The 94 feet of the WVU Coliseum’s basketball court was replaced Sunday by a blue carpet of about the same length, cushioning the first steps of West Virginia University’s latest graduates as they moved from college student to college graduate.

Click here to read the story of Caroline Larsson, one of the many international students who graduated Sunday.

“It still hasn’t set in yet that I’m leaving,” said Kelsey Gaus, a English major from Audubon, Pa., one of about 700 students who made the trek down the carpet. “I learned so much about myself and other cultures. There isn’t just one way of life or one way to go about things. There are so many different people that go here, but in the end we’re all similar. We all bleed gold and blue.”

Sunday’s December Convocation recognized the approximately 1,500 August and December graduates.

They will never truly leave WVU, though. Those moments created during semester after semester will live on, as Mountaineer Nation continues to grow.

“We love our school, and we are such big fans of everything we do at WVU,” said international studies and Chinese studies double-major Lorena Soto. “There is such a sense of community here. As I’ve involved myself, I’ve realized that it’s so much more about going to school – it’s about getting involved.”

Soto is one of several of family members to graduate from WVU after coming to the U.S. from Venezuela. Her extended family and even one of her best friends from grade school flew in for Sunday’s Convocation.

“WVU has allowed me the opportunity to do exactly what I want in the future,” said Soto, who wants to teach English is either China or Taiwan. “I will miss the close friendships I’ve made here. The people, the friends and the calmness of Morgantown make this a special place.”

Katherine Morgan, a philosophy student from Glenarden, Md., wanted to leave WVU in her first semester – but found many reasons to stay before graduating a year early. She knew WVU was the place for her when her freshman roommates decorated their dorm room for her birthday.

“At that point, I finally thought that I had friends here that really cared,” she said. “After that, I started to get involved and meet other people.”

Quickly after that, she joined the Zeta Phi Beta sorority and eventually became the president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. In addition, she graduated in three years and even had the opportunity to study abroad in England.

Prior to students walking across the Coliseum floor and receiving a letter of congratulations, WVU President Jim Clements spoke briefly to those graduates and their families wrapping around three-fourths of the arena.

“Today marks the end of an important chapter in your life and the beginning of a new adventure,” Clements said. “This is an occasion to celebrate, and you’ve earned it.”

Laurie Badzek, a professor and director of the Appalachian Quality of Life Institute in the WVU School of Nursing at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, was the keynote speaker of the event.

“Today, you join approximately 7 percent of the world’s population with a college degree. You are our future leaders and discoverers who as individuals and collectively will change the world,” Badzek said. “I encourage you to go far and find success. And I dare you to care – to bring out the best in yourself and others.”

Jake Springer, an international studies major Chesapeake Beach, Md., was a tour guide at the WVU Visitors Center. In addition, he joined a fraternity and traveled to England during his time at the University.

“I would tell future WVU students to find a place where you can see yourself involved in the community. WVU is like a small town; it’s hard to not be involved and meet people,” Springer said. “I’ll miss the people I’ve met on and around campus. Between my coworkers, fraternity brothers and friends, I know I’ll have a reason to look forward to coming back and visiting.”

Travis Ward, a political science graduate from Charlottesville, Va., will cherish his time at WVU for the rest of his life.

“My time here at WVU has been invaluable. I’ve been able to mature both personally and academically,” he said. “I’m excited to carry what I’ve learned into the next chapter of my life.”

Diplomas will be mailed to December graduates in January after grades are confirmed with the Office of the University Registrar.

To view the archived webcast of the convocation, go to

By Tony Dobies
University Relations/News



CONTACT: University Relations/News

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