Steamboat Springs The Colorado Mountain College community in Steamboat Springs celebrated several milestones during a standing-room-only graduation ceremony Saturday at The Steamboat Grand.
“You are the largest class of graduates in the history of Steamboat Springs,” Alpine Campus CEO Peter Perhac told the audience after the graduates filed into the room. “You also have the largest transfer rate" (to four-year colleges.
New this year was a second group of graduates wearing black gowns. They represented the campus’s first class of students receiving bachelor’s degrees.
“I never thought I would stand here for this,” Perhac said.
A few of the graduates wore ski or snowboard boots as they walked across the stage. Others were barefoot. At the end of the ceremony, Perhac praised the individuality of the students but questioned those who were barefoot and advised them not to show up to a job interview that way.
There were 12 students awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. Another 14 received Bachelor of Arts degrees in sustainability studies.
“It feels incredible,” said Lexi Miller, who received a BA and now is going into AmeriCorps. “I feel incredibly accomplished.”
Like many of the graduates, she was anxious to see how her future would unfold.
“I’m leaning toward environmental education,” Miller said.
Pride filled the room as all the accomplishments of the graduates as well as the college were recognized.
“So many wonderful firsts for us,” said Kathy Kiser-Miller, CMC’s dean of academic affairs.
After the ceremony, Routt County CMC trustee Ken Brenner said that the first baccalaureate graduating class marked just the beginning and that CMC planned to add three bachelor’s degree programs.
“It’s a great day in the college’s history to be graduating our first baccalaureates,” Brenner said. “It points to a very promising future for the college.”
Of the nine-county CMC system, Steamboat’s Alpine Campus awarded the most bachelor’s degrees. Systemwide, 74 degrees were awarded.
As with any graduation ceremony, there were many words of encouragement and stories shared.
Bachelor’s degree graduate Victoria Kasik gave the welcome address and talked about how snow had created a common bond among the students and how snow is what brought them to Steamboat and CMC.
“We have had a college experience that most students could only dream of,” Kasik said.
Victoria Zsa Zsa Zahourek, who is going on to pursue an education in geological engineering at Colorado School of Mines, talked about how the graduates had the potential to change the world for the better.
“We cannot afford to look away,” she said.
The commencement address was given by John White, deputy assistant secretary for rural outreach for the U.S. Department of Education.
White spoke highly of CMC, especially the bachelor’s program that has been developed to meet the employment needs in rural communities.
“More colleges, especially in rural areas, should be doing exactly that,” said White, who added that 80 percent of the CMC degree holders still live within the nine-county CMC system.
White also talked about how important it was to increase education opportunities for those living in rural areas. He said on average less than 20 percent of adults living in rural areas have degrees.
“We need that talent,” White said. “We need that untapped potential that’s there.”
White encouraged students to share their success stories with others, especially those who have attended some college but left before earning a degree. He said if all those people earned their degrees, the United States would lead the world in the proportion of college graduates. White said that is the goal President Barack Obama hopes to have met by 2022.
“Never stop learning,” White said. “Think about what your next step is going to be.”
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com