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A record-breaking graduation

Transylvania sent 263 graduates from the class of 2011 into the world on May 28, the most in the school's 231-year history, during the first commencement ceremony under President R. Owen Williams, who completed his first academic year at the helm.

Arid Candris headshot

Transylvania trustee Aris Candris '73, president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company and uncle of graduating senior Stamatios Kandris, gave the commencement address from the steps of Old Morrison. Drawing from his experience in nuclear power and environmental issues, he urged graduates to work hard and take risks while making sure to find a vocation that will fulfill them and bring them happiness.

"We have an energy crisis on our hands, and global warming is a very real issue," Candris said. "And if we don't do something about it now, we will place future generations at risk. As a society and as a planet, we must get past short-term thinking, and start long-term planning....Every day that I go to work, I sincerely believe that I'm playing a part in leaving this earth better than I found it."

Candris completed his Transylvania B.A. in three years with three majors-mathematics, physics, and pre-engineering-and earned an M.S. and a Ph.D., both in nuclear engineering, at Carnegie Mellon University. His 36-year career with Westinghouse has included increasingly responsible positions on both the engineering and management sides of the company, beginning in 1975 with his first role as a senior engineer in the former advanced reactor division.

He reminded the students of the value of their liberal arts educations, regardless of the fields they enter as professionals. As an example, he cited the issue of public perception versus reality in the wake of the March 11 tsumami and earthquake in Japan. The state of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been featured prominently in the world media, but Candris said the reality is not as grim as has been portrayed.

"That's because historically, the nuclear energy industry has done a less-than-adequate job of educating the public as to the realities of nuclear energy," he said. "We have not been good communicators. And that's too bad, because we have an excellent story to tell. Although many people can master the technical skills of a job, few also have the communication skills needed to present ideas clearly and concisely. This ability will be invaluable to you in the coming years."

Virginia Hamilton

Graduating senior Virginia Hamilton, a writing, rhetoric, and communication major and psychology minor from Bardstown, Ky., was the student speaker. She recalled Scott Turow, whose book Ultimate Punishment she and her classmates were assigned the summer before their first year at Transylvania for the annual First Engagements reading program.

"Four years ago, we each read the words of Scott Turow and maybe didn't pick up on the lifelong insights he buries beneath the lawful jargon," Hamilton said. "Now, we leave with more than his explanation of the Illinois state laws on capital punishment. We leave with a new outlook on our active futures. And now, my sentiment for you, in conjunction with Turow's words and Transylvania's mission, is this: Don't just be an optimist; be a leader. And don't just be a leader; be a pioneer now, and in the future. Because if we fail to maximize on the potential that Transylvania University has instilled in each one of us, now that would be the ultimate punishment."

Where will they go from here?

4 seniors

American University, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Kentucky, and Nickelodeon are among the interesting destinations for members of the class of 2011, from left, Kat Thacker, Stamatios Kandris, Jessica Short, and Virginia Hamilton.

Kat Thacker completed a double major in Spanish and international affairs and will attend American University in Washington, D.C., this fall in a four-year, dual-degree program that leads to a law degree and a master's degree in international studies.

The Lexington native has always had an interest in languages, which accounts for her Spanish major. After taking a number of political science and history courses, Thacker decided to add a special major pattern in international affairs, a popular self-designed major at Transylvania in recent years.

She is thrilled with her acceptance into the dual program at American.

"The program is perfect for me," she said. "I'll be able to take classes in law school such as international law organizations that will also count in the international studies program, so I don't have to take the same subject twice. International politics will be my concentration in the master's program."

Thacker's long-term goal is to work for a foundation, perhaps one that deals with human rights issues in different parts of the world, where she can use her language skills. She plans to continue her language education with classes in German and maybe Chinese.

Her focus on international issues was fueled during her Transylvania years by a study-abroad experience in Spain and her work at Kumon, a tutoring center in Lexington, where she worked with students from ages three to 17, many from Asian nations, including India and China.

