Closing one chapter of a CMU story
I received a request to share my remarks from the Fall 2022 undergraduate commencement ceremonies. While each ceremony is personalized, as I often add jokes and stories as I go, the following blog post reflects my message for our newest alumni.
Graduates of the Class of 2022: Today, together, we are concluding an exciting chapter in the story of your life.
Based on what I have learned about many of you — from our personal interactions, my observations, and talking with some of your family members and supporters today — this chapter of your story has been chock-full of excitement, challenge and, above all, TRIUMPH.
Thinking about this journey as a story is an apt metaphor, and I hope you will allow me to pursue that idea with you for a moment.
Some of you may be familiar with the popular children’s book series, “Choose Your Own Adventure.” These books were popular for many years because, unlike most stories, the reader drove the story.
On nearly every page, there was a choice: Go left or go right. Open this door or that one. Take the dark, scary tunnel or walk onto the well-lit path. And, once a choice was made, the reader would face the consequences of their decision: great treasure or great peril. Through their choices, they became the heroes of their stories. These adventure stories were always both a little scary and very exciting.
During your years at CMU, you have been the author — and the hero — of your own adventure. Your choices created an exciting story with a very happy outcome – your graduation.
I would like to reflect with you now on the story, this chapter of your novel, that you have written at CMU and the story that is still left to tell.
First, let’s think back to the initial choice you made to reach this point – the specific choice you made to attend Central Michigan University. You had many options, and you chose to join this community of scholars and leaders. You chose CMU because we would push you to explore your potential. You chose CMU because you knew we would challenge you to learn and to grow, to discover your passion and to lead — to lead with dignity, grace and compassion.
You enrolled in the College of the Arts and Media, the College of Business Administration, the College of Education and Human Services, The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, or the College of Science and Engineering.
You chose to take classes that would expand your knowledge, develop your skills and equip you with the tools and experience you need for success. And whether you took your classes here on the Mount Pleasant campus or online, you selected this outstanding university to be your academic home. It was a great decision – and we are honored that you chose us to play a role in your adventure.
You brought excitement to your story by getting involved in the classroom, on our campus and in our community. CMU students get engaged: That is why our brand is We Do — because each and every one of you has chosen not to be an idle or passive bystander in your story. You are the WE, and you DO!
I am willing to bet that every single one of you sitting here today did something unique with your time here. Let’s prove that theory. Please stand – and remain standing – if any of these statements are true for you:
- You started or joined a registered student organization or club.
- You were a staff member of IMPACT or Leadership Safari.
- You served as a campus ambassador or a member of the Student Government Association.
- You served as a Resident Assistant or Inclusion Assistant.
- You served as a mentor to another student or helped as a tutor.
- You performed music, theater or dance on a CMU stage, field or screen; or you contributed to a performance behind the scenes.
- You served this campus through SAPA or other services to assist students in critical times.
- You served the community through ROTC or as a first responder or health care professional.
- Your work was included in a research or creative exhibition.
- You participated in a volunteer service project or Alternative Break.
- You attended a concert, conference, lecture or speaker series event.
- You cheered on an athletic team or participated in a cultural or leadership program.
- You took an online class or contributed to a group project.
- You competed in an event as part of a team.
- You held an on-campus job.
- You studied abroad.
- You attended your CMU commencement ceremony.
- You got FIRED UP for CMU.
Thank you for all your engagement- for all you chose to do. You made CMU a better university. Your story is more interesting, more exciting and more colorful because of all the choices you made to be engaged at CMU.
Now, all good stories have an element of conflict — a tremendous challenge that tests the hero’s resolve. A hero, after all, is someone who achieves great objectives and remarkable feats by overcoming immense obstacles in order to advance humanity. No challenges, no heroes!
Your CMU journey had many immense obstacles and challenges, including a global pandemic. You also had to navigate difficult classes, complex projects, demanding assignments, and tight deadlines. You faced those challenges with tremendous grit and determination.
