Malagasy students complete goal of Lipscomb degree at commencement Saturday

By Kim Chaudoin on 5/4/2012


For the past four years, Lipscomb University has been home to 26 students from Madagascar, the largest group of such students at a university in the United States. In the fall of 2008, these students enrolled at Lipscomb after a rigorous selection process through which they earned the opportunity for a college degree paid for by the Malagasy government. On Saturday, these students will walk across the stage to receive their college degrees from Lipscomb University.

Madagascar, bison, graduationThe journey has not always been easy. During their first year at Lipscomb, the students learned of a coup in their native country. This meant the lives of loved ones were in danger, the country’s economy was crippled and the president who pledged to pay for their education was deposed. However, the new government later decided to honor the original plan and continued funding their tuition. Many haven’t been able to go home to see family in the four years since they arrived in Nashville. Others have overcome language and cultural challenges. But all of them have accomplished their mission of completing an undergraduate degree at Lipscomb. Now they can return to their homeland and pursue positions of leadership that will allow them to improve the quality of life and share their faith.

“We’ve developed a deep love and appreciation for this group of talented young people. In fact, our relationship began before they came to Nashville,” said Jim Thomas, executive assistant to Lipscomb’s president. “We went to Madagascar to personally meet them and assist the Malagasy government with the final selection process. We knew then that these students had tremendous potential. They have enriched our classrooms and our community. It has been a great experience to see them grow academically and spiritiually. Our hearts are full knowing they have achieved their goal of earning a college degree. But, we also are feeling a sense of loss that we won’t be seeing their warm, smiling faces every day once they graduate.”

The students have performed well in the classroom. On Saturday, 18 of the 26 will graduate with academic honors. One of those, Paule Annecie Benatrehina, a biochemistry major, has maintained a perfect 4.0 average. 

Soa Razafimanjato, a management major with an emphasis in sustainability, said her dream was to attend a university in the United States.

“I will never forget the evening of Initium (the ceremony to begin the school year) when I first came to Lipscomb because it reminded me that my dream to attend an American university had come true,” said Razafimanjato, who plans to pursue a graduate degree in the future. “Lipscomb has been an inspiration to me and has helped me in my spiritual, intellectual and physical growth.”

Camaria Bevavy, an information technology applications and web application development major, said “I found a family and a community that shaped me and nurtured me to grow both academically and spiritually and to be a servant like Jesus Christ. I will always remember my teachers, my classmates, the wonderful Lipscomb staff, the Battle of the Boulevard and the running of the Bisons.”

“Lipscomb was more than just a school. It’s a community. I will remember the fellowship that I had with my friends and also my involvement in the community. The Lipscomb community has been my family since 2008 and will always have a special place in my heart,” said Noaritamby Rakotoarilina, a financial markets major who plans on pursuing a graduate business degree following graduation.

The students will be among the more than 600 students, a Lipscomb record, to participate in spring commencement Saturday, May 5 at 3 p.m. in Allen Arena.

Madagascar’s former ambassador to the U.S., Jocelyn Radifera and his wife, Erna, will be at Lipscomb on Saturday to see the students graduate. Also, representing the Embassy of Madagascar by attending the ceremony will be Velotiana R. RAOBELINA, Chargé d’affaires a.i.; Mamiharilala RASOLOJAONA, deputy chief of mission; Miravola RANDRIA, attaché/protocol officer; and Abel RANDRIAMAMONJY, finance and administrative officer. In addition, the students families have been notified that they can watch the commencement ceremony, streamed live on the university website at