Shelley Mickels smiled broadly and raised her fist in triumph when honor graduates were asked to stand and be recognized in the second of two graduation ceremonies held May 4 on the University of North Georgia's Gainesville campus.
Mickels graduated "with distinction," an honor awarded to associate degree candidates with a GPA of 3.5 or above, and received an Associate of Science degree in pre-nursing. UNG will award some 1,300 degrees, ranging from certificates to doctorates, during this spring's commencement exercises, the first by the new university that was formed in January by the consolidation of North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College.
Mickels' excitement at graduation replaces the fear she felt two years ago when she followed her son's advice and went back to school. This fall, Mickels plans to take classes on UNG's Dahlonega campus to pursue a bachelor's degree in nursing.
"My oldest son went through Gainesville and then graduated from Georgia State, and he really recommended coming here first," Mickels said. "It had been 30 years since I was in college, so I was afraid. But it was small and I knew it was a supportive atmosphere. I've loved every bit of it, and now my younger son is taking classes at Gainesville and will graduate next year."
|Degree candidates file into their seats during the second of two
commencement exercises held May 4 on the University of North Georgia's
Gainesville campus. Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for May 10-12
on the Dahlonega campus.
Students like Mickels will be a target demographic for the university’s Complete College Georgia plan, which has among its goals encouraging non-traditional students to return to college to attain higher education to ensure they are prepared to meet the state’s workforce needs in the future.
Drew Moore, who earned two associate degrees and walked in the May 4 commencement to celebrate his achievement, just completed his first semester at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He's studying applied mathematics at Georgia Tech and considering adding a second major in engineering.
"I've loved my time here," Moore said of the Gainesville campus. "The professors were awesome and there are a lot of things I miss, being at Tech, and sometimes I wish I was still here."
James Lee Geeter, who earned associate degrees in fall and spring semesters on UNG's Oconee campus, will start classes this fall on the Gainesville campus toward a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. He feels more confident about his academic future with two associate degrees under his belt and is even considering the university's MBA program.
"It's like a stepping stone in a way. You've already done part of it, so you know you can finish the rest," he said. "Now that I'm getting ready to go into classes in my field of study, I'm really excited about that."
Some 479 students were awarded 504 degrees — 378 associate and 112 bachelor's — during the two May 4 ceremonies in Gainesville. Graduation ceremonies also are planned for May 10-12 on UNG's Dahlonega campus. Of the 799 students who are candidates for degrees, 679 will receive associate or bachelor's degrees, 91 master's degrees and 29 doctorates.