Arkansas Tech University hosted a commencement ceremony on Friday afternoon for 15 Taiwanese students who completed the Master of Arts in English program through an 11-month cohort program.
The ceremony was held in the Doc Bryan Student Services Building Lecture Hall.
Dr. Mary Gunter, dean of the Graduate College, presented the graduates with their degrees. Dr. John Watson, vice president for academic affairs, presided over the conferring of degrees.
"You have richly enhanced the environment here at Arkansas Tech," said Watson in addressing the graduates. "You have exposed our native students to your culture, and you have helped each of us better understand your homeland. Thank you for trusting your education with Arkansas Tech."
The audience was dotted with fellow students and faculty members, but members of the Russellville community also made up a good percentage of the crowd.
At first glance, it would have been easy for an observer to mistake those community members for host families or some other official organization designed to welcome the international students to Arkansas.
Amy Pennington, director of the Arkansas Tech International and Multicultural Student Services Office (IMSSO), said that is not the case at all.
"They (the community members) represent friendships that these students have made independently," said Pennington. "They have forged these friendships in churches and other community organizations. These students really put themselves out there, and the Russellville community greeted them with open arms. These are long-term friendships that will continue through correspondence."
The cohort master's degree program at Arkansas Tech is coordinated by IMSSO.
The program allows international students to pursue a Master of Education in instructional technology degree or a Master of Arts in English degree with the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages option.
According to the IMSSO Web site, the program is designed to provide students with a rigorous 11-month experience.
"These programs are ideal for educational professionals currently teaching who can obtain a one-year sabbatical from their duties to earn an advanced degree," states the IMSSO site.