May Commencement 2011
|Graduate and Continuing Studies
Stephens College conferred a total of 171 bachelor’s, four post-bachelor’s and 57 master’s degrees during two Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 7, 2011, in the John and Mary Silverthorne Arena. Approximately 199 graduates participated.
Read Commencement Remarks:
Graduate, Online & Non-Credit Programs
Dr. Gillian Silver-Rodis '82 :: Mary Minkin:: Dawn Sherrill '09
Dr. Gillian Silver-Rodis '82, keynote speaker
Gillian Silver-Rodis, Ph.D., is the managing partner of Strategic Resource Consulting Group, LLC and a member of the Stephens graduate faculty. She has taught nearly two decades in the higher education arena on the undergraduate, graduate and doctorate level.
Good morning Stephens graduates, esteemed faculty, students, parents and honored guests. It is an immense delight to be with you on the occasion of your graduation celebrations.
While my career called for the authoring of hundreds of speeches, no remarks crafted throughout the years carry more significance than those I assembled for this morning. So, when President Lynch and Dean Sharp extended the very gracious invitation to speak with you today, I made a three-fold pledge:
- To be precise
- To bring content that is pertinent –and hopefully—inspiring
- To focus on your extraordinary achievement and the transitions that culminate from this new platform of knowledge and credentials.
While, ultimately, these remarks remain in synchronicity with those objectives, I do want to offer a framing story. Perhaps it will serve as an analogy that extends some merit to this important time of reflection. Or, in a valuable manner convey how Stephens is central to our shared identity.
In the early 1900s, there was a young boy—Abraham Serevonich –who remarkably was smuggled out of Russia in a pickle barrel. He, along with thousands of other persecuted individuals, sought a life free from religious and cultural prejudice in this dynamic land of opportunity—America.
Arriving amid the confusion of other immigrants at Ellis Island, Abraham was renamed with the simplistic moniker of Harry. The bright young man made his way in the challenging and rather disorienting environment of New York City.
He learned to be adaptive, and to do what was necessary to support his parents and siblings. While his level of educational preparation was sketchy at best, he flourished by applying his intellect and integrity in this hard-scrabble, often precarious, setting.
Flash forward three decades, and Harry, now in his 70s, made an untraditional choice by adopting an infant. Suddenly a parent, at the age of what would be more common to that of an advanced grandparent, he approached his responsibilities with a great sense of purpose.
He would imprint in this child a profound appreciation for ideas, and for the intrinsic potential that lies embedded in each individual. As she grew, he told his daughter of the requirement to be an honorable, independent, self-sufficient woman.
Ambition led her to Stephens. It was here where she developed life-long friendships with talented, dynamic individuals such as Marilyn Wimp. Stephens led Harry’s daughter to nurture the power of thought, of analysis, discovery and transfer. Eventually, through the kindness of Susan Bartel, it led her back to her alma mater as a graduate program instructor.
There is pertinence to be found in Harry’s superb appreciation for intellect. He demonstrated that we all have the capacity to surpass our own expectations, to be somewhat unsettled and always striving, eager.
Today I encourage you to extend your education by adopting the perspective of an innovator. Remain dissatisfied with the commonplace, with business-as-usual. Push for the extraordinary and make the world a more efficient, diplomatic, better place by infusing your work with passion and commitment.
Sustain your curiosity by always reaching for greater meaning—refuse to settle for easy answers. Life is complex, and as you have all experienced, there is no encompassing defense against those who behave with intolerance, appear devoid of ethics, or react competitively. But your awareness—particularly your development of critical thinking acumen—provides you with an array of strategic options.
Elevate those lessons learned. Avoid being idle in the presence of wrong-doing. Be self-reliant, but others-directed. Life is about interpretation, and creation of purpose. View your degree acquisition as an extension of all you brought with you to this pursuit of knowledge. It is not a culmination of a very worthy journey but instead a rich, multi-faceted, and highly experiential platform that you— and only you—can leverage with unique distinction.
