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Many UNC System universities celebrate winter commencement this weekend

Courtesy of North Carolina Central University
Commencement ceremony at NCCU, May 2022

Universities' winter graduation ceremonies often include many non-traditional students who took a bit more than four years to earn their degree.

North Carolina Central University graduate Pat Whitfield has plenty to celebrate. She began her education at NCCU more than 40 years ago, and after a long break, she returned to finish her degree.

“I would come back for homecoming, and I would look at the field and just think about, ‘Wow, just one day, I still want to really, really graduate,’” Whitfield said.

Courtesy of North Carolina Central University
Pat Whitfield will graduate from North Carolina Central University this Saturday.

Whitfield, who lives in Goldsboro and has been attending classes online, will return to campus this weekend to turn her tassel with 432 other undergraduates.

“I wanted to march, I wanted to do the whole thing,” Whitfield said. “I've come this far, I might as well go a little farther.”

North Carolina Central University graduate Tyler Fisher says it was surreal to go to his commencement rehearsal to prepare for the ceremony.

“Visualizing like this is really gonna happen, like this is real… being able to finish what I started is a big accomplishment for me,” Fisher said.

Fisher overcame a period of childhood homelessness to go on to become the author of three books. He is graduating with his bachelor's degree in mass communications and plans to continue his creative pursuits.

Whitfield, for her part, will graduate with her B.S. in Behavioral and Social Sciences and plans to attend divinity school. She participated in NCCU’s EndZone Initiative, a program that helps returning students pursue interdisciplinary degrees that accept many of their prior credits.

Winter commencements will be held this weekend at:

Elizabeth City State University
Saturday, December 10
R.L. Vaughan Center
10:00 a.m.

North Carolina A&T State University
Saturday, December 10
Greensboro Coliseum
8:30 a.m. undergraduate commencement

North Carolina Central University
Saturday, December 10
McDougald-McLendon Arena
9 a.m. undergraduate and 2 p.m. graduate and professional

UNC Chapel Hill
Sunday, December 11
Dean E. Smith Center
2 p.m.

UNC Pembroke
Saturday, December 10
Jones Health and P.E. Center
9 a.m. undergraduate commencement

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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