Celebrating its spring commencement Friday and Saturday, 139-year-old Brenau University passed a major milestone in its history: It conferred more advanced graduate degrees than undergraduate diplomas.
“More than half of the graduates of Brenau during this 2016-17 academic year were graduate students,” said President Ed Schrader. “These are folks that have already achieved one level and have moved on to the second level to further their education and their careers. They all deserve a special recognition.”
The milestone is significant, Schrader said, because the university’s 2025 strategic plan, approved by the board of trustees in 2010, called doubling the enrollment to about 5,000 students in the 15-year period primarily through the growth of professionally oriented advanced degree programs mostly in health sciences, education and business. In the past year, the enrollment in Brenau’s nationally recognized Master of Business Administration program had grown to the largest in Georgia, No. 1 in the annual Atlanta Business Chronicle annual listing of MBA programs.
(ABOVE: Graduates, family and friends fill Brenau’s front campus Saturday for the Brenau University Graduate and Undergraduate Commencement ceremony. (Courtesy AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Along with those who participated in the December commencement, the May 2017 graduates pushed the total Brenau graduates in the 2016-17 academic year to 823. Counting those who received diplomas at this year’s two May ceremonies, 485 of the total 2016-17 graduates completed doctorate, master’s or educational specialist degrees at Brenau.
On Friday, 125 graduates from the 139-year-old Brenau Women’s College residential campus in Gainesville received undergraduate diplomas. In the Saturday ceremony, which honored students from all Brenau campuses and online, the university conferred 92 associate and bachelor’s degrees. The remaining 187 who were eligible to participate in the Saturday ceremony earned graduate degrees in business, health sciences, education and other specialties.
Kirsten Winquist, a voice of Jimmy Buffett’s Radio Margaritaville on Sirius XM, addressed both groups of graduates, advising them that they will have to “do the grunt work” to succeed even in the pursuits of life they were born to do. (See earlier story “Radio Personality Kirsten Winquist Tells Women’s College Graduates that Chasing Dreams Requires ‘Grunt Work’” for more details.)
The university posthumously conferred a master’s degree in interior design on Christy Lantigua from Marietta, who died in February. Lantigua earned a bachelor’s degree from Brenau in 2006, and she was honored by interior design program chair Lynn Jones after the conferral of degrees Saturday.