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May 11, 2013

Students awarded 788 degrees at ULM Spring Commencement

University of Louisiana at Monroe President Dr. Nick J. Bruno awarded 788 degrees during the University of Louisiana at Monroe's spring commencement exercises today in Fant-Ewing Coliseum on the ULM campus.

State Senator Mike Walsworth delivered the keynote address congratulating students and telling them, "your life's book has already been written, but even more pages are blank and waiting for you to fill them—the pen is in your hand."

The ceremony was webcast online for the third consecutive commencement.

A full recording of the event, including the commencement list of graduates, is archived for viewing at

President Bruno highlighted six students with unique stories during the ceremony.

Sara J. Sanderson of Oxford, Mich., received a bachelor's degree in atmospheric science. Sanderson told Bruno she is "more proud to be a Warhawk now, than ever before."

Her family traveled from Michigan to be with her and celebrate her achievements.

Sanderson will commission as an officer in the U.S. Air Force upon graduating. She will serve as an Air Force meteorologist assigned to the 15th Operational Weather Squadron at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

Jonathan W. Jopling, who received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, told Bruno he is "proud to join the ULM family as an alum."

Jopling, who is from Monroe, will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force and will report to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont.

He will serve as a Security Forces Officer, assigned to the 341st Security Forces Squadron.

He was named the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding senior for the Social Sciences.

Darron Underwood, from Monroe, began his studies at ULM in 1999, and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration.

In 2007, he returned to ULM for a Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary Education before deciding to continue with his professional development.

He received a master's degree in Education Leadership.

Underwood, a Rayville High School mathematics instructor, was recently named Teacher of the Year for Richland Parish.

Disabled veteran and West Monroe native Christopher Myers received his master's degree in Exercise Physiology.

His degree is a culmination of hard work and research—research that has garnered national attention.

The American College of Sports Medicine accepted his thesis for presentation at their national convention.

Myers's thesis sought to create a new tool for swim coaches to measure a swimmer's strength and efficiency, particularly for use in triathlon coaching.

Eighteen year old Arielle McNeal of Bastrop graduated today with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology.

McNeal came to ULM in 2009 as part of the Collegiate Program, which provides an opportunity for exceptional high school sophomores, juniors and seniors to earn college credit.

At the same time, she was pursuing an associate's degree in Social Sciences from Louisiana Delta Community College. She earned that degree in May 2012.

McNeal would like to eventually pursue a doctoral degree.

Eleanor Benjamin, a member of ULM's National Championship Water Ski Team, received a master's degree in exercise science.

She and her younger sister Jennifer—both from London—have competed on ULM's championship team together.

Their parents told them to "Seize this amazing opportunity that you have so generously been given, and whatever you do, do not lose your British accent!"

There were five top graduates in the class who all earned 4.0 grade point averages. They are:

Lea Anna Cardwell is a mass communication major receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is from Ruston, Louisiana and is the daughter of Tim Cardwell and Jennifer Danklessen.

Mallory Kristen Carona is a general studies major receiving a Bachelor of General Studies degree in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is from Hammond, Louisiana and is the daughter of Michael and Helen Carona.

Taylor Alaine Diaz is an English major receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is from Dry Prong, Louisiana and is the daughter of Hope Diaz, Frank Diaz and Keith James, and Noland and Donna Goff.

Dustin Anthony Lovas is a Biology major receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in the College of Arts and Sciences. He is from Marrero, Louisiana and is the son of Michael and Anne Lovas.

Catherine Jill Olson is a French major receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is from Bossier City, Louisiana and is the daughter of Steven Olson and Julieta Kay.

Several honor graduates were recognized during the ceremonies.

They are designated as summa cum laude (3.900-4.000), magna cum laude (3.750-3.899) and cum laude (3.500-3.749).

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