Amid a swirl of machine-made fog, colored lights, and emotional student voice-overs, the curtains rose to commence the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism (SRHT) 2017 Degree Celebration. The celebration was held Friday, May 19 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center on the Science and Technology Campus in Manassas, VA. Such a planned dramatic entrance would seem only right for students studying Tourism and Events Management or athletic trainers and managers used to the theatrical entrance of today’s collegiate and professional athletes at sporting events. However, the students themselves were the stars making the grand entrance on this degree celebration morning, clad in their deep green Mason regalia.
The graduates were warmly welcomed to the stage by Dr. Mark Ginsberg, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) serving as master of ceremonies, and SRHT faculty. While emphasizing that the ceremony was a celebration for and about the graduates, Dean Ginsberg did take a moment to honor retiring Associate Dean for Research, Dr. Peter Barcher, before introducing the speakers.
Graduate Justin Merrigan was chosen to address the Class of 2017, an honor he had kept secret as a graduation day surprise for his mother. Justin spoke with humor and candor as he shared his struggles to overcome skepticism, failure, and self-doubt, and to learn to “embrace vulnerability” on the path to his Master of Science in Exercise, Fitness, and Health Promotion. He encouraged his fellow graduates to take risks as he had when choosing to submit his research for academic publication and later in applying to PhD programs. “Leave the ego at the door, accept criticism, and strive to be better,” he told them. His advice rings true: This fall Justin will join the CEHD School of Education to pursue his PhD.
Dr. Britt Davis, the CEHD 2017 Distinguished Alumnus, delivered the Degree Celebration Address. Dr. Davis, who currently serves as the Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Special Advisor to the President of Campbell University, started his speech by comically zipping through 11 excellent commencement address themes he might have chosen before settling to his theme that no graduate earns a Mason degree alone. He expressed that family, friends, and faculty are the keys to success, sharing examples from his own years as a Mason undergraduate. Dr. Davis led the graduates and their loved ones through a group exercise wherein they repeated after him as they shared their thanks, pride, love, and support for one another. By the time he had finished, the auditorium was awash with both laughter and tears in equal measure. He finished by reminding graduates to carry their Mason heritage with pride and to always give back to Mason.
The speeches over and the students anxiously waiting for the highlight of the day, Dean Ginsberg set the stage for the presentation of degrees to the graduates. Each SRHT Academic Program Coordinator stepped to the podium in turn, describing their program of study and then calling the names of their graduates with evident pride. When all the names had been read, Dean Ginsberg announced the names of the 13 students chosen as Program Award Winners and then led the audience in applauding all of Mason’s newest alumni. He concluded the ceremony by telling the graduates that the day marked an inflection point in their lives, not an end, but a beginning. Presenting each graduate with a Mason luggage tag, he urged them to “take Mason with you” on the journey ahead. Faculty and Graduates then processed out of the auditorium to the beat of Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”. For Mason’s 2017 SRHT Graduates, degrees in hand and bright futures ahead, the celebration had only just begun.
The School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism 2017 Program Award Winners:
Bryndan Wise Lindsey
Outstanding Student in Exercise Fitness and Health Promotion
Amanda D. Garrett
Emily A. Cookson
Outstanding Students in Sport and Recreation Studies
Lauren E. Field
Janet J. Lozar Commemorative Award for the Outstanding Student in Athletic Training
Forrest N. Stieg
Outstanding Student in Kinesiology
Outstanding Student in Health and Physical Education
Raina Sage Aide, Parks and Outdoor Recreation
Jeremy D. Steinel, Therapeutic Recreation
Thomas L. Goodale Award for the Outstanding Students in Recreation Management
Danielle Elise Bush
Matthew Brian Quinn
Charley Casserly Outstanding Students in Sport Management
Outstanding Student in Tourism and Events Management
Abigail R. Solis
College of Education and Human Development Excellence in Writing Award
Keriana Grace Sachtleben
John R. Linn Memorial Award for Outstanding Student Athlete