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Mason celebrates 4,100 winter graduates

December 21, 2017   /   by Preston Williams

2017 Winter Graduation at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Ron Aira.

More than 4,100 students from around the world earned degrees at George Mason University’s Winter Graduation ceremonies Thursday, departing EagleBank Arena with a charge to lead lives with open hearts and open minds and to discover how they can make the greatest impact on their community.

“I hope that all of our graduates today know that the future of our country, of our world, depends on our ability to listen, challenge each other respectfully, and, most importantly, to challenge ourselves,” George Mason President Ángel Cabrera said. “Take this approach with you out into the world. It will make you—and the rest of us—better.”

The 2,625 students earning bachelor’s degrees hailed from 38 countries and 25 states, and more than one-third were the first in their families to earn a college degree. The 1,564 students earning master’s, law and doctorate degrees were from 41 countries and 31 states.

Twenty-four percent of the undergraduates earned degrees in STEM fields and another 9 percent earned degrees in the health sciences.

Delaware Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, PhD Nursing ’93, the guest speaker at the morning ceremony, cited her path of nurse to policymaker as an example of how she discovered a passion well into her professional career.

“What is your ‘why’? What is your purpose?” Hall-Long said. “It is about more than a paycheck. The issue really is: Take the knowledge, take the skills, build on George Mason and its many assets. Your books may be on the shelf temporarily, but the journey’s going to continue.”

Mason Rector Tom Davis awarded Hall-Long an honorary doctorate of humane letters, and an honorary doctorate of laws to the Honorable Petula C. Metzler, BA English ’94, the guest speaker at the afternoon ceremony.

Metzler recalled growing up with no indoor plumbing, enlisting in the Army to earn money for college and later attending law school but not finding her true calling for 22 years. Last year she became the first African-American to serve as judge in the General District Court of Prince William County, one of the largest jurisdictions in Virginia.

“Never run a negative dialogue through your head,” Metzler advised the graduates. “There will always be voices in the world making you question whether you are good enough, smart enough or talented enough. Don’t help them.”

The student speakers, Terri Dickerson at the morning ceremony and Delia Dragan in the afternoon, each talked about the perseverance that has helped define their lives.

Dickerson recalled the racial inequalities she faced growing up as an African-American in New Orleans in the 1960s. Now the civil rights director for the U.S. Coast Guard, she used her personal experiences as a reference point in earning her doctorate in conflict analysis and resolution.

Dragan arrived in the United States from Romania 13 years ago to work as an au pair and to pursue a college education. After struggling to learn English, she stuck with her studies and graduated Thursday with a master’s degree in education, with a concentration in English for speakers of other languages.

Topics: Graduation