WCU holds commencement for graduate students

A Western Carolina University faculty member who has been recognized as one of the University of North Carolina system’s best teachers delivered the primary address on Friday, May 6 as WCU held commencement exercises at Ramsey Regional Activity Center to honor the accomplishments of approximately 325 graduate students.

In his address to the graduating students and their families and friends, Aaron Ball, professor of engineering and technology, spoke about his philosophy of teaching and desire to utilize “hands-on applications that supplement and reinforce learning in the classroom.”

“To be a good teacher, one must be a good student, committed to staying current in a dynamic global world and passionate about the job,” Ball said. “I am constantly looking at ways to bring reality to the classroom and expose students to experiences that prepare them to go beyond the classroom.

“Students are why we as faculty are here, and the greatest personal motivation is being in a position to make a difference in the lives of our students,” he said. “I feel fortunate to have such a rewarding job.”

Ball also spoke to the graduating students about “being proud and taking pride.”

“Be proud of your accomplishments, and remember this evening, especially,” he said. “Your parents are certainly proud of you and of what you have accomplished, and they have made many sacrifices to get you to where you are today. They deserve your respect and gratitude for being a major part of your success.

“All of you are our most valuable players as the next generation of leaders. It is you who will be our role models, teachers, engineers, nurses, business managers, coaches and parents,” Ball said. “Take pride in your accomplishments, your family, your heritage and yourself. Be proud of who you are, where you came from, and set goals for self-improvement. You are WCU. Be proud to be a Catamount!”

Ball recently was named a recipient of the UNC system’s highest teaching honor, the Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. One award is given annually to a faculty member on each UNC campus to recognize superior teaching.

In his charge to the graduating students, WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo spoke about the great societal and economic changes he has seen during his academic career, and he advised the graduating students that they are leaving the university well-prepared to face the changes coming in the future.

“What Western Carolina is about is preparing you for work, but it is also about preparing you for a life of leadership,” he said. “We need you to lead. You have the skills and the education to lead.

“I’m excited to see what will happen in your future,” Bardo said. “All the best to you for a job well done, and congratulations.”

The graduate students who have been completing their degrees at WCU this semester are part of a spring graduating class that totals about 1,250 students.

A complete list of all of WCU’s new graduates will be announced following the posting of grades from final examinations.