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Shayla Riley-Dorsey is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the College of Education. Fall Commencement will be at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10 at the James Brown Arena [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

Graduation Week 2021: Commencement speaker to celebrate students’ resiliency during difficult times

Being named commencement speaker for graduation is a big deal. A lot of times, those speeches will be remembered for quite some time. For Fall Commencement at Augusta University, the honor is bestowed upon Shayla Riley-Dorsey.

Riley-Dorsey is a kinesiology major with a concentration in pre-physical therapy in the College of Education. Like many, her road to graduation hasn’t been a smooth one. It’s her journey that’s the focus of her commencement speech.

“I’m hoping that it’s a message that will keep students going throughout graduation and after. Just knowing through all the delays we’ve had with COVID and family concerns, we have not been denied being able to graduate,” said Riley-Dorsey.

There have been struggles for her, both in the classroom and in her personal life, that nearly kept her from getting this far. Valdosta, Georgia, is her home and having lost some family members in the past few years left her questioning whether she should finish her education in Augusta.

“It definitely deterred me from just wanting to even continue, not schooling per se, but even going four hours away to Augusta University,” said Riley-Dorsey

Her love for AU and the city won out in the end.

“I really don’t want to leave right now. Augusta is my second home and I continue to see it not only as Augusta University but also the community. Being so diverse, inclusive, all the six values we try to keep up at Augusta University.”

During her time at AU, Riley-Dorsey was active in several campus organizations and said friendships there will go long beyond her time as a student.

Fall 2021 Commencement features nearly 900 graduates covering more than 50 majors.

Augusta University’s Fall 2021 Commencement will be at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10 at the James Brown Arena. Watch ceremony via livestream. 
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Written by
Kevin Faigle

Kevin Faigle is Media Relations Specialist at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at kfaigle@augusta.edu.

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Written by Kevin Faigle

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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Students smiling for a photo in front of the James Brown statue downtown.