Soldier celebrates early graduation before being deployed

Story by Destinee Marking, Staff writer


President Bob Davies held an early graduation ceremony for a Murray State student who will be absent from graduation because she will soon be deployed.

“It was my honor and privilege to conduct a special graduation for Murray State University senior Ashtan Williams and her family,” Davies said. “Ashtan will be deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Navy on the day of graduation but will have earned her degree in geosciences from the finest place we know.”

Ashtan Williams, senior from Marion, Kentucky, has served in the Navy for eight years.

Williams said she decided to join the Navy to pay for her college education, as well as be a role model.

“I thought it would make me a good example for my brother who is one year younger than me,” Williams said.

Williams has missed school for reasons related to her service in the past. She said her professors were always helpful and understanding.

Since she will not be walking at graduation, Williams said she reached out to the President’s Office and asked for pictures of her to be taken in her cap and gown.

“I honestly hadn’t expected so much,”  Williams said. “They were so kind about it.”

Williams’ parents, fiance, her fiance’s parents and brother were all able to attend the occasion.

After her last day of school on April 21, Williams said she will then spend five weeks in training before being deployed to the Middle East

Williams is in an abnormal situation, and she said this is not how she imagined her senior year of college.

“It’s been very different for me, because I thought I’d be spending this semester looking for a job,” Williams said.

Robin Zhang, professor and chair of the department of geosciences, is Williams’ adviser and has known her for over two years.

“Ashtan is a very intelligent and hard-working individual,” Zhang said. “She sets her goal and never lets it out of sight.”

Zhang said among other characteristics Williams embodies, she is helpful, kind and positive.

Williams said her professors were all able to change assignment deadlines and are giving her exams early, and she is thankful for that.

“The school has been really, really great,” Williams said.

As for her future, Williams said she is researching master’s degree programs and hopes to continue her education while deployed.