By Madison Mathews
Johnson City Press
MILLIGAN COLLEGE — Kristie Strand couldn’t decide if she was more nervous about singing a special hymn at the beginning of Milligan College’s December commencement ceremony Friday night or walking across the stage to receive her degree.
“I’ve been a dual-enrolled student (since) I was in high school, so I’ve been in college since I was 16. So it’s a pretty big deal for me to graduate and finally be out,” she said.
Strand, a fine arts major with a double emphasis in theater and photography, spent four years at Milligan after transferring into the school in 2006 as a sophomore.
After completing the criteria for her theater degree, Strand decided to take an extra year to complete courses in photography.
As she waited to walk across the stage of Seeger Chapel Friday night, Strand knew she had made the right the decision in transferring to Milligan.
“I keep pinching myself. I really can’t believe I’m here. I wouldn’t trade Milligan for the world. This has been amazing and so it’s very bittersweet to say goodbye,” she said. “The people and the professors and the relationships that I have cultivated here, I’ll keep for the rest of my life.”
Degrees were presented to a total of 118 graduates during Friday’s December commencement ceremony.
The graduates included 10 bachelor of arts, 33 bachelor of science, 18 master of business administration, 30 master of education and 27 master of science in occupational therapy students.
After spending more than two years in Milligan’s occupational therapy program, Olivia Fuller, Shannon Pharis and Jojo Suggs couldn’t contain their excitement about finally moving forward.
“The professors make it the best program here,” Pharis said.
Fuller said she got goosebumps when she began to think about walking across the stage Friday night, signifying the completion of a major accomplishment in her life.
“To get a master’s, I can’t even believe that. That is just a big accomplishment, I think. And that we made it,” Fuller said.
Christopher Baker of Kingsport began his pursuit of a master’s degree in education in the summer of 2008 at Milligan. He said it was just a relief to finally be able to say that he finished with the program.
“It’s really something else. The master’s program is pretty intense. It’s a very demanding program, so actually having finished it and actually having a job is a very nice accomplishment,” he said.
Baker is now teaching at Tucker County High School in West Virginia and couldn’t be more thankful to already have a job in his chosen line of work. He said the special bonds formed with both his classmates and professors helped him in getting through the program.
“If we hadn’t had each other, I don’t think anybody would’ve made it through. We’ve leaned on each other and just gone through some very rough times,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe was the keynote speaker at Friday’s commencement and arrived just moments before the ceremony began after flying in from Washington, D.C.
Roe, R-1st, began his address by congratulating the graduates on completion of “an important milestone” in their lives and told them that is it important to never become complacent in life.
He stressed the importance of setting goals, continuing to learn and to keep pushing forward in life.
“It’s all about the journey and the character-finding process that you go through each day. Cherish these moments. Keep pressing on and don’t be afraid to fail,” he said.
Roe closed his address by challenging each and every graduate to leave the world a little better than the way they found it.
“If each of us would do just that, this would be a much better world,” he said.