Pictured are the 2024 graduates of the UGA Griffin Campus. UGA Griffin held its’ fall graduation celebration and brick ceremony on Wednesday, May 8. (Photo by Rick Blackshear)

The University of Georgia Griffin campus held its Spring Graduation Celebration and Brick Ceremony for 19 members of the Class of 2024 on May 8, representing four of the five colleges that offer degrees at UGA Griffin.  

During the ceremony each student graduating from UGA Griffin is honored with a lasting mark on campus, a brick featuring their name and class year is installed in the walkways around the Student Learning Center. This tradition is unique to the Griffin campus and in previous years, graduates’ bricks were placed at the Naomi Chapman Woodroof Pavilion.

Jeffrey Dean, Assistant Provost and Campus Director for UGA Griffin, opened the program by congratulating the students on their many accomplishments throughout their time on the Griffin campus.

“We have faced a multitude of challenges in recent semesters, not least the tornados that struck the campus and surrounding communities on January 12 of last year.  But you persevered, overcame the challenges, and are now graduating,” said Dean. “We are very pleased to celebrate your graduation and salute your achievement by holding this Griffin campus graduation and brick-laying ceremony here at the Student Learning Center.” 

He added the students have much support from not only their families and friends, but from the UGA Griffin campus community as well. Dean asked the students to join him in celebrating those who helped them get to where they are today, leading to applause erupting from the graduates.  

Following the welcome, Dean introduced the keynote speaker for the ceremony, Dr. Michelle Samuel-Foo, acting Chief of Staff of the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA’s lead funding agency in the Research, Education and Economics Mission Area.  

She is an internationally recognized Entomologist who has worked in the area of Specialty Crops and Integrated Pest Management for over 20 years. She was the 2021 recipient of the Founders Memorial Award, one of the highest awards given by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and was the first African American woman to receive this honor, as well as to serve as the President of the Southeastern Branch of ESA. She is also a former two-term president of the International Association of Black Entomologists. Dr. Foo is a double graduate of the University of Georgia (UGA), having earned both her Doctorate in Entomology as well as a master’s degree in Agronomy from the institution.

Samuel-Foo spoke to the crowd about her time on the UGA Griffin campus, noting she took her exams in the Redding Building and saw her love of entomology blossom while working in David Buntin’s lab where he was conducting research on the Hessian fly.

“Griffin is very special to me because this is where I cut my teeth in agriculture,” said Samuel-Foo, who is originally from Trinadad and Tobago. 

She told the students while she did not know everything they had to go through to get them where they are today, she does know that each of them has the inner strength to scale a mountain.

“We are here to honor you and all of your accomplishments. We salute you.”

She closed out her speech by challenging the students to do something great.

“The world is going to expect uncommon goodness from you,” she stated. “My challenge is to go out and do something great. Now is the time to make your mark on the world and help create opportunities for others.”

Dr. Michelle Samuel-Foo, Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, (right) served as the keynote speaker for the Spring 2024 graduation ceremony. She is pictured with Dr. Jeffrey Dean, Assistant Provost and Campus Director of UGA Griffin. (Photo by Ashley Biles)

Also speaking during the ceremony was the student speaker, Sudeep Pandey. Pandey is a College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences graduate, with a Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Entomology. He was selected by faculty as the student speaker for the graduation event, speaking to his classmates about their collective experiences.

“Every graduate present here today has forged their own path and carries their unique story that has led us to come together on this occasion,” said Pandey.  “I am proud of the achievements and stories of my fellow graduates.”

Pandey went on to say he hoped his fellow classmates would remember that education goes far beyond the classroom. He stated that it is not just about the skills and knowledge they have acquired, but also about the leadership, respecting diversity, and different cultures, which have been cultivated on the Griffin campus, as well as spreading love and support in our community.

“May we continue to strive for excellence, making meaningful contributions to our communities and embracing the next chapter of our lives with courage and determination,” said Pandey. “Each of us holds a bright future, and with the motivation and inspiration gained from our time at the University of Georgia, Griffin Campus, we can truly make a difference. Class of 2024, our journey has just begun. Congratulations, and as we say, Go Dawgs!”

After the ceremony, students, family and friends were invited to a reception in their honor held in the Student Learning Center on campus.

Following is a list of 2024 UGA Griffin graduates and their degrees:

College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

  • Angela Parra, Master of Science
  • Amaryllis Rivera-Santiago, Master of Science
  • Max Warner, Master of Science
  • John White Bagwell, Doctor of Philosophy
  • Sudeep Pandy, Doctor of Philosophy
  • Madhav Subedi, Doctor of Philosophy

Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

  • Sarah Bragg, Bachelor of Science
  • Emily Day, Bachelor of Arts
  • Kathryn Ansley Hall, Bachelor of Arts
  • Matthew McWaters, Bachelor of Arts

Mary Frances Early College of Education

  • John Alvarez Turner, Doctor of Education
  • Rebecca Bury, Doctor of Education
  • Leslieann Harris, Doctor of Education
  • Aneisha Jerralds, Doctor of Education
  • Desiree Johnson, Doctor of Education
  • Reggie Simpkins, Doctor of Education

Terry College of Business

  • Helena Bragg, Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Chloe Burdette, Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Christiana Raycheva, Bachelor of Business Administration