Congratulations, Class of 2017

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More than 5,600 UGA students will earn their degrees this week and join an alumni network of more than 300,000.

More than 5,600 undergraduate and graduate students will earn their degrees from the University of Georgia this Friday. In doing so, they begin a new chapter in their lives while continuing a tradition that stretches more than 200 years into the past.

One of the best ways to measure the success of an institution of higher learning is to look at where its alumni go after graduation. The most recent data, from the class of 2016, shows that 20 percent of recent UGA alumni further their educations through graduate or professional school, while another 75 percent were employed within six months of graduation or in an internship. This 95 percent career outcomes rate greatly exceeds the national average of 82 percent, and it highlights just how well this institution prepares students for success.

Our students are distinguished by their remarkable academic talent and also by their engagement outside of the classroom. More than a quarter of our students participate in internships, and this year UGA students set a new record for participation in our annual Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities symposium. Twenty-seven percent of our students study abroad, and last year alone 6,200 students participated in service-learning courses.

The University of Georgia has more than 300,000 living alumni, and approximately two-thirds of them live and work here in Georgia. Top employers of our alumni include Georgia-based companies and organizations such as Delta Air Lines and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A large portion of the University of Georgia’s $5.25 billion annual economic impact in Georgia stems from our alumni, who can be found in organizations large and small and in the private, public and non-profit sectors.

I have no doubt that many of tomorrow’s leaders can be found in the University of Georgia’s Class of 2017. Honors student and Foundation Fellow Laura Courchesne will study at England’s Oxford University as UGA’s 24th Rhodes Scholar, and she ultimately plans to advance peace as a conflict mediator. Juhi Varshney will be attending medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, while College of Engineering student Iain Risk will begin his career with Whiting-Turner, one of the nation’s fastest growing construction firms. An internship last summer at International Paper has led to a full-time job at IP for Blake Sherry, while Goldwater Scholar Morrison Nolan will be pursuing a master’s degree in paleontology at Virginia Tech. Stacy Cobb, who will be participating in this Friday’s graduate commencement ceremony and earned her doctorate in statistics, has already started her dream job at Duke Clinical Research Institute in North Carolina. In total, more than 5,600 students will graduate this Friday—and each of them has a success story of their own.

The University of Georgia’s 1785 charter famously referred to the state’s obligation to form the youth, which it described as “the rising hope of our land.” As our new alumni and their families ring the Chapel Bell to celebrate their graduation this week, those eloquent words still ring true.