More than 15 years after earning her undergraduate degree, Stacy O'Shields once again crossed the stage at the University of North Georgia (UNG) this past weekend to be recognized for earning a master's degree in Early Childhood Education as her family, including her six children, cheered for her.
O'Shields was among some 670 graduates honored in commencement ceremonies held Dec. 13-14 on UNG's Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses. Additionally, 18 graduating members of the Corps of Cadets were commissioned as second lieutenants in the National Guard or U.S. Army.
"We are here to honor you with the richest tradition of the academic community… a commencement ceremony, celebrating the completion of your degree and the beginning of your professional lives. Congratulations on this milestone in your life," UNG President Bonita Jacobs told graduates. "We take tremendous pride in your accomplishments. We know what it took for you to reach this point, and we are optimistic about your future. We know that, as graduates of UNG, you will add tremendous value to the lives of all those around you."
The guest speaker for the Gainesville Campus commencement ceremony was Doug Carter, president of Don Carter Realty Co. A Gainesville native, Carter served as chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in 2011 and has been appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to the state's Competitiveness Initiative Task Force and to the board of the Technical College System of Georgia.
The guest speaker for both Dahlonega Campus commencement ceremonies was retired Maj. Gen. Maria Britt, associate vice president for operations at Kennesaw State University. Britt previously served as commanding general of Georgia's 11,000 Army National Guard soldiers. In July, she was awarded the fourth-highest military award, the Distinguished Service Medal, by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson for her leadership as commanding general.
"Graduates and families, this is your day," Britt said. "Enjoy it. I realized in my formative years that I needed to lead myself before I could expect others to follow me. I would like to share three characteristics to help you lead yourselves. The first is self-discipline: always hold yourself accountable. The second is moral courage: always choose the harder right over the easier wrong. The third is integrity: lead yourselves 24/7, because there are no re-dos."