MSU Texas graduates share their thoughts and advice after graduating during a pandemic

The first MSU Texas class to graduate in person following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic walked the stage Friday and Saturday, April 30 and May 1. This graduating class consisted of 683 graduates.

There were 55 out of 76 master’s candidates who walked the stage at 6 p.m. Friday at the D.L. Ligon Colosseum. Erin Henderson, who graduated with a master’s in educational leadership, teaches first grade at Ben Franklin Elementary School and is working on getting principal certification.

MSU president, Dr. Shipley gives opening remarks, April 30. (Ryan Clayton)

“Even though we’re graduating it still seems like there’s a lot to do, but I’m excited to be done with school and have this part behind me,” Henderson said. “This year was hard especially with COVID, but Midwestern has been great in accommodating all of us, and it’s definitely worth it in the end.”

Lauren Vidmar, after having graduated with a master’s in human resources development, is looking to get a Ph.D. in a couple of years. Right now, she works as an academic counselor in the Bolin Science Hall.

“It’s funny to have this experience tied to my undergrad. I already work for the university; I already have a job. That takes a lot of the stress away, but it’s just as exciting as the bachelors [degree] was,” Vidmar said. “Just keep working and never be afraid to ask for help. I think that’s something I struggled with in my undergrad and I didn’t in my grad school career. [What] made a big difference was going to my professors and asking for help.”

MSU graduate students listen to MSU president, Dr. Shipley give opening remarks, April 30. (Ryan Clayton)

Joshua Ysasi also works for the university as the coordinator for Priddy Scholars out of the First2Go MOSAIC office. He graduated with a Master of Arts in history. He wants to continue as a coordinator, develop himself professionally and learn Spanish. He advises other Mustangs to “have grit and keep going.”

“Do something that you love and stick with it. I did my master’s degree and through that time I’ve had four kids, my dad was sick and died and the pandemic [happened],” Ysasi said. “[Through] any one of those things, if I had given up, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself, be able to achieve my goals or realize my goals.”

MSU graduate students greet the crowd before the graduation ceremony begins, April 30. (Ryan Clayton)

Timothy Torres graduated with a master’s in biology and has a position doing neurodiagnostic research for a neurologist in Wichita Falls. After a year of working, he plans to apply to medical school.

“It’s a lot of excitement. All the experiences and all of the late nights just definitely feel worth it for today,” Torres said. “As I got older, I figured out that the more fun you have with the people that you surround yourself with, the more that this all seems worth it. You don’t think back on the stressful times. You think back on the fun times.”

There were also 489 of 607 bachelor’s candidates who walked the stage at 10 a.m. Saturday at Kay Yeager Colosseum. Evin Alvarez graduated with a bachelor’s in exercise physiology and he plans to go back home to prepare for work in a hospital with rehab patients.

“I love the field and that’s everything that I’ve always wanted to do. If it’s not working at a hospital, it’s training people with other stuff [like] diseases, weight loss, weight gain… cancer, diabetes. I love being in this part of the field because it’s more than just exercise. It comes to down to mental health as well,” Alvarez said. “Surround yourself with good people. Work together. Be there for each other. It’s going to be hard. College isn’t easy but once you get there, you’ll be glad you did all of that.”

Former student government president and MSU graduate, Shelby Stogdill returns to her seat after receiving her diploma, May 1. (Ryan Clayton)

Shelbi Stogdill graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, history and global studies and is excited to take the next step of going into law school.

“Even though I kind of want to take a gap year… I’m going to keep going to college to get another degree,” Stogdill said. “I wish I would have been more involved because you get to know more people and you get to make those connections that end up lasting all four years of college.”

Venah Tembo graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and is excited to begin work in hospice care.

“It’s been [a] hard-working journey. I came to a point where I wanted to give up, but because I had passion for what I got into, I told myself ‘I can do this.’ Anybody can do it. I can do it. That’s why I managed to be here,” Tembo said. “What really got me into nursing school is the passion of taking care of people… I want to venture into hospice because it is taking care of patients and also family. People don’t realize that when somebody is in a situation where they’re about to lose their loved ones, [they need] that comfort [and] that care.”

Mechanical engineering graduate, Ty Green, poses for a photo with Dr. Shipley, May 1. (Ryan Clayton)

Rebecca Boyle graduated with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and is a nontraditional student as well as a mother of four kids.

“As I’m moving into closing a chapter of raising children, I’m going to be able to move into a career, and so I’m excited about… being able to see [where] life takes me further and the good that I can do as a counselor and eventually someday a clinical psychologist,” Boyle said. “It’s never too late to start…because everybody has a thing that could hold them back. My main advice would be that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.”

MSU president, Dr. Shipley, exits the building following the graduation ceremony, May 1. (Ryan Clayton)

Even throughout a pandemic, these graduates persevered and earned their degrees in the end. Nancy Rebarchik, who earned a master’s in special education, encouraged current students to do the same.

“Don’t quit,” Rebarchik said. “Don’t [quit] when it gets hard. Don’t quit when there’s a pandemic. Don’t quit when everything in you wants to stop. Don’t quit. You’re worth the effort.”