By Martha Nodar

Grace Yu and Alison Kearley were among 250 Oglethorpe University graduates who cheered during their commencement ceremony May 7 surrounded by community leaders, scholars and members of the Oglethorpe community.

“I have learned so much, I feel Oglethorpe has given me a competitive edge,” said Yu, who majored in communications. “I feel prepared for the future.”

The graduates heard speeches by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and scholars Linda Bierds and Richard Wrangham. Also on hand was Oglethorpe’s 1990 commencement speaker, Andrew Young, formerly Atlanta mayor and United States ambassador to the United Nations. Young introduced Reed to the audience as “a dynamic public servant.”

“The future depends on you,” Reed told the graduates. “I know you are ready.”

Bierds, an award-winning poet and English professor at the University of Washington, talked about “stepping outside one’s boundaries” to achieve personal growth.

A primatologist, Wrangham is the Ruth Moore professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University. Wrangman holds a doctorate from Cambridge University and an undergraduate degree from Oxford University. Oglethorpe students have the option of attending Oxford one semester as visiting students.

“I created the Oxford study abroad program five years ago to enhance the Oglethorpe experience,” said Jeffrey Collins, Oglethorpe’s director of the international study abroad program as well as an anthropology and art history professor.

Collins said he thought of the idea of approaching Oxford’s administrators for a partnership with Oglethorpe when he attended a conference at Oxford in 2006.

Oglethorpe has an exchange partnership with several academic institutions but the Oxford program is not an exchange rpartnership, but rather “a very unique relationship,” he said.

Yu was among a small group of Oglethorpe students who attended Oxford last spring. Like Oglethorpe, Oxford is interested in producing well-rounded scholars and critical thinkers, she said.

“I wanted to take full advantage of everything Oglethorpe had to offer,” Yu said. “Oxford was an incredible and amazing experience.”

Yu said she also participated in a two-week trip to New York University led by Alan Loehle, Oglethorpe’s art professor. Short trips such as this are sponsored by Oglethorpe and take place during the summer to augment material learned in the classroom. Yu’s group stayed at NYU’s dormitories while they explored the city’s art museums and galleries.

After the pomp and circumstance, Kearley, a Spanish major, and Yu looked back with a touch of nostalgia.

“I will miss the Oglethorpe community, the friends I made along the way, and the professors I learned so much from,” Kearley said.

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