Wesleyan College Graduates 130 at 2010 Commencement

MACON, Ga. — During the 2010 commencement ceremony, Wesleyan College graduated 106 candidates for undergraduate degrees (99 earned Bachelor of Arts degrees and 7 earned Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degrees) and 24 candidates for Master of Arts degrees. In a separate ceremony, Wesleyan awarded 21 graduate degrees to professionals through its Executive Master of Business Administration program.

Of the 2010 graduates who earned the Bachelor of Arts degree at Wesleyan, 21% earned double majors and 25% graduated with honors. Top majors for 2010 were: psychology, business administration, education, biology, and studio art. Roughly 60% of the graduates had secured professional positions in their fields of study and/or had accepted positions in graduate programs prior to commencement, according to voluntary surveys completed by most graduating seniors. An estimated 27% of the graduating class will immediately begin master’s or doctoral programs that represent a broad range of study including theology, social work, chemistry, athletic leadership, arts administration, law, psychology, mental health counseling, heritage preservation, and geo-physics. They’re heading off to some of the most prestigious graduate schools in the world like Yale, Duke, University of Pennsylvania, Emory, Baylor College of Medicine, NYU, and University of Southern California.

Many Wesleyan graduates enter the workforce with unique qualifications and have combined major and minor programs in ways that separate them from other job-seeking candidates. Some double major combinations of 2010 graduates include: political science and women’s studies, psychology and theatre, English and art history, biology and business administration, and Spanish and history. The 2010 graduates moving directly into the workforce will pursue professions in a wide variety of fields including education, accounting, law, insurance, business, and politics. One will serve as an Americorps legal advocate, another on a congressional campaign, and another as a laboratory assistant in the dermatology and genetics department at Yale University. A few of this year’s graduates will delay graduate school and work to pursue summer research programs at places like IBM’s Almaden Research Center and NASA’s Airborne Research Program. Despite the major field of interest, Wesleyan’s rigorous academic program combined with a foundation of faith and service produces graduates unified through engaged leadership and a commitment to pursue more purposeful lives.

Wesleyan’s graduating seniors anxiously awaited the call to action and inspiration of commencement speaker Michelle Nunn, a nationally recognized agent of change and leader of the world’s largest global volunteer network. “The Nunn family has a legacy of connection with Wesleyan... We have three generations worth of gratitude for Wesleyan’s profound gifts to women and the world,” she said referring to her own honor of serving as commencement speaker plus the Wesleyan women in her family including her aunt, Betty Nunn Mori ‘58, who currently serves as an active member of the Board of Trustees and her grandmother, Elizabeth Cannon Nunn ’26, whose endowed scholarship has helped many students earn degrees. During the ceremony, Michelle Nunn was presented with an honorary Doctor of Public Service, the same honorary degree that Wesleyan presented to her father, Senator Sam Nunn Jr., in 1987 when he delivered the College’s commencement address.

Michelle Nunn’s personal ties to the College and her life-long dedication to service fueled a powerful address on the critical importance of servant leadership in effecting global change. Nunn applauded Wesleyan’s national recognition for service, citing its inclusion on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement. Wesleyan has earned the Honor Roll with Distinction Award twice, an accomplishment no other college or university in the state can claim.

Nunn then urged the graduates to honor Wesleyan’s legacy of servant leadership and consider their roles in changing the world. “Savor and save the world,” Nunn implored. “I have always been sympathetic with E.B White’s dilemma when he said, ‘I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.’ I believe that savoring the world and saving it can be a part of each of our days and our lives.”

Michelle credited her grandmother’s pioneering spirit for much of her own success. “My grandmother, Elizabeth Nunn, taught me a lot about relishing life,” she said as she described her grandmother’s passion for travel, exploration, and life-long learning. “In travel and adventure, we fall in love with the world. In my own experience, when I faced a wall of dislocation, anxiety, and even despair during college, I managed to pick myself up, get on a boat with 500 other students and cross the ocean for a semester at sea to explore twelve countries. It was the exact antidote that I needed and it created in me a life-long passion for travel -- the kind of travel where you venture by local bus in Guatemala saddled between goats and chickens, or cross into the West Bank to talk with Palestinian women about democracy, or rise before sunset to catch a glimpse of the Himalayas, or bathe in the Ganges. ... In falling in love with and savoring the world, we find that we are impelled to serve it and save it,” she said.

“I have come to appreciate that it is the imagination and energy of our citizens that write the narrative of change – today and throughout our history. From Ben Franklin to Martin Luther King, we have been shaped by voluntary movements that have organized, advocated, and created. Volunteers built institutions like the Red Cross, Sierra Club and the Salvation Army. Volunteers have shifted the nation’s moral compass. They have inspired and demanded new legislation from the women’s movement to the environmental movement. The rights and privileges we all take for granted have been won by the perseverance and moral courage of citizen leaders. When you think about the defining and iconic leaders of our nation, they are service leaders who called others to action: Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, or Rachel Carson.” Referencing a number of the world’s most influential leaders who dedicated their lives to service and advocacy, she said, “Remember that change starts with individuals.”

Speaker Michelle Nunn is the CEO of Points of Light Institute and Co-Founder of HandsOn Network. In 2007, Points of Light Foundation and HandsOn Network merged into a single organization, creating the world’s largest global volunteer network. The new organization, now called Points of Light Institute, encompasses more than 250 affiliates in all 50 states and 12 international communities in ten countries. These affiliates act as community hubs—places where people can get connected, get involved, and make change happen in their communities.

The Points of Light Institute inspires, equips, and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. The Institute has a global focus to redefine volunteerism and civic engagement for the 21st century, putting people at the center of community problem solving. Currently, Points of Light Institute operates three dynamic business units that share a mission: the Civic Incubator, MissionFish and HandsOn Network. These organizations put people to work accomplishing tasks that matter– tutoring children, building wheelchair ramps for disabled individuals, and transforming schools and homes.

Nunn began her career as the founding director of HandsOn Atlanta, a non-profit organization and now an affiliate of HandsOn Network that helps individuals, families, and corporate and community groups find flexible volunteer opportunities at more than 400 service organizations and schools. She was the organization’s first staff person, and under her leadership, HandsOn Atlanta grew from a grassroots startup in 1989 to one of the nation’s largest community-based volunteer organizations. As similar organizations were developed across the country, an overarching entity was created to manage the growing network of affiliates. Nunn became president and CEO of HandsOn Network and later took the helm of the combined Points of Light Institute and HandsOn Network after the merger.

Nunn graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Virginia in 1989 with a major in history and a minor in religion. She has studied at Oxford University and in India. She was a Kellogg National Fellow and has a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Nunn currently serves on the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, is a co-convener of the ServiceNation coalition and serves as a board member of All for Good. She has received a variety of awards, including the Fast Company Award in 2007 and 2008. Recently, Georgia Trend Magazine named her as one of the "100 Most Influential Georgians." For the third consecutive year, The Non-Profit Times has named Michelle to its annual “Power and Influence Top 50” list of change agents from the non-profit sector.