883 Islanders Graduate during Largest Fall Commencement Ceremony

Click here to watch the 10 a.m. ceremony.

Click here to watch the 2 p.m. ceremony.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – It’s a day that will go down in history – Dec. 15, 2018 – not just because it was the largest fall commencement ceremony for Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, but also as the day that changed the lives of 883 graduating Islander students. On this day, as they took steps across the commencement stage, they simultaneously also took the first steps into the next chapter of their lives.

As excited students, dressed in long black robes adorned with stoles, cords, and pins, entered the American Bank Center arena, family and friends cheered and held up signs of congratulations for their loved ones. As the graduates took their seats, Dr. Kelly M. Quintanilla, president and CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, introduced the commencement platform party, along with keynote speaker, Dr. Robert R. Furgason, President Emeritus and ninth president of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. During his talk, Furgason shared his four A’s – Anticipate, Analyze, Act, Adapt and encouraged graduates to observe this sage advice.

“Your challenge is to take tremendous amounts of data and turn it into useful information,” said Furgason. “Also, you will need to convince a lot other people that what you’re proposing or what you’re thinking about is the right thing to do. Also, have a good working relationship with your colleagues… and remember that nonverbal communication is very powerful.”

For the first time, the ceremony included the conferring of degrees from A&M-Corpus Christi’s newest college, University College. John Sixta III is one such graduate. 

“Graduation means finishing a chapter of my life that I started 18 years ago at Texas Tech University. I have several associate degrees and a lot of certificates, but I never finished my bachelor’s degree,” said Sixta, who earned a Bachelor of Applied Science. “I am going to graduate school at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the spring and I just got a job as a teaching assistant. So it’s the first step toward finishing my education and I plan on getting my doctorate.”

Yessica Azua earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, EC-6, bilingual generalist. Azua is the first in her family to graduate from high school and college.

“From as far back as I could remember, whenever I played with my friends, I was always ‘the teacher,’” said Azua, who thanks her husband and children for her success at A&M-Corpus Christi.

Azua, who earned multiple scholarships and grants during her time on campus, says her favorite memory as an Islander was her experience as a student teacher.

“You fall in love with the kids immediately and you don’t want to leave, and it proved to me once more that this is what I wanted to do, this is where I needed to be,” said the Cum Laude graduate.

Thalia Ramirez, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, lost her mother during her time as a college student, and because of the tragedy, gained custody of her younger brother and sister.

“It was a struggle, but every day, what got me through was knowing I was getting the degree for them,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez looks forward to a successful career as a nurse, with a possible focus in pediatrics or psychiatry.

“To be a nurse, you have to be compassionate,” Ramirez said. “The patients aren’t in the hospital for a vacation; they are there because they are sick, and you have to have the heart for it.”

Cody Lopez earned a Master of Science in Environmental Science degree from the College of Science and Engineering. As an undergraduate, Lopez said he volunteered at the Center for Water Supply Studies and was encouraged by Director Dorina Murgulet to go on graduate school and continue working at the center.

“I already knew how to do the work at her research lab and the project I was volunteering on could become my thesis project,” Lopez said. “So I stayed on and got into grad school and I finished the project – I worked from start to finish – with Dr. Murgulet.”

Currently, Lopez is an adjunct at the University but hopes to land a job with the City of Corpus Christi in the Water Department.

“I’m looking forward to entering the professional career field; people need water and so it would nice to have job security,” he said.  

The ceremony also included the swearing in of three Islander Army ROTC cadets including 2LT Lorenzo Garcia, Bachelor of Science in Nursing; 2LT Ernest Morales, Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology; and 2LT Kevin Wang, Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

President Quintanilla ended the ceremony with well-wishes for the graduates.

“Graduates, you set a goal, and have achieved that goal – an achievement, an educational level, very few in this world have obtained,” said Quintanilla. “Each of you has proven you are a leader. No matter where life may take you, no matter what level of success you achieve, never forget, you are an Islander forever.”