Liberal Arts Approach Does Graduates Good

May 16, 2006

A 72-year-old and an 18-year-old. A Buddhist father. A graphic designer. A United States Air Force officer-to-be. Just a few of the students who earned their degrees from Mary Baldwin University at Commencement May 21. Each of the college’s 319 graduates has a story to tell; together they demonstrate the range of avenues students are prepared to take as a result of a broad liberal arts education. The following are a few you don’t want to miss:

  • Amanda Davis, a student in Mary Baldwin’s Master of Arts in Teaching. Davis earned her undergraduate degree from Mary Baldwin in 2002. After a semester of graduate school at a larger state university, Davis returned to “the intimacy and philosophy” of Mary Baldwin. While working on her MAT degree — with a focus on special education — she has worked in Richmond-area public schools with the Head Start program and special education students. Davis is currently on bed rest during a complicated pregnancy, but she is determined to make it to Commencement to receive her graduate degree in the flesh. “It is so meaningful to be there with your classmates; it represents all that we have gone through to get to that moment.”
  • LaToya Devezin, Residential College for Women. Devezin’s family’s home in New Orleans was wrecked during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, and members of her extended family evacuated to other parts of the country, including Staunton. Her brother, Michael Devezin, enrolled in the Baldwin Online and Adult Programs at Mary Baldwin because his former college, Southern University, suspended classes. Despite her family’s extreme and unexpected hardships, she is set to receive her bachelor’s degree May 21.
  • Pat Dillon, Baldwin Online and Adult Programs. “I wanted to finish my degree before my grandchildren,” said Dillon. And she did, earning her degree in history in January 2006, just before her 72nd birthday. Dillon, valedictorian of her high school, was accepted at University of Richmond and started classes there after graduation ? in the early 1950s. The birth of her first child came soon after, though, and Dillon met the first obstacle that put her dreams of a college education on hold. She stayed home while her husband attended dental school at Medical College of Virginia, from where she earn her first degree. “They gave me a Ph.T.,” Dillon smiled. “It stands for ‘Putting Hubby Through!’” Unfortunately, her husband was killed in a car accident when the couple’s son and daughter were young. She made sure her children had the opportunity to attend college before she herself did. She continued to pick up college courses here and there, and in 1999, a remarried Dillon started at Mary Baldwin University. A summer internship with the director of Virginia’s department of historic resources was one of the pinnacle experiences in her education, she said. “You’re never really finished,” Dillon said. “Getting this far just makes me want to keep going, but I think I’ll take a little rest anyway.”
  • Therese Landin, Residential College for Women and Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership.Update: Landin recently recieved the Brigadier General Alonzo J. Walter Award for Most Outstanding Air Force Cadet, recognizing her as the top Air Force cadet in VWIL and the Virginia Military Institute.Therese “Terry” Landin’s calendar for the next month looks something like this: commission into the United States Air Force, college graduation, her wedding, move to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama to begin Air Force training. The Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership first captain — the leader of the corps of cadets — has had a full final year at Mary Baldwin, and the next phase of her life is not letting up on activity. Landin rose to leadership after just two years in VWIL, and she is set to complete her Mary Baldwin degree with majors in international relations and political science three years after she started at the college. The daughter of Army personnel — both her mother and father enlisted — she choose Mary Baldwin over other colleges in the area that offer military programs for “its combination of civilian and military training, and its focus on making all members the best leaders they can be.” After graduation, and her wedding to Virginia Military Institute grad a week later, Landin and her new husband will enter a highly selective pilot program at Maxwell AFB, then start their Air Force careers together in Oklahoma.
  • Nzinga Salcedo-Hutchison, Residential College for Women and Program for the Exceptionally Gifted. Never mind that Salcedo-Hutchinson’s native language growing up in Colombia was Spanish; no language barrier held Ziggy — as her friends call her — back in school when she and her mother moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, when she was 10 years old. Ziggy’s first attempt to enter the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted was denied; program leaders suggested she experience at least a year of high school in the United States. Ziggy was accepted a year later into PEG, as a Malone Scholar with a full scholarship, at age 14. She credits the skills that helped her quickly absorb a new language with earning her admittance into the program. “I’m not a super genius or anything,” a moderate Spanish accent still inflects her voice. “The reason I’m probably here is that I can pick up new concepts quickly.” She has continued to pick up language skills — primarily in French — at Mary Baldwin, and would like earn a master’s degree in translation and find a position as a translator. She will graduate from Mary Baldwin with a double major in Spanish and French. Ziggy’s applications to two prestigious grad schools were not accepted, but both encouraged her to have more real world experience before entering their programs. Instead of being discouraged, Ziggy sees it as an opportunity to explore the world and work with people one-on-one. “I look at it like I did when I was told I needed a year of high school before entering PEG ? I learned so much about myself in that year.”
  • Maria Vera, Residential College for Women. Moving from Mexico to Virginia at age nine. Summers working at Waynesboro Nurseries to help her family with household expenses. Assistance from a national organization that made enrolling at Mary Baldwin possible. Graphic design accolades from the community and the college. All these experiences and more will be rolled up in the diploma Maria Vera earns May 21. Vera received help from Telamon Corporation, a nonprofit organization that aids migrant workers and their families, to enroll at Mary Baldwin, where her talent for graphic design flourished. She has designed logos, brochures, and other promotional materials for Newtown Neighborhood Association, LEARN, Inc., and the Staunton Trolley Service. She also received the college’s award for outstanding graphic design.

Related Commencement 2006 articles:
Berry to Address Volunteerism at Commencement
Brain-Based Learning Inspired MAT Student
Baldwin Online and Adult Programs Student’s Personal Journey in Chinese Studies
Students Share Senior Projects