GREENEVILLE – All the late nights and weekends dedicated to completing their studies have paid off for nearly 250 graduates at Tusculum University who have crossed the stage and are ready to pursue the next chapter in their lives.
The smiles on the faces of these alumni and the jubilation of their families were abundant at Tusculum’s commencement ceremony Saturday, May 6. Whether they earned an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree, these graduates will have the skills needed to achieve their personal and professional goals.
“We congratulate these graduates for embracing the opportunity to receive an outstanding education at Tusculum,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, the university’s president. “Our traditional students are now career-ready professionals, whose lives have been enriched through active and experiential learning in a caring Christian environment. Students in our adult and online studies program have positioned themselves for promotions and perhaps a new direction in their careers with their expanded knowledge. We are proud of our graduates’ achievements and are eager to watch their future success unfold.”
Graduates have benefited from enrolling at a mission-driven higher education institution that empowers students to develop academically, socially, spiritually and civically. With more than 60 majors, minors and pre-professional programs, undergraduate students have access to a wide array of appealing subjects that lead to productive careers. Graduate students can pursue master’s degrees in fields that enable them to significantly impact their professions and their communities.
Tusculum is blessed with a diverse student body as evidenced by the 19 states and territories and six countries represented in the graduating class. In addition to the United States, these alumni come from Brazil, Canada, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
Student speaker Ben Gall
One of the students who has flourished at Tusculum is Ben Gall, president of the Student Government Association this academic year, a Bonner Leader and a multi-year participant and leadership team member with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program on campus. He served as the student speaker during graduation and shared how he had been reluctant to attend college due to low self-esteem.
“Many professors and staff at this institution did something for me what I would not do for myself,” said Gall, who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in business administration, with a major in accounting, and criminal justice. “They believed in me. Every step of the way and at every level I am thankful for all the professors and staff that have enabled me to succeed.”
He called these individuals “minions,” a reference to the characters from “Despicable Me.” These characters became a part of his life thanks to support and motivational minion memes posted by Mikaela Cooney, associate professor of criminal justice, to her students’ homework site.
“Regardless of whether the minions actually had an impact on our grades, it was encouraging for us that our professor cared about our success and engaged with us in such a positive and interpersonal way,” Gall said. “The point is that a minion represents something universal here at Tusculum. It represents the idea that everyone has had someone on this campus who has helped us get to this moment, someone who mentored them, advocated for them, guided them, taught them and supported them.
“I believe that everyone graduating here today would wholeheartedly agree that the faculty and staff on this campus are rooting for them and they are doing it one minion at a time.”
Guest speaker Dionté Grey
The graduation ceremony also featured an uplifting speech from Dionté Grey, a 2012 Tusculum graduate and the founder and executive director of UrbanPromise Los Angeles. That nonprofit organization works to provide children and youth with the academic, spiritual and social emotional development needed to become Christian leaders determined to restore their communities. He said he is a pioneer not just because of his degree but also because his real-world application of the word with businesses, churches and basketball camps.
“During my time on campus, the most profound lesson I learned came from a challenge issued by my professor,” Grey said. “He said, ‘By the time you leave this place, you should know two things: what you believe and why you believe it. It stuck with me. For knowing what you believe is to know who you are. And knowing why you believe it – well, that’s a form of self-liberation and authority that no one can give and, thus, no one can take away.”
Grey told the graduates that they have everything it takes to profoundly impact the world. With a world-class education, a network of friends and a connection to a caring community, they should have confidence in themselves and their capabilities, he said. He urged them to live with hope for the future, go for their dreams, embrace the values learned at Tusculum, follow Christ’s example of being a servant leader, seek a life of significance and do not let go of youthfulness.
“I charge you to walk in spirit – the Holy Spirit and the Pioneer spirit,” Grey said. “But don’t grow weary in doing good. Pioneering takes patience. It takes commitment, and it takes courage. But when it’s done well, it produces even more bold leadership. Whenever I’m ready to quit, and I know some of y’all have been ready to quit, I remember this quote: ‘Prolonged courageous leadership inevitably duplicates itself.’”
What Tusculum offers
A differentiator for Tusculum in undergraduate programs is the ability for students to conduct research. For nearly five years, chemistry and biology students have engaged in research on anti-cancer drugs. Tusculum’s research focus applies to multiple academic areas and resulted in five students being selected in 2022 and two in 2021 and 2023 to be Ledford Scholars of the Appalachian College Association. That designation enables these students to conduct stipend-funded research during the summer.
Students have presented their research and projects on campus at the Academic Symposium and senior capstone events and, in some cases, at locations across the country.
“Our graduates have been able to participate in impressive research that has enabled Tusculum to be on the cutting edge and connected with the community,” said Dr. Tricia Hunsader, the university’s provost and vice president of academic affairs. “The knowledge graduates have gained in their classes and the well-rounded education they have received have been critical factors in their ability to receive excellent job offers or be accepted in exceptional master’s and doctoral programs. A Tusculum education is affordable and has tremendous value.”
Outside the classroom, Tusculum provides extensive support for first-generation, income-eligible students and those with disabilities through the Student Support Services and ARCHES programs. First-generation students account for 64% of those enrolled at Tusculum.
The Center for Academic Success and Tutoring is another resource to help students in need. As part of the university’s commitment to serving students holistically, Tusculum also provides counseling and multiple avenues for them to grow their faith.
To view the graduation ceremony, please visit bit.ly/3LD0DfR. More information about the university is available at www.tusculum.edu.