Spring 2018 Commencement Confers Record Number of Islander Graduates

Published: May 12, 2018

Spring 2018 Commencement Confers Record Number of Islander Graduates

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Excitement filled the air as the largest class of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi graduates – 1,141 to be exact – completed another milestone in their academic journey, the earning of a new degree. For most, it was their first degree, while for others receiving a master’s or doctoral degree, it was a continuation of a lifelong journey of learning.

The ceremony began with the procession of Islander faculty, followed by the filing in of students. Family and friends whistled with enthusiasm and cheered with joy as their graduates entered the American Bank Center arena. Dressed in black robes, and adorned with cords, fresh flower leis, and topped off with mortarboard caps embellished with quotes, scripture and memorabilia, the students beamed with pride as they walked towards their seats.

Welcoming remarks were given by Dr. Kelly M. Quintanilla, President and CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who then introduced the commencement speaker, Elaine Mendoza. Mendoza, who is serving her second consecutive term as Vice Chair of the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, is founder, president, and CEO of Conceptual MindWorks, Inc., a biotechnology and medical informatics company located in San Antonio. Mendoza gave an inspirational speech about overcoming challenges and seeing “failure” as an indicator that someone is reaching for their dreams, despite difficulties.

“Surely, you had days that were crazy with school, family, jobs, grades, boyfriends, girlfriends… all that craziness,” said Mendoza in her address to the graduates. “But you have proven to yourself that no matter what challenges lie ahead, you have what it takes to hit them head on and accomplish what you have set out to do. You now know that… all the barriers and heartache are worth it and you will endure.”

Mendoza then challenged each student to make a difference by doing the right thing for the right reasons.

“Your calling… is something that is placed deep in your heart which uses the unique gifts and talents you have been given to serve others,” Mendoza said. “As you move forward, pay special attention to the work that grabs your interest, the things that you do to capture your heart, mind, soul. That is your calling.”

Jasmine De Leon followed her calling by earning a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Cum Laude.

“I chose philosophy because I thought it would make me a well-rounded individual and teach me how to think calmly and critically,” De Leon said. “I hope to one day have a job in higher education as a program director or maybe even as president of a university!”

During her freshman year, De Leon joined the Island Ambassadors program. She was also a senator for the Student Government Association, was a resident advisor and was elected Philosophy Club president.

“My involvement in campus activities has made me passionate about Texas A&M-Corpus Christi,” said De Leon. “All of my favorite memories revolve around being an Island Ambassador. My fellow ambassadors were my family for the past four years, and the time I was with them shines as my favorite experiences while in college.”

Leah Bernhardt earned a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences, Cum Laude. Bernhardt, who hails from Fort Worth, chose A&M-Corpus Christi for its small student to teacher ratio and for its “island” vibe. She was a member of the Honors Program while an Islander.

“My degree plan was rigorous and I was challenged in all of my upper-level science courses,” said Bernhardt. “Because I was in the Honors Program, I also had to complete 30 hours of classes above my regular curriculum, plus I completed a Project of Excellence, which was enlightening!”

Bernhardt’s ultimate career goal is to work at the Fort Worth Zoo, though for the time being, she has accepted a one-year internship with the Baptist Student Ministry at A&M-Corpus Christi.

“I’m excited to be on campus for another year, but not have to worry about taking classes or studying for tests,” said Bernhardt. “I loved being on campus and I don’t want to leave. Plus, being a part of the Baptist Student Ministry changed my life. I’m a totally different person than I was when I started college and I credit that to being involved in campus ministry.”

Nathaniel Steele earned a Master of Science in Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner, through online study. Steele lives in McAllen and works at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg as a pediatric ICU nurse.

“Even as an online student, I got to come up to campus multiple times,” said Steele. “It’s a beautiful campus and the staff and faculty were great. They really make you feel welcome and that made this a reality for me.”

Steele is a father of seven children, ages one to 16, and credits his wife with supporting him through the demanding program.

“My wife was the backbone for making this happen,” said Steele.

After each graduate’s name was called, and degrees were conferred, students and their families reunited outside of the American Bank Center for photos along scenic Shoreline Drive.

The spring 2018 Commencement ceremonies were live streamed and can be found at the following links: 10 a.m. ceremony and 2 p.m. ceremony. A full photo gallery of both events can be found by clicking the following link. You can also view past commencement ceremony coverage by visiting our commencement section.