May 5, 2020

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Rachel Mathis Named Top College of the Arts Graduate at VSU

Rachel McKenzie Mathis

VALDOSTA — Rachel McKenzie Mathis of Nashville, Georgia, is the recipient of the Spring 2020 President’s Award for Academic Excellence for the College of the Arts at Valdosta State University.

The President’s Award for Academic Excellence is presented to the graduating student with the highest grade point average in each of VSU’s six colleges — Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, College of the Arts, James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education and Human Services, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and College of Science and Mathematics.

Mathis will be recognized during VSU’s virtual 229th Commencement at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, at She will graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design.

“Being named the top graduate for my college is one of the most rewarding moments of my time here at Valdosta State,” she said. “I am incredibly honored and so proud of the hard work I have put into the last four years of my life. The College of the Arts has been such a blessing to me, and I’m delighted to have been connected with such a talented community of people. I certainly couldn’t have done this without all of them.”

As a student at VSU, Mathis enjoyed sharing her passion for art, design, and craft with students at her hometown Berrien High School, where she worked as an after-school instructor and a summer school instructor.

Mathis’s commitment to academic and creative excellence resulted in her earning repeated spots on the Dean’s List and the 2019 Danielle Barrier Harmon Discretionary Award. She was nominated for the 2020 Annie Powe Hopper Award. Her design project, Steelcase NEXT, earned honorable mention honors at the Department of Art and Design’s 22nd annual Juried Student Art Competition and Exhibition.  

Mathis plans to continue working with Chicken Salad Chick, where she has been employed since August 2019. She will participate in management training at the Valdosta location before transitioning to a management position with the opening of a new Tifton, Georgia, location. Although that decision was not part of her original plan when she started college, she said that she is “more than happy with my choice to work with such a wonderful company that encourages me to be my best and supports me and my passions.” She is the daughter of Malinda and Gene Mathis.

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