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KNOXVILLE — Thousands of graduates, their families and friends converged on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, this week to celebrate spring commencement.

More than 4,323 undergraduate students were eligible to participate in this week’s commencement ceremonies, which combines graduates from the spring and summer terms. Students receiving advanced degrees also were recognized this week in a graduate hooding ceremony. Master’s degrees were awarded to 647 students, 93 earned doctoral degrees and five earned educational specialist degrees.

During the week’s ceremonies, 24 graduates also received commissions as second lieutenants in the United States armed forces.

Individual college commencement ceremonies held over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday featured many notable speakers — from a Nobel laureate to a national championship winning football coach — who offered graduates sound words of wisdom and advice.

Former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore was in attendance Friday at the commencement ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences, both as a guest speaker and as an honoree. Gore received an Honorary Doctor of Laws and Humane Letters in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and later spoke to graduates.

Graduates may face a stagnant entry-level job market, according to Russ Coughenour, director of UT’s Career Services. Fields such as engineering, accounting and logistics are still doing well but, overall, things are slow, he added.

“We have sensed a little more energy in the entry-level market recently, but it isn’t necessarily turning into hires,” he said. “As always, companies seek to hire the top 20 percent of graduates. As the market gets better and the general unemployment rate gets closer to five rather than 10 percent, we expect that companies will offer additional entry-level opportunities. Hopefully, that will be this fall.”

Pictures, webcasts and information from the various ceremonies can be found at http://www.utk.edu/commencement/spring10/.

C O N T A C T :

Kristi Hintz (865-974-3993, khintz@utk.edu)