The Spring Class of 2022, the first NC Promise graduating class, leave Cullowhee as one of the most resilient classes in WCU history. They overcame a pandemic that forced a switch to online classes from home, before returning to campus for hybrid instruction, followed by a return to normalcy. Now they are prepared to take that resiliency into the workplace as proud Catamounts.
Taylor was drawn to WCU because of its small size and location in the mountains, but she was particularly impressed with WCU’s Writing and Learning Commons (WaLC) and University Participant (UP) program. She worked as a course tutor at WaLC for the past seven semesters, where she tutored General Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology 1 and 2, and Kinesiology 2. “Tutoring has helped me to grow a lot in terms of working with other people, working one-on-one to help them improve,” she says. “And I think that is very relevant to my chosen career. It was a great experience.”
It literally took one day on the campus of Western Carolina University for Madison Surrett to realize it was the place for her. Upon transferring to WCU for her sophomore year after spending one year at a private school in Georgia, Surrett was nervous about coming to Cullowhee. Having felt unaccepted and out of place at her previous school, Surrett didn’t know what to expect.
Rachael Finigan is receiving her Master’s degree in Biology. She has completed her degree in only four semesters—and during 11 months of that, Rachael was collecting data for her thesis. Her research was part of a collaborative project with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the NC Wildlife Resource Commission to explore the feasibility of restoring native freshwater mussels to the Oconaluftee River within the Qualla Boundary.
The address for the May 10 Graduate School commencement will be delivered by Dana Stockton, a graduating student from Melbourne, Florida, who is receiving his master’s degree through WCU’s online program in human resources. Antonio Oakley of Charlotte, a member of the spring class who is receiving his bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, will provide remarks for the May 11 afternoon undergraduate ceremony. Discover more about our 2019 Commencement Speakers.
Christine McConnell began her college career as a first-generation student majoring in theatre in 2013 and continued her studies through her junior year. At the end of the spring semester in 2016, Christine decided to take a semester off to spend some time with her sister in Portland, Oregon—in her own words, “learning to be an adult.” She returned to North Carolina three months later, ready to resume her studies, but just a month after her return, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Her whole life was put on hold for treatment.
Ke’La Porter is graduating from WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences with a degree in athletic training. As a high school student in Clayton, N.C., Ke’La played basketball and ran track, until suffering an injury during a basketball game. While undergoing physical therapy to treat her injury, Ke’La decided she’d like to become a physical therapist. However, when the high school brought an athletic trainer on board to work with her, Ke’La was introduced to sports medicine and realized she’d found her calling.
Matthew McDonough could have followed his friends to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after he graduated from Asheville High School in 2015, but he didn’t. He chose to study at Western Carolina University instead, to better find out who he was — by himself.
If there was one thing that Emma Hand was certain of coming out of high school, it was that she wanted no part of running cross country or track and field in college. After suffering through shin splints, and the stress and anxiety that come with running, Hand simply wanted to go to college and focus on her studies in emergency medical care. That was until former Western Carolina University cross country/track and field coach Danny Williamson convinced to her join his team in Cullowhee.
Madison Hale, originally from the North Carolina town of Albermarle, calls herself quiet, an introvert—but she’s already carved out an adventurous path for herself. After graduation, she plans to hike all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail with her brother, who is graduating from high school. “We’re both taking a year to do this,” she says. “It’s been a dream of ours.” Though it could take four to six months, she wants to take her time. “I want to see everything I can,” she says, “since it’s a once in a lifetime thing.”