Turning the tassels

December 16, 2013 | 1 Comment

Stories by Cherry Crayton, Rachel Davis, Leah Whitt and Billy Liggett
Photos by Bennett Scarborough and Campbell grads

A look at December 2013 graduation

BUIES CREEK — Saturday marked a historical day at Campbell University as the university held two commencement exercises to graduate its first students who earned undergraduate degrees in homeland security, master's degrees in public health, and professional degrees in physician assistant practice.

"Our first students — as with a firstborn child, because they are first — they will always hold a unique place in our hearts," said Betty Lynne Johnson, academic coordinator of the PA program, during the inaugural PA graduation ceremony in Turner Auditorium Saturday afternoon.

Campbell awarded PA degrees to 34 students and conferred another 338 associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctorates, and professional degrees to students during a morning ceremony in the John W. Pope, Jr. Convocation Center. One of the new graduates to participate in the morning ceremony was James Taylor, of Sanford, who earned an MBA. "I feel like (a degree from Campbell) will open doors that would otherwise not be there," he said.

What follows is a roundup of stories, social media posts and photos related to Saturday's graduation ceremonies and Campbell's new alumni.




The teacher

Kasie Core

Degree: Bachelor of Science in elementary education
Hometown: Dunn, N.C.

Kasie Core didn’t have to finish her final months at Campbell University worried about whether she would find a job after she graduated Dec. 14. She had had one lined up since October. An elementary education major, Core began teaching fifth grade this month at Coats Elementary School. “Choosing Campbell for my higher education was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made,” she said.

Core’s decision to be a teacher was “a no brainer,” she said. She has always been passionate about mentoring, and she thrives off of creating engaging lesson plans, watching students’ academic growth, and boosting children’s confidence. “Being part of a child’s academic success and daily life is truly a rewarding experience,” she said.

Her own confidence and heart for service only grew during her time at Campbell, she added. The countless presentations, the group projects and her student teaching experience strengthened her confidence; while her involvement with Campus Ministry and her participation in mission trips to St. Louis, Mo., and Cape Town, South Africa, opened her eyes “completely . . . to the needs that surround us daily,” she said.

Those are two of the attributes fostered at Campbell that Core plans to take into her own classroom as she educates the next generation. “The professors of the School of Education have done an outstanding job preparing me for my future as an educator,” she said. “I can express with strong confidence that I will be a successful teacher because of the contributions they have made in my life during my time at Campbell.” — Rachel Davis

The student veteran

Cory Herdrich

Degree: Bachelor of Science in information technology management
Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.

Cory Herdrich wanted to continue a family tradition. His father fought in the Vietnam War, and his grandfathers in World War II. So, in 2006, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a transportation management coordinator.

Herdrich spent a year in South Korea, four months in Kuwait, a year in Iraq, and some time at Fort Bragg, where he took undergraduate-level courses at one of Campbell University’s extended campuses. After a total of four years of active duty, he transitioned to the U.S. Army Reserves, which took him to Afghanistan for 10 months.

When that deployment ended, he had a choice: return to his hometown of Indianapolis, Ind., or return to Campbell to finish a bachelor’s in information technology management. He chose the latter.

Campbell, he said, had a “great reputation,” it was close to Fort Bragg, and he appreciated Joy Cox, the university’s veterans affair director who is a veteran herself. He also wanted to take advantage of the Post-911 GA benefits. “It would be stupid of me not to take advantage of those benefits,” he said.

In the Army, he learned discipline, which helped him, he said, to “take the time I needed to accomplish my work” and finish his degree. Now that he has achieved that task, he plans to move back to Indianapolis to begin his job search and to be closer to family. — Rachel Davis

The artist

Corey Godwin

Degree: Bachelor of Arts in graphic design and studio
Hometown: Coats, N.C.

After high school, Corey Godwin attended Johnston Community College and was studying automotive restoration. He wasn’t completely happy with his studies so he switched majors to business. That didn’t feel right either, so he tried electrical engineering. Still not right. He thought back to his childhood in Harnett County, N.C. Growing up, if he couldn’t find a toy he wanted in a store, he made his own. He also had what describes as a “weird addiction” to shades of colors. So at Johnston Community, he signed up for classes in graphic design and fine arts. He loved it. “I’ve always had a creative mind,” he said.