"All of those experiences were eye-openers for me, and I believe they will really help me in the program at American and in my future career."

Stamatios Kandris, a philosophy and computer science double major from Athens, Greece, is going to the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland, to study in the cognitive science master's program.

Kandris found there were not many schools that offered the exact program he wanted, so when he finally ran across Edinburgh, he got excited.

"I looked into the program and the courses, and it was exactly what I wanted," Kandris said. "It's one of the best schools for cognitive science."

Cognitive science is the study of the mind, including brain functions and artificial intelligence. Kandris said he's not sure what his focus will be, but he was exposed to a wide range of subjects through classes like Mental Organs with philosophy professor Jack Furlong and computer science professor Kenny Moorman.

"I almost created a major as a first-year student, but I realized that because of the interdisciplinary study that's offered, there was no point," Kandris said. "I had Dr. Moorman teaching about artificial intelligence and computer science and Dr. Furlong teaching morality and philosophy-the two created a perfect mentor."

The Edinburgh program begins in September and is a year long, culminating with a dissertation. Currently, Kandris's plan is to continue studying for his Ph.D. From there, he'd like to explore the possibility of teaching or going into bioengineering.

"It's fascinating to study about thought and how the human mind works," he said. "I want to figure out what is going on in our heads using different methods than what we know already."

Jessica Short, a mathematics and physics double major from Lexington, will attend the University of Kentucky this fall on a Kentucky Research Opportunity Fellowship in the Ph.D. program in physics.

Her interest lies in theoretical physics, in part because of how intrigued she is with the illusions of the physical world, such as the impression that one is standing on an inert piece of flat land when in fact we are spinning and hurtling through space on a globe.

"I became intrigued by the idea that things are not always as they seem to us," Short said. "For example, while we might think of time as something constant, theoretical physics shows us that time actually changes depending on our velocity. It's mind boggling."

Short spent the summer after her junior year taking advantage of an undergraduate research experience in mathematical biology at the University of Utah that further fueled her interest in science.

"We were studying how you could use math and computer programming to model biological systems," she said. "I worked on a project to model the immune system."

Short is undecided as to her ultimate career goal at this point, but she may use her Ph.D. in physics in the commercial world. She won't rule out law school because of her interest in the Americans with Disabilities Act and public accommodation for disabled people. She has dealt with cerebral palsy her entire life, as a result of damage at birth.

"I didn't think I was any different at first," she said. "It's always been normal to me to be this way. I think if anything, it's made me more stubborn. I have always liked to be as independent as I can."

Virginia Hamilton, a writing, rhetoric, and communication major and psychology minor from Bardstown, Ky., got a job as a production assistant with Nickelodeon Preschool Brand Creative in the promotions department. She moved to New York City immediately after graduation to begin working.

The position will have Hamilton coordinating with producers, writers, and the rest of the creative team in the production of promotions within television shows on Nick Jr. that are aimed at preschool-age children. The channel does not show traditional commercials, so the production team gives promotional space to companies that integrate teaching opportunities-for example, promoting family dinner time with a pasta company.

t's a job that Hamilton cut her teeth on during an internship at Nickelodeon in the summer of 2010. She got familiar with the industry and with the company, and she was able to secure a position based on that experience. And she had a chance to use the skills she developed while studying writing, rhetoric, and communication at Transylvania.

"For my senior seminar project with (writing, rhetoric, and communication professor) Scott Whiddon, I wrote a television pilot 70 pages long," she said. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, but I learned so much about writing and television through that. To be able to use my senior seminar project in a direct way to help me in my career, I'm lucky in that sense."

The marriage of television entertainment and education was a big draw for Hamilton, who comes from a family of educators. Her internship allowed her to see that combination play out, and she's excited to get going as a full-time employee.

"As an intern, I would work on these projects for the production assistant, and I would write a little and help pull them together, and within a week it was on television-immediate feedback," she said. "It's going to be really cool."


For more scenes from graduation, visit our commencement photo gallery.

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