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Speakers selected for UNG spring commencement ceremonies

Commencement preview spring 2017
Students celebrate with group photos just prior to graduation at UNG's fall 2016 commencement ceremonies on the Gainesville Campus.

On May 5, 6 and 7, families and friends of graduating students at the University of North Georgia (UNG) will join to celebrate their students' accomplishments and hear words of congratulations and encouragement from distinguished speakers.

Ceremonies will be on both the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses. Students attending the Cumming and Dahlonega campuses will participate in ceremonies on the Dahlonega Campus in the Memorial Hall Gymnasium. Students attending the Gainesville and Oconee campuses will participate in ceremonies on the Gainesville Campus in the Hugh Mills Physical Education Center.

The first ceremony will be on May 5 at 6 p.m. on UNG's Dahlonega Campus, and will honor graduates of the College of Health Sciences & Professions. State Senator Renee Unterman will speak during this ceremony.

Unterman began her service in the Georgia General Assembly in 1999. She was elected to the House of Representatives where she served two terms before becoming the region's state Senator in 2002. She now represents District 45, part of Gwinnett County. During her tenure in the Senate, Unterman has concentrated on healthcare policy and issues affecting seniors, children and disadvantaged Georgians. She has been successful in passing major legislation in areas such as healthcare, sex trafficking prevention and many elderly and child protection measures.

The second ceremony will be on May 6 at 10 a.m. on the Dahlonega Campus, and will honor graduates of the Mike Cottrell College of Business and the College of Science & Mathematics. Steve Vande Loo, founder and owner of Advanced Beverage Concepts, will speak at this ceremony.

Vande Loo founded Advanced Beverage Concepts in 2012 after a 33-year career with the Coca-Cola Company. He held key executive leadership roles with Coca-Cola in business development, strategic planning and operational marketing groups in markets across the U.S. and Europe. Today, he  uses his industry knowledge and experience to drive growth for beverage sales and distribution clients.

The third ceremony will be on May 6 at 2 p.m. on the Dahlonega Campus, and will honor graduates of the College of Education. Dr. Steve Dolinger, president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education since 2002, will serve as the guest speaker at this ceremony.

The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education is an Atlanta-based non-profit organization that leads education reform across Georgia through research and communication, including strong advocacy for higher standards. Prior to joining the partnership, Dolinger served as the superintendent of schools in Fulton County for seven years. During that time, he was recognized as Georgia Superintendent of the Year.

The fourth ceremony will be on May 6 at 6 p.m. on the Dahlonega Campus, and will honor graduates of the College of Arts & Letters and University College. Ronda Rich, a best-selling author and syndicated columnist, will speak during this ceremony.

Rich made the national stage more than a decade ago with "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)," a book now in its 33rd printing. The book's popularity launched her as a storyteller who rivets audiences with tales of the South as seen through the eyes of its people. Her latest book, "There's A Better Day A-Comin'," is a personal accounting of dozens of people – famous and non-famous – who triumphed over tribulation and setbacks to push through adversity and find a better day.

The fifth ceremony will be held on May 7 at 2 p.m. on the Gainesville Campus, and will honor graduates of the Mike Cottrell College of Business, College of Education, College of Health Sciences & Professions and the University College. Jennifer Herring will serve as the guest speaker at this ceremony.

As the senior vice president for college affordability initiatives at Georgia Student Finance Commission, Herring ensures dreams of college are both attainable and affordable for Georgia's students. She joined Georgia Student Finance Commission in 2016 after a 20-year banking career. Herring's passion is to provide Georgia's economically disadvantaged children with the encouragement and resources they need to dream big and focus on a brighter future regardless of their current circumstances.

The sixth and final ceremony will be held on May 7 at 5 p.m. on the Gainesville Campus, and will honor graduates of the College of Arts & Letters, College of Science & Mathematics and the Lewis F. Rogers Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis. Michelle Prater, president and CEO of the North Georgia Community Foundation and a UNG alumna, will speak at this ceremony.

The North Georgia Community Foundation serves 15 counties and is dedicated to enhancing the spirit of the community and the quality of life in northeast Georgia by building, preserving and distributing philanthropic assets. With Prater at the helm, the organization has achieved its longtime goal of $50 million in assets.

Tickets are required for each ceremony. Students who have applied for spring graduation can pick up graduation packets, which include their allotment of tickets, at their home campus bookstore the week before graduation. Graduates should read through all information and instructions given in the graduation packets, and should arrive 45 minutes prior to graduation to prepare and line-up for the ceremony. Graduates and guests should also allow extra time for traffic and parking when arriving for ceremonies. Those unable to attend the ceremonies in person can watch UNG's livestream via the university's official YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/UnivNorthGeorgia

Graduates and guests also are asked to share their success via social media using #UNG17grad; posts and photos using the hashtag can be viewed before, during and after the weekend's ceremonies at www.ung.edu/UNG17grad

To find more information about fall commencement, including details and instructions for graduates and guests, visit UNG's commencement website.

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