December 17, 2011
Some 2,000 family and friends gathered in UNC Asheville’s new Kimmel Arena on Saturday, Dec. 17, to celebrate the university’s newest graduates. Included among the 222 who earned diplomas in December are 10 graduates of UNC Asheville’s growing Master of Liberal Arts program.
Chancellor Anne Ponder congratulated the graduates for having chosen a Liberal Arts education, which, she said, is preparation “for a world where being an adaptable thinker will give you the ability thrive in an increasingly complex and fast-changing world.”
The Commencement Address was delivered by Brenda Hopper, who received the 2011 Alumni Faculty Award for her “genuine care and concern for students’ professional and personal wellbeing, and her exemplary service as a mentor and advisor.” Hopper recently retired after serving for more than two decades as director of the UNC Asheville Teaching Fellows Program.
Hopper told the graduates, “My wish for each of you is that you find that career that is so natural to you that it is like breathing, one which expands your life.”
Recognizing the current economic situation, Hopper also counseled patience: “Many of you are probably thinking that any job that earns a salary would look good at this time, but remember, that first job, or second or third is only the beginning of a long working career, especially with retirement ages continually rising! So, choose a career that fulfills your personal goals and values, a career in which you can contribute toward a common greater cause. Then attack it with a passion and work ethic that will make your parents and grandparents proud.
“UNC Asheville has benefitted from its partnership with you,” Hopper told the graduates in closing. “Maintain the intellect, energy and hard work which brought you to today's graduation celebration and you will continue to influence those around you in lasting and meaningful ways. Thank you for your contributions! “
A reception for graduates and their families was held in the Justice Center following the ceremony.
Profiles of some noteworthy December 2011 UNC Asheville graduates who took part in Saturday’s Commencement ceremony:
Avril Dobbelaer, a 73-year-old native of England who has earned a B.A. in History, is the oldest member of the graduating class. As a young woman, Dobbelaer built a travel agency and then became a successful business consultant. Now a retiree, Dobbelaer finds her studies “so much fun” that she will continue on in UNC Asheville’s Master of Liberal Arts program. She is the author of the 2003 autobiographical novel, “Only for a Year,” based on her experiences as a new arrival in the U.S. As part of her work for a master’s degree, she plans to rework a second book she’s written but hasn’t published – it is about her time living in South Africa during the final years of apartheid.
“My studies aren’t part of a career path – I’m retired – but my time at UNC Asheville has added so much to the fullness of my life.” – Avril Dobbelaer
Tim Betzel, who received a B.S. in Management, is already working full-time in business development for the Asheville-based solar energy firm, SolTherm Energy. After completing most of his academic requirements last spring, Betzel began an internship with SolTherm Energy, which blossomed into a full-time position in August. Betzel, who hails from Charlotte, is happy to be able to live and work in Asheville. He began his college career at Appalachian State University and transferred to UNC Asheville for his final two years.
“What I liked best was the small, liberal arts experience, where you have the opportunity for collaboration with other students and one-to-one relationships with professors.” – Tim Betzel
Caroline Diepenbrock, a mother of seven children, age 14-31, is graduating UNC Asheville with a B.A. in History and certification to teach social sciences at the high school level. Having completed her student teaching at Erwin High School, she may go directly into teaching, or seek a master’s degree in history. Diepenbrock says the opportunity to do historical research was the most exciting part of her UNC Asheville experience.
“I had wanted to go to college when I was younger, but I had to wait. Now with my kids growing up, I wanted to have something important of my own to do. The research and writing were hard work but I really enjoyed it.” – Caroline Diepenbrock
Ricky Shriner, who earned a B.S. in Computer Science, has helped create a tour of Asheville like none other – a virtual tour in 3-D with a video game joystick used to navigate through a representation of the River Arts District and Biltmore Village, generated using aerial photography and other real world data. Created during his internship with UNC Asheville’s NEMAC (National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center), Shriner’s virtual Asheville can also simulate various flood stages, making it useful for planners. Shriner’s own personal journey has been long and winding – from entry to UNC Asheville as a freshman back in 1996, transferring to N.C. State University, leaving school and eventually returning to Asheville for jobs in some of the city’s fine restaurants, and finally earning his degree. With the skills, experience and connections he has gained, Shriner is optimistic at landing a job with a local high-tech firm.
“I’ve enjoyed working with computers since I was in elementary school, so I was determined to get back and finish. I fell in love with the library – it can be your best friend.” – Ricky Shriner
Lassi Hurskainen, soccer goalie and producer of a series of trick-shot videos that went viral, graduated with a B.A. in Mass Communication. He finished his college career as UNC Asheville’s all-time leader in saves, and with a portfolio of hit videos that have netted more than 7 million views. Hurskainen will spend the holidays with his family in their native Finland, and then come back to the U.S. in 2012 to seek work as a professional goalkeeper or in sports broadcasting.
“Whether my future will be in soccer or in video production, I don’t know. As you can see from my videos, I enjoy both, so I’m not worried. I feel I can do well in both areas. Attending UNC Asheville is the best decision I ever made. It is hard in Europe to find faculty that care about their students like at UNC Asheville.” – Lassi Hurskainen