Spring Commencement celebrates "firsts" at ASC


Adams State College celebrated a number of "firsts" and awarded 511 degrees at its May 14 commencement ceremonies.

"This is the most degrees we have presented in a single day since probably the '70s," noted Adams State President David Svaldi.

Adams State graduates change their mortarboard tassels to indicate completion of their bachelor's degrees.

Among the 290 undergraduates who received their degrees during the morning ceremony were the first four graduates of the health care administration program offered in Pueblo, as well as 16 who earned their B.A.'s in Interdisciplinary Studies/Early Childhood Education.

Adams State's School of Business cooperated with Pueblo Community College to provide the second two years of a bachelor's in business administration/health care administration so that students needn't leave their jobs and communities. The latter program was created by Adams State to help area Head Start teachers meet new federal requirements. Armando Valdez, assistant professor of business, and Dr. Linda Christian, professor of teacher education, were instrumental in developing those programs.

ASC's first MBA's awarded

Master's degree recipients shout out their gratitude to supportive family and friends.

The afternoon's graduate ceremony awarded 221 master's degrees, including the college's 24 inaugural Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees. Tracy Kay Blevins, of La Junta, Colo., received the college's first Master of Arts in Humanities - history. Both graduate programs are offered online. Adams State President David Svaldi told the audience: "We are awarding degrees today to students from as far away as NY and Brazil - as well Alamosa. This shows the reach and growth in ASC's graduate programs. In couple of years we'll be joined by recipients of a new M.A. in music education. We foresee in the very near future an enrollment of more than 1,000 graduate students."

The master's degree recipients were addressed by John Salazar, Colorado's Commissioner of Agriculture and an Adams State alumnus from 1981. Salazar also gave the Commencement address two years ago as a Colorado Congressman. The MBA program had just been launched, and Adams State presented Salazar its first honorary MBA.

Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture and Adams State alumnus John Salazar addressed the commencement ceremony of master's degree recipients.

"Each of you has a story to tell, and some of you have had more difficulties in achieving your goals and dreams. I know there's one of you born in a little mountain in town in Peru," Salazar told the audience, referring to MBA recipient Segundo Diaz, of Alamosa. "None of his family had the opportunity to go to school. But he earned his degree and became one of the best potato farmers in the state of Colorado. He understands education is key, and he continues to strive for perfection. Today he will receive his master's degree."

Reflecting on his own path, which originated in a family of eight children on a Conejos County ranch, Salazar urged the graduates to follow their dreams.

"The first time I was asked to run for Congress, I had several people tell me, 'You can't win. You can't do it.' I told them: watch me. If you in your heart believe in the dream, if you put your entire heart and soul into it, you will achieve it.

"When the door of opportunity is opened for you, as you go through that door, I would ask you to please hold that door open so someone else can walk through that door. There is no greater satisfaction in life than in giving back to your community."

Finding your "fit"

It was virtually standing room only at the morning's undergraduate commencement ceremony, which awarded 27 associate's degrees and 263 bachelor's degrees.

Psychology graduate Lisa Chirieleison, who served this past year as president of AS&F (student government), gave a message on behalf of the graduating class.

"College is difficult; if it wasn't, everyone would do it. We got through this thanks to the support from all those in this room," she said. "We will be left with the experiences and connections we made here. One phase of our education has come to an end. Now it is up to us to continue to learn as students of life."

State Senator Gail Schwartz encouraged graduates to find the appropriate "fit" for themselves in the world.

State Senator Gail Schwartz then gave the commencement address, noting that Adams State epitomizes the San Luis Valley's hard-working and community-oriented mindset.

"By emphasizing personal growth and civic engagement, ASC helps young people define both themselves and how they fit into the bigger picture - one of our greatest roles. It reminds me of a large puzzle." To demonstrate that theme, Schwartz had placed a small puzzle piece under each graduate's chair.

"I love the challenge of puzzles, discovering how each unique piece fits together," she said. "Think about the unique but indispensable part you play in a larger picture. Envision your individual piece. Each of you has the opportunity to envision your part and how it will best fit with those around you.

An undergraduate examines the puzzle piece from Gail Schwartz that symbolized her theme of finding one's fit in the bigger picture of life.

"Put that puzzle piece in your pocket as a symbol of your limitless potential. Let it remind you the f the lesson that takes so many so long, the lesson that honors the integral relationship between your selves as individuals and yourselves as members of community."

By Julie Waechter