CIU celebrates commencement on both sides of the river

December 19, 2018

Columbia International University celebrated commencements on both sides of the Broad River on Dec. 14.

The first was on the main campus of CIU in the morning. Then in the afternoon, directly across the river from CIU, student-inmates, graduates of the CIU Prison Initiative, received their diplomas at the Kirkland Correctional Institution.

Dr. Charles B. Jackson Sr., pastor of Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia, South Carolina was the commencement speaker on the Monticello Road campus. Brookland Baptist is one of the fasting growing congregations in South Carolina where Jackson has served as pastor for 47 years.

Jackson told the 139 graduates that God will use them to make a difference in a chaotic world.

“I want you to believe the Lord in His infinite wisdom and His sovereign rule, orchestrated the circumstances to bring me to you, that I might see a picture of hope,” Jackson said. “To see over 100 blessed and favored graduates who are truly committed to the cause of making Jesus known to the unsaved, known to the unrepentant, known to the unchurched.”   

Jackson’s extensive work at his church and in the community was acknowledged by CIU as he was awarded an honorary doctorate by CIU President Dr. Mark Smith.

Meanwhile, 10 graduates of the CIU Prison Initiative received Associate of Arts degrees, and one a bachelor’s degree, during their own commencement ceremony attended by their families, friends and South Carolina Department of Corrections officials. Their commencement speaker was CIU Associate Dean for Student Life Dr. Brion Burns, who has served as an instructor and mentor to the CIU Prison Initiative student-inmates since its earliest days in 2008.

Challenging the graduates to focus on others, Burns recalled how Jesus humbled Himself, washed the feet of the apostles, and was mindful of others despite facing the cross.

“He put their needs ahead of His own,” Burns said.

The CIU Prison Initiative trains inmates to live in accordance with biblical principles and to equip them for the unique ministry opportunities afforded by their incarceration. After graduation they are assigned as chaplain assistants to prisons throughout South Carolina. Since its inception in 2007, 157 men and women have graduated from the program and serve in over 20 South Carolina institutions and one in Alabama.

The CIU Prison Initiative Class of 2018 had the unique opportunity to hear from Ryan Chitwood, a Prison Initiative graduate who has since been released from prison. He was the focus of a WIS TV news story. You can watch it here.

Learn more about the CIU Prison Initiative here

Excitement is building on the CIU campus with a dramatic increase in enrollment and on-campus expansion including the $20 million William H. Jones Global Business & IT Center and CIU’s first baseball program to begin in 2019.