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Friday, May 12, 2017

SU 91st-Year Spring Commencement Scheduled May 24-25

SALISBURY, MD---Some 1,761 graduates earn their degrees during Salisbury University’s 91st-year Spring Commencement exercises.

Some 221 students receive master’s degrees during this year’s graduate ceremony 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 24.  Undergraduates follow on Thursday, May 25. 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 1,540 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.

Angela HouseAngela House of Hagerstown, MD, joins her fellow students as the speaker for the graduate ceremony. Undergraduate ceremony student speakers are Amy Pierson of Bowie, MD, at 10 a.m. and Paige Merwin of Washington, D.C., at 2:30 p.m.

Also honored during the morning ceremony are the 2017 President’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award recipients. Life Crisis Center Executive Director Michele Hughes receives this year’s individual award, while the City of Salisbury is recognized with the organizational honor.

Originally from Colombia, House already held a bachelor’s degree in psychology, working as a government translator, when she decided to change careers. She quit her job and enrolled in SU’s Master of Social Work satellite program at the University System of Maryland (USM) at Hagerstown, one of several regional education centers throughout the state served by SU and other USM institutions.

“Location was a big thing,” said House, noting that the distance-learning program allowed her to earn her degree without relocating to the Eastern Shore, a move that would not have been possible. After an initial meeting to learn more about SU’s M.S.W. program, “I was in love,” she said.

The transition back to the classroom, however, was not easy, and not everyone was supportive of House returning to school as an adult.

“I was told, directly and indirectly by many people, that I was crazy for even thinking about going back to school at my age,” she said.

SU’s faculty disagreed, and House flourished under the guidance of Site Coordinator Heidi Moore, and faculty Letha Moszer and Dr. Kimberly Van Vulpen, who helped her through a particularly rough statistics class that almost forced her to give up on her dream.

“They have been so wonderful,” she said. “So compassionate. I never felt alone. It’s been a rocky road, but no matter what, there was always someone I could turn to. I have a deep love for SU.”

While pursuing her degree, House interned as a case manager with the Washington County Family Center, working with pregnant teenagers, and at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs at Fort Dietrick, providing psychotherapy for veterans suffering from diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. This July, she begins her new career in psychotherapy, providing therapy services in English and Spanish at The Mental Health Center in Hagerstown.

“It is never too late to make your dreams come true. Believe in yourself, do your best and don’t give up” she advised her fellow graduates. “It’s not always easy, but you will make it.”

Amy PiersonAmong undergraduates, some 769 receive their diplomas during the morning ceremony on May 25. They will hear from Pierson, who earns her B.S. in early childhood and elementary education.

The dual major is what attracted her to SU in the first place; of the universities she considered, Salisbury was the only one that offered both without requiring a separate field of study. Once she saw the picturesque campus in person — including the Quad residence halls and open volleyball courts — “I just loved it,” she said.

Her experiences in the classroom were just as appealing. She credited Mary Lou Fineran and Drs. Claudia Burgess, Teena Gorrow and Patricia Dean, all of the Teacher Education Department, with helping to further her studies. In Gorrow’s class, she learned techniques she hopes to use in her own classroom. After taking Finneran’s class, her first at SU, she “knew [she] had made the right decision to become a teacher.”

Her interactions with Dean will continue this summer as the pair present on reflections of family dynamics in children’s books at the European Early Childhood Education Research Association’s 27th annual conference in Bologna, Italy.

One particularly memorable assignment at SU paired Pierson with a local fourth-grader to become “journal buddies.” As the two corresponded, sight unseen, the project helped the student better her writing while Pierson received hands-on education training. In the end, SU students in the class had the opportunity to meet their journal buddies and put on a “reader’s theatre” for them.

Pierson said she hoped to establish a similar program in her classroom. Currently, she is applying for elementary teaching positions in Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties, with an eye toward kindergarten.

“I want to give students a foundation for their education,” she said.

Eventually, she would like to return to college to pursue a reading specialist master’s degree, following her own advice to her fellow graduates to “Do everything. Even if you fail at something, you can still say, ‘I did it.’ You’re not going to have that ‘What if?’ later in life.”

Paige MerwinIn the afternoon, Merwin joins some 777 fellow graduates. Like Pierson, it was SU’s academic offerings and reputation — in this instance psychology, in which she earns her B.A. — that initially attracted her to the University. Once on campus, she immediately warmed to SU’s “family community, which is unique here.”

In addition to making new friends and enjoying college life, she became a research assistant with Dr. Suzanne Osman in SU’s Psychology Department — a position that has helped her gain acceptance into the clinical psychology doctoral program at Immaculata University in Pennsylvania. She also found mentors in Drs. Heidi Fritz, Larence Becker and Karl Maier, also of SU’s Psychology Department.

After completing her doctorate, Merwin hopes to move to Philadelphia — with her fiancée, whom she met at SU — where she plans to open a private practice, working with at-risk youth. Her advice for her fellow graduates: “Don’t settle on your dreams. You came here for a reason. Remember that reason after you leave here.”

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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