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Press Releases

Monday, May 11, 2015

First Doctoral Students Graduate From SU This Spring

Valerie Folsom Thomas "Tre" Williams III Michelle Conrad
Valerie Folsom Thomas “Tré” Williams Michelle Conrad

SALISBURY, MD---Salisbury University confers doctoral degrees for the first time in the institution’s 89-year history during this year’s Spring Commencement exercises.

Eight students earn the Doctor of Nursing Practice during SU’s graduate student ceremony 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 20. They join some 180 additional students who receive master’s degrees.

Undergraduates follow on Thursday, May 21. Students in the Richard A. Henson School of Science and Technology and Samuel W. and Marilyn C. Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies turn their tassels at 10 a.m. Students in the Charles R. and Martha N. Fulton School of Liberal Arts and Franklin P. Perdue School of Business cross the stage at 2:30 p.m. Some 1,584 receive the Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Arts in Social Work.

All ceremonies are at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.

Valerie Folsom of Salisbury joins her fellow students as the speaker for the graduate ceremony. Undergraduate ceremony speakers are Thomas “Tré” Williams III of Waldorf, MD, at 10 a.m. and Michelle Conrad of Smithtown, NY, at 2:30 p.m.

Also honored during the morning ceremony are the 2015 President’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award recipients. Community advocate Anthony Sarbanes receives this year’s individual award, while Coastal Hospice and Palliative Care is recognized with the organizational honor.

While this will be Folsom’s first time speaking during an SU’s Commencement ceremony, it will be her second time graduating as a Sea Gull. She earned her B.S. in early childhood education from Salisbury in 2011. Her experience returning to pursue her master’s was a homecoming of sorts. She once again got to work with and take classes from some of her favorite faculty, including Drs. Althea Pennerman, Diallo Sessoms, Nancy Michelson, Ted Gilkey, Jon Andes, Kimberly McCormick, Chin-Hsiu Chen and Regina Royer.

Her advisor, Dr. Patty Dean, became a mentor, and Folsom found herself on the opposite side of a familiar situation. As an undergraduate, she journaled with local elementary school students through an assignment in Dean’s class. Now a first-grade teacher at Beaver Run Elementary School, where she had interned, her students are the ones journaling with Dean’s SU undergraduates.

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Citing that experience as an inspiration, she offered a bit of advice to her fellow graduate students: “Enjoy every minute, not just of college, but of life. At times, we wish things would go by fast, and in the blink of an eye they sometimes do, but we shouldn’t take them for granted.”

Among undergraduates, some 723 receive their diplomas during the morning ceremony on May 21. They will hear from Williams, who found time for extra-curriculars on campus and volunteer activities in the community even while pursuing a double major in biology and communication arts. He said he exceled with assistance from faculty including Mindy Howard in Chemistry; Drs. Les Erickson, Mark Frana and Barbara Pollock in Biological Sciences; and Drs. Lori DeWitt, Chrys Egan and his research advisor, Bryan Horikami, in Communication Arts.

His career choices after graduation are varied. He has applied for jobs ranging from political campaign consulting in Washington, D.C., to U.S. Department of Justice genetic research in Alaska, to Disney theme park security; he’s even considered graduate school in New England. He is excited about having so many options available.

“Never say never,” he said. “Life sometimes hands us an opportunity in disguise, and it is our choice to take hold of it or not.”

In the afternoon, Conrad joins some 860 fellow graduates. The ambitious accounting major plans to complete all four parts of the national CPA exam this summer before returning to pursue her M.B.A. at SU and become a graduate assistant for the women’s soccer team, of which she was a member.

She credits its head coach, Kwame Lloyd; former head coach, Jim Nestor; and assistant coach, Greg Cathell, for making her time at SU especially memorable. It was her advisor, Julie Gittelman of Accounting and Legal Studies, however, who made her academic success possible, recommending that she focus her studies on accounting.

She too offered encouraging advice for her fellow graduates: “Don’t be afraid to go after what you want. If you have a dream, do what it takes to get there, and don’t be afraid to fail. Even if you fail, you’ve still learned something.”

Admission to Commencement is by ticket only. A reception at the Civic Center follows each ceremony. For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU website at

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