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June 16, 2014

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Award-Winning News Journalist Inspires Graduates at Commencement

Award-Winning News Journalist Inspires Graduates at Commencement

There was a packed house at Tree of Life Ministries on Friday, May 30 as friends and family members gathered to watch 65 graduates in the Lynchburg Campus’s class of 2014 receive their diplomas, associate’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees.

Of those graduating, four were the honored recipients of ANU awards. Kevin Burley, an information systems engineering associate degree graduate, was presented with the Achievement Award, which is awarded to a graduate who overcame obstacles to achieve success.  Medical assisting associate’s degree graduate Lekeshia Morris received the Leadership Award; you can read more about Lekeshia’s story: (  Dominique Hilliard, also a medical assisting associate degree graduate, was presented with the E. M. Coulter Award for high academic achievement in health care programs; you can read more about Dominique’s story:  (  Information systems engineering associate degree graduate Katherine DeLoach received the M. A. Smythe Award, which is awarded for high academic achievement in technology programs.  Ryan Kuenzi, a 2012 graduate who is now a system administrator for Liberty University, was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Achievement.

Prior to accepting their degrees and diplomas, the graduates received encouraging words from commencement speaker Pierre Thomas.  Mr. Thomas, an Amherst County, Virginia native, was a journalist for the Washington Post and CNN before joining ABC News in 2000.  He is currently the senior justice correspondent for “World News with Diane Sawyer,” “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” and other ABC News programs.  Mr. Thomas has contributed to team news coverage that has earned Peabody, Murrow, and Emmy Awards, among others.

Mr. Thomas began his commencement address with inspiring quotes on education from important historical figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Aristotle, and Albert Einstein.  He acknowledged the hard work and determination that brought the graduates to where they are, saying, “Try going to school; try going to school while raising kids; try going to school while raising kids and working full-time.  Many of you have, and no one said it would be easy.” He inspired the graduates to recognize that change was within them and that it’s up to each individual to tap into their internal drive to push forward.  And finally, he encouraged the graduates to make education a continual part of their lives.

A-Pierre Thomas was the commencement speaker for the Lynchburg Campus graduation.  Mr. Thomas is an Amherst County, Virginia native and is currently the senior justice correspondent for several news programs for the ABC Television Network.  He is pictured with Nina Wood, a medical assisting graduate who also happens to be his niece. 

B-The Lynchburg Campus Class of 2014.

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Vietnam Veterans of America Visit Campus

Vietnam Veterans of America Visit Campus

The Bristol Campus was visited on Tuesday, June 10 by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 979 from Kingsport, Tennessee.  The V.V.A. performed the flag retirement ceremony in memory of those who have perished during our nation’s wars.  All of the students, faculty, and staff who were present on campus, many of them veterans themselves, gathered for the ceremony.  Great reverence was paid to the flag and participants were careful not to let the flag touch the ground.  Some students saluted and were visibly emotional as the American flag was retired and a new flag took its place. 

The Vietnam Veterans of America was founded in 1978  and is the only national veterans’ organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  National College goes out of its way to assist veterans and was honored to have the participation of the local V.V.A. chapter during its flag ceremony. 

“It was great to see the student body interacting with the public at our school,” said student David Roach.  “I appreciated seeing firsthand how the American flag should be retired by the Vietnam Veterans of America.  I have a new admiration for our veterans who continue to love, honor, and respect the United States of America.”  After the ceremony, members of the V.V.A. remained on campus, sharing their personal experiences and answering questions about their service in Vietnam.

A-At the Bristol Campus, the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 979 performed an American Flag Retirement Ceremony.

B-The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 979 raised a new American Flag at the Bristol Campus. 

Eric Vogler-Accounting and Business Department Chair-Richmond

Eric Vogler-Accounting and Business Department Chair-Richmond

• Eric Vogler—Difference Maker at the Richmond Campus

• Accounting and Business Department Chair; instructor of related courses

• American National University faculty member for 10 years
• Obtained 35 years of experience in the manufacturing industry—25 years in accounting positions and 10 years in plant management

• Holds a bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace College
• Was one of the first people embarking on activity based costing accounting within the accounting industry with a pilot program through Harvard University

“I admire American National University students’ initiative to take the first step to change their lives. My greatest reward as a teacher has been moving my students to a new life by making them job-ready.

“I want my students to see business as a living system. Through my father, I met many business people. The controller at my father’s company was influential to me becoming involved in a career in accounting.”

American National University Difference Maker, Eric Vogler, has been an instructor at the Richmond Campus for 10 years. 

Dayton Campus Graduates Lauded as Leaders of Tomorrow

Dayton Campus Graduates Lauded as Leaders of Tomorrow

The Dayton Area Campus Class of 2014 gathered to celebrate their educational achievements during a graduation ceremony held on Friday, May 30th at Christ United Methodist Church. 

United States District Judge Walter Herbert Rice served as the commencement speaker for the service. He told the graduates that they certainly had reason to celebrate the day. “It celebrates hours of work, months of dedication, and years of persistence,” he said. 

