Countdown to graduation

Dillard seniors are counting the days until they are able to walk across the Avenue of the Oaks for their commencement ceremony on July 1. They will return as students to the university for the first time, after being away from it for 10 months. They will leave as alumni.

Commencement, to begin at 8 a.m. will be one of the most unique ceremonies in Dillard’s history, according to university officials. With Bill Cosby entertainer and comedian s the guest speaker and the university’s installation of the first female president, students are expecting an exciting event.

For the first time in Dillard’s history the university’s president will be inaugurated during graduation. Traditionally the university’s president has had a separate inauguration ceremony, but this year Dr. Marvalene Hughes, the ninth president in Dillard’s history, will ceremonially take the helm while she also presides over commencement. The number of seniors graduating is not official, but university officials estimate more than 300.

As seniors continue the countdown, they and university officials look to the future. The number of seniors accepted to graduate schools is 21, while 35 are going directly to employment thus far, according to Dewain Lee, interim assistant dean for the office of career services and education enhancement options. Lee said she has been accessible to students and recruiters to provide assistance with career decisions through career assessments based on interest and provide opportunities for career development and enhancement. She said she has done everything from provide information about career and graduate school fairs, summer research opportunities and internships. 

Lee said she has experienced graduation for the past nine years, and says she is very excited this years commencement. “It’s always been a celebration; this year is very significant because we’ve survived Hurricane Katrina. Students will be returning to campus now for a purpose, not just to retrieve items but to celebrate. Graduation is a way for us to celebrate our homecoming.”

Seniors have a variety of options seniors post graduation, from graduate school, to interning to working. Rebecca Roussell, a mass communications major with a focus on print journalism and broadcast is heading to St. Louis, Mo. to complete a 13 week internship at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Marrero, La. native said she will eventually attend graduate school but not in the near future. Rousell said she wasn’t going to return to Dillard this fall but is very thankful and happy she did. She said she feels not only has she persevered but Dillard has as a whole. “I wasn’t feeling the whole hotel thing, but I love it. Dillard instills in you that you can do anything you put your mind to,” Roussell said.

Gary Butler, of Baton Rouge, La., is taking a different path. The political science major said he is attending graduate school at either Southern Methodist University in Dallas or Tulane University in New Orleans. Butler will not be staying on the path he started at Dillard, but rather trying something he developed a passion for the summer of his junior year while completing an internship. He will be working towards his master’s in sports administration.

Butler said he is very passionate about education and is excited to further his by receiving his master’s. “I know that education is important and it has been instilled in my by family and friends.” Butler says he is extremely excited about returning to campus for graduation. “We’re going back to the Oaks where it all started. It will be some of our first time coming back after Katrina. Over the last six months I realized there’s no place like home. I missed Dillard.  

Kenneth Hughlon of Kansas City, Mo., who is double majoring in political science and African world studies, said he has learned a lot not only from the past sixth months but from Dillard as a whole.

While in graduate school at the University of Missouri- Kansas City, he plans to extend his focus and study toward becoming a prosecuting attorney. He feels the class of 2006 is very special, “We’re the first class to graduate post Katrina.” He said he has learned responsibility, work ethic, quality and time management all during his four years at Dillard. “The past sixth months have taught me to keep my eye on the prize.”

Aislyn Lipford, a mass communications major focusing on public relation is taking a break from school after graduation. The Memphis, Tenn. born senior says, “I don’t feel like I’m mentally prepared for graduate school. I want to take some time to prepare for the GRE so that I can do well and receive as many scholarships as I can.”

Lipford said she has learned a lot over the past six months and offered some words of advice to undergraduate students. “Take every opportunity you can get. When opportunities arise, take them. Look for opportunities, they won’t find you, remember that you drive your opportunities.”

“The class of 2006 has been through so much, both good and bad. Katrina was the icing on the cake.” Lipford said. “We couldn’t let a little flood water stop us. It was important that we finish, we started here and we wanted to finish here,” The class of 2006 will be marching to the beat of perseverance and achievement in less than a month. With the support of their family, friends, faculty, staff, and administrators, students and staff say this day will be one that is forever remembered to all who love and support Dillard and truly call it home.