Gregoire graces graduation

Even in a time of change, both locally and worldwide, it was stories of the past that were most relevant as Bellevue College held its graduation ceremony, throwing almost 500 students into the workforce. The June 18th ceremony included the participants of the four-year baccalaureate program at BC, the first of its kind for the school.

Among the speakers was Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire, whose speech focused on some of the inspirational stories she has come across in her work, and the tough times BC’s graduating class is facing.

“Like you, when I left college, we entered into a very uncertain world,” she said. “I know about graduating into a disastrous labor market because you see, back then I received my teaching certificate and then of course it was announced that there would be no hiring for teachers that year. ”

Despite the appearance of the Governor however, the group of Applied Sciences in Radiation and Imaging graduates was the star of the day. In all, 19 students graduated from the Applied Sciences and Radiation program, becoming the first in school history to receive four-year diplomas.

Among them was Katherine Olson, currently professor in the Diagnostic and Ultrasound programs at Bellevue College. “I’ll be going back to my students and hopefully setting a good example. I learned a lot more about teaching, so it was great to be on the other side of the podium.”

Sally Walkenhorst, advisor to students at BC, liked the move to four-year programs, saying that it gives students a chance to meet needs in ways that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them. “We’re not in competition with the University of Washington,” she said. “We’re not going to offer all the standard [degrees], but for specific needs, If people need the bachelor degrees that’s where we can fit in.”

The Governor also seemed very upbeat about the changes BC has undergone. “Here at Bellevue College a lot of these students, these 19, may not have ever gotten a four year degree but for Bellevue College. All 19 have a job. That tells you we needed this, probably before it began. So I hope we can do more.”

There seems to be a lot of optimism for BC’s move towards more traditional bachelorette classes. Bellevue College will continue to add four-year courses in the future, with a program in Interior Design coming soon.

Of course, the ceremony wasn’t just about the group of bachelors. The 19 students that received their four-year degree were in the minority. In all, over 460 students graduated at the ceremony, 41 of which took with them a 4.0 GPA and 113 were enrolled in the Running Start program.

Martina Horbaph, who will become a student at the University of Washington after a brief sabbatical, was excited to be moving on after being a student at Bellevue College for over 2 years. “I worked really hard for my agree and I’m glad I chose this school, and I’m looking forward to going to the UW.”

Throughout the event the processions proceeded smoothly, starting with the speakers and faculty entering, followed by the four-year graduates, and then by the rest of the graduating class, all entering to the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the band. Once everyone was seated, the speakers and board were introduced, at which time Governor Gregoire delivered her keynote address.

Most of the Governor’s keynote speech was focused on the lessons she had learned and the people she had met throughout her time as Governor, which has included meeting President Obama, the Dalai Lama, and David Nierenberg, who donated $2.5 million to Southwest Washington Medical Center in the name of his mother, who was born weighing 2.5 pounds and survived. She also made reference to some of the differences between now and the days she was in school, when Google meant the figure “1” followed by 800 zeroes, and also made reference to the expenses of college, imploring Obama to use students as a form of stimulus.

After her, Interim Executive Dean Tom Nielson introduced the faculty speaker Mary Thorp, who compared the graduation of students to a bus, where the books and experiences they have take up space in the bus and define them as individuals.

Ten-year board member Lee Kraft spoke next, after it was revealed that she enabled Bellevue College to present the “Lockwood Award”, bi-annual awards to exceptional faculty members. The recipient was Ron Radvilas, who has worked at Bellevue College for 29 years and had a deal of influence over the creation of the Radiation and Imaging sciences program. The achievement roped him $10,000 and a medallion commemorating the occasion.

The presentation was followed by a musical number by the group “Celebration,” who then gave way to Amanda Alva, the student speaker for the class of 2009. Her speech referenced the change that the school and the world have been going through, in the last few months, including the economy and the presidential election.

The family turnout for the event was enormous. Seating for guests at the ceremony, held in the Bellevue College gym, was completely full, allowing only standing room for some latecomers.

While in the future sending off baccalaureates will become commonplace for Bellevue College, for now it is something to be celebrated as an evolution of the school we once knew as BCC.