Judge Rice applauded the graduates for earning their college education despite the obstacles that they faced. “The fact that you have taken charge of your life by not only attending, but persevering and graduating from this wonderful college, stamps you as a leader, not only of today, but of tomorrow as well,” he said. “I hope you consider this day, and all that it represents, as a beginning, not an end.”

He urged the students to set their aspirations high and to continue their education. “Keep in mind that there will be a new horizon in front of you tomorrow, and I hope that you will always welcome that new horizon and choose to move toward it with the same curiosity of mind and energy that brought you here today.”

Following Judge Rice’s address, several outstanding graduates were presented with awards:  Sherri Davis was the recipient of the Achievement Award; James T. McFarlane, Leadership Award; Cahia S. Goklish, Lindzey C. Collins, and Christeen L. Brockman, the E.M. Coulter Award; Natasha A. Willett, the Mary P. McGurn Award; Mindy Berger and Lydia J. Griffith, the Joseph E. Hurn Award; and Sara K. McDaniel, the M. A. Smythe Award.  Michele Beck, a 2009 graduate of the health information technology program, who works as a Certified Tumor Registrar for Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and at Good Samaritan Hospital as a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), was the recipient of the Alumni Hall of Achievement Award.

Medical assisting graduate Lindzey Collins, one of the recipients of the E.M. Coulter Award, said that she was proud that her family had traveled all the way from Trinidad to attend the commencement ceremony.  She was also excited about her new career working as a registered medical assistant for Schear Family Practice where she was hired after completing her program.

“It’s made a big change in my life,” she said of her degree. “I was able to get a job doing something that I like, compared to working fast food, or doing the same old retail all the time.  Seeing the patients and taking care of them makes me feel good.”

A-United States District Judge Walter Herbert Rice is pictured with campus director Art Wagner following the Dayton Area Campus commencement ceremony.

B-Medical assisting graduate Lindzey Collins was one of the recipients of the E. M. Coulter Award at the Dayton Area Campus graduation.

International Student Enrolls in Cybersecurity Program to Fulfill Dream

International Student Enrolls in Cybersecurity Program to Fulfill Dream

Originally from the Philippines, Lydia Graser dreamed of going to college when she moved to the United States.  Before she met her current husband, a veteran of the United States Air Force, she became a widow when she was only 23 years old.  Being a single mom never afforded her the opportunity to consider higher education.  “I always wanted my children to have an education so they didn’t have to experience what I did when I was younger,” said Lydia.

Now that her children are grown and she has settled with her husband in Nashville, she is ready to pursue her career goals.  Even though she has some experience working in the medical field as a nursing aide, she chose the cybersecurity program at the Nashville Campus because she has always been interested in the information technology field.  “I think it’s a challenge but I enjoy it,” Lydia said, describing how technology fascinates her.

In addition to enjoying the challenge of her program, she also values the friendships she has made at the campus.  “All my classmates have become my friends,” she said.  “People here have become family.”

When she graduates in September, 2015, Lydia hopes to find a job at the Nissan manufacturing plant located in Franklin, Tennessee.

A-Student Lydia Graser is from the Philippines and is studying cybersecurity at the Nashville Campus.

B-Student Lydia Graser’s children are now grown, so she is focusing on her career goals and has chosen the field of cybersecurity.

Native of Cuba Resumes Her Accounting Career In America

Native of Cuba Resumes Her Accounting Career In America

Mariela Diaz had a successful career as an accountant, with four employees under her supervision, when she was living in her native country of Cuba.  But after coming to the United States, she found that the degree that she earned in Cuba wasn’t valid in this country, so she gave up the career that she loved and took a job as a housekeeper.

Although she was nervous about attending college in America, Mariela gathered up her courage and visited the Louisville Campus, where she instantly felt a connection with admissions representative Ely Kraft, who assisted her during her enrollment. 

As a native of Venezuela, Ely was familiar with the cultural challenges that Hispanic students face.  She was able to strengthen Mariela’s confidence and make her feel a part of the American National University family with her strong support and encouragement.

Mariela graduated from American National University with her associate’s degree in accounting and after working as a bookkeeper for a bakery , she was hired by  OPM Financial, an accounting firm that was listed at #84 on Inc. Magazine’s “America’s 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies.”

After just a few months with the firm, Mariela was promoted to her current position in client services.  In her work, she monitors her clients’ monthly activity and produces financial statements, sales orders, and budgets.  “This is my passion,” Mariela said of her work at the firm.  “I love accounting…and the people here are very nice.  I fit in really well.”

Mariela feels that her degree from National has helped her “100 percent” in regaining her professional stature in America.  “I have my associate’s degree in Cuba, but in the United States it doesn’t work,” said Mariela.  “National gave me the opportunity for this job,” she said.

She has recommended American National University to a number of her Hispanic friends who have enrolled at the school. “I have referred many people to American National University,” said Mariela.  “If they want to study anything, they can do it.  Don’t be afraid,” she advised.

