It’s that time when our colleges bid goodbye to thousands of graduates.
Parents offer tearful hugs. Classmates promise to keep in touch. And at commencement ceremonies across the Gulf Coast, graduates talk of entering the world with a better understanding of themselves and greater sense of purpose.
It’s also when educators pause to reflect.
At New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design, State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, The Ringling/FSU, Eckerd College and USF Sarasota-Manatee – collectively the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast, or C4 – the hallways and classrooms have quieted sufficiently to allow a look back.
It turns out the Consortium had a busy year.
Notably, the institutions together will award 3,346 diplomas – associate, bachelor and master’s degrees. Moreover, most of those receiving degrees – 2,347 students – come from Sarasota and Manatee counties.
And these aren’t the only milestones of the Consortium this year.
New College, which celebrates its commencement May 26, will confer master’s degrees for the first time. “Our national and our state economies require graduates with advanced degrees in data science. One hundred percent of this first class is already employed upon graduation,” said President Don O’Shea.
The graduation ceremony starts at 7:00 p.m. along the college’s scenic Bayfront. Noted composer and scholar George E. Lewis, the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University, will serve as commencement speaker. About 180 candidates for degrees are expected at the exercise.
Other Consortium members have already completed their commencement ceremonies.
State College of Florida’s May 5 commencement, for example, was the first in which students from SCF’s Collegiate School, starting in the sixth grade, were eligible to graduate. Also, this marked the fourth year in which students received their high school diplomas in the morning and Associate of Arts degrees from SCF in the evening. President Carol Probstfeld remarked, “For the students, our ceremony represents a beginning, but for those of us at the College it brings a sense of accomplishment as we fulfill our mission to graduate students who are prepared to advance in rewarding careers and to pursue upper-level degrees here at SCF or at other institutions.”
USF Sarasota-Manatee’s May 8 commencement proved noteworthy as well. Members of the campus’ inaugural freshman class graduated.
For most of its 41 years, USFSM served as an “upper-division transfer university,” offering two-year baccalaureate degrees and master degrees. In 2012, the school began accepting sophomores, and in 2013 it welcomed its first freshmen class, forever changing campus life at USFSM. “Our campus will always have a special bond with our inaugural freshman class,” said Dr. Terry Osborn, interim regional chancellor at USFSM. “They have set ambitious standards for all who follow.”
Overall, the campus conferred 567 degrees this academic year, including bachelor and graduate-level degrees.
Ringling College of Art and Design celebrated its 2017 Commencement on May 11, graduating 250 students. Speaking at this year’s commencement was the world’s first astronaut to paint in space, Nicole Stott. An engineer who embodies left- and right-brained thinking at the intersection of art and science, Stott brought along a watercolor set on her mission to the International Space Station.
Having spent more than 100 days in space, she offered graduates a unique perspective, urging them to protect the planet and stay open to new ideas. President Larry R. Thompson said, “Ms. Stott exemplifies our vision for STEAM at Ringling College—the important intersection between the creative arts and sciences. Her words to our students could not have been more inspiring and encouraging as they set out on this new post-graduation frontier.”
To graduates of the Consortium, we offer our congratulations and best wishes.
We know that as you begin the next chapter of your lives you will positively reflect our community of educational institutions.
Laurey T. Stryker, Initiative Manager, Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast, (941) 302-0407, firstname.lastname@example.org