Caps in the Air: Columbia Southern University Holds Graduation at OWA

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Local University's Keynote Speaker Erin Gruwell Encourages Graduates to Tell Their Stories

Erin Gruwell was the keynote speaker at the 2017 Columbia Southern University Commencement at the Foley Event Center at OWA on Oct. 27, 2017.

More than 600 Columbia Southern University (CSU) graduates were applauded by local community leaders and loved ones as they walked across the stage in celebration of their commencement on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, at the Foley Event Center at OWA.

Danesha Rowser, who traveled from Demopolis, Alabama, was very excited about receiving her Associate of Science in criminal justice.

“I love CSU. It was very convenient for me to take the online courses,” said Rowser. “I’m happy to be here today. I made it!”

The ceremony’s keynote speaker, Erin Gruwell, is a teacher, author and founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation. She offered inspiring thoughts to the students on the importance of leaving a “legacy of words.”

“Our story, like many of yours, was like a phoenix rising from the ashes,” said Gruwell. “And so as I tell their story, I’m really just telling your story…about serving and sacrificing, about making tough decisions, because tough decisions and tough times make really tough people. And by doing right, by doing right for those that you serve and humbly serve.”

During the ceremony, CSU President Robert Mayes presented the Robert G. Mayes Sr. Distinguished Faculty of the Year Award to adjunct professor Linda Martin of the College of Safety and Emergency Services. The award honored Martin for her outstanding contributions to students in the field of occupational safety and health.

A ceremony highlight reel can be downloaded at

About Columbia Southern University
One of the nation’s pioneer online universities, Columbia Southern University was established in 1993 to provide an alternative to the traditional university experience. CSU offers online associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees such as business administration, criminal justice, fire administration and occupational safety and health. Visit or call (877) 347-6050 to learn more.

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Anthony Cornealius
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