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UVA Class of 2013 Graduates in 184th Final Exercises - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

UVA Class of 2013 Graduates in 184th Final Exercises

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Graduates on the lawn at UVA'S 184th final exercises. Graduates on the lawn at UVA'S 184th final exercises.

More than 6,300 students can now call themselves graduates of the University of Virginia's class of 2013.

They turned their tassels in front of a crowd of more than 30,000 friends and family members who filled Thomas Jefferson's lawn for the university's 184th final exercises.

Sunday's ceremony featured many longtime UVA graduation traditions - like its location on the lawn.  But there were a couple changes and additions that set this year's final exercises apart.

"I'm super excited," UVA graduate Kalika Nowlakha said. "This is a day I never thought would come and it's finally here."

Nowlakha is not your typical UVA grad.  "I was able to finish up my undergraduate degree in three years by coming in with a lot of credits and taking summer classes," she said.

She is one of 82 students in the crowd recognized by President Teresa Sullivan for earning their degrees in less than four years. 

"I name them the inaugural members of the order of the orange stole," Sullivan said.

These special stoles are UVA's newest graduation tradition, but this year's finals speaker told the students they all leave here with an advantage.

"In America, the mere act of graduating from this respected institution has put all of you on a fast track," former U.S. Senator Jim Webb said.

Webb infused his speech with patriotism to motivate the new graduates as they journey into the real world beyond grounds.

"Here's the American way, if you want it go get it.  Work hard, play hard.  And whatever you do with your lives, never lose sight of the fact that you have been blessed to be able to live and work and be a part of this historically unique country called the United States of America," he said.

It's advice for the class of 2013 to take with them into the next chapter of their lives.

"I hope you will remember the values that are the distinguishing qualities of this university, these same values will now distinguish you as you assume positions of leadership in the careers and communities you enter after today," Sullivan said.

Nowlakha says she's just planning to enjoy the special day.  "The best part about today is just being with friends and family," she said.  "Just all the energy is amazing."

Nowlakha is currently finishing up a one-year master's program in the UVA McIntire School of Commerce. 

This year's ceremony also featured a copper-colored rotunda dome - instead of a white one. Inclement weather delayed plans to paint the new roof. The last time the rotunda looked like that was in 1976.

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