Fall 2023 graduates celebrate during ceremony

The East Carolina University College of Engineering and Technology celebrated 278 fall graduates during its Graduate Recognition Ceremony on Friday in Minges Coliseum.

Families and friends cheered each graduate as they crossed the stage. Some tears fell, but mostly smiles filled Williams Arena. Plenty of hugs and pictures followed outside after the ceremony.

A photo gallery from the ceremony can be viewed on the college’s Facebook page.

The First

Graduate Jaylon Martin is congratulated by Dr. Tijjani (TJ) Mohammed, chair of the Department of Technology Systems.

Jaylon Martin made history as the first to receive a degree through ECU’s partnership with Wake Technical Community College. Martin never had to leave the Raleigh campus to obtain his ECU Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology degree with a concentration in mechanical design.

“I was just going through the courses, grinding away at them,” Martin said, not realizing he would be the first to get his diploma through the partnership that began in 2022.

The mechanical design concentration cannot be offered online, but the partnership allowed Martin to continue to work full time and get his degree by taking ECU classes in person at Wake Tech.

“It was perfect for me because I stay, depending on traffic and the time of day, about 20 or 25 minutes away from the Wake Tech campus. It’s a quick drive for me most days,” Martin said. “I didn’t want to come all the way to Greenville. I didn’t want to move here. I was looking at a few other colleges, but it was hard to get them to apply my degree from Wake Tech, but it worked out perfectly at ECU.”

He said good communication with ECU was crucial in his success, and he thanked instructor Amy Frank in the Department of Technology Systems for helping him navigate through courses as he balanced full-time work and family obligations with his educational goals.

“It was a lot of late nights,” he said.

And Martin’s not done yet. He’s been accepted into ECU’s master’s program and believes another degree will help him in his job at RoviSys.

“I’m looking to grow within that company,” he said.

Construction management graduate Sarah Blackwelder stands with her siblings, brother Jay and sister Rebekah, who are both ECU students.

Leading the Way

With her graduation on Friday, Sarah Blackwelder charted a course in front of two siblings who also attend ECU.

“My brother (Jay) is a freshman, and my sister (Rebekah) is a junior,” said Blackwelder, a construction management graduate. “We get together when we can, but we’re all on very busy schedules so it’s hard to connect sometimes.”

The Huntersville native said ECU was not originally on her radar until she learned about the STEPP program, which provides access and support to help students with learning disabilities.

“That was one of my main reasons for coming to ECU, and then it just kind of fell into place from there,” she said. “We weren’t really looking at ECU for anybody to go to. Once I got here, my parents quickly realized how good of a university it was and how diverse the majors were. We’re one of only a few schools that have engineering, nursing and teaching all in one place. It’s kind of hard to find these days.”

She is taking her degree to Myers and Chapman, a construction company in Charlotte, where she’ll work as a field coordinator. She sums up her ECU experience this way: “Great people, great environment and great professors. My classes were really interesting. We didn’t do the same thing every day. I learned a lot.”

Building a Career

Steven Lawson of Clayton graduated with a degree in construction management and will be starting work Jan. 2 for Bobbitt Construction in Raleigh.

He transferred to ECU because of its construction management program after earning an associate degree from Johnston Community College.

“It’s been a great experience,” Lawson said. “ECU has a great construction management program, a lot of good people, a lot of good connections. I met a lot of good people and that’s how I got a job coming out, through the career fair and all that, so I would highly recommend it to anybody.”

ECU engineering graduate Leah Beth Warren turns her tassel during commencement on Friday.

Making a Mark

For engineering graduate Leah Beth Warren, the week has been busy.

“I accepted a job offer two days ago, so all of my ducks are in a row, and I’m feeling great,” said Warren, who will work as a project manager for Optima, a pharmaceutical company in Raleigh.

Warren leaves behind a legacy at ECU, an organization she founded called UterUS, which provides free menstrual products to people in need.

“That’s probably one of the greatest things I’ve done here,” said Warren, whose concentration is in biomedical engineering.

Warren said she could not have asked for a better experience at ECU.

“I’ve had the best time here, and I’m so excited to graduate,” said Warren, from Blounts Creek. “It was absolutely wonderful. It’s been everything I could have ever asked for. The engineering department here is the best. I have had a community every step of the way, and I have had every opportunity to do anything I wanted to do — research, co-ops, anything. If I wanted to do it, it was available to me.”

Cameron Walton stands next to his girlfriend, Caroline Betcher, before commencement on Friday.

Shared Experience

Information and computer technology graduate Cameron Walton celebrated with nursing graduate Caroline Betcher.

“We met through mutual friends,” Betcher said. “I knew his roommate.”

They began dating two years ago and shared commencement on Friday.

“We would go to the library sometimes together,” Betcher said.

“She did a lot more studying than I did,” Walton joked.

Walton is taking his degree to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point where he will work in IT.

“It was a long journey to get here, and I’m just excited about what the future holds,” he said.

He said faculty in the Department of Technology Systems went above and beyond to help him.

“They were always able to put themselves forward and help anytime I needed it,” said Walton, from Beaufort. “They were very friendly and kind. Anytime I needed anything, they would always make sure I was helped fully.”

Quite a Ride

Computer science graduates Anuoluwa Shittu and Markell Rawls celebrated with nursing student Jonae Williams. Outside of Minges Coliseum before the recognition ceremony, Shittu needed Williams’ help to get his graduation cap to fit just right. The friends and classmates said they had come a long way.

“Freshman year, life was easy,” Rawls noted.

Now, they’re ECU graduates.

“It was a roller coaster. We’re getting off the ride,” Shittu said of graduation.

He’s headed for a job as a software engineer for Wells Fargo, admitting to a bit of relief now that his journey at ECU has ended with a degree.

“Excited, happy, stress free — it’s everything,” he said. “I just feel great. The job’s done.”

Computer science graduate Anuoluwa Shittu, right, celebrates with Jonae Williams.