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OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Auburn University faculty and doting families gathered at Red Clay Brewing Company in Opelika to celebrate the graduation of 14 nontraditional students who made up the school's inaugural Brewing Science and Operations graduate certificate program.
The program was birthed from the rapid growth of the craft beer phenomenon in the United States and around the world, program coordinator Martin O'Neill said, as Auburn felt it necessary to meet the educational demands of the brewing field, which has previously been limited in the South.
Last fall, Brewing Science and Operations kicked off at AU with a weekend visit to Oskar Blues, a major craft brewery founded by Auburn alumnus Dale Katechis in Longmont, Colorado, and then a three-semester stint of courses in science, technology and business operations, which concluded this summer. Graduation was Saturday.
"It was an innovative response to endless feedback. That feedback was that craft beer is booming all over the U.S.," O'Neill said of the program. "The corresponding traditional part was not. At the time, folks had to relocate to get that."
Now, he said, they don't. Through the program's unique distance-learning format, prospective students can become versed in topics of biology, chemistry and agronomy in relation to beer, as well as business management, from virtually anywhere.
"This is very different than traditional students," said O'Neill. "These guys are passionate about what they do . and they're very intense about their brewing. They take it all very seriously."
O'Neill said he's grateful to have embarked upon many learning experiences with the inaugural class, and he wishes them the best in their futures, whatever they may entail.
"These students are passionate about what they want, about what they can do -- their future," he said. "We look forward to being part of their future and what their future holds as they continue to move forward."
College of Human Sciences Dean June Henton, who served as the ceremony's guest speaker, said she's proud of the recent graduates, and she's happy to have them join the Auburn family.
"On behalf of the faculty at Auburn University Brewing Science, I want to congratulate all of you for completing this, I'm sure, very challenging class," she said. "I know some of you are Auburn graduates, maybe some of you are native Alabamians, but I know some of you come from all across the country and maybe didn't know as much about Auburn as you know now. We are very proud of you, and ... you're officially a very important part of the Auburn family."
She said faculty members and students alike recognize the need to keep up with the craft beer boom and that, though the program had to overcome some apprehension in its startup, Saturday's graduates are proof of its success.
"In the end, it came out extremely well," Henton said. "Thank you for letting us learn from you."
Information from: Opelika-Auburn News, http://www.oanow.com/
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