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Students share Inauguration experiences

By Jonathan Hutchinson
On March 9, 2013

GSU professors and students came together February 26 in Engbretson Hall to share their memories of a trip they will never forget - the journey to Washington, D.C. for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The group celebrated their experiences and recollections of attending the January 21 Inauguration during an event focusing on the importance of civic engagement. The event's Master of Ceremonies was Sheree Sanderson, Assistant Dean of Students. She kicked off the evening by giving thanks to all the people who helped her put together the event. She referred to the event as a "...historical journey that we went on to the Presidential Inauguration." She then proceeded to introduce one of her "personal GSU student roving reporters."

Amanda Ziaja, member of T.W.A.G., produced a video that opened the event, which appeared on the giant projection screen inside Engbretson Hall. The video contained a clip of the Mayor of Hagerstown, Maryland, David S. Gysberts discussing civic duty. Then there was a clip of Dr. Phyllis Dunce encouraging students to become civically responsible. Next, there was a clip of a student talking about the experience of witnessing American history firsthand. Then there were more student testimonials about what they thought of the trip.

Assistant Dean Sanderson proceeded to introduce Dr. Phyllis West, who talked about her belief that GSU students are fortunate to be there, and her conviction that GSU students are global citizens that can make a difference. She expressed her gratitude in the President's confidence that GSU students are global citizens, and ended by thanking President Elaine Maimon for allowing those in attendance to be global citizens.

Following the video, several GSU students gave their own presentations accompanied by slideshows. Each of them covered a different segment of what they experienced at the Presidential Inauguration. The first to present was Shaniqua Jones from the College of Arts and Sciences.

Jones remembered her deceased family members during her trip, saying, "When I stood on the streets of Washington, I stood with my deceased father who served our country over 50 years ago. I stood with my mother who was born and raised in Mississippi in 1940" Jones also remarked, "I laughed, I cried, and I laughed some more."

Patrice Wilbur from the College of Arts and Sciences presented next. The Inauguration trip was not her first trip to Washington, D.C. Her group arrived in Maryland at 7:00 p.m. and had to be up at 4:30 a.m. the next morning. She said was exhausted, but her energy level was at an all-time high. When they finally arrived in Arlington Stadium, there were rows of buses for the group to ride to D.C. She drew laughter from the audience by saying, "Getting to the train was a breeze, but getting off the train was a trip."

They visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial as part of the many stops they made on the way to the Inauguration. Wilbur expressed thanks and gratitude to the team that took her around D.C.. Wilbur said the trip, "Was very emotional, very touching."

Suzette Shepherd, from the College of Arts and Sciences, was so touched by her experience that she expressed her gratitude by presenting her mentor, Professor Tammy Winn, with a bouquet of roses. She called the trip to Washington, D.C., "the trip of a lifetime."

Michael Alexander, from the College of Human Health and Sciences, conveyed his gratitude towards mayor David S. Gysberts because he was inspired by his dedication to social work, his hospitality toward the GSU students, and the political change he was able to make as mayor.

Unfortunately, an ABC News interview of Dr. Phyllis West was not shown at the event because of a bad internet connection. However, the event continued on with Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, an Assistant Professor of Social Science at GSU. Dr. Johnson gave a glimpse into the hard work she and her team went through, to make it possible for the GSU students to go on the trip.

GSU President Maimon also spoke about February 26 being an Election Day, and the importance of local elections. She also talked about the importance of civic engagement.

Sanderson then called to the stage all of the students who participated in GSU's Washington D.C. Inauguration trip. Audience members were then invited to mingle with the participants and ask them about their experiences in Washington D.C.

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