Samford University's fall commencement on Saturday, Dec. 15, will have a definite international flair.
The 269 graduates include a federal judge from Brazil who will receive a Master of Comparative Law degree from Samford's Cumberland School of Law, and 15 Master of Science in Environmental Management degree recipients who hail from China or Taiwan.
Ke Liu and Guanhu Chen are among the Chinese students who are completing the year-long M.S.E.M. curriculum. Both look forward to putting their new knowledge to good use.
"China has a big environmental problem," says Liu, adding that severe air pollution is caused by the country's large population and "tons of car emission." But, perhaps because environmental agencies belong to the government and there is a lack of private companies to address the issue, she says, most people don't know or care.
Liu, known as "Kelly" to her Samford friends, says she may work for a local government, an energy company or a company's environmental department when she returns home to Beijing.
She says she has enjoyed her "southern America" experience, and that Samford, with its relatively small student population suits her well. "Samford is a good place to make you calm down and do serious study," said Liu, who appreciated her kind professors and the campus life, and found getting to know American culture to be "fun and cheerful."
Chen, who is from Hubei Province in China, agrees that his homeland has a serious pollution problem and believes that the field of environmental management has great potential there.
"I have learned a lot," he said of his year in the graduate program, citing information on legal matters and a "different way of thinking" about environmental issues. He anticipates that his new expertise will help his career, which he will begin with an internship or job in the U.S. for a few years.
"Then, I will go back to China to contribute to those environmental issues," he said, adding that he especially hopes to impact the legal system as it relates to his field.
Chen, known as "Tiger" at Samford, says he has missed traditional Chinese food this year, but when he does return home, he will miss "the freedom atmosphere," the convenience of driving a car, and Homewood's Saw's BBQ restaurant.
Chen, Liu and 13 other Asian students are among 21 M.S.E.M. students receiving degrees on Saturday. Other classmates hail from the Bahamas and Mobile, Birmingham, Pelham and Jemison in Alabama.
Adriana de Zanetti, a federal judge in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, has made the long, 10-hour flight from her home in order to participate in Saturday's 10 a.m. commencement program in Wright Center. She was a judge in a São Paulo suburb when she entered Cumberland's Master of Comparative Law program in 2009.
She completed the required courses by attending courses in June of 2009 and 2010 on the Samford campus, and courses in July of both years at Cumberland's summer study-abroad program in Cambridge, England.
Judge de Zanetti found her Cumberland academic experience to be rewarding and insightful.
In Brazil, she says, judges can be very bureaucratic. "But no one can be the same after spending time with the pragmatic American way of solving law issues," said de Zanetti, who especially appreciated the quality of her Cumberland professors. "Apart from being brilliant law devotees, they are also an example of great educators."
De Zanetti wrote her M.C.L. thesis on the need for an income tax treaty between the U.S. and Brazil. She joins more than 40 other alumni, most of whom are also Brazilian judges, who have earned M.C.L. degrees at Cumberland since 1994.