New beginnings for BC

Published 9:08 pm Friday, May 13, 2011

BAINBRIDGE COLLEGE PRESIDENT RICHARD CARVAJAL presents graduates their diploma covers Thursday night.

JAMES C. ULMER receives the Outstanding Graduate Medallion from Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Tonya Strickland.

Bainbridge College’s graduating class of 2011 was in store for some new beginnings Thursday.

For the first time in 15 years, a graduation ceremony was held on the college’s campus; held for many years at Memorial Colisuem, this commencement was marked Thursday at the new Student Wellness Center.

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For the first time, the enrollment at Bainbridge College grew to more than 4,000 students, and approximately 200 of them can now call themselves Bainbridge College graduates after Thursday evening.

And for the first time, the college community heard as its commencement speaker the new president of Bainbridge College—Richard Carvajal. There were also several new traditions started during the ceremony, which included a slide show marking the graduates’ career at BC, having faculty speakers, and a presentation of Outstanding Graduate Medallion, which went to James. C. Ulmer.

Outstanding student

Ulmer, 57, is categorized as a non-traditional student, but on Thursday, there were many “non-traditional” students scattered in with the twenty-something generation. Ulmer, who carried a 4.0 grade point average through his BC career, said he’s proud that he has his Associates in Electronics Technology—but he’s hoping for a job even more.

“Awards are fine, but what I want is a job,” Ulmer said.

And if he got a job with his degree, he would be hired as a trainee.

“There’s a lot of people in the same boat. There’s a lot of people hunting for work and this is one option,” Ulmer said.

Ulmer had worked for Propex until he was laid off in 2006. He was almost immediately hired by American Fibers and Yarns, but then that plant closed and he was without a job again in October 2008. That’s when he went to college.

Ulmer, who graduated from Bainbridge High School in 1971, said if he had known then what he knows now, he would have taken his education more seriously back then. At the top of his class Thursday, Ulmer said he had to really work at his degree.

“I’m humbled as I did as well as I did. I’m a slow learner,” he said, adding that he had to review and study hard to maintain his 4.0 GPA. “Hopefully, this will catch someone’s attention and I can get a job.”

Carvajal’s speech

The college’s president, who began at BC in January and is the youngest college president in Georgia’s university system, said he charted his future course by holding to four principles, which he suggested the graduates would find helpful.

“First of all, I committed myself long ago to the continuing pursuit of excellence in the workplace,” Carvajal said.

He said look for the strengths and potential areas of growth for your organization, make sure people are appreciated, “But once that is done, never settle for the status quo.”

“The second principle that I have adopted for myself is to always try to make an impactful difference in my community,” Carvajal said. He urged the graduates to invest in the community and become involved in worthy causes.

His third principle was that leadership starts at home.

“Don’t forget why you went to college, and don’t forget why you made the commitment that many of you did to improve your life,” Carvajal said, adding later, “A friend of mine once told me that not everyone will grow up to be the leader of our country, but everyone can be a leader in their own home. I hope you will do just that.”

Finally, Carvajal’s fourth principle—and one that has been perhaps the most meaningful to him—has been to never, ever quit. He draws from that inspiration from a simple gift a family member gave him of a wall hanging with that famous poem titled “Don’t Quit” inscribed on it.

In fact, Carvajal had individually signed 320 copies of the poem that he left for each graduate and faculty member Thursday night on each of their chairs.

“Now go out, and become the difference-makers in your workplace, in your community and in your family that your country needs, and that we know you can become,” Carvajal concluded.