Dean's 2011 Commencement Address
May 8, 2011
Graduates: You have achieved a major life accomplishment. Congratulations!
You literally are minutes from walking out the door and into the world that awaits you. And I promise that I’m not going to delay that entry with a lengthy speech.
As graduates each of you have changed since you arrived on campus, just as Miami and the world at large has changed.
It seems like just yesterday when the corner of High and Main uptown featured blue tarps draped over a burned out Wendy’s rather than the current Chipotle’s. And remember when you couldn’t buy yogurt by the ounce uptown? Or when twittering was something that songbirds did? How did you occupy your time before YouTube? How did you keep in touch before texting?
For sure, life at Miami has had its hard moments…probably hard days. You’ve dealt with deadlines you thought were impossible, papers, midterms, finals and perhaps even how to pay for all of this.
Remember the blackout that affected Oxford and Miami the fall of 2008 and what it was like to live without computers or, for that matter, electricity for days on end? And the ice storms you endured?
Some of you have arrived at this time in your life after going down other paths. It may not have been easy to find your niche, changed universities, switched majors….and explored life out of college. Regardless of your pathway, you have grown as a person and can make this world a better place.
Take Aaron Doss, a non-traditional student, who didn’t find a focus the first time he enrolled at Miami. He took a break, worked for several years to help with finances and to discover what he wanted to do with his life. He eventually came back to Miami through a program that allows students a “fresh start.” When he returned he enrolled in a new major, athletic training. That has become his passion. Today he’s graduating with a 3.95 GPA. His excellent academic record in his classes and his outstanding performance in his internship have earned him admission to the University of Alabama’s master’s program in athletic training and a coveted graduate assistantship.
Aaron—would you stand up so we can congratulate you?
The perseverance Aaron has demonstrated in exploring what is right for him is an important lesson that we all can learn from. It’s an especially good one as you start the next phase of your life.
This is not an easy time to be getting a degree and entering the workforce. Jobs are not as available as they’ve been in past years in any field. But whether it be dietetics, exercise science, athletic training, teaching, social work or family studies…you have chosen to focus on improving the human condition…and I thank you for committing yourselves. You will make a difference.
In particular, though, I do want to single out those planning to enter the teaching profession. Never before in this country has so much national attention been focused on the classroom teacher. How you will be held accountable for your students’ performance; how you will be compensated; how you will influence a new system of education where all of your students are seen as learners, are new challenges you will face. What I know you can count on is that your preparation here at Miami has prepared you for those major changes.
And as you begin your professional endeavors, personally, I can say there are a couple of things you can count on:
• that change will be a constant
• your time at Miami and the relationships you have made can never be taken away from you.
The changes you’ve already experienced since starting college are just the beginning.
So what is my lesson for you? What my own life has taught me is to go with your passions and to be willing to deviate from others’ expectations.
Why? Because we are always most successful at that which we love doing. My hope for each of you is that you will take the time to come up with your own definition of what constitutes a successful life. That definition will vary considerably—as it should.
Some of you have already found your passion.
But some of you—maybe many of you—will leave unsure of what to make of your life. Keep in mind that it is often during life’s difficult and confusing times that we learn the most about ourselves.
Mark Twain is believed to have provided this advice at a commencement ceremony, and it is still as wise a statement now as it was then:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did." So explore—dream—discover. Learn to make your own choices.
Search for what will give you a satisfying, happy life.
In the next moments when you walk out of here you are going to be surrounded by family and friends. Take the time to thank those who are closest to you for their support and encouragement. And do stay in touch with us here at Miami.
Finally, enjoy this day. It is your day and all of us –your family, friends and the faculty here at the College of Education, Health and Society—are proud of you, and wish that success will come your way.
--Carine M. Feyten, Dean