Southern Polytechnic State University’s 108th commencement began Saturday morning for the schools of Arts and Sciences, Computing and Software Engineering, and Engineering Technology and Management. In the afternoon, graduates of the Architecture and Construction Management, and Engineering schools walked in their processional in the SPSU gymnasium.
SPSU’s president, Lisa Rossbacher, said 386 students received diplomas on Saturday, making it “the largest-ever fall graduating class.”
Rossbacher told the crowd the graduating class was very diverse, ranging in age from 20 to 62, and were from 32 countries and 14 states, with 24 percent of the graduates being women.
On Saturday, Rossbacher also asked groupings of the students to stand for distinctions, like being the first college graduate in their family, or if they had worked and helped raise a family while getting their degree.
One such student was Jelili Agbabiaka, who moved with his wife, Tosin Agbabiaka, from Nigeria to Georgia nine years ago.
Saturday afternoon, Tosin Agbabiaka and her two young children were in the gymnasium to cheer for her husband as he crossed the stage to receive a Masters of Science in information technology.
Agbabiaka said her husband worked full-time while in school at SPSU and would often get home late, sometimes at 11 p.m.
“I am glad it is over,” Agbabiaka said.
Now, Agbabiaka said she hopes the advanced degree will result in better employment for her husband and she is willing to move the family to go “wherever the job and money is.”
The pending merger
In early November, the University System of Georgia announced a plan to place SPSU under the Kennesaw State University banner. The merger requires consent by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in December 2014.
If approved, the merger would take effect Jan. 1, 2015, making this year’s SPSU class one of the last to receive a degree from Southern Polytechnic State University.
Jerry Salo, 23, of Albany earned a construction management degree with a minor in business.
Salo said he chose SPSU because it was one of the few schools that offered the degree and a teaching style based on experience, not books.
Salo graduated cum laude and has already accepted a job offer with UCC General Contracting in Sandy Springs.
KSU president Dan Papp is slated to run the combined university, so Rossbacher has been applying for other positions across the country.
However, she was turned down this month after being considered as a finalist for the next president of Southern Utah University in Cedar City. In April of 2012, Rossbacher was a finalist for a position with Wichita State in Kansas, and in 2009, she was passed over for the top job at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
Looking to the future
George Ishadimu, 27, of Lithonia said he picked SPSU over Georgia Tech because it was more accommodating for him to work while in school. He added the Marietta campus is wide open and surrounded by nature.
“(SPSU students) are serious, they’re nerds, but they still have fun,” Ishadimu said.
Ishadimu earned a degree in computer science and said he has been tinkering with computers since he was 12 years old.
After four or five internships while studying at SPSU, Ishadimu was hired a month ago by Silverpop, a digital marketing technology company headquartered off Galleria Parkway.
Ishadimu said his strong feelings about the SPSU and KSU merger have “settled a bit” since the announcement and he understand it will make both institutions more “well-rounded.”
“We are engineers. We understand the numbers,” Ishadimu said.
Ishadimu said the only shocker was the name change. “We are going from green to brown,” he added.