By Casey S. Elliott
They worked diligently to get to this point -- staying up late to read and write, sacrificing family and leisure time, and juggling multiple duties. That hard work received recognition Friday morning as candidates for master's and doctoral degrees gathered for the 2009 Graduate Commencement ceremony.
The graduates now will channel their energy toward making a better world, Professor of Political Science Patricia Weitsman, the 2008 Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award recipient, said in her address.
"You are changing the world. The process of edification, the honing of your technical and analytical skills has culminated in your empowerment," she said. "Your challenge today is not simply to find good jobs -- which I acknowledge is not easy right now -- but instead to use the power with which you are now endowed to construct your own legacies."
Weitsman, who specializes in international relations, said she has seen the worst aspects of human nature in war and genocide. In looking at the promising faces of graduates on Friday, she said she could see the potential to change the future.
"You are the best and the brightest -- men and women committed to the pursuit of knowledge, to enrich your own lives and the lives of others," she said. "As you begin -- yes, commence -- your lives beyond Ohio University, remember that your mission should be to leave the world a better place for your work, your passion and your commitment."
Others recognized during the ceremony included this year's Outstanding Doctoral Student Leader Sabine Heuer, the 2009 Distinguished Professor Peter Jung, and 2009 Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award recipient Lynn Harter.
Heuer is a two-time award winner of a fellowship in clinical aphasiology from the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Jung, a nationally and internationally renowned scholar in biophysics, is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He is highly published, and in 2005 was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in recognition of his distinguished contributions to statistical and non-linear physics far from equilibrium and for elucidating the role of noise in biological systems.
Harter is the Steven and Barbara Schoonover Professor of Health Communication in the School of Communication studies. Her research focuses on issues ranging from disability-related concerns to pediatric cancer care. As the recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Faculty Award, Harter will address next year's graduates.
During his remarks, President Roderick J. McDavis congratulated the graduates and acknowledged their hard work and that of their families.
"Henry David Thoreau once said, 'If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.' Your college education is the foundation for your castle in the sky. The faculty, staff and administrators at Ohio University have provided you with the tools you need to succeed.
"Whatever your path, each of you has brought unique characteristics and special talents to Ohio University, and you have made our university richer by your presence," he added.
Attaining this educational milestone was a difficult one for many students, who said they relied on family, friends and colleagues to help them get through the tough times.
Travis Bennett, who received a master's degree in industrial engineering, credits his success to family, friends and the staff at the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.
"It has been difficult, and very busy, with lots of research," he said. "It has been a challenge."
Bennett, who hails from Cleveland, worked full time and went to school full time for his degree. While he said he is considering the pursuit of a doctorate, he would like to take a break before diving into classwork again.
Catherine Muoki, who is receiving a master's degree in financial economics, said the months she spent working on her degree have been challenging but worth it.
"For the last 18 months, I didn't have a life," she said. "It was a lot of hard work, but with a good support system, it is doable."
Muoki worked on her degree at the Pickerington Center. She previously received a MBA and is now thinking of taking classes to become a certified financial analyst.
Kelly Roberts, receiving a doctoral degree in counselor education, said she is looking forward to the future.
"It is nice to have this part of my life behind me, and be able to move forward," she said.
Roberts, a Newark native, got a taste of what graduate education could be like when watching her husband work for his doctoral degree in biology. Seeing that helped her prepare for the work she faced, she said.
Vikram Chowdhari, a native of India, received his master's degree in electrical engineering with a focus on wireless communication. He had this to say about his Ohio University experience: "It was awesome. This is a great feeling."