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WCU holds trio of spring commencement ceremonies

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By Julia Duvall

Western Carolina University held a trio of spring commencement ceremonies May 12-13 at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

More than 1,700 graduates walked across the stage over the course of the two days and the unofficial number for total degrees conferred for spring 2023 is 1,932. The final number will be made official over the coming months.

Of those graduates, the most came from the following North Carolina towns: 96 from Cullowhee; 90 from Asheville; 54 from Charlotte; 44 from Franklin; 38 from Sylva; 36 from Hickory; 35 from Waynesville; 28 from Hendersonville; 27 from Mooresville; and 26 from Fletcher. 

WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown presided over the ceremonies and was joined by a platform party that included Provost Richard Starnes, WCU administration, deans of the colleges, board of trustee members and other special guests.

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The student speaker for the graduate ceremony was Grace Cheshire, from Andrews, who earned a doctoral degree in educational leadership from the College of Education and Allied Professions. Cheshire spoke of her time at WCU that reignited her passion for higher education and also persevering through hard times.

Doctoral degrees were awarded in education, nursing practice, physical therapy and for the first time in WCU’s history, psychology.

Master’s degrees were awarded from the colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education and Allied Professions; Engineering and Technology; and Health and Human Sciences.

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“Each of you has had different experiences that have led you to this moment today, a day that represents one of the most significant milestones in your lifetime,” Brown said during her closing remarks.

For the Saturday morning ceremony, bachelor’s degrees were awarded to candidates from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education and Allied Professions, and the David Orr Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts.

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The student speaker for the morning ceremony was Grace Vercauteren, from Gastonia, who earned a bachelor’s degree in education with a concentration in special education/inclusive education. Vercauteren shared her experience of being a first-generation college student and taking advantage of all the opportunities WCU gives students.

For the afternoon ceremony, bachelor’s degrees were awarded to candidates from the colleges of Business, Engineering and Technology, and Health and Human Sciences.

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The student speaker for the afternoon ceremony was Sydney Spivey, from Birmingham, Alabama, who earned two degrees from the College of Business – marketing and in management. Spivey spoke about the sense of community WCU gave her and the feeling of belongingness she felt throughout her time in Cullowhee.

“This graduating class is particularly special as many of you were starting out as freshmen the same time I was first starting as chancellor of WCU,” Brown shared with the new alums during both undergraduate ceremonies. “More so than any other graduating class we have truly been on this journey together and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of students to welcome me to Cullowhee and to this great university.”

For more information about commencement at WCU, visit

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