Utah State University presented degrees to 168 students from the USU Tooele Regional campus during a graduation ceremony held Saturday afternoon at the Tooele High School auditorium.
This was the largest number of degrees ever conferred at a USU Tooele graduation. The previous record was 140 degrees awarded at the 2010 graduation ceremony. Julie Hartley-Moore, USU Tooele Campus associate director, offered a variety of reason for the growth in graduates.
“We have had growth in programs,” said Moore. “Over the past four years we have tripled the size of the full-time faculty from three or four to 10. This year, we also graduated our first students with a master’s in human resources, bachelor’s degree in social work, and an associate degree in pre-nursing.”
The economy also contributed to the increase in graduates with the first wave of increased numbers of traditional-aged students that enrolled at USU Tooele during the start of the recession to save money completing associate’s degrees this year. Hartley-Moore added that Pell grants that helped non-traditional students go back to school also bolstered the number of graduates.
Several workers receiving tuition assistance from URS, which completed its mission at the Deseret Chemical Depot earlier this year, also finished degrees this year, according to Hartley-Moore. Included in the degrees presented were 10 master’s degrees, 61 bachelor’s degrees, and 97 associate’s degrees. The associate degrees included six earned by high school students enrolled in concurrent education classes.
Scott Wardle, Tooele City Council chairman and a member of the USU Tooele Regional Campus Advisory Board, was the commencement speaker. He is also a USU alumnus. “We are facing difficult times with changes in the economy and in society,” said Wardle. “Things are becoming contentious. I ask you to listen to learn and learn to understand.” By listening and understanding, Wardle said today’s graduates will be able to solve today’s problems. He encouraged graduates to make a choice to serve and to have the courage to become civic entrepreneurs. “We need people working in our communities that are able to face the challenges of today and solve them,” he said.
Wardle also praised USU Tooele as a linchpin of the community. “The USU Regional Campus reduces the cost of education so our students can receive their education right here in the county,” said Wardle. “It also allows students that need to retrain themselves to stay in the workforce the opportunity to do so while meeting their other obligations — like at home as a parent.” Graduates also heard from Erin Wilston, who received a bachelor’s degree in social work.
“I went back to school in 2009 when I was downsized out of job,” said Wilston, who is a mother of four children. “I needed to prepare myself for a new career.” Wilston initially met with advisors and set a course to earn a degree in elementary education. “I came back to my advisor later when I discovered I wasn’t really an elementary education major,” said Wilston.
She described how she changed her initial plan and set out to major in social work, then found out she was pregnant and feared she would have to drop out of school, but with the help of advisors and teachers she was able to stay enrolled and finish her degree. “It was not easy,” said Wilston. “But I found that with some changes you can stick to your plan and achieve your goals.”