JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University (ETSU) awarded more than 2,000 degrees to students in the past two days at its 2023 Spring Commencement ceremonies.

“It’s weird,” said ETSU graduate, Noah Bowen. “I didn’t feel excited, until like last week, and then in here, I actually felt proud when we came around the corner, and some of my professors were in this line. They gave us some handshakes. I was like, ‘Okay that feels exciting.’ And that left me with a little smile on my face when I got back to my seat.”

Bowen received his bachelor’s degree in biology. Now that Bowen has finished his undergraduate college journey, he has advice for those still pushing along.

“No matter what hardship you feel, there’s always someone or something that can help you get through it,” said Bowen. “Mental health. There’s plenty of on-site stuff. Physical health. They have some stuff here and if you need to take a break, take a break.”

Ryan McParland graduated with a bachelor of science in nursing. He is also the president of the Spring 2023 ETSU Nursing Cohort. He says being in nursing school, itself, is a big challenge.

“For my pediatrics final, I was in the library for 14 hours one day,” said McParland. “So, it’s a whole lot of self-motivation and self-discipline and sometimes failing in that, but also recognizing that you failed and whatever, you didn’t get an assignment turned in and didn’t do as well as you wanted on a test, do the remediation, they call it. And try to get back into the game and then working from there.”

McParland will begin a new chapter working at the Tri-Star Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I’ll be working with stroke victims or people who basically just have neurological problems, maybe like neuro surgeries after they have the surgery and taking care of them and before as well,” said McParland.

He says he has a plan to achieve his end goal.

“I’m eventually going to make my way into pediatrics,” said McParland. “I want to become a nurse practitioner, maybe a family nurse practitioner or pediatric nurse practitioner. Not sure, but I want to work in type-1 diabetes, which is primarily pediatrics.”

As for Bowen, he plans to head to graduate school in the fall.

“Depending on how the Master’s program goes, either A: I will continue into a Ph.D. somewhere or B: I want to try to look in a field, preferably to do with wildlife,” said Bowen. “I really love salamanders and wetlands stuff. So, a wetlands conservation or something like that.”

McParland encourages students to work hard for what they want.

“Sometimes you’re going to miss out on opportunities socially that you might be able to do, had you chosen something else,” said McParland. “But if you know you want to be here, you’ll work for it.”