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Two UNG graduates to continue their postsecondary journey

Post commencement story photo
UNG awarded more than 1,000 degrees and certificates at commencement ceremonies on the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses Dec. 15-16.


At commencement ceremonies at the University of North Georgia (UNG) on the Dahlonega and Gainesville campuses Dec. 15-16, more than 1,000 graduates received their certificates or degrees, and 34 cadets were commissioned as 2nd lieutenants in either the Georgia National Guard, U.S. Army or Army reserve.

Among the graduates receiving their degrees, two have plans to continue their postsecondary education.

Courtney Kennedy Graff climbed the steps to the stage to receive her degree, received a handshake and words of congratulations from UNG President Bonita Jacobs, posed for a quick photo, and then looped back to take her seat along with the other graduates at ceremony Dec. 16 on UNG’s Dahlonega Campus.

Two UNG graduates to continue their postsecondary journey2

UNG graduate Courtney Kennedy Graff will continue her postsecondary education to pursue a master's degree in diplomacy and global governance at Vesalius College in Brussels, Belgium.

Graff, a 20-year-old from Dahlonega, Georgia, was already thinking of the next steps on her academic journey. After earning a bachelor's degree in international affairs at UNG, Graff plans to pursue a graduate degree in diplomacy and global governance at Vesalius College in Brussels, Belgium, receiving a merit-based scholarship to help pay tuition costs. After graduating from Vesalius, Graff will either continue her studies for a second master's degree or begin a career in the foreign service.

Initially, Graff majored in Chinese (Mandarin) language, but wanted a direction and purpose using her language skills. So, she changed her major to international affairs.

"International affairs suits my own academic and personal interests," Graff said. "It also places me in a position to use my talents to impact and aid the greatest number of people I can."

She participated in a study abroad program at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, during the 2017 spring semester. She taught English and interned with a financial consulting agency as well.

"I'm excited for my next step and looking forward to living abroad in another region of the world and comparing it to my previous experiences abroad," Graff said. "I feel grateful for the professors at UNG preparing me for my post-graduate studies."

Amanda Ward is another UNG graduate looking to continue her studies.

Ward, a 25-year-old from Watkinsville, Georgia, received her bachelor's degree in history on Dec. 15 at the Gainesville Campus commencement ceremony. She minored in anthropology and is applying to the University of South Florida to pursue a master’s degree in applied anthropology with a concentration in archaeology, with the long-term goal of becoming an archaeologist.

Two UNG graduates to continue their postsecondary journey

Amanda Ward is another UNG graduate looking to continue her studies at the University of South Florida, to obtain a master’s degree in applied anthropology with a concentration in archaeology. 

Ward attended Georgia Southern University her freshman year, but wanted to be closer to home. She said she "fell in love" with the history program at UNG and was instrumental in founding the student history club in 2016 on the Gainesville Campus.

This past summer, Ward was one of nine UNG students who traveled to Monte Bonifato in Sicily for a study abroad program. The students spent four weeks searching for artifacts from multiple ancient cultures who populated the area during the past 3,000 years.

"It was the first time I'd been out on any kind of archaeological site or dig," she said. "Everything was new to me."

Ward applied to participate in the Sicilian Archaeological Field School, which is a partnership among UNG, Metropolitan State University of Denver and the archaeological section of the Superintendency of Trapani, an Italian provincial office. The school teaches students about field and lab methods, such as how to find sites, how to identify cultural materials and how to process artifacts to study them.

Ward said she became immersed in searching for pottery on the Sicilian trip.

"The first piece of pottery that you find is the most exciting," she said.

When asked what she will remember most about UNG, Ward said, "I will always cherish the lifelong connections that I have made with professors and colleagues, and will carry them with me throughout my career."

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