Faces of Graduation
Alexa and Christa Kelly
Degree: Alexa – Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering; Christa – Bachelor of Science in Building Construction
Post-grad Plans: Alexa – working at Newell Rubbermaid; Christa – working at Turner Construction
Were it not for a last-minute application on the part of their older brother, twin sisters Alexa and Christa Kelly may never have come to Georgia Tech. But Saturday, they’ll be the fourth and fifth of six siblings from New Jersey to graduate from the Institute.
“I loved it the first time I visited my brother here,” Alexa said. It took Christa a little longer to decide, but the two ended up enrolling together, albeit in different majors and bedrooms. Their parents will attend their fourth — and last — Georgia Tech commencement ceremony this weekend; other Kelly siblings graduated in 2007, 2010, and 2012.
Visiting and living on campus during the past 10 years, Alexa and Christa watched the campus transform physically. Christa, a building construction major, was privileged to see some campus projects in progress through site visits with classes. One physical constant in their time at Tech was the Zeta Tau Alpha house, where they both lived and where all four Kelly sisters who attended Tech became members. Some of their favorite memories were also made in Bobby Dodd Stadium.
“One of our sisters still lives in Atlanta, and getting to see her on weekends and at games was nice,” Alexa said. “We’re very family oriented.”
Both will return to New Jersey briefly before starting full-time jobs this summer.
“I’ll miss the other people at Tech who motivate you,” Christa said. “Everyone is trying to do well and is serious about their studies, but are also so welcoming and nice. I made some of my best friends while staying up late studying, goofing off, trying to keep things light.”
“You learn a lot about yourself and what drives you,” Alexa said of her time at Tech. “There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment in everyone going through something challenging together."
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering
Post-grad Plans: Working as an algorithm engineer at L3 Mustang Technology in Dallas, Texas
If ever you noticed a foot dangling from a tree branch on west campus, it was probably just Jimmy Sutehall.
Walking past the Manufacturing Related Disciplines Complex one day, he noticed a piece of wood nailed into a tree's branches, so he climbed up to investigate. Some industrious Yellow Jacket had created a makeshift nest that became a favorite resting place for Sutehall amid the chaos of college life.
“There’s always so much going on, and it’s stressful,” he said. “Sometimes you have to be stubborn and take time for yourself.”
During his five years at Tech, Sutehall also spent a great deal of time at the Catholic Center. He took six mission trips to Nicaragua, where he used his electrical engineering skills to install solar panels to power a water pump providing clean water.
Learning a lesson about work/life balance and applying engineering in the developing world were both formative experiences for Sutehall. But perhaps his fondest memory came on a Thursday night in 2009, when Tech upset fourth-ranked Virginia Tech in a remarkable football rout. Sutehall found himself atop a goal post before it came to the ground, and he helped carry it to the president’s home on 10th Street, where G. P. “Bud” Peterson autographed Sutehall’s own piece of Tech history.
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Post-grad Plans: Start a company – “or try”
It’s often said that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. When Cecili Reid was given rejection, she made a place for acceptance.
During Reid’s sophomore year, she applied for numerous leadership roles on campus, but kept striking out. Then, as a first-generation college student, she had an idea to start an organization focused on this population.
“There was support, but no real community,” she said. She first conceived the idea in spring 2012 and founded FirstGen that October. Since then, more than 140 students have connected with the organization.
“It was a great learning experience for me on my leadership ability,” she said. “It’s what got me interested in startups.”
In addition to founding FirstGen, Reid studied abroad in Barcelona, worked as a research assistant, and was part of the Honors Program. She also spent much of her time at the Student Center, where she worked for three and a half years, napped at Under the Couch, and ate many meals in the Commons.
Reid is giving herself a year to play out a startup idea for an application that lets ticketholders swap seats at sporting events.
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy with a major in International Affairs, Science, and Technology
Post-grad Plans: Assistant professor in the Sonoco International Business Department of the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina
Michael Murphree is earning his third degree from Georgia Tech, and he's the first ever to earn a Ph.D. in international affairs, science, and technology from Tech's Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.
Being among the first doctoral candidates gave Murphree the chance to help define the program's future research agenda.
“It’s a very exciting place to be as an academic,” he said.
Murphree didn’t always aspire to be an academic. He began at Tech as a President’s Scholar when he enrolled as an undergraduate in 2000. Teaching English in China prior to earning his master’s, conducting research there, and authoring a book helped him decide to pursue the academic path.
“In doing field research in China, writing the book and doing publications, I realized I really enjoyed the life of the mind,” he said.
Murphree leaves Tech, for what may be the last time, with a tenure track job offer as an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina.
“I’ll miss the faculty and the strong mentorship I’ve had at Tech,” he said. “[The Ph.D. program] has been a wonderful opportunity because it’s such an open field and broad in its research areas.”
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration; concentration in Operations and Supply Chain Management
Post-grad Plans: Working in Key Account Support at Georgia Power in Atlanta
Shannon Mehl was supposed to go to Auburn.
“My brother went there, and we’re best friends — and I was just always going to go there,” she said. But after visiting campus during a women’s recruiting event, she decided to apply to Georgia Tech. The Scheller College of Business awarded her one of its first Dean’s Scholarships, granted to incoming freshmen in business administration.
“That made it happen,” she said. “I’ve loved all the dinners and events through the program along the way — that’s really where I learned to network and talk to people in business.” Mehl is part of the first Dean’s Scholar cohort graduating this semester.
She was involved in Zeta Tau Alpha, Habitat for Humanity, and the Women in Science and Technology community, but most closely identifies with the College of Business, where she also served as a teaching assistant for a career development class.
“I’ve made it a goal to support my own Dean’s Scholar one day,” she said. “It’s had such a huge impact on my college career, and I want to be able to impact someone else just the same.”
Ha Young Choi
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Chemistry; minors in International Affairs and Energy Systems
Post-grad Plans: Working in the South Korean government
Spending his childhood in Seoul, South Korea, and his teenage years in Shanghai, China, Ha Young Choi was an amateur globetrotter long before he even made it to Atlanta to attend Georgia Tech.
“I was interested in chemistry, science, and engineering, and how they are applicable to society,” Choi said. “Tech seemed like a great place to study that.”
Choi, a chemistry major, will graduate with minors in both international affairs and energy systems — one of Tech’s first graduates to earn this minor. His participation in Tech’s Brussels Summer Program, where he was able to talk with government officials working on energy and climate change issues, helped him solidify a career path in diplomacy and energy.
Though Choi loved studying abroad, he wouldn't take it over Tech’s campus. His favorite places varied based on the year, but this year he spent many hours in the Library’s multimedia studio, working on projects and presentations. Tech Square was also a perennial favorite.
Choi is most grateful for the interdisciplinary opportunities it afforded him.
“Jobs of the future will require knowledge of many different fields,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities you can’t get when you’re not in college."
Add Your Face to the Faces of Graduation
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Staying in Touch with Tech
If you're graduating this weekend, here are a few things to consider as your affiliation transitions from student to alumnus.
Spring 2014 Commencement Events
Ph.D. Hooding Ceremony
Thursday, May 1
President's Graduation Celebration
Friday, May 2
Ph.D. and Master's Ceremony
Friday, May 2
Saturday, May 3
9 a.m. and 3 p.m.