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Approximately 4,200 degrees conferred during Georgia Southern’s 2024 Spring Commencement ceremonies

Last week, approximately 4,200 graduates from Georgia Southern University’s Statesboro, Armstrong and Liberty campuses received associate, baccalaureate, masters, specialist and doctoral degrees in five Spring 2024 Commencement ceremonies.

Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero welcomed the graduates and their guests to the ceremonies, held at the Allen E. Paulson Stadium in Statesboro on May 7, 8 and 9, and at the EnMarket Arena in Savannah on May 11.

“Graduates, I don’t need to tell you about your unique college journey, which has been challenging,” said Marrero to the crowds. “I am very proud of how, together, we have persevered allowing us to have a successful semester and today, our commencement ceremony. This graduation is a momentous occasion for Georgia Southern University, as well as for all of you. Today, you are part of history at Georgia Southern.”

Speakers included:

  • Mackenzie Anderson (’07), global director of Corporate Communications at Nike
  • Alton M. Standifer, Ph.D. (’12, ’14), vice provost for Inclusive Excellence and chief of staff to the provost at the University of Georgia (UGA)
  • Kim Greene, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Georgia Power
  • Chris Ahearn (’09), director of research and trade development for the World Trade Center Savannah
  • Candicee Childs, M.D., (’19) an emerging beacon of inspiration in the fields of medicine and literature. At present, she is a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, the largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, with a focus on child and adolescent psychiatry

Anderson opened the graduation ceremonies in Statesboro, following a warm introduction from Marrero, who described her leadership role at Nike.

“I’m sure you probably expected me to get up here and say something like, ‘Class of 2024, go out into the world and ‘Just Do It,’” Anderson mused. “But here’s the deal. I don’t have to tell you to just do it because you just did it. You did the impossible by making it through the pandemic. 

“Today you aren’t just graduating with a degree in whatever is written on your diploma. You’re also graduating with a degree in doing hard things. And today we celebrate you.” 

She continued, saying that earning a degree in “doing hard things” has no doubt been a challenge, but the graduates will soon find out that this is also their superpower. They produced their own playbook, as unique and rare as they are. How they use the playbook moving forward is up to them — to wit, be curious, be wrong while giving yourself permission to make mistakes, be humble and be persistent.

“Launch into the world,” Anderson concluded. “And whether you land just across the street, across the country like me or somewhere around the world, remember where you came from. 

Today you are etching your name alongside a proud Eagle alumni network of more than 147,000 strong. 

“It is my honor to be the first to say, ‘Georgia Southern University graduating Class of 2024, welcome to the alumni family.'”

Standifer shared his own story as a young man, undecided about going to college while he worked as a cashier. A regular customer, Mr. Paul, continuously asked Standifer about whether he’d attend college, until one day Standifer told him he was going to attend Georgia Southern University. With a wide grin, Mr. Paul congratulated him and handed him a $100 bill.

Incredulous, Standifer asked why he’d given him such a large tip. Mr. Paul told him it wasn’t a tip. It was an investment, and he’d continue to mentor Standifer in the following years, and remain a profound influence in his life. 

“I want to encourage you all to think of the Mr. Paul’s in your life,” Standifer said. “Think of the people who have helped you get to today. And then when you leave here, make the conscious effort that you will be Mr. Paul for someone else.”

In Savannah, Ahearn shared his journey of discovery in Georgia Southern’s classrooms where he explored Irish film, an introduction to the United Nations, abnormal psychology, Celtic identity and conflict, psychology and law, and gangs, drugs and criminal justice. 

“There’s a whole menu of choices for you and experiences for you to choose from to really help you discover who you are, where you fit, what drives you, what gets your creative juices flowing, and what options are out there when you graduate from these key interactions,” Ahearn said.

Following, he pursued a master’s in international relations in Ireland that gave him a deeper perspective on how the world operates and how interconnected we all are. Ensuing professional roles in higher education, international networking and fundraising, culminated in his current role at World Trade Center, Savannah. 

From the stage, Ahearn stressed his key takeaways: network, stay in touch with your classmates, be authentic and perhaps, most importantly, travel.

“Go outside your comfort zone,” he encouraged. “Try things you’d never try. Expand your horizons. This is your opportunity to learn about different cultures, to embrace the differences and similarities we share with our fellow global citizens and find common ground.” 

In closing: “Many of you may stay in the region to leave your impact as this community continues to expand,” Ahearn said. “There are plenty of great employment opportunities at your fingertips. Many of you will leave to follow your careers wherever they take you. But please know that you’re part of this institution’s history. You’ll always be an Eagle, and Georgia Southern will always welcome you home. 

For videos of Spring 2024 Commencement ceremonies click here.
For photos of the Spring 2024 Commencement ceremonies click here.

Credit: Courtesy of Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers approximately 155 different degree programs serving more than 26,100 students through 10 colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia with expert faculty, the University is focused on public impact research and engaging learning opportunities through knowledge and know-how that prepare our students to take ownership of their lives, careers and communities. Visit


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