In the 1980s, Sharon Bragg made good money as a hairdresser in Charlottesville. She had a natural talent for the job and a thriving clientele.
Fast-forward to this December, and Bragg is earning her second advanced degree from the University of Virginia’s School of Nursing.
Bragg is one of 518 students who are earning degrees this month. These mid-year diplomas are going to students who are either finishing their coursework early or, like Bragg, perhaps took an extra semester to complete a final project.
Bragg’s journey to UVA started when she realized she’d hit a wall in the beauty business. She was ready for a new challenge. Her roommate was working for the local rescue squad and convinced Bragg to volunteer with the unit.
It was a fateful decision. Bragg realized she liked caring for people and set out to begin a second career as a nurse in the UVA Health System. She’s been at it for the last 26 years, both in the hospital and in the classroom.
In December of 2012, Bragg earned her master’s degree in nursing. She returned to the classroom in 2014 to begin her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, all while working as the full-time assistant nurse manager in the Health System’s medical intensive care unit. She wrapped up her degree requirements this month.
Catherine Vermillion’s road to UVA began at Virginia Tech, where she earned her undergraduate degree in human development in 2016. A desire to teach drew her interest to UVA’s Curry School of Education. She enrolled in August of 2016 and accelerated her studies so she could earn her master’s degree in teaching this month.
After graduation, the Alexandria native is returning to her roots, where she will begin teaching kindergarten at her hometown’s Lyles-Crouch Elementary School in January. “I’m excited to work in a public school. I think diversity is important,” she said.
She will also make the adjustment to being called “Ms. Vermillion.” “It was weird at first and made me feel old,” she said.
UVA does not hold formal graduation ceremonies for December graduates, but they are invited back to participate in Finals Weekend, which takes place May 18-20 this year.
Vermillion and Bragg both said they will return in May to formally collect their diplomas. Bragg, who will gladly tell you that she is 56, said nothing can keep her from walking the Lawn.
“I think there are very few times as an adult that you get to have ceremonies and pomp and circumstance,” she said. “So, I’m just excited at the possibility. It’s just a beautiful ceremony. I don’t want to miss out on that.”
Here are six more facts about UVA’s 518 December graduates.
- All 11 of UVA’s schools and the Data Science Institute awarded degrees this month.
- Perhaps not surprisingly, the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, UVA’s largest school, awarded the most degrees: 253.
- UVA awarded 25 different types of degrees this December. The Bachelor of Arts degree was the most awarded, with 177 recipients. The Bachelor of Science degree came in second, with 30 degrees distributed.
- Vermillion was one of 45 people to earn a Master of Teaching degree in December.
- Bragg was one of only two people to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
- Seventeen people were awarded a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree from UVA’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.