Every year during Augusta University’s commencement ceremonies, students are selected to take the stage to share their perspectives with their fellow graduates and those in attendance. While the messages may vary, each can be very poignant.
This year, the honor has been bestowed upon Deepali Giri and Justin Goddard, who were voted by their peers.
Giri is graduating with a Master of Science in the nursing program from the College of Nursing and will serve as the student speaker at the Graduate Hooding and Commencement Ceremony.
Goddard, who will graduate with a degree in Business Administration from the Hull College of Business, will take the stage at the Undergraduate Ceremony. Both are drawing on their experiences to inspire their fellow graduates.
“I think my overall message is just centered on the importance and the power of community, especially from my personal experience,” said Goddard. “I know all of the successes that I’ve had in college have actually been contributed to by other people. I think just having that sense of community really showed me my potential in life and I think that’s something that a lot of people can take away from their experiences not just in college, but also for their future as well.”
“I want to emphasis the hard work we’ve done and the obstacles we’ve faced and the perseverance through it all,” said Giri. “There’s many different phases of hard work, there’s many different backgrounds everyone’s from and when we put in the hard work together, it’s something that got us here.”
Giri will be stepping out of her comfort zone a bit as she hasn’t done much in the way of public speaking. Since she was voted for the honor, it has touched her even more.
For Goddard, who has been creating YouTube videos that tell his life story for several years, this is almost a continuation of that and serves as a way to give back to the university as one final send-off for not only himself, but others within the university.
Traveling cross country to attend Augusta University
For Giri, coming to Augusta University was a big step.
She’s from California and did her undergraduate work close to home. She really didn’t think about coming to AU until her mom encouraged her to do so. With the master’s program being a 16-month accelerated program, it really enticed her to make the move.
“I had a background in public health so I did a lot of research, and I really liked it. When I saw that I can do nursing and research at the same time, then it was just all in one, I said why not go for it?” said Giri.
She admits she was nervous in making the move but was also excited since she could stay in on-campus housing with the hospital within walking distance.
The coursework has been challenging but she has a passion for health care.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to continue, and I want to keep learning. Something that was emphasized at AU is organization and really helping the students proceed in the program. It’s very fast-paced and not like the regular generic two-and-a-half-year programs so I really have liked the program here,” she said.
Her connection with children will motivate Giri to pursue her doctoral degree specializing as a pediatric nurse after graduating from Augusta University.
Embracing and capitalizing on social media
Goddard came to Augusta University as a student-athlete from the Atlanta area. He ran track a couple of years before the classwork and outside ventures started to dominate his time. While he wants to go into digital marketing, he also wants a second career as a photographer and content creator. He started a YouTube channel early in his AU days, which led him down this career path.
“I think it really allowed me to find my niche, in a sense, and then I just kept finding different ways of making content. I think overall through the content, it helped me find myself, in a sense, because I didn’t necessarily know what I could contribute to the world before doing content or anything like that,” Goddard said.
Getting the business administration degree with a concentration in digital marketing has allowed him to learn the management side of things, creating a good medium between the business side and creativity side of the business world.
He’s also become the first person to serve as social media coordinator for the Augusta University Police Department, a job he’s held since late in his freshman year. Being in that position has helped him on both the networking and marketing sides of the spectrum.
Wrapping up their collegiate careers, Giri and Goddard have enjoyed their time at AU and have had professors who’ve left lasting impressions as they go forward.
“Professor (Fran) Slone really stood out to me because, in my first semester, she said to keep it simple. Always keep it simple. For example, if you’re learning about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, there’s 40 different pages about COPD. She just kind of explained the simple steps and the simple searches lead you to further knowledge,” said Giri.
“I have to start with Dr. Elizabeth Huggins,” said Goddard. “Just because she’s actually the program director for the Jaguar Jumpstart program that I did. For me, I graduated high school and then I was actually enrolled and moved in at AU about two weeks later and she was there since the beginning. I’d say, outside of her, Professor Roger Duke and Dr. Stacy Roberts as well.”