After completing an associate’s degree at Johnston Community College, he headed to East Carolina University to study in its graphic design program. But he didn’t connect there. That brought him back to Harnett County to attend Campbell University, where he graduated from on Dec. 14 with degrees in graphic design and studio art. “Campbell’s community, better professor/student relationships in the classroom, and Christian background is what brought me to this university,” he said.

Even though he transferred to Campbell and attended the school for only two years, he said he met peers and instructors who have become lifelong friends and who have changed his life. His Painting II instructor, Associate Professor of Art Breck Smith, for example, has taught him about more than just painting. “If your paint brush hits the canvas unexpectedly and you start to freak out, he simply said that it’s OK and that you can work through it, much like life,” Godwin said.

Such lessons, he added, will carry through as he enters the next phase of his life. He’s starting a company that will do vinyl graphics for businesses and vehicles, as well as airbrushing and sign work. He’d also like find a job that leads to a career in the automotive field that combines his two passions -- fast cars and art -- while he operates his business. “Campbell has opened the doors to the world so that I may set it ablaze with my talents and aspirations,” he said. — Rachel Davis

The protectors

Victoria Tillman

Degree: Bachelor of Science in homeland security
Hometown: Wadesboro, N.C.

Joshua Kinney

Degree: Bachelor of Science in homeland security
Hometown: Angier, N.C.

Victoria Tillman has her sights set on working for a federal agency such as the CIA or the FBI, and Joshua Kinney has a strong desire to help others through law enforcement. That's why they both chose to major in homeland security at Campbell University. On Dec. 14, they were among the first students at Campbell – and in North Carolina – to graduate with a four-year Bachelor of Science in the field. “Becoming involved in [the homeland security] program and Campbell was the best thing I ever did,” Kinney said.

Tillman started off as a criminal justice major but switched to homeland security, which was first offered as a degree option at Campbell in 2010 and the first four-year bachelor’s program in North Carolina. “I felt like [homeland security] would give me a greater opportunity to achieve a federal level job,” she said.

Kinney and Tillman said that the rich, relevant backgrounds of their homeland security instructors, including David Gray and Robert Bidwell, enriched their classroom experience. Both also took advantage of opportunities outside of the classroom. Kinney, for example, interned with the Harnett County Sherriff’s Office. That helped him decide to pursue a career in local law enforcement immediately after graduation, with the goal of eventually working toward joining a federal task force. “The homeland security field is a very dynamic and expanding field, and knowing that each day will be different is a huge plus,” Kinney said.

Tillman took advantage of study abroad opportunities in London, Paris, and Scotland, further preparing her for her planned move to Northern Virginia to pursue graduate studies and a career at a federal agency. “There are so many real work experiences that you will go through during your time here,” she said. “Overall, my time at Campbell was great, and I would choose Campbell all over again.” — Rachel Davis

The entrepreneur

Kayla Riddle

Degree: Master of Business Administration
Hometown: Gray’s Creek, N.C.

Kayla Riddle has the entrepreneurial spirit. Her family owns Hokes County Sand Company, a grading and excavating company based in Fayetteville and Raeford, N.C. And one day, she hopes to operate her own business.

So, she said, it made sense for her complete an MBA to enhance her business knowledge and skills, particularly as it relates to being an entrepreneur. “[My time at Campbell] was exactly what I had hoped it would be, and so much,” she said, adding she chose to spend that time at Campbell because it reminded of her the small, rural area where she came from.

The faculty and staff, in particular, made Campbell feel like a home, she said, and provided the support and guidance that will help her in her entrepreneurial endeavors. “I have really enjoyed building relationships with the Campbell family,” she said. “I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to be part of a university that will forever influence my life.”

Now that she has graduated, Riddle plans to work for her family’s business and eventually start her own, perhaps in funeral services, such as running funeral homes. “It's a wonderful ministry and I would love the opportunity to help families through difficult times,” she said. — Rachel Davis

The public health professional

Rebekah West ’10

Degree: Master of Science in Public Health
Hometown: Fuquay-Varina, N.C.

Although the Master of Science in Public Health program at Campbell University’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences opened in August 2012, it graduated its first two students Saturday. Both Rebekah West and Kristina Wolfe took on extra work over the course of a year and half to graduate ahead of schedule. West already has a full-time position lined up.

She has accepted a position as an Active Routes to School Project Coordinator under the Community Transformation Grant. She will work with schools in 10 counties in North Carolina to increase the number of children who meet physical activity recommendations.

