An international flavor and a large percentage of master’s degrees highlight summer graduation at Tusculum

GREENEVILLE – Graduation displayed an international flair and showcased the strength of master’s degree programs available at Tusculum University as freshly minted alumni addressed the audience and walked the stage.

Nikola Vujicic, left, and Yarkiza Gonzalez De Moncier served as the commencement speakers Saturday.

The Saturday, Aug. 13, ceremony in Pioneer Arena featured two students – Yarkiza Gonzalez De Moncier, who is from the Dominican Republic, and Nikola Vujicic, who is originally from Serbia, as the speakers. De Moncier earned a Master of Arts in organizational training and performance management, and Vujicic earned a Master of Business Administration degree.

Tusculum celebrated the graduation of 106 students, 65 of whom earned their master’s degrees. The university also awarded 29 bachelor’s degrees and 12 associate degrees. Graduates came from 16 states and six countries.

“We are delighted to celebrate this important milestone in the lives of these graduates,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum’s president. “It is enjoyable to focus special attention during this ceremony on our master’s degree recipients, who have enhanced their prospects for even higher quality jobs with this additional degree. All of our graduates have worked hard to complete their degrees and many have come from distant places, but the value of a Tusculum education will position them well for their futures.”

Tusculum established a summer graduation ceremony in 2020 in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. The event provides an opportunity for those who complete their studies in the summer – many master’s programs can be started in the fall and be finished in 12 months – to walk the stage then instead of waiting for the December ceremony.

De Moncier, who was raised in poverty but emerged with a degree in architecture, moved to the United States in 2018 and said she brought nothing but her dreams and aspirations. In her years in the United States, she has received two master’s degrees from Tusculum, the initial one being an MBA. She started working on the assembly line of the John Deere factory in Greeneville and is now a quality engineer for the facility.

Dr. Scott Hummel addresses the graduates.

Nikola Vujicic speaks during the ceremony.

Yarkiza Gonzalez De Moncier speaks during the ceremony.

“I realized that being outside my comfort zone made me stronger, a better professional and a better person,” De Moncier said. “My life has changed dramatically in three years. I worked hard and put my heart and energy into obtaining my dreams. I pushed myself to achieve excellence in my education and earn my degrees, and I prepared to be that person with whom my managers want to work.

“If you follow your heart, pursue your dreams with motivation and work hard to achieve your goals and dreams, it does not matter who you are, where you come from, what happened in your past, your weaknesses or your economic situation. You can be who you want to be and pursue your dreams, ambitions and goals.”

De Moncier intends to continue her education by pursuing a doctorate in industrial/organization psychology.

Like De Moncier, Vujicic received his second degree from Tusculum during Saturday’s ceremony. He previously earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. A former player on the men’s soccer team, he served as the graduate assistant coach for that squad while earning his MBA.

Vujicic expressed gratitude for the opportunity to make a graduation speech. From a personal perspective, he referenced how remarkable it was for him to progress from not being able to speak English to being on the stage speaking at this ceremony. He said everyone experiences challenges but that a situation can improve through strong faith, work and doing good things.

Dr. Scott Hummel congratulates a graduate.

Dr. Nick Davidson, right, places the hood on a master’s degree recipient.

Dexter Lim, right, places the hood on a master’s degree recipient.

Sprinkling some humor in his remarks, Vujicic congratulated his fellow graduates, but he noted all of those receiving degrees probably would not have reached this moment without the assistance from a number of people who have been part of their lives. They include parents, friends in the stands, faculty members, coaches and teammates.

Dr. Tricia Hunsader, provost and vice president of academic affairs, commended the graduates, the faculty members who taught them and the staff members who provided additional support for the achievements celebrated Saturday.

“Tusculum is blessed with many students who are committed to earn their degrees and seize the opportunity to enhance their lives through additional education,” she said. “We are also fortunate to have dedicated, expert faculty who work one-on-one with students to ensure the completion of a degree. Staff members provide vital support, helping students earn affordable degrees that increase the likelihood of success. For everyone, graduation is another great day at Tusculum.”

With the completion of the summer terms and graduation, Tusculum will enter its 229th year of serving students with the start of the 2022-23 academic year. New residential students move in Thursday, Aug. 18, and returning residential students arrive Friday, Aug. 19. Classes for residential, commuter and adult and online students begin Monday, Aug. 22.

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