Fall Commencement heavy on health sciences, grad students
by Luanne Williams

Dr. Alisahah Cole, Atrium Health’s chief community impact officer, will bring words of wisdom on Saturday to Wingate’s 261 fall graduates, about a third of whom will cross the stage as physician assistants or doctors of physical therapy.

The University’s third December Commencement, and the first to be held in Cuddy Arena, will also include 35 doctors of education, 14 students earning masters in teaching or education, and 83 undergraduates who will be awarded bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degrees.

Graduates at fall 2017 Commencement

The ceremony, which will begin at 10 a.m., is being moved from the 999-seat Austin Auditorium, where it was held the first two years, to the spacious Cuddy Arena, to accommodate the growing number of graduates and their guests.

“Students should not have to choose who will get tickets on their big day,” says Dr. Helen Tate, Wingate University’s provost. “We hope everyone comes out and celebrates each graduate’s accomplishments.”

For years, Wingate had one Commencement ceremony each year, in May. But the University is experiencing an enrollment boom, with the total student population growing 37 percent over the past five years, to nearly 3,700. Wingate is the fastest-growing independent university or college in North Carolina.

The growth has necessitated the move to not only a fall Commencement, which was first held in 2016, but also separate spring Commencement exercises for undergraduate and graduate students.

“Choosing to offer separate ceremonies in the spring and a graduate-focused ceremony in December allowed us to bring more individual recognition back to Commencement,” Tate says.

Dr. Alisahah Cole

With about a third of students who are earning degrees on Saturday being graduate students in the health sciences, it is apt that Cole address them. Vice president and chief community impact officer for Atrium Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in the Carolinas, Cole is especially interested in the topics of health equity and population health. She is responsible for developing and implementing a community health strategy across multiple counties in North and South Carolina.

Also during the Commencement exercises, student award winners will be honored, an honorary degree recipient will be announced, and graduate programs in business, sport sciences, physician assistant studies, physical therapy and education will conduct “hooding” ceremonies, in which doctoral students are presented with a hood that signifies their having successfully completed their course of study.

Dec. 11, 2018