“I applied to Campbell’s Public Health program with a desire to serve my community, and I will graduate as a public health professional equipped to go out and make a difference,” West said, adding she is equipped with knowledge that will help her address barriers in access to health care and issues facing rural communities.

“The education I have obtained from Campbell University has fully prepared me to discuss public health in a professional setting and has given me a passion to positively impact health outcomes in rural areas.” — Leah Whitt

The physician assistant

Andrita Stokes

Degree: Master of Physician Assistant Practice
Hometown: Fayetteville, N.C.

Andrita Stokes chose to enter health care after a family member was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a clinical research scientist, she worked in labs at major scientific research firms and conducted experiments related to breast cancer. “My career was very rewarding and helped me understand what my family member was going through from a scientific perspective,” said Stokes, who has an undergraduate degree in bioenvironmental engineering and a graduate degree in biology.

But she longed to interact more directly with people and deliver exceptional health care to women. She prayed for guidance, and she talked to others, including her own physician assistant. Becoming a physician assistant herself, she decided, “would fit me like a well-tailored suit, providing me the opportunity serve others and the flexibility to balance being a wife and mother along with my outside community involvement.”

On Dec. 14, Stokes was among the 34 who comprise the first class of students to graduate from Campbell University with a Master of Physician Assistant Practice degree. “Campbell took a chance on me [and] gave me the one shot I needed to pursue my dream of becoming a physician assistant,” she said.

Though Campbell’s PA program was just beginning in August 2011 when she started her studies, she had no qualms about being part of the inaugural PA class because of the university’s reputation, particularly “the renowned success of the law school and pharmacy school,” she said. “I had the same expectations for the physician assistant program and felt confident that it wouldn’t fall short with providing the education and clinical foundation that I needed to become a successful PA.”

It didn’t fall short, Stokes said, adding that Campbell has helped prepare her for a career in women’s health “exponentially.” The clinical rotations allowed her to learn about the internalized aspects of medicine and to meet physicians who have become mentors; the state-of-the-art medical facilities and technology provided invaluable, hands-on training; and professors like David Coniglio have been encouraging and motivating. “Campbell has helped shape my future by providing me with the medical knowledge and clinical skills I need to be a remarkable PA,” she said. — Rachel Davis

The other side of sports management

Daniel Sippy

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Sports Management
Hometown: Raleigh, N.C.

Daniel Sippy spent his final semester at Campbell University interning in a world both familiar and foreign to him all at once.

The sports management major entered the communications realm this fall to work for North Carolina’s most-listened-to sports radio program, The David Glenn Show. Sippy’s career goals include working in the front office for a major or minor league baseball team, but this internship had him poring through on-air interviews, clipping segments and posting them online and learning the ins and outs of the radio industry.

While that may not seem like proper training for a more business-centered career, Sippy said he couldn’t have landed a better opportunity.

“I think this actually gave me a clearer view of the business side of sports,” he said. “I was able to learn the odds and ends of the sports industry — from how teams or programs market themselves to how they deal with the media. This internship allowed me to view sports management from the media’s point of view … it’s been a valuable experience.”

The internship was set up through assistant professor Elizabeth Lange, who had a connection with David Glenn and Capital Broadcasting Company. She knew Sippy was “superb at remember sports information and stats and utilizing social media,” therefore the job, despite the emphasis on communications rather than sports management or exercise science, was a perfect fit.

“I teach students the importance of making connections, networking and building professional relationships,” Lange said. “My goal is to empower students to become their best selves. Daniel has certainly represented himself and Campbell in a commendable and professional manner.”

He also worked hard to get Campbell “on the air.” Glenn, whose show is based in Raleigh but is broadcast on several stations throughout the state (including the Charlotte market), had new Campbell football coach Mike Minter on twice during the fall.

Glenn said he was happy to take on an intern whose interests leaned more toward the business side of sports.

“If you told me at 23 years old I was not only going to be mainly in radio, but have the largest sports radio show in North Carolina, I would have told you you were out of your mind,” he said. “That’s why my eyes are open to more than a narrow set of qualifications for interns. You can end up owning an NFL team, becoming an athletic director or being a sports agent, and at some point you will benefit from knowing what is going on on the other side of the media curtain. Communications is an unbelievably valuable skill to have in your skillset, even if you’re not in the media, and even if you’re not in sports.” — Billy Liggett


A great collection of stories that reflect the diversity of the university experience at Campbell University. The stories are compelling and, bonus, well-written. The art is quite good too.

By Michael Ray Smith on December 17, 2013 - 8:14am

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