COLUMBIA — A lone hand shot up in the fourth row of gowned graduates at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources commencement ceremony. It belonged to the only person among a sea of 152 graduating seniors who responded to Dean Thomas Payne’s question: “Who of all of you is texting right now?”
Payne opened Saturday's ceremony by hosting a "M-I-Z-Z-O-U" cheering contest between the east and west sides of the Hearnes Center before doling out a more serious piece of advice about living in the moment.
“Try to remember to be present when people are talking to you,” Payne said. “You might actually learn something.”
Hotel and restaurant management graduate Ryan Earley got a head start on his career at the ceremony when he tripped on stage in front of Director of Agriculture Jon Hagler. Earley said he hopes to move to Los Angeles to become a comedic actor.
“My parents knew that I was going to do something dumb up there,” Earley said. “But they thought I would just punch the air or something.”
Earley works at the Deuce Pub & Pit now and said he plans to save money before heading west this summer.
“I just want to get out there and try it before I get older and become a real man,” Earley said. “Now is the time for me to mess up.”
Agricultural journalism graduate Kaity Kerwin recently accepted a position with the Missouri Beef Industry Council as director of communications. Kerwin is graduating a semester early and was chosen as the “Outstanding Senior” of this year’s graduating class.
“I’ve taken advantage of a lot of the opportunities (the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources) has to offer,” Kerwin said. “The classes I took gave me the information and encouragement to work hard and get to where I want to go.”
With a variety of majors, MU's College of Arts and Science brings together a diverse group of students and features majors including theatre, geographic information science and chemistry. The college held its commencement Saturday afternoon at the Hearnes Center.
The graduating class drew applause from hundreds of family members and friends. Chris Drachnik, a political science and history major, had about 20 supporters cheer him on as he walked across the stage.
“My favorite part was celebrating all my accomplishments with my family and friends," Drachnik said after the ceremony.
Other families had longstanding traditions of MU graduates. Rick and Linda Posten came to see their niece Anne Posten.
“This is the sixth Posten to graduate,” Rick Posten said. “We come to every family member's graduation at Mizzou. It’s rite of passage.”
Many individual graduates elicited screaming or sounds from noisemakers. Following their popularity at the World Cup last summer, vuvuzelas were used to celebrate a few of the graduates.
Students also decorated their graduation caps with phrases such as "Hire Me" and "Hi Mom." Deborah Huelsbergen, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies for the art department, wore a graduation cap decorated with googly eyes that one of her students made five years ago.
“I get to greet incoming freshmen at Summer Welcome, shake their hands and now hand them their diploma,” Huelsbergen said.
Associate communications professor Michael Porter read the names of the students for most of the college's ceremony.
“There is a sense of closure that comes with graduation,” Porter said. “It's finishing up a chapter of student’s lives with a public emphasis.”
Graduates from the School of Engineering not only received their diplomas but were also encouraged to make the world a better and safer place for everyone. The school held its graduation ceremony Saturday afternoon in Jesse Hall.
Keynote speaker Josephine Emerick, class of 1978, reminded the graduates of their responsibilities and potential as engineers in the 21st century.
“Remember that you became engineers to improve the quality of life for all people,” said Emerick, a senior transportation project manager for URS Corporation in St. Louis.
Using engineering to find the cure for cancer and stop climate change were only two examples Emerick mentioned in her speech inspiring students to aim high.
“We can only try to imagine the opportunities that will come your way,” Emerick said. “Do you think Alexander Bell ever thought of the Internet?”
Of the school's 160 graduates, 134 were present at the convocation. While the overwhelming majority of graduates came from Missouri, Saudi Arabia was also represented with seven graduating students and their families cheering in the audience.
Besides receiving their diplomas, students also presented one professor from each department the "Outstanding Professor" award. The recognition was based on student votes.
Students from the School of Health Professions fiddled with their green and yellow tassels as they lined up on the second floor of Jesse Hall for their ceremony.
“I’m excited-ish!” said Kaycie Berhorst, who was receiving her bachelor's degree in occupational therapy.
Taylor McMillan, also an occupational therapy major, said both she and Berhorst are coming back to MU for graduate school in January.
“Instead of leaving, we’re making it to level two,” McMillan said.
Just as the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources opened with one of MU's traditional cheers, the College of Arts and Science* ceremony closed with graduating MU football player De'Vion Moore leading the graduating class in one last "M-I-Z-Z-O-U."