A-Mariela Diaz found that the accounting degree that she earned in Cuba was no longer valid in the United States, so she came to the Louisville Campus to regain her educational credentials and resume her career.

B-Admissions representative Ely Kraft (left), a native of Venezuela, supported and encouraged Mariela Diaz (right) during her program at American National University.

Debate Regarding Bullying and Teen Violence Held as a Class Assignment

Debate Regarding Bullying and Teen Violence Held as a Class Assignment

Recently, the Thinking Critically class at the Florence Campus, led by instructor Callie Lhost, held a debate as part of their final project.  The debate topic was whether bullying was a major concern when related to teen violence. 

The class had been divided into two teams at the start of the term and they went head to head during the final class in front the student judge, Angie Henn, and the guest panel of judges, including Cheryl Heer (librarian and instructor), Samantha Palmer (student services representative), and Donna Peck (admissions representative).  The debate format allowed an introduction, argument presentation, cross-examination, and conclusion from each team.  Following each team’s conclusion, the judges were allowed to question and comment on each team. 

Each team presented great statistics that supported their side.  Team One, consisting of Brian Taylor, Teresa Riddle, and Vasva Karahusic, presented statistics from the Center for Disease Control and told us that more firearms were available than ever before.  They did not disagree that bullying may lead to violence, but argued that there are other prominent reasons, including mental instability, poverty, and drug use.  Team Two, composed of Janie Stull, Samia Asker, Maguette Gueye, and Carey Kelly, provided staggering percentages, including that more than 90% of those that were student shooters had been bullied, and that more than 70% of teens say they have been bullied at some point. 

Callie said, “This opportunity was a great learning experience for the students in understanding what credible sources are and a good exercise in being critical thinkers.”

Some of the student who participated in the debate regarding bullying and teen violence included (front row left to right): Bryan Taylor, Vasva Karahusic, (back row left to right): Teresa Riddle, Carey Kelly and Angie Henn.

Award Recipient Enjoys Same Family Atmosphere on the Job that She Found on Campus

Award Recipient Enjoys Same Family Atmosphere on the Job that She Found on Campus

Toni Powers, who received the E.M. Coulter Award during the Danville, Kentucky Campus’s recent commencement ceremony, has always been interested in the medical field.  “If I’d started at 30, I probably would have gone to medical school,” she said. 

When her youngest child was a senior in high school, she decided it was time to go back to school to pursue her career in health care.  “All of the chicks had left the nest, and I decided that it was time to do something for me,” she explained.

Toni found American National University online and enrolled in the medical billing and coding program.  She particularly liked the individual attention that she received in her classes.  “Every instructor knew every student’s name, and they were very helpful,” she recalled.  “They want you to succeed.”

After earning her diploma in medical billing and coding, Toni is working as a payment analyst in the business office of St. Joseph Health Systems.  “Quite frankly, it’s why I got hired,” she said of her education at National.

She feels lucky to have found a family atmosphere at St. Joseph Health similar to the one that she enjoyed at National.  “The people that I work with are incredible,” said Toni.  “We’re like a family.  I worked as a [federal] work-study at National, and I said when I was there that I hoped that I’d find the same family feel [at my workplace] that they have at the Danville Campus, and I found that.  I feel blessed.”

A-Medical billing and coding graduate Toni Powers is working as a payment analyst in the business office of St. Joseph Health Systems.

B-Toni Powers is shown accepting the E. M. Coulter Award from student services representative Mike Sutton during the Danville, Kentucky Campus graduation ceremony.

Practice Develops Skills for Surgical Technology Students

Practice Develops Skills for Surgical Technology Students

Surgical technology is a very exacting science. Successfully mastering the skill set required to become a surgical technologist takes perseverance, attention to detail, and unwavering determination. Clinical training sessions are intense, closely monitored, and designed to impart confidence and the utmost in hands-on competencies which are demanded by this career.

Many hours of clinical observation and hands-on training prepare students for their externship - which is the last term in their career training where they will be performing their duties during actual surgeries. Expectations are high, with little tolerance for poor skills which can negatively-impact the patient’s positive outcome.

Students at the Lexington campus are extraordinarily dedicated to their careers. They show outstanding skills and competencies as they progress thru their training. Donald Carr, American National University graduate and surgical technologist, shares this advice for American National University students, “You must be precise and confident in your skills. Your knowledge has to become instinctive in nature. The surgical team is counting on you and so is the patient…”

Lexington’s surgical technology students are preparing for their careers…and employers in the region are counting on them to join their surgical teams and bring their highly developed skills with them.

Pictured (l) to (r) are: Edwin Leniger, Donald Carr, Brooke Sprigler, Dominique Chilton, and Edwin Harris.  

The National News is a biweekly publication designed to share the success and academic accomplishments of students and graduates from American National University and National College. For more information, contact the Communications Department.

In accordance with the regulations of the Tennessee Higher Education Council, all references to "American National University" refer to "National College" in the state of Tennessee.