Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Commencement and a Commencement at Clayton State

Clayton State University’s annual Fall Commencement on Thursday, Dec. 11 proved to be a commencement in more ways than one. Perhaps Dr. Tom Barnett, faculty marshal, the University’s senior faculty member, and first director of the University’s first graduate program, said it best…

“Today marks the commencement of Clayton State as a full service university.”

Barnett was speaking on several levels. To the 350 or so assembled graduates at the two commencement ceremonies. To Anna Cox, the Jonesboro High School Latin teacher who received Clayton State’s first master’s level degree. To anyone interested in graduate-level education. As Clayton State President Dr. Thomas K. Harden, who presided at the dual ceremonies, noted, “the 21st Century will be the century of graduate and professional education. We must meet the needs of a global-based economy.”

It was indeed, as Harden noted in his remarks to the graduates, a very special day for Clayton State University.

While a total of 600 graduates were recognized in the Commencement program, there was no doubt that Cox, who received the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) in her hooding ceremony at the first session, was first among the graduates in more ways than one. The University’s first master’s graduate, and the first individual to receive a degree on Dec. 11, Cox was assisted in the hooding ceremony by Dr. Gwen Jones-Harold, her thesis director, and Dr. Nasser Momayezi, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences. Also looking on were Dean of the School of Graduate Studies Dr. Thomas Eaves, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Sharon Hoffman, current MALS program director Dr. Wendy Burns-Ardolino, Clayton State Instructor of Speech Communications Larry Wiley (Cox’s father) and fellow Jonesboro High School teacher Andrew Cox (her husband).

Barnett, the original director of the MALS program, and Hoffman spoke to all the graduates on the significance of both the occasion and graduate-level education. Barnett noted that the University now has more than 70 graduate-level faculty, has received almost 500 applications for its four current graduate programs and has enrolled more than 150 graduate students. With two Masters of Arts in Teaching degrees (Math and English) enrolling students in 2009, a proposal in to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia for an M.S. in Dental Hygiene, and masters programs in Psychology and Archival Studies under development, Thursday was clearly just the start of something big at Clayton State. However, as is always the case with a major step for any organization, there has to be someone to take the first step.

“We acknowledge and celebrate her accomplishment,” said Barnett of Cox. “Congratulations, Anna. You are a pioneer. You will blaze the trail for those who will follow.”

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.
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