Western Carolina University's Cherokee Center has a long tradition of celebrating members of graduating classes with ties to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. It's more than a symbolic gesture. The Cherokee Center is, and has been, involved and invested in the educational careers of Qualla Boundary residents and Native Americans for more than four decades now.
The Department of Intercultural Affairs developed this graduation celebration as a way to honor students from underrepresented populations and their contributions to the Western Carolina University community. They provide students with a tangible symbol to wear during WCU's graduation and keep with them after graduation as a reminder of their time at WCU and the support that they have available for their future endeavors. Any student who wishes to celebrate their graduation with ICA is welcomed to participate.
While we won't be able to celebrate the Class of 2020 crossing the stage this spring (but can't wait to on the rescheduled commencement date), we still wanted to highlight this major life milestone, recognize their hard work, and celebrate their bright futures. Meet just a few of our graduates...
First-generation senior David Benoit is graduating with a double major in political science and international studies. “I told upcoming freshman to say yes to everything, try everything at least once. Go to every organization, every meeting, at least one time, so you really know what you like and what you might not be fond of,” Benoit said. That’s what he did.
It was Friday, Jan. 24, when Western Carolina University senior Wyatt Burnette received a call from one of his mentors, former WCU assistant professor Gabe Nucci. Nucci informed him of a valuable freelance opportunity providing postproduction support at Super Bowl 54 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Those “I Voted” stickers Sara Mears’ parents wore after casting their ballots each election during her childhood really stuck with her, and now she hopes to persuade others that voting is the best way to show one’s citizenship.
With each Western Carolina University commencement, the Cherokee Center honors the members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and those with close ties to the Qualla Boundary who earn a degree, with an occasion in the spirit of community and individual achievement.
Mary Hill Lewis, a distance student who majored in birth-to-kindergarten education, spoke at the 2019 commencement ceremony about her journey, the future and what she overcame to get to this moment.
Grace Woodard will graduate with a bachelor of fine arts degree in studio art, and a concentration in sculpture, ceramics, and papermaking. During her time at WCU, Grace has received numerous accolades including an Honors College scholarship, Friends of the Arts scholarship, Chancellor’s Academic Scholarship, and the Tara and Jim Miller Art Fund Scholarship. Her thoughtful and nuanced work has also been recognized through a project grant award, and with the “Best in Show” and the Chancellor’s Award at the 51st annual Juried Undergraduate Exhibition.