ST. GEORGE – Individuals ranging in age from 17 to 71 will graduate from Dixie State University Friday during the school’s 105th Commencement as the first class to wear the new Trailblazer moniker now that the Red Storm has been blown away.
The school’s recent change to a new athletic identity has created plenty of attention. Civic and university officials have lauded the new Trailblazer identity, but what about the students who will be among the first to leave as Trailblazers versus being a part of the old Red Storm?
“I cannot be more excited than to be graduating as a Trailblazer over the Red Storm,” said Matt Devore, Dixie State’s outgoing student body president.
The problem with the Red Storm, Devore said, is that no one knew exactly what it was or how to get behind it as a collegiate identity. In contrast, the Trailblazers have a history and story that made sense, he said.
Graduating as a Trailblazer has special meaning to Devore as well since he was a part of Dixie State’s rebranding efforts over the last year.
“Being able to walk across that stage as a Trailblazer and trail blaze into life, I think that’s just so fitting,” he said.
Devore is from Mesquite, Nevada, and majored in integrated studies, business management and human communications. Following graduation he hopes to stay on with Dixie State University and has applied for a position there.
“I think graduating and having the Trailblazer name behind it is a little more meaningful than Red Storm,” said Mike Long, who also serves in student government as the chief justice. “Trailblazers has a lot more connection to the university and what we’re doing as graduates.”
Long, who hails from Hurricane, majored in psychology and pre-physical therapy. After graduating he plans to attend graduate school for physical therapy.
Sarah Folks, valedictorian of the baccalaureate class, said she was in the first class to graduate at Dixie State following its conversion into a university in 2013. Now she’s part of another first for Dixie State graduates.
“So it’s exciting to be a part of the ‘first’ like this,” Folks said, adding she played golf for the university as a student athlete so it was also exciting to see the school’s new identity. However, the most important part of going to Dixie State was for her education, she said.
Folks, who is from St. George, said after graduation she plans to pursue work in the nonprofit field, as well as engaging in Christian ministry and the process of “church planting.”
As for parting advice to students still at Dixie State, Folks said not to take the time at Dixie State for granted.
“Just appreciate the time you have and learn as much as possible, because it goes by in a flash,” she said.
Devore encourages remaining students to get involved in university life.
“When I got involved, my whole college experience shifted and I ended up getting better grades and had a time I will remember for the rest of my life,” Devore said.
Split ceremonies and procession times
The first class of graduating Trailblazers will be split between two ceremonies this year. A morning ceremony will focus on graduates receiving baccalaureate degrees, while an afternoon ceremony will honor those receiving associate degrees.
Both ceremonies will be held in the M. Anthony Burns Arena on the Dixie State campus.
Dixie State University will be conferring 658 baccalaureate degrees, 969 associate degrees and 137 vocational degrees to 1,669 students this year.
Of the degrees to be awarded, 784 are in General Education; 313 are from the School of Health Sciences, 278 are from the School of Business & Communication, 147 are from the School of Humanities, 111 are from the School of Education, 86 are from the School of Science & Technology and 45 are from the School of Visual & Performing Arts.
The processionals for both graduate ceremonies will go from the Gardner Student Center through the Holland Centennial Plaza and into the Burns Arena. Baccalaureate degree graduates will march at 9:25 a.m., with the associate degree graduates marching at 1:25 p.m.
The baccalaureate degree ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. The doors to the Burns Arena will open to seating at 8:30 a.m. for the baccalaureate degree ceremony. Attendees are asked to be in their seats no later than 9:45 a.m.
The associate degree ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Doors open at 12:30 p.m. for the associate degree ceremony. Attendees are asked to be in their seats no later than 1:45 p.m.
Both ceremonies are non-ticked events.
Commencement speaker: Patricia W. Jones
A member of the Utah State Board of Regents, Jones will serve as the commencement speaker at both ceremonies. She is the CEO of the Women’s Leadership Institute, which was formed in January 2015 to elevate the stature of female leadership in Utah.
As co-founder of Dan Jones & Associates, a public opinion and market research firm, Jones helped lead and manage the company as its president for 35 years.
She also served in the Utah Legislature for 14 years as a member of the House from 2000 to 2006 and the Senate from 2006 to 2014.
Baccalaureate degree ceremony speaker: Sarah Folks
The daughter of Tom and Heidi Folks, Sarah Folks was born and raised in St. George. During her time at DSU, Folks has been a member of the Dixie State Women’s Golf Team and served as the communication senator for student government. She earned a 3.96 GPA, frequently made the President’s List and earned Academic All American honors.
Following graduation, Folks plans on pursuing work in the nonprofit field.
Associate degree ceremony speaker: Lelia Shankula
Shankula grew up on the Great Plains of the Midwest as a native Kansan and moved to Southern Utah in 2006. Here, she and her husband are raising their two children. Now that she has completed her Associate of Science degree, Shankula will pursue a bachelor’s degree in bio-medical science from Dixie State.
Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree, Shankula intends to apply to medical school.
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