December 12, 2011
UNC Asheville will hold its December 2011 Commencement, with some 220 graduates receiving diplomas, in a ceremony that begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. The December 2011 Commencement will be the first to be held in the new Kimmel Arena at the Wilma M. Sherrill Center on campus.
The commencement address will be 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.
Among the graduates are 10 who have completed UNC Asheville’s growing Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) Program. This is the largest number of graduates to receive master’s degrees at one time from UNC Asheville.
The oldest member of the graduating class, 73-year-old Avril Dobbelaer, who is receiving a bachelor’s degree in History, is now enrolling in the MLA program. This native of England who has lived on three continents is one of many graduates with varied and interesting stories (see profiles that follow).
For complete information about commencement and related events, visit alumni.unca.edu/commencement or call UNC Asheville News Services at 828.251.6526.
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 apartheiid.
“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 will receive a B.A. 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
Asheville native Courtney Galatioto, president of the Student Government Association for the 2010-2011 academic year, proved herself as a spokesperson, advocate, administrator and leader. This year she is lead policy intern in the Student Energy Internship and Fellowship Program, working to improve UNC Asheville’s sustainability practices and helping the university save energy and water. She is graduating in December with a bachelor’s degree in History but her internship will continue through April. At that point, Galatioto will seek work in public administration, consulting or politics, with an eye on graduate school in Washington, D.C., or Boston down the road.
“Each class and professor provided me with new, and often unique, perspectives on understanding the contemporary world, the classical world, history, and most of all, human nature. I have never been prouder to be a native Ashevillian and share my city with a university of this kind and I will never be prouder than to state that I am indeed a product of UNC Asheville.” – Courtney Galatioto
Ricky Shriner, who will graduate with 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, will graduate 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’s parents are coming to Asheville for Lassi’s commencement and then the family will return to their native Finland for the holidays. Hurskainen will 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