UMUC Europe honors students from Europe, Africa and the Middle East
Sarah Sanchez from Kaiserslautern waves while awaiting the commencement ceremony along with fellow 2010 graduates of UMUC Europe in Heidelberg May 8. After three attempts to earn a degree, Sanchez celebrated the completion of her bachelor's degree in psychology.

HEIDELBERG, Germany- University of Maryland University College Europe recognized graduating students at its 58th annual commencement ceremony in Heidelberg May 8.

The ceremony honored more than 1,000 students from across Europe, Africa and the Middle East who earned their associate's, bachelor's or master's degree with UMUC or its partner institution, Bowie State University.

The guest speaker and honorary degree recipient was James B. Smith, U.S. ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

With an emphasis on global citizenship, Smith offered words of encouragement and advice to the graduating class of 2010: "The challenge for your generation will be to seek out opportunities for dialogue, to find ways of tearing down walls instead of building them up, and this will be the most important challenge of your generation. And in the course of your dialogue, if you ever hear or say the words 'I trust you,' you will be able to get anything done."

During his address, Smith said history will judge this generation well. "You are a unique breed of graduates, as most of you have been tested in the crucible of real life, real responsibilities, including, for some you, combat itself."
Motivating students to make a difference, he said "You are global citizens to whom the world will look for answers."

UMUC President Susan Aldridge also placed a focus on global citizenship and the collective issues facing the world today including "global terrorism, global hunger, global disease and global climate change." She encouraged graduates to think and act globally and listed several attributes of what comprises good global citizens: "They've discarded the traditional 'melting pot' theory in favor of what we call a 'salad bowl' philosophy ... choosing to embrace the world as a vibrant fusion of different ingredients that are each essential to a successful whole."

She said UMUC students who have learned both face-to-face and online, studying in Europe, the Middle East, the United States and around the world - or wherever they call home - have a unique understanding of global considerations.

Aldridge highlighted students who have persevered in the face of deployments, illness, family obligations and other responsibilities, including stories about 2010 graduates Larry Quade, Raffique Nishan Khan, Sarah Sanchez and Timothy Heefner.

After sustaining a severe injury in 2006, Larry Quade was assigned to the Army Warrior Transition Unit in Vilseck in 2009. Shortly after he arrived, he told his commander he wanted to be the most successful story to come through the unit, which served as a powerful motivation for him to achieve his goals. He overcame multiple surgeries to become an inspiring success story, earning an associate's degree in less than a year.

Raffique Nishan Khan, an enlisted soldier stationed in Schweinfurt, was born in Trinidad and is the first in his family to earn both a GED and a college degree.
"This is my first graduation," he said. "I never really had a high school graduation - I was a GED recipient. The only other graduation I had beside this was my basic training graduation."

Military spouse Sarah Sanchez says 'the third time is the charm' for earning her degree - her first attempt was put on hold because of a serious car accident. During her second try, she left college to focus on raising her family. Now, after her third attempt, the Kaiserslautern-based spouse is celebrating the completion of her bachelor's degree in psychology.

Timothy Heefner, who earned his associate's degree in management, made a promise to his mother that if she earned her degree, he'd go on to earn his degree. She did, at age 55, which encouraged him to reach his goal. Even though his mother has since passed away, his father and brother traveled from Pennsylvania to the ceremony to see the fulfillment of his promise.
"It's taken me 10 years, but I'm here ... I've gotten this far," Heefner said. "I want to keep going... because you can always keep learning. I will keep studying until my tour of duty is up."

The graduating class included active-duty military students from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as family members and civilians stationed abroad.

The students in the class of 2010 have earned degrees in a variety of disciplines, including more than 500 associate's degrees, nearly 500 bachelor's degrees in the liberal arts from UMUC, and more than 100 master's degrees with UMUC and Bowie State University.

John Barbato and Pilar Pulido, nominated by students and selected to be the recipients of the 2010 Stanley J. Drazek Teaching Excellence Award, were also recognized at the ceremony in Heidelberg for distinguished excellence in teaching.

Page last updated Wed May 19th, 2010 at 05:24