MSU grads told to 'go get 'em'


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INWOOD, W.Va. -- Mountain State University on Tuesday celebrated the graduation of about 120 students from its Martinsburg, W.Va., campus.

"We wish all of our students the very best of success in their future career endeavors," said Provost Layne Diehl before students received their degrees in an hour-long commencement program at Musselman High School.

"We just know you've got what it takes to be able to get out there and be successful in this world. So congratulations, go get 'em."

Annette M. Branson, 34, of Martinsburg was all smiles.

"I'm so excited. This is a big accomplishment for me," Branson said before walking onstage to be hooded for her master of science degree in strategic leadership from the private institution. "It's just a wonderful opportunity and I expect a lot of doors to open for me."


Martinsburg-area residents Michael L. Oates, 28, and his girlfriend, Kimberly D. Slaughter, received bachelor of science degrees in business administration, and both said they couldn't be happier about graduation.

"It does feel like the beginning of new things, the end of an old chapter, the beginning of a new chapter," Oates said after the ceremony. "It feels great."

Oates said he expects to be self-employed, but hopes to eventually "give back to the community and add to the businesses in Martinsburg."

Slaughter, 24, said she planned to become an accountant after obtaining her master's degree.

"It's very challenging and I thoroughly enjoy the work," Slaughter said of her career aspirations.

Completing her undergraduate requirements required "a lot of hard work, a lot of hard work," she said.

Annie Stoner, 27, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., who earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing also plans to obtain a master's degree, with the goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.

"There were times that I questioned it," said Stoner when asked if she thought she would make it to graduation.

In Tuesday's commencement program, the school also recognized bachelor of science in nursing graduate Darla S. Cowden as the branch campus' student of the year.

Vickie Allanson, the school's lead faculty member at the college's off-campus learning site in Keyser, W.Va., accepted the award on behalf of Cowden, who was unable to attend. Allanson read a short speech Cowden wrote for the occasion.

"When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the first thing that came to my mind was 'how will I be able to finish school?'" Cowden wrote in the speech. "My friends told me to quit and to concentrate on my treatment. However, this was never an option to me. With the help of my classmates, teachers and especially from my family, I was able to get through."

Mountain State University President Charles H. Polk encouraged the campus' graduates to set new goals for their future as they celebrated Tuesday's achievements.

"As you fulfill the great expectations of this new chapter in your life, never forget the road to these moments tonight started at Mountain State University," Polk said.

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