Austin Sanders credits his degree in physics for giving him additional distinction and helping him land his new job at an engineering company in the metro Atlanta area. But it’s not the only degree he’s earned, nor is Saturday his only commencement.
Georgia College’s three-year dual degree program and rigorous physics classes prepared Sanders to easily transition into engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The program also allowed him to earn two bachelor’s degrees instead of one. Sanders graduated with highest honors last weekend from Ga Tech with a degree in civil engineering and, this weekend, he will graduate with highest distinction, summa cum lade, from Georgia College with a degree in physics.
“I got a good foundation here at Georgia College,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade the classes I took here for anything. The professors I got to learn from here were amazing.”
Sanders’ mother graduated from Georgia College in 1986 with a bachelor of science degree in home economics. That’s one of the reasons he chose to come here for the dual degree program. Transitioning into college in Milledgeville was also more like his small hometown in Elberton, Georgia.
Sanders studied hard to learn physics, keep his Zell Miller scholarship and earn acceptance into Ga Tech. He’s one of more than 80 students who have participated in the dual degree program at Georgia College, said Dr. Ken McGill, chair of the department of astronomy, chemistry and physics.
“Austin Sanders was one our best students in many ways,” McGill said. “He was outstanding academically and is clearly a wonderful representative of the Georgia College educational experience. Mixing physics and liberal arts with campus involvement has given Austin a unique understanding of engineering in our society. I expect he will do great things, and I look forward to hearing about his successes.”
Professors like McGill and Dr. Hauke Busch were tough, Sanders said. They set the bar high to make sure dual-degree students make a smooth transition and can withstand tough engineering courses at Ga Tech.
“A lot of those classes really tied directly into civil engineering, like statics and dynamics, as well as a mechanics and materials course,” Sanders said. “So, once I got there, I was already used to studying as much as I had to.”
Sanders left Georgia College with a 3.96 GPA and graduated from Ga Tech with a 3.95 GPA. If he had to do it all over again, Sanders said he wouldn’t hesitate. The five years, nearly 160 credit hours and long nights of study were worth it. The only thing he regrets is not doing research with the physics department. But Sanders did get involved with Campus Outreach and become a member of the math honors society, Kappa Mu Epsilon, the physics honors society, Sigma Pi Sigma, and another honors society, Gamma Beta Phi. He belonged to Gamma Beta Phi at Ga Tech too, along with a few engineering honors societies.
It's been a busy few weeks. Sanders interviewed with a lot of companies, got several offers and landed his top choice. The extra degree in physics helped boost his resume, showing his diligence and hard work. Physics, he said, is especially applicable to his new line of work in nuclear power. He will work as a structural engineer, rehabilitating and improving nuclear power plants to meet new regulatory standards.
Sanders is also “super excited” to attend his second commencement ceremony Saturday at Gerogia College, honoring “where it all began.”
“I learned a lot here at Georgia College,” he said. “So, once I got to Tech, I hit the ground running. I never felt behind there. I do feel accomplished and proud of the hard work. I know how much I put into it, and it’s been worth it.”