990 alumna, saying, “The truth is, I may not be here today if there was no College of Southern Maryland.”
As Surgeon General, Dr. Adams oversees the operations of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which has approximately 6,700 uniformed health officers who serve in nearly 800 locations around the world to promote, protect and advance the health and safety of our nation and our world.
As the Nation’s Doctor, the Surgeon General provides Americans with the best scientific information available through advisories. In that role, Adams issued a Surgeon General Advisory for CSM’s graduates: To embrace advocacy and speak up when you see injustice and refuse to accept the status quo; reach individuals where they live, work and play; stay true to your purpose; and stay grounded, remember who you are and be proud of where you came from.
Annual Faculty Excellence Award: Denise Gilmer-Knudson
Denise Gilmer-Knudson, a professor of Communication in the Communication, Arts and Humanities Division, received CSM’s Annual Faculty Excellence Award.
Gilmer-Knudson creates a classroom climate that encourages students to take risks and uses a variety of techniques to draw in diverse learners. She aims for an interactive experience in her classroom that requires higher-order thinking.
Her efforts outside the classroom are an extension of her commitment to her students’ development. Collaborative projects and common intellectual experiences she has organized annually, such as Communication Day and Social Justice Day, have presented opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge and utilize skills while grappling with ethical and societal issues in the field.
Students consistently rate Gilmer-Knudson with “Excellent” classroom performance evaluations. “I … believe my students know how much I care, and that my methods are a pathway to their success,” she said. Gilmer-Knudson demonstrates a heartfelt belief in student potential, a commitment to help students achieve their goals and a positive regard for the college and community.
Nursing Recognition Ceremony
The nursing recognition ceremony held earlier in the day honored the program’s 49 candidates for the associate degree with guest speaker, LCDR Gail Tarlton, a 1998 alumna of the nursing program who had earned her class’ Academic Achievement Award that year.
“It was here as a nursing student at CSM where I realized my true passion, empowering people with the tools they need to take control of their health,” Tarlton told the audience. “Coming back to why we are here today, I want you to understand that you are no longer ordinary average people; you are nurses and as such every day you will use the skills you learned as a nurse…Make a commitment to do more than just your job. Make a commitment to your patients and your community, and empower them.”
Jennifer Owens of Lexington Park received the Academic Achievement in Nursing Award, given to the graduate with the highest grade point average in the nursing class. In presenting the award during the Honors Reception, Professor Karen Russell said that Owens identified her nursing career goal while working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Naval Medical Center San Diego and after completing a bachelor of science in nursing, she hopes to complete a master of science in nursing and become a nurse practitioner.
Emily Niner of Brandywine received the Achievement in Nursing Award, presented to the graduate who demonstrates academic achievement, clinical competence, community service and leadership potential. Russell said, “Emily says she found her love for nursing when she was 15 years old. She saw all the exceptional nurses that cared for her mother during her double lung transplant, and she knew this was what she was meant to do.”
For photos from the May 24 commencement ceremony, visit http://csmphoto.zenfolio.com/18maygrad. Photos of each graduate will be available at this link to download for free.
For other stories on graduates, visit:
For a complete listing of candidates for graduation, visit https://news.csmd.edu/all-news/2018-spring-commencement-candidates-for-graduation/.