Hundreds of Volunteer State Community College students celebrated Spring 2020 graduation on Saturday in a unique event. The ceremony was held online, the first virtual commencement in the history of the college. The event was changed from the traditional ceremony due to COVID-19 health concerns. Speakers congratulated the students and many of the graduates took the opportunity to add pictures and short videos, giving the ceremony a personal touch. Three hundred students participated in the online celebration.
Rodrigo Galvez Vega of Lebanon was named Outstanding Vol State Graduate for Spring 2020. Graduation is a big achievement for any student, but especially a first-generation college student. “It feels pretty cool. Realizing that I’m the first in my family to graduate college is an honor.”
Galvez Vega was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. He also served as a President’s Ambassador. It’s a competitive scholarship program with dozens of applicants and several rounds of interviews. The Ambassadors represent Vol State at many events and share their student stories. “It was pretty fun to be with a bunch of people who work as a team. I also liked working with the donors. You can see how much they care about the students at Vol State.” Galvez Vega plans to attend Western Kentucky University in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Student Division Award winners were also announced during the ceremony: Humanities – Justin Frech of Cross Plains; Business and Technology – Joshua Burgess of Gallatin; Math and Science – Richard Wiencek of Hendersonville; Social Science and Education – Alexandria Carman, of Portland; and Health Sciences – Addy Stover of Monroe.
Graduates included thirty-three Middle College students who achieved their associate’s degree while also finishing their high school career. They will receive a high school diploma later this summer. The graduates have a wide variety of backgrounds, aged 17 to 66 years-old. Twenty graduates are Veterans and there are 199 adult graduates who attended with the tuition-free TN Reconnect program. There are 314 eligible graduates who used the tuition-free TN Promise program for graduating high school seniors. The graduates came from 25 different birth countries. Ninety-four graduates came from the Upper Cumberland campuses in Cookeville and Livingston and 45 students from Vol State at Springfield.
The virtual ceremony provided the opportunity for civic leaders to share video congratulations messages with the graduates. Those speakers included: Shirley Arrendale – Foundation Trustee; LK Lannom – Foundation Trustee; Anthony Holt – Sumner County Mayor; Jack McCall – Author and Humorist; Emily Reynolds – Vice Chair Tennessee Board of Regents; Ferrell Haile – State Senator; Johnny Garrett – State Representative and Chair of Vol State Foundation; William Lamberth – State Representative; Courtney Rogers – Commissioner of Veterans Affairs; Tre Hargett – Secretary of State; and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. Dennis Powers, alumnus of the year, class of 1973, also addressed the graduates. The Spring 2020 virtual graduation ceremony is available for public viewing at www.volstate.edu/graduation.
Pictured top: Representing Vol State left to right: Nicholas Bishop, vice president for Economic and Community Development; Dennis Powers, alumnus of the year, class of 1973; Beth Carpenter, vice president for Business and Finance; Jerry Faulkner, president; George Pimentel, vice president for Academic Affairs; Emily Short, vice president for Student Services; David Fuqua, speaker, Faculty Council; and Colette Catania, vice president for Institutional Effectiveness, Research, Planning, and Assessment.