Skip to main content

Students honored at inaugural first generation pinning ceremonies in 2022-2023

Eleven first generation students honored in December, and 14 students honored this May.

Janel Shoun-Smith  | 

First generation December 2022 Graduates

First generation students who graduated in December 2022, celebrating after the inaugural pinning ceremony.

As part of Lipscomb University’s December and May commencement ceremonies, the university held its inaugural First Generation Pinning Ceremonies for students who are the first in their families to graduate from college.

The December ceremony was held in Ward Hall, with students dressed in their robes and mortarboards and proceeding into the auditorium to the tunes of fun rock music and the cheers of friends and family members. Students could choose a role model who supported them throughout their college career to walk with them into the auditorium. The role models also pinned the students during the ceremony.

Following the pinning ceremony, Dr. Candice McQueen, Lipscomb president, spoke to the graduates about what it means to be a first-generation college graduate. McQueen reminded the students that they are first in line “for greatness” and “that responsibility is going to be a part of who (they) are.”

“You will always be part of the Lipscomb Herd,” she concluded.

A May 2023 graduate and her family posing for photos

Dr. Chelsea Harris, executive director of the School of Nursing, shared her story of being a first-generation student who followed her calling to earn her nurse practitioner degree from Vanderbilt University at age 26. She reminded the students that “God does not call the equipped. He equips the called,” a saying she often tells her students.

“You have been called to be here on purpose and for a purpose,” Harris continued. “College must have felt like a huge mountain, and you didn’t have the climbing gear that others had… maybe you were assigned this mountain to show others that it can be moved.”

Harris closed her speech by referring to the audience guests, saying, “Look around and see the people who have poured into you as you told this mountain to move out of your way!”

Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker, Lipscomb's new provost, spoke as well. Shewmaker told the story of her father, a first-generation college student who “grew up in poverty… but fell in love with learning… and his decision to go to college changed our family forever.”

Turning to the graduates, she said, “you are changing your family’s story. What you are doing makes a difference for your family, your community, and the world around you.”

First generation student receiving their pin.

“It is important for us to publicly recognize the significance of being the first person in a family to earn a college degree,” says Dr. Prentice Ashford, dean of community life. “The courage it takes to embark on a journey (at 18-21 years old) to change the course of your family tree does not go unnoticed, so we want to do everything we can to let the students know that what they just accomplished is worth celebrating.” 

When first-generation students first come to campus during their freshman year, Lipscomb provides them with support on the front end such as a boot camp program just for them, marking the start of the student's journey at Lipscomb, said Ashford.

“We figured that organizing a formal 'end' prior to students walking across the big graduation stage would be a good way to book-end their time at Lipscomb,” he said.

“We wanted to make sure first-generation students feel proud of their accomplishments and know that we are proud of them as well,” remarked Candace Williams, director of community life and office of intercultural development and student organizations.

Williams continued, “The importance of having a pin to wear at graduation should signify to themselves and others this major accomplishment. We hope they wear and keep them as a badge of honor.” 


Lipscomb president Candice McQueen poses with first generation students and family members

Students honored at the December 2022 pinning ceremony were:

  • Lily Dao, BS in biology, Nashville
  • Kalkidan Dejene, BS in biology, Antioch, Tennessee
  • Eyorusalem Ghebreyohans, BSN in nursing, Nashville
  • Britany Gonzalez, BA in law, justice and society, Memphis
  • Citrah Hassan, BS in psychology, Nashville
  • Cicela Hernandez, BA in Spanish teaching, Nashville
  • DeLayna Keys, BA in business leadership, LaVergne, Tennessee
  • Karla Majano, BBA in accounting, Madison, Tennessee
  • Devon Nissen, BS in biology, Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee
  • Madison Pereira, BBA in management, Brentwood, Tennessee
  • Jocelyn Castro Ramirez, BS in psychology, LaVergne, Tennessee
A graduate at the May 2023 pinning ceremony

Fourteen students were honored on Tuesday, May 2, at 5 p.m. in the Dorris Swang Chapel.

  • Anna Adams, English major
  • Jessica Fincher, social work major
  • Jaquelin Muniz Huerta, biology major 
  • Shelby Hobbs, social work major
  • Alexis Ketterman, social work major
  • Julissa Corea Martinez, social work major
  • Angie Medina, biology major
  • Philip Minea, accounting major
  • Linda Obregon, psychology major
  • Dulce Perez, Spanish education major
  • Cristian Ramires, biology major
  • Aleah Sorrentino, law, justice & society major
  • Joseph Spillers, civil engineering major 
  • Jason Southall, marketing major
A husband pinning his wife, a May 2023 first generation graduate