You pushed yourself to study and to work hard. Perhaps you joined a study group or visited your professor during office hours. Maybe you visited the Writing Center or Mathematics Assistance Center.
You spent long hours researching, reading and writing, and you conquered the problem or the project. And now, you passed the test; you made the grade. You set a goal and you achieved it because that is what CMU Chippewas do.
Sometimes, the challenges you faced may have been more personal in nature. College can be stressful at times, even overwhelming. Some of you may have had to manage difficult issues with family or friends while still juggling your class assignments and other responsibilities. Perhaps you struggled at some point with stress, sadness or anxiety. At times, you may have felt like giving up.
But you did not. You pushed through and you kept going.
I would like you to pause for a moment to think about the people who helped you in those difficult moments. Every hero needs help on their journey, and at CMU, we are a community that lifts each other up.
Perhaps you had a kind and thoughtful roommate who offered a shoulder to cry on. Maybe it was the sage counsel of a staff mentor who helped you think through a situation in a new way. It might have been the wise guidance of a faculty member who worked alongside you to solve a problem.
Here at CMU, you have been surrounded by people who have challenged you, pushed you, encouraged you and cheered for you. You have been supported at every step by classmates, faculty, staff, friends and family members who believed in you.
And, just as you were supported by others, you also helped a friend, supported a classmate, and encouraged a graduate sitting with you here today. Directly or indirectly, you made a difference for the person sitting next to you. That, too, is part of what We Do!
Your story has an incredible cast of characters, and they will be with you for a lifetime.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about your story is that it is not over! As you cross the stage today, you will close out one chapter, but you also begin another. You are just starting another great and heroic adventure.
As you have explored new ideas and experiences at CMU, you have become a lifelong learner. You have discovered the value of your own curiosity. You know how it feels to learn something new, to try something different. Now, you will never be fully satisfied with the status quo; your mind will remain open. You will always seek new ways to grow.
It is exciting. It means you will never run out of adventures.
As you pursue these new adventures, I hope you will allow us to continue to be a part of your story. We have been proud to serve you for these few years, and we hope to continue to serve you as you join our alumni community.
Come back for a performance, exhibit or athletic event. Attend a professional development workshop. Visit campus for a tour. Join us for Homecoming or another alumni engagement event. No matter how you choose to stay involved, I hope you will do so often.
You have had an incredible adventure. You have written an amazing CMU story, and it will never truly end. The friends and mentors you found here will continue to engage you. The knowledge and skills you have gained here will continue to shape you.
The story you wrote here will inspire those who now follow in your footsteps. Consider the students just a few years behind you. Consider those who will attend CMU several years from now. You can play a role in their story, too.
Come back to CMU and mentor a future student. Speak to a class. Attend a networking event. Share your experiences. You have no idea how powerfully and positively you can change someone’s life with just a few moments of your time.
I have one request to make of you before you leave here today. As you choose your own adventure, do so with kindness.
Over the course of your journey at CMU, you have been asked to understand and embrace our core values. As you go out into the world, people will judge our institution – our community – based on your words and your actions. And so, I ask you: When faced with a choice of paths, choose the path of integrity. If there is a door to open, choose the one that leads to inclusiveness and compassion.
Choose to use your knowledge, skills and talent to improve the lives of your family, friends and neighbors, as well as those individuals you may never meet. Choose to lift up others, as you have been lifted by this community. Choose to do the right thing, for the right reason, every time. When you do these things, you will always be the hero.
As I conclude my thoughts, I want to thank you for three things.
First, I want to sincerely thank you for giving me the great honor of being a part of your story. Next, I want to thank you because you are now part of my story — my adventures — and you have shaped me and helped me to grow. And finally, thank you for being part of the story and the tradition of CMU.
Forevermore, you are a CMU Chippewa.
I cannot wait to see what you will do next; I cannot wait to read your next story. I, and every other CMU Chippewa, will always be cheering and encouraging you by yelling: FIRE UP CHIPS!