Wednesday, May 17, 2017

[442] Spring minority graduates celebrated for making MTSU ‘a better place’

In looking back over her academic experience at MTSU, graduating senior Jessica Shotwell sees a rich experience that allowed her to grow as a student and as a person from the first day she stepped on campus as a freshman.

“I can definitely say I’ve learned a lot since then,” said Shotwell, president of the Iota Tau Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority who credited her involvement with the sorority for teaching her about the importance of serving others. “I’m now stronger and wiser than the freshman Jessica Shotwell.”

“When I think about what I’ll miss the most here at MTSU,” she added, “the word that comes to mind is community.”

The sociology major from Memphis, Tennessee, shared those reflections and more before a capacity crowd during the recent spring Intercultural Graduation Reception hosted by the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs and presented by the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership.

Held April 19 inside the Tom H. Jackson Building, the reception is an opportunity to recognize minority students scheduled to graduate during May commencement ceremonies. MTSU’s overall enrollment is 34 percent minority, with African-American students making up 20 percent, while Asian and Hispanic students making up roughly 5 percent each.

Keynote speaker for the event was alumna (Class of 1990) and banking executive Latrisha Jemison, senior vice president and regional community affairs manager for Regions Bank.

A mass communications major while at MTSU, Jemison shared how the economy was weak when she graduated and jobs weren’t easy to find. By happenstance, she ended up in banking, an odd career path for someone who wasn’t that good at math and didn’t even know how to balance her checkbook at the time.

But through hard work and diligence, she caught the eye of a bank manager who trained her so well that she eventually became branch manager. Her career continued to rise.

“It’s not just about getting a job,” she said. “It’s about keeping a job and building a career.”

Jemison urged the 80-plus graduates in attendance to keep an open mind about their careers and be coachable, keeping in mind that “you don’t know everything.” She also reminded them the importance of networking, first impressions and building a personal brand that makes them stand out from the crowd.

Dr. Deb Sells, vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services, also gave brief remarks, congratulating the graduates on reaching this critical milestone in their academic journeys.

“Where you choose to go to school will change your life, so you’ve made a great choice,” she said. “But where you choose to go to school will change the school you become a part of, and that’s so true for you. You have made MTSU a better place.

“You have challenged us, you’ve challenged your faculty, you’ve challenged each other ... you have paved the way for the classes that are going to come behind you, and they’re already out there.”

Daniel Green, director of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, presented the attending students with special medallions to conclude the ceremony, which was followed by light refreshments in Cantrell Hall.

For more information about the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, visit, email or call 615-898-5812.

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