March 26, 2019  

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USM Grads Brave Rare, Heavy Snowfall for Fall 2017 Commencement

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A record-setting Pine Belt area snowfall couldn’t chill the enthusiasm of University of Southern Mississippi graduates participating in fall commencement exercises Friday, Dec. 8, at Reed Green Coliseum on the Hattiesburg campus.

The University conferred undergraduate, graduate and specialist’s degrees at two ceremonies held at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Friday. More than 1,000 students were degree candidates for the fall 2017 semester.

USM graduate Ashanti Johnson of New Orleans, aware of the forecast for the unusual early December snowstorm that hit parts of the southeastern U.S., was undaunted. “Nothing was going to stop me from showing up (for commencement),” said Johnson, who earned a degree in psychology. “I think it adds to the moment – it makes graduation magical.”

Nebraska native Nicholas Walgren, who received his degree in industrial engineering technology, was unfazed by the weather conditions, which measured approximately 5 and a half inches in the Hattiesburg area. Walgren’s family from Colorado also attended the ceremony, “We’re used to this,” he said of the snowfall.

Emily Stivender of Gulfport, Miss., a Southern Miss Gulf Park College of Nursing graduate, said her degree program was “challenging” but was thrilled to be receiving her diploma, and would do it all over again.

“It’s not easy (nursing curriculum) for a reason, because I need to be the best nurse I can be for my patients,” said Stivender, who will go on to work in the intensive care unit at University Medical Center in New Orleans. “And USM has helped me achieve that goal.”

Ja’Darrius Strickland of Prentiss, Miss. also earned a degree in psychology and is the first in his family to graduate from college. Strickland, whose mother died in 2014, said he believed the day’s weather was a message of support from her. “She knew I loved cold weather,” said Strickland, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work. “So, it’s a good vibe. Today’s a good day.”