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Deploying student honored at special ceremony

April 18, 2017

Dakota State University has been designated as a military-friendly school for many years. A special event on April 11 showed why the institution deserves that distinction.

DSU student Zac Hakinson was set to graduate on May 6 with a degree in cyber operations, but instead of heading to Madison for the ceremony, Hakinson will be on deployment with 124 other members of the South Dakota Air Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing. He is a full-time information technology specialist with the unit.

When Registrar Kathy Callies learned the reason he couldn’t attend his graduation, she suggested an early ceremony. She checked on the status of his coursework and faculty were able to issue him solid grades, so Provost Richard Hanson presented Hakinson with a diploma at a special ceremony on April 11, days before he left on the six-month deployment. The airman’s colleagues, family and friends were in attendance at the ceremony, held at the South Dakota Air National Guard base located at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls.

“We think it says a lot about an organization like DSU when they do something like this for one of our members. Their support of his commitment to our state and nation is commendable,” said Maj. Travis Schuring, 114th Fighter Wing executive officer.

Hakinson told the group he appreciated all the support, including the support of DSU. The special ceremony was also an opportunity to show people it is possible to work and attend school. “If I can do it, anybody can do it,” he said. Hakinson lives in Sioux Falls and took classes through University Center.

Nate Alholinna, wing commander with the 114th, told the crowd that of the 900 airmen and women enlisted in the unit, about 100 have bachelor’s degrees, and some have master’s degrees, so “The education level … is pretty high.” Hakinson is considering raising that level even more by going back to school for his master’s degree after the deployment.