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Dacia Luck, 24, a native of Columbia, Mo., is blind.
That will not prevent her from accepting a bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary studies degree at the Columbia College main campus Saturday, May 10 in the Southwell Complex Gymnasium (700 Range Line Road). Luck is not the first blind student to graduate from Columbia College, but is the first to participate in commencement.
Luck says her blindness was never an obstacle and that Columbia College's smaller class sizes and personalized attention made a difference in her education. Luck will receive an elementary education certificate upon completing student teaching in the fall, then hopes to become a visual itinerant teacher. Visual itinerant teachers travel between school districts to teach blind students Braille.
"One of the things I loved about Columbia College was that classes were small enough, and the instructors receptive enough, for me to observe teachers' techniques. What I was taught in my classes I 'saw' and will be able to put to practical use," she said. Ann Bledsoe, associate professor of computer and mathematical sciences, said she felt fortunate to have had Luck in two classes. "Dacia was a great student, worked really hard," said Bledsoe. "Her disability didn't get in her way at all. In fact, she taught me a lot about teaching and giving accommodation to blind students. We even presented together at a conference [on accommodating blind students}! I know she’ll be a great teacher because she taught me."
The Ivy Chain ceremony will precede commencement at 9:30 a.m. in Southwell Gymnasium. The Ivy Chain, one of the oldest commencement ceremonies in the United States, features a continuous chain of ivy-draped seniors to form a circle. The ivy circle is cut at the end of the ceremony, and participants keep the ivy, symbolizing a severance with collegiate days while retaining alumni and friendship ties. Students graduating with associate degrees in nursing will be pinned at 2:00 p.m.
In total, over 900 undergraduate and graduate students have filed for graduation in May. More than 400 students are expected to participate in the ceremonies in Columbia, including students from Columbia College Nationwide Campuses in California, Alabama, Illinois, Texas and Washington. Students representing six Missouri campuses from Blue Springs, Christian County, Fort Leonard Wood, Jefferson City, Moberly, Rolla and St. Louis will also participate. Frank Diaz, 43, a partially disabled ex-Marine, father of four and test evaluation engineer for Northrup Grumman Mission Systems living in Palominas, Ariz., is another example of a non-traditional student earning a degree. Diaz will earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Online Campus with assistance from the Whidbey Island, Wash., campus. "Columbia College made it all fit," said Diaz. "When you choose a program, you have to choose one conducive to family life. Columbia offered me the flexibility I needed to be a husband, coach and everything else that goes with family life, and still be a full-time student. To go from infantry warrior to engineer and college graduate --it’s really something." Diaz said his Columbia College degree was a factor in his hiring, and that he would be likely be pursuing an MBA from Columbia College.
Several family members will also be graduating simultaneously, such as Correy and Tasha Harris, program manager for Boys & Girls Club, Lawrence, Kan., and special education paraprofessional with De Soto School District, Kan., respectively. He graduates with a bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies, she in psychology from the Online Campus. "Taking Columbia College online classes allowed us to work full time while pursuing all the other things in our lives," said Correy. "The online experience was new to me. Tasha had already taken some classes [through Columbia College in Jefferson City] – I was quite pleased and surprised at the quality and convenience of education offered."
Bethann Rosson, an evaluations assistant for Columbia College's main campus, will graduate with an associate degree in nursing from the Evening Campus and be pinned. "It's been a long road for me, working 40 hours a week, doing this program, but it's been worth it. My career prospects are very bright," she said. Rosson hopes to secure an obstetrics position with Boone Hospital Center in Columbia, Mo. – right after the birth of her second child, just one month after graduation. "Columbia College made it all work. I couldn't have done it without the flexibility of the evening program."
There will be two ceremonies to accommodate the large number of graduates. The first ceremony, scheduled for noon, is for Day Campus students receiving bachelor's and all students receiving associate and master's degrees. The second ceremony begins at 3:30 p.m. and includes Evening, Nationwide and Online Campuses bachelor's degree candidates. Anita Timmons, '58, Columbia College Trustee, will address graduates at both ceremonies. Timmons is a board member of Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, a partner in investment firm Taj Enterprises and advisor to the United Nations.