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UNG commencement speakers highlight 'power of education'

More than 800 graduates participated in UNG's fall commencement ceremonies Dec. 14.

In addressing the graduates in one of the two University of North Georgia (UNG) fall 2019 commencement ceremonies, University System of Georgia Board of Regents chair-elect Sachin Shailendra encouraged graduates to engage, work hard and never quit and reminded them of the immeasurable power of education.

"Your education has already changed you. It also has the power to change your community," Shailendra said. "Your education has the power to change the city in which you live. Your education has the power to move our state forward in exciting ways. Your education even has the power to change the world.”

Logistics, manufacturing and innovation expert Alan Amling delivered the keynote speech for the second of the two ceremonies and reminded graduates that while they should celebrate their graduation, "this is not the end of your learning journey."

"What employers are going to pay you for is your creativity," Amling said. "Your creativity is nothing more than connecting your unique skills and experiences."

Brendyn Melugin, a 27-year-old Army veteran from Cincinnati, Ohio, was one of the more than 800 graduates who participated in the Dec. 14 ceremonies at the Convocation Center on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. Melugin, who was named the American Council on Education (ACE) Student of the Year in February 2019, earned a psychology degree.


An Army Airborne paratrooper for 3 ½ years before an injury led to a medical discharge and enrollment at UNG, Melugin's studies inspired him to a focus on industrial organizational psychology and goals of attending graduate school and working for the Army Research Institute.

Although a newlywed with a 90-minute commute to UNG, Melugin still served in a Student Veterans of America (SVA) leadership role, helped as many veteran service organizations as possible, and took part in undergraduate research that examined the Corps of Cadets to study how to predict effective leadership.

"If you want that awesome resume, that great paid internship, that job opportunity after your bachelor's, you have to go the extra mile and be more engaged with faculty and staff and research," Melugin said. "You have to be able to take any opportunity that presents itself."

He said it also took a network of support for him to reach this point.

"I would not have walked across the stage if it wasn't for the faculty of the psychology department," Melugin said. “They've supported me throughout. They've helped mentor me.”

Fellow graduate Christie Taylor, who began her journey with UNG as a dual-enrolled student, also praised UNG faculty for helping her earn a bachelor's degree before her 18th birthday.

"I want to thank the professors and UNG for being an awesome place where I could grow, learn and develop into the person I am today," said the Cleveland, Georgia, native. "The professors made chemistry and biology come to life."

Taylor received her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry, and she credits her decision to pursue her bachelor's degree at UNG to the faculty she encountered and the one-on-one interactions with them, which led to three undergraduate research projects that helped her apply classroom knowledge.

Taylor, who is applying to medical school and plans to become a physician, said, "I feel a responsibility to take this degree and knowledge that I have to help and serve people."

Separate commissioning ceremonies were Dec. 13 for 20 members of the Corps of Cadets entering the U.S. Army or Army National Guard as second lieutenants. Individual commissioning ceremonies for the cadets recognized their service and leadership and formally marked their entry into the military.

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