MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — MTSU’s 2,171 new undergraduate degree holders left Murphy Center Saturday, May 6, after a day of commencement ceremonies, full of hope, relief, excitement and plenty of guest-speaker wisdom.
Former state commissioner of Tennessee Economic and Community Development Randy Boyd related knowledge gleaned from his experiences as founder of Radio Systems Corp. and his role as special adviser to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, where he helped create the state’s Drive to 55 initiative, the Tennessee Promise and Reconnect higher education programs.
“Every success begins with ‘yes,’” Boyd told undergraduates at the morning ceremony. “Have your plans, have your objectives, but always look forward to something better happening than what you planned. If you expect it, it typically happens.”
Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney urged the afternoon undergrads to embrace “TODAY”: time, opportunity, determination, adventure and yesterday.
“Savor the moment we’re experiencing with our 12,000 favorite friends,” Looney told the crowd, which included his son Zachary, who earned his Bachelor of Arts in history during the event. “Enjoy this moment. … And whichever journey or path you’re taking, seize on the opportunity that’s been provided to you today.”
Itasca Liddell’s new bachelor’s degree in computer information systems put her one more step closer Saturday to a career she never expected. The Murfreesboro native took a summer class in business intelligence and analytics before her junior year, prompting her to change her major and her future.
“The class was structured at a very fast pace, and everything seemed to be so relevant to how society is changing,” said Liddell. “I honestly just had a blast being able to geek out over a computer and figure out what I could do with it.”
Liddell, who’s part of MTSU’s accelerated bachelor’s and master’s program, will work as a graduate assistant for the CIS department this fall and plans to wrap up her graduate degree in May 2018.
Economics major Tyler Holweg, 22, of Morristown, Tennessee, counted 11 family members attending Saturday’s commencement. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant May 5 during Army ROTC ceremonies and noted that his father, retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Cmdr. Eric Holweg, was an influence on his decision.
“I’m excited,” said Holweg, who’ll serve as a transportation officer at Fort Lee, Virginia, for four months before moving to the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
“It’s kind of like graduation from high school. You are ready to move on to better things and my career. I want to keep making myself proud and other people proud.”
On May 5, 372 graduate degree recipients heard heartfelt words from longtime psychology professor Michael Hein, who developed MTSU’s nationally recognized graduate program in industrial/organizational psychology and directs the university’s Center for Organizational and Human Resource Effectiveness.
Hein recalled his military basic training, when he was told to “police your area. Leave it better than you found it.”
“I’m not going to ask you to go out and change the world,” he told the new doctoral, master’s and education specialist degree-holders. “I’m just going to ask you to leave your piece of the world better than you found it, every day, every week, every month. If we all do that, that’s going to have a huge impact.”
New doctoral grad Jeannie Stubblefield received her bachelor’s degree in biology in 2011, then used research in drug discovery for what she called “some of the worst neglected tropical diseases” to earn her Ph.D. in biosciences May 5. Her success included co-authoring papers and two patents through the Tennessee Center for Environmental Research.
“I feel very blessed to have been a part of the MTSU community through all this,” said Stubblefield, who’s received a prestigious fellowship with the University of Washington in Seattle and will move there in July.
“MTSU was a great stepping stone. “I would not have achieved this opportunity without their help. It’s the end of one chapter and the start of a new career.”
Echoing the new grads’ comments, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee encouraged the university’s newest alumni at each of the ceremonies to “bask in the glory that surrounds this day” but reminded them that it’s also a starting point for their next adventures.
“You may feel that this long journey is over,” McPhee said. “We feel that it is just a comma, not a period, in your story. It is just the beginning of even greater things to come.”