Graduation is not called "Commencement," or beginning, for no reason. While some things are coming to an end, so much more is yet to come. This is true for all 750-plus students who walked across the stage and received their diplomas in the Wehr Center Fieldhouse on May 1 for the 154th Commencement ceremony of Lakeland College. And it is especially true for the eleven Malawians of Cohort 2 who will head home in one month's time, ending their year in Wisconsin, but beginning the next chapter of their lives as early grade reading specialists. They are the ones who—by putting into practice the knowledge and skills gained at Lakeland —will help to change the face of early grade reading instruction throughout Malawi.
Left to right: Henderson Ngwira, Frank Mbwana, Elizir Kalilombe, Mavuto Chiwale, Yowasi Nkhambala,
Mike Kumwamba, Aleme Chitanje, Mary Florence Mzama, Margret Mandala, Edson Dzimwe, Nancy Nyirenda.
The excitement for the Malawian graduate students on Sunday, May 1, was rooted in their having the opportunity to be recognized as members of the graduating class of 2016. As Aleme Chintanje said, "It was an honor to be included in the graduation ceremony even if we have not yet completed all of the requirements of our master’s degrees."
When the graduate students return to Malawi, they will reunite with their families, friends, and colleagues. Then, they will undertake their field research projects, collecting and analyzing data, completing their theses, and in December, defending their findings.
Aleme noted that her best memory of the Commencement day is "the happiness [expressed by] professors, host parents, and friends. You could see it in their faces," she said, "and it was overwhelming, really. They showed that they love and care about us and the Malawi master’s degree program."
When I asked Aleme what she looks forward to, now that she has gotten past the first hurdle of finishing her coursework, she said, "I look forward to finishing the May Term, going back home to my family, and of course doing my research to finish my thesis. Most importantly, I look forward to being able to disseminate the knowledge I have acquired here."
I know from talking with several of the graduate students after the ceremony that they all share this feeling of elation and anticipation. Elizir Kalilombe summed it up, saying, "I just feel so happy. It is a truly a great feeling."
I think each of the graduate students would agree that something great has taken place for them at Lakeland College this year, and that more great things are yet to come.
Commencement is only the beginning.
The group of graduating students is joined by Dr. Joshua Kutney (far left), Dr. Mehraban Khodavandi (center),
Professor Jeff Elzinga (back row), and adjunct reading instructor, Ms. Geralyn Leannah, (far right)
an early grade reading specialist at Longfellow Elementary School in Sheboygan
This post is written by Lisa Vihos on behalf of Lakeland College. The program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this blog are the responsibility of Lakeland College and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the United States Government