“Make Your Own Table”: Newberry College Confers First New Master’s Degrees
August 29, 2022
NEWBERRY — Newberry College conferred degrees Saturday upon the first five graduates of its master’s program in organizational development and leadership. The commencement exercises were held at 10 a.m. on Yost Portico at Holland Hall.
“Our inaugural graduate student cohort are pioneers,” said President Maurice Scherrens. “They embarked on this journey with us one year ago. While working full-time, they immersed themselves in a process of academic elevation — engaged in real-time projects across their coursework that yielded tangible benefits for a spectrum of organizations. Their performance sets the bar for graduate students who will follow their lead. This inaugural cohort built the graduate student legacy for Newberry College.”
The diverse group of graduates came from varying ages and careers and educational backgrounds, all brought together and transformed by this program.
Ty’Ran Dixon, of Columbia, is a 2021 graduate of Newberry College in exercise science and sport management, an assistant defensive line coach for the football team, and an adjunct instructor in Fitness for Life classes. The entire football team stopped practice to support its coach and former player at the ceremony.
Chaunel Johnson, of Charlotte, North Carolina, is a grandmother of two with an expansive background in human resources, burnout prevention and leadership development. She currently serves as a human resources and employee relations consultant.
Justina Teale, of Barnwell, is the Wolves’ head cheerleading coach and an adjunct instructor in College Life classes. At the ceremony, she was hooded by her best friends, U.S. Army Sgt. Brianna Nelson and Sgt. Dalton Baker, who surprised her after returning from deployment in Germany.
Hannah Towery, of Chapin, is a 2021 sport management graduate of Newberry College, who was the very first to apply for the program after it was announced last year. She started a new job in July as head softball coach and career and technology teacher at Saluda High School.
The Rev. Dr. Christina Wendland, of Columbia, serves as associate dean of academic affairs at Newberry College. A member of the faculty since 2007, she was able to gain new insights and perspectives from the program. She was joined at the ceremony by her daughter, Kayla, who earned her B.A. in psychology from Newberry in 2021.
The event’s keynote speaker was Dr. Holly Whitfield, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, a Charleston-based nonprofit, and executive-in-residence for the graduate program.
“Bold success is inclusive of authenticity, feeding and nurturing social capital and building emotional capital in others,” said Whitfield. “My inner vision tells me I don’t need a seat at the table. My inner vision says make your own table. My inner vision tells me to be an emerging leader. Leadership is a life-long commitment to learning and growing. Never stop emerging! My inner vision tells me I can do it all. My inner vision tells me to succeed boldly. What does your inner vision tell you?”
The commencement comes a year after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges approved an accreditation level change for Newberry College to offer graduate degrees. Before Saturday, the last time Newberry conferred a master’s degree was in 1928.
The special ceremony was a celebration of the graduate program’s inaugural class. Future graduate cohorts will receive their degrees alongside undergraduates in the fall and spring.
Photo: Back (left to right): Ty’Ran Dixon, Hannah Towery, Christina Wendland. Front (left to right): Justina Teale, Chaunel Johnson