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LSU Recognizes 1,603 Graduates at December Commencement

Mass Communication graduate Alyson Neel looks forward to internship in Istanbul, Turkey.

The hour drive from Covington to Baton Rouge is a short one, but for one LSU graduate, it was just the first leg of a journey that's now taking her to Istanbul, Turkey. The distance between Baton Rouge and Istanbul is more than 6,000 miles, but it's a journey that has taken shape over the past three and a half years for Alyson Neel.

Neel, a native of Covington, was one of 1,603 students to graduate at LSU's 273rd commencement exercises on Friday, Dec. 17. In one month, she leaves for an internship in Istanbul with the Writers and Journalist Foundation to take part in an international policy think tank to bridge cultures through policy and dialogue.

"As naive as it sounds, I want to make a difference, do whatever I can to change the world for the better," said Neel, a University Medalist and Honors College and mass communication graduate. "For me, policy and advocacy are the vehicle to do so."

After completing her internship in Turkey, Neel plans to move to Washington, D.C., where she interned during college.

"When I interned there two summers ago, I fell in love with the city – for its rich history and as the center of policy and action in the country," she said. "Of course, I plan to come back to Louisiana because I see such great potential in this state. But there's a whole world out there for me to see and experience first!"

Neel has been looking forward to commencement day and took the opportunity to reflect on what the past three and a half years have meant to her.

"When I am handed my diploma, I will be overwhelmingly proud to call myself an 'LSU alum,'" she said. "No matter where I go, I will never forget this place and all of the opportunities it has given to me. I truly cannot imagine where I would be without this great university. It has taught me so much, provided me so much, pushed me so much. Without LSU, I would not be the person I am today. Simple as that."

The December 2010 graduating class included 1,282 bachelor's degrees, 230 master's and professional degrees and 91 doctoral degrees. The graduates represented 49 Louisiana parishes, 37 states and 44 countries. The percentage of total graduates was split almost evenly with 50.41 percent men and 49.59 percent women. Among the undergraduates, 50.16 percent of the graduates were men and 49.84 percent were women, and they ranged in age from 20 to 57. Among the graduate students, 51.4 percent of the graduates were men and 48.6 percent were women, and they ranged in age from 22 to 74.

This year marks LSU's 150th, or sesquicentennial, anniversary. To mark this momentous occasion, LSU planned several sesquicentennial flourishes for the 2010 graduates. Each graduate received a commemorative diploma reminiscent of the eight diplomas issued at the university's first commencement ceremony in 1869. The masthead and verbiage of the original diplomas was preserved in this commemorative edition. Many colleges also gave graduates commemorative LSU Coke bottles stamped with the university's 150th anniversary logo.

The LSU Honors College graduated 31 students at December commencement. Four students graduated with Upper Division Honors Distinction and seven with College Honors Distinction, which also includes Upper Division Honors, for participating in a specific honors program and successfully completing and defending an undergraduate thesis.

Eighty-seven honor graduates were recognized during the ceremonies for having high GPAs and received magna cum laude, summa cum laude or cum laude honors. Also included among the honor graduates were 10 University Medal recipients who graduated with perfect grade point averages. These 10 students were also recognized at a special ceremony at the LSU Faculty Club on Thursday, Dec. 16.

This semester, eight graduates earned the LSU Distinguished Communicator Award. These students received this honor by meeting high standards set by faculty in various colleges and by the LSU Communication across the Curriculum program. The students earned high grade-point averages in communication-intensive courses – based on written, spoken, visual and technological communication – and built digital portfolios, displayed as public websites, which included their communication projects from courses, internships, leadership roles and public service.

Three degree candidates who took part in ROTC programs were recognized for being commissioned into the U.S. military during the Southern University Naval ROTC Fall Commissioning Ceremony on Dec. 16.

There is no main ceremony for December commencement, so each college held separate ceremonies to recognize their own individual students. Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne was the keynote speaker during the LSU School of Library and Information Sciences' commencement ceremony, which was held in the LSU School of Music Recital Hall.

During December commencement, LSU's 2010 Truman Scholar Devon Wade of Houston graduated with a double major in sociology with a concentration in criminology and African & African-American studies. Wade is just the sixth Truman Scholar in LSU history.

Noteworthy LSU athletes graduating this semester included LSU football's Drake Nevis, Kelvin Sheppard and Lazarius Levingston; gymnastics' Susan Jackson, 2009-10 Roy F. Kramer SEC Female Athlete of the Year, 2010 Honda Sports Award recipient for gymnastics, 2010 NCAA All-Around champion – the first for an LSU gymnast – and a three-time NCAA champion; volleyball's Brittnee Cooper, the first player in LSU volleyball history to win the SEC Player of the Year award and a 2010 First-Team All-American; and soccer's Malorie Rutledge, the most decorated player to ever wear the LSU soccer uniform, a three-time All-American, three-time First-Team All-SEC selection and SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009. Also, former LSU women's basketball player Allison Hightower, who graduated from LSU in May, chose to walk during the College of Humanities & Social Sciences ceremony, since she was playing for the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA during May commencement.

The names of students who received degrees can be accessed at LSU's commencement website, http://www.lsu.edu/commencement. The list is for December 2010 graduates who have authorized the release of their names.