When your choices are driven by the discipline of objectivity, the responsibility to lead with integrity, and an understanding of consequences so risk is appreciated and achievement is treasured, you enhance the caliber of your chosen field. You bring exceptional dimension culled from your milestones as both adult learners and accomplished professionals.
Life can be about operating with gratitude and ample doses of humility, yet few learn this early in life. Emulate those you admire, and generously share the pertinent observations you glean.
Don’t wander through the days, months—years—ahead. Move forward with pertinence, discipline and unbridled enthusiasm. Accept the challenge to be responsible, productive, fully realized individuals. How you “show up” makes all the difference, so elect right action.
Be adaptive. Be mindful. Strive always to bring purpose and balanced reflection to each community in which you engage. Share your voice, perform with a genuine appreciation for the act of service, and readily accept accountability.
As Harry modeled so eloquently, capitalize on the excitement of the unknown, and seize life opportunities with exuberance. May you continue on this lifelong journey of learning, function as an individual of conscience, and never be entirely content with your accomplishments.
Please join me, everyone, in recognition of our graduates! Thank you.
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Mary Minkin, undergraduate speaker
Mary R. Minkin of Woodland Hills, Calif., received a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. She has spent nearly 40 years working her way up the corporate insurance ladder and has served as director for a California-based company and an international company for the last 20 years.
President Lynch, Dean Sharp, Trustees, Faculty Members, Graduates & Guests:
Recently, I attended my grandson’s college graduation and, in listening to the keynote speaker who received resounding and overwhelming applause for his ten-sentence commencement address, for a few moments in time, I, too, considered the same; offer a few pat phrases, and then off the stage I would depart—wait a minute. Is this really adequate? How does “Now you are going forth to meet challenges” apply here? Going forth? Challenges? Us? We who have tucked children into bed, knowing we had hours to go to finish an assignment before we could sleep. We of the day job with bosses pleading for us to work overtime. We who with significant others clinging to us for attention, only to be rebuffed with requests to proofread. We who could write a paper about work/life balance with our eyes closed. There is no metamorphosis at play here; we were butterflies when we applied to Stephens.
Dear audience, please note that unlike many traditional students, we became self-actualized before entering our programs and arriving here today. Through time, travails, and life’s tests, as leaders of others and in control of our own destinies, we made a decision for ourselves and faced the many who asked “Why do you want to go back to college now?” Braving the insinuations and pessimism, our choice was sometimes difficult to verbalize: however, we felt incomplete without the opportunity, at times denied, as financial, family, and other events placed forgivable roadblocks in our way.
Many of us were told that a college without walls is not really college, as we wrung our hands over pending deadlines, muttered under our breaths that certain professors were too hard, and joyfully received the long-sought-after compliment on the paper that took hours. Success came to us because Stephens provided an opportunity to squeeze in study time on our own terms, supporting us with professionals, professors who gave of themselves on a personal level and advisors with an arsenal of patience.
Was this worth the wait? You bet. Like you, I am never lost in conversation. We have become topical, technological, and trendy. We blog, tweet, and web cam with the best. As we neared the finish line, we could see the reflection of admiration in the eyes of others. What does set us apart? We enrolled in Stephens because we wanted to, not because we had to.
Parents, friends, faculty, before you leave, ask the new graduates if they have harbored any secrets while making the journey to today, secrets we are now able to share, while wearing our caps and gowns. Mine is attending multiple graduations, never my own. Picture if you can, your child’s father resplendent in his Ph.D. colors being allowed to have the ceremony interrupted, so that he could personally present the degree. There I was, degreeless, sinking slowly in my chair, replete with insignificance. My beloved daughter who is here with me today and, for whom like many of you I tutored and pinched pennies, had the presence of mind to walk over to me in front of the entire audience and present me with her degree. Today, I can say, “You can have your degree back, my darling. We have our own.” Thank you all.
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Dawn Sherrill '09, graduate speaker
Dawn Sherrill of Columbia, Mo., earned a Master of Education in Counseling. She previously graduated summa cum laude from Stephens College with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Child Study with minors in Music and Psychology.
