Summer commencement draws audiences in Cullowhee, Jamaica

Live audio from Western Carolina University’s summer commencement was piped to the Caribbean island country of Jamaica as WCU honored approximately 460 graduating students, including 112 Jamaican teachers, on Friday, Aug. 3.

The audio stream from Cullowhee to Jamaica made it possible for friends and relatives of the Jamaican teachers to listen to the ceremony at WCU’s Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo congratulated the Jamaicans on finishing requirements to receive their education degrees in Cullowhee this summer, noting that most have earned academic honors. All the graduating Jamaicans will receive bachelor’s degrees in middle grades education.

Bardo said more than 5,000 WCU alumni are now teaching the children of Jamaica, and WCU is the largest producer of teacher education graduates for that nation. “We’re happy to say hello to our family in Jamaica,” Bardo said to the Jamaicans listening to the ceremony from their homeland.

To all the graduating students, Bardo said, “It is with great pride that we express appreciation for your hard work. All of us in Cullowhee look forward to seeing what you will do. Don’t forget us. We won’t forget you.”

The primary commencement address was delivered by Julia Ann Barnes, associate professor of mathematics and computer science, who earlier this year was honored as one of the University of North Carolina system’s premier teachers when she was named one of 16 recipients of the UNC Board of Governors Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

Barnes told the graduating students that she had her life planned out when she was a college student, with an agenda that included teaching high school mathematics in Florida, but things haven’t turned out exactly as she expected.

“What I didn’t realize as a new graduate is that there was no way I could have known what kinds of opportunities would arise in my future,” she said. “Does it bother me that my predictions were wrong? No, I have simply been able to do a lot of things that I never imagined doing.

“Here is my advice to you,” Barnes said to the graduating students. “First, keep your eyes open to new, exciting opportunities – opportunities that you can’t possibly imagine yet, but will only come if you do the best you can at all you do. Second, keep in touch with the people you have met here along the way – friends, professors and staff. You can never have too many lifelong friends, and their advice may be invaluable at some time in the future.

“Finally, don’t be too concerned if things don’t work out as you had planned,” Barnes said. “It may be better, or at least more interesting.”

A complete list of graduates will be announced following the posting of grades from final examinations.