Lander Holds 162nd Commencement
Tuesday, Dec 15, 2020
graduates at commencement
Lander University’s fall 2020 graduates listen to Dr. Amanda Cleveland’s commencement address while waiting to receive their diplomas. Photo by Deb Nygro

Reminders of working from home and the other adaptations forced on Lander University’s fall graduating class by the COVID-19 outbreak were again in evidence at their graduation ceremony, held on Tuesday, December 15, inside the Finis Horne Arena.

To limit the number of people in the building at the same time, there were two ceremonies, with graduates of three of the university’s colleges receiving their degrees in the morning and graduates of the other three receiving theirs in the afternoon.

Limited guest seating, temperature checks, mask requirements, social distancing, and other safety measures were in place for each event.

“You have earned your degrees in a year in which you have undoubtedly heard the word ‘unprecedented’ an unprecedented number of times,” said keynote speaker Dr. Amanda Cleveland, Lander’s Distinguished Professor of the Year.

However, there is a payoff for enduring the kind of obstacles that graduates had to endure, according to Cleveland, an associate professor of psychology.

“The resilience and persistence you have demonstrated to get here is now a part of you. There is a word for this combination of resilience and persistence: grit,” she said.

Grit is a valuable quality, according to Cleveland, but a support system is also needed. “You did not reach this important day on your own. People supported you,” she said.

Cleveland expressed confidence that the graduates would distinguish themselves.

“You have the grit and the support you need to continue to be successful,” she said.

Nursing major Lauren Jackson, of Westminster, is one graduate who is already enjoying success, having just accepted a job as a nurse resident in the emergency room with Prisma Health-Oconee. “I feel very blessed and cannot believe that my college graduation has come so soon,” she said.

Kara Dorrity, of Summerville, a political science major who served as a presidential ambassador, said she is going to spend several months working for Dorchester County’s election commission, then get married.

“Following the wedding, I will be moving to El Paso, Texas, with my husband, who is an officer in the army. Here, I believe, I will be able to learn a lot about the immigration system and the Hispanic culture, since it is so close to the Mexican border,” said Dorrity, who minored in Spanish and International Studies. “I am hoping to get a virtual State Department job that will be flexible with where I will be able to live,” she said.

Among those walking during the ceremony was Joey Plyler, a mass communications and media studies major, whose spring 2020 graduation ceremony and internship with Walt Disney World in Florida were both casualties of COVID-19.

“I have been working for the United States Postal Service for the past few months. Is it something I plan to do in the long term? That depends on how future endeavors go, but I can say that for now, I find satisfaction in the importance of my work,” he said.

Maddie Hudlow, a history major from Alto, Georgia, has applied for several positions. She interned last year at the KGB Espionage Museum in New York City, and would be interested in returning to New York to work at The Met Cloisters. Alternatively, she would like to land a job as an international events manager.

Hudlow said she had mixed feelings about graduating. “Lander has become my home and I’ve fallen in love with the campus and our community,” she said.

Presidential ambassador Mia Sullivan, of Goose Creek, a mass communications and Spanish double major, expressed similar sentiments. “It was so easy to get to know people at Lander,” she said.

At the same time, she was “excited” to be finally receiving her diploma. “It’s a big accomplishment for me,” she said.


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