Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Empowering Commencement Address

Below you will find a link to a comment by a college administrator who heard a moving commencement address (additional link). As he states, the address speaks for itself -- but I find that it speaks to me, and probably most educators, in that it is both a) the usual message of encouragement to new grads, but more importantly b) that it is also one of hope for the future.

This address made me aware that those of us involved in education are truly optimists -- we must be in order to be able to continue encouraging students to strive to become better. Above seeing this as any sort of "duty", I find myself immensely rewarded by enabling students to feel "empowered" as to their abilities and to the many opportunities to explore and develop themselves.

What a privilege I have to be at the threshold of such potential and see it blossom! I hope this address instills confidence in our individual and collective potential and energizes all of us to focus our efforts in a positive way for our futures and that of the national and world community.

Congratulations to all graduates and best wishes to all!

A last word on commencements / Getting to Green - Inside Higher Ed

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Best College Choice

As high school seniors graduate this week and being the transition to their college of choice, and juniors begin to look forward to doing their college research, there is a family from Illinois that helps provide an example of how students can make their college education work in their favor. The Sereno siblings – all six – attended the same college, Northern Illinois University (not necessarily on the US News or Forbes list of “best” colleges) and all earned PhDs and have become recognized experts and scholars in their fields. (

As Paul Sereno (now a world-famous paleontologist) stated, “It underscores the fact that you are what you make of yourself and your talents, and you can almost begin at any time.” In other words, as some often say, it is not where one starts, but where one ends up that matters.

All of this helps give focus to students to consider themselves as individual learners and to visualize what type of learning environment will suit them best so that they will learn and enrich their intellect and lives most effectively. Thus, the “name” of the college or university one attends is not critical to success, but it is the learning – both in the classroom and experientially -- that one gains that matters. Consider this: all text and reference materials are available to anyone, and good teaching is not limited to “name” colleges -- in fact, professors at many highly regarded colleges are hired more for research than for teaching.

Perhaps there is a more “selected” group of students at some colleges, but there is no doubt that there are students who are equally as capable at almost any college in the country, and what one learns should not be dependant on who is in the adjacent seat but on one’s own desire and willingness to learn. Students must be aware that they are the ones who are responsible for their learning and achievement and should look at colleges as the place where they can make the most of their own motivation.