Good Morning, Class of 2011
Thank you, Dr. Lynch, Board of Trustees, and Stephens’ faculty and staff for allowing me to represent a program that is so very close to my heart.
Graduates, I cannot begin to tell you how honored I am to be speaking with you today, but usually, when a microphone is in front of me it’s during a musical performance, so if this speech starts to go downhill, I might have to burst into song.
Almost five years ago, I walked into this auditorium for my undergraduate orientation, an 18 year-old girl, timid, shy, unsure. There was one thing I was certain of though. I had a folder in my hand that I had received in the mail. On it were the faces of several women. Their stories read: “I am one of a kind…intelligent…evolving…assured…focused…exploring….a free spirit…extraordinary….I am a Stephens woman.” That’s who I knew I wanted to be. In fact, Stephens was the only school I applied to. I was determined albeit terrified.
When I crossed this stage two years ago, having completed an amazing journey and building the strongest of bonds with my Stephens’ Susies and professors, I was infused with energy and passion for this field, ready to take on the world. Almost every assignment, project, practicum experience, had gone perfectly, exactly the way I wanted—no conflicts, just success. I entered the Master of Education in Counseling program confident that I would have a similar experience.
I was in for a rude awakening.
I quickly learned what separates undergraduate education and adult learner education--real life. All of a sudden, my idyllic days of soaking up information in classes followed by a glorious afternoon nap with dinner and a night at the theatre were gone. I had to wake up at 6:00 am, work until 4:00 pm, and then, on at least two nights out of the week, rush over to campus, sit in a classroom from 5-10:00 pm. Not to mention the evenings that I had to complete essays, projects, assignments. Oh, and then there’s the real life part. The taking care of a home; paying bills; for many of you, raising children; and if you’re especially talented, managing a social life.
Being an adult learner, with all these added responsibilities, can be overwhelming. So imagine how I felt one March Friday, as I was substitute teaching in a classroom for children with severe Autism Spectrum Disorders. Six out of the seven students had the flu earlier in the week, but all were still exhibiting flu-like symptoms. An epic thunderstorm had had added additional sensory distress-which for one child caused a full-blown meltdown, complete with kicking and screaming. I had literally just had a student sneeze directly into my face, as I was thinking about the sewer drain clog I had to deal with at my recently purchased home, the distressing conflict I was experiencing at my practicum, the upcoming assignments for my three classes, and preparing for the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination the following week.
In the midst of this chaos, I look up, and there was a sign.
I mean, literally, a motivational sign that was hanging in the classroom that read:
“If you are struggling, you are learning”….?
Um, excuse me?
So I read it again to myself:
"If you are struggling, you are learning.”
As if dried mucus in my hair wasn’t enough, the mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion that I was currently experiencing made me pretty skeptical to accept this new philosophy.
Are you are telling me that these uncomfortable, draining, upsetting, and sometimes, isolating experiences that we call struggles mean that I’m learning?
What happened to the good ole “Knowledge is power?”
In that moment (and really the weeks preceding), I had felt anything but powerful. In fact, that one particular struggle at my practicum felt more like defeat.
But in the counseling world, we are always reminding our clients of the power of self-talk and the connection between thoughts and feelings. We encourage reframing to see the positive aspects of a challenging situation. So this was my time to “practice what I preach.”
The next week, I decided to adopt this new mantra, viewing my current challenges as opportunities for growth.
As I began to attack each struggle one-by-one with the mindset that I would be gaining valuable knowledge from the experience, I began to feel stronger. I looked to those around me (family, friends, current and former professors) and sought out their support and advice. With every success, big or small, I could sense that I was building myself back-up, and even surpassing my previous potential. I was gaining wisdom in difficult areas that I had never before encountered.
I emerged from my struggles with a sense of accomplishment, pride, and power that would have not existed had everything gone the way I planned, the way I expected it to.
As adult learners, you have all had your own struggles: raising, taking care of, and supporting family members while earning your degrees; the financial stress you’ve had with loans, bills, mortgages; commuting to your classes and jobs often having to grab dinner on-the-run; experiencing loss in your personal life in all its different forms; and trying to find a balance that allows you to feel satisfied personally and professionally.
