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Commencement speaker advises graduates to take time for nature

August 4, 2017
(left to right) Provost Ralph Byington; President's Award winners Braxton Palmer and Emily Zielonka; and President David DeCenzoCommencement speaker John HutchensChrisean Head was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In his remarks to graduates at Coastal Carolina University's summer commencement ceremony, speaker John Hutchens, a CCU biology professor and ecologist, encouraged them to take time in the future to interact with nature and with other people. Approximately 390 students were eligible to walk in the ceremony, held at the HTC Student Recreation and Convocation Center on campus.

"I encourage you to go outside regularly and take notice of what you see," said Hutchens. "In today's high tech world we are often racing along at breakneck speed, but being outside slows you down and allows you to experience the rhythms of nature. You can actually hear yourself think …and you can be a part of something bigger than yourself. The health benefits include lowering your blood pressure, lowering levels of stress, and enhancing your ability to fight diseases. … As an ecologist, please allow me to remind you to think about protecting the environment we so depend on. We need nature just as nature needs a helping hand from us."

Hutchens also emphasized the importance of human interaction. "While texting and other forms of social media are now the norm for keeping in touch, face-to-face communication is essential. … Strengthening your actual-not just your digital-interactions with others will make your life and the lives around you much richer."

The event also featured the commissioning ceremony for graduating senior and ROTC cadet Chrisean Head, who was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Two students received the President's Award for Academic Achievement, which recognizes students with the highest cumulative grade point averages. Braxton Jinna Palmer, a political science major of Honolulu, Hawaii, and Emily Ann Zielonka, a biology and marine science double major of Roseville, Mich., both earned perfect 4.0 grade point averages, graduating summa cum laude.