I urge you to:
Endure the struggles. Our struggles give us the opportunity to expand and flex muscles that we didn’t know we had.
Excel at the challenges that at first seemed impossible, now armed with your newfound strength and determination.
Evolve to your greatest self. Conquering the uncomfortable, painful, and unknown are what allows us to evolve. Along with your successes, every one of the struggles you faced allowed you to learn.
Enjoy and celebrate your evolution today and every day. You have emerged from your program stronger, not only in your knowledge base, but with enriched character.
We are fortunate today to be surrounded by those who have been our support system during these struggles: our friends, family, mentors, Stephens faculty and staff, and others who are here today to once again show their support for our educational journeys.
Stephens has truly been a place of evolution for me. Throughout both of my degrees, I have developed and maintained amazing friendships, strong professional networks, and mentors who I know will continue to serve as great sources of knowledge and encouragement. The M.Ed. in Counseling program has provided me with an education that has shaped who I am as a person and as a professional. I have transformed from a passionate, but timid undergraduate student into a confident, competent professional.
I can cross this stage the second time truly equipped to positively impact others, just as energetic and enthusiastic, but this time with wisdom
Class of 2011, I congratulate you on your struggles, your successes, and most importantly, your continuous evolution.
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Gail Collins :: Sascha Streckel
Gail Collins, keynote speaker
Gail Collins joined The New York Times in 1995 as a member of the editorial board and later as an op-ed columnist. Six years later, she became the first woman ever appointed editor of The Times’ editorial page.
Listen to her address:
A speech transcript is not available.
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Sascha Streckel, class speaker
Sascha Streckel of Kempner, Texas, graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts.
Listen to her address:
I remember the feeling I had moving into Stephens College. I remember my first day, my first class, and I’ll never forget the first words my professor said. She said: “ I don’t care where you’re from or what you’ve done until now. Today, you all become Stephens women. Today you all start from the same place. Together.” I remember feeling so small, but a part of something much larger than me. Three years later, I’ve learned that’s what it is to be a Stephens woman.
One of the best things about Stephens College is that I can say I think I know a lot of you. If you know me, you know that I am honored, I am humbled, I am grateful, but mostly I’m surprised to find myself standing in front of you today. My surprise stems from the feeling of being singled out of a group of amazing women and men who all deserve the opportunity to express what the past three or four years have meant to them. If you have no idea who I am, it means that you’ve been busy being immersed in what you love. You’ve spent your years here being passionate and dedicated women, and I have no doubt that this has not only become a defining factor of who you are, but that it will be the means you use to inspire the people around you in your future.
If there’s one thing that Stephens College has taught me, it is that I am part of a family, a community, and a company of people that support me. But in this company I am myself, and I am encouraged to be the self that I want to be. I am leaving this chapter of my life feeling successful and driven to prove that I can succeed again. This is what I hope for you.
Graduation is an occasion to look back on how we have grown into ourselves, and to look forward to the people that we are becoming. When I was told that I would be the class speaker, I knew immediately that I didn’t want my speech to be about me, but instead about this family that has been nothing but accepting, inspiring, and enlightening since I’ve stepped on campus. I was overwhelmed with the amount of seniors that were interested in sharing their feelings about Stephens College. I know from spending entirely too long watching bad Netflix movies and venting with friends about my absurd, non-existent problems over late night Taco Bell that you only eat because you honestly forgot the taste of real Mexican food that it’s incredibly difficult to sum up what an impact the last three years have made on me as a person. I’d like to share with you how Stephens has impacted other seniors in this room.
- Stephens College has taught me what it is to be a real woman. That it's okay to be different. That it's okay to be me.
- Stephens College taught me about how to be a person that people can rely on, and about friendships. I have met the most amazing, beautiful people here. It has taught me how to be myself.
- Stephens College has taught me how to be a reliable woman with strength of my own.
- Stephens has taught me the importance of being a courteous and kind Company member. No matter what kind of Company you are a part of.
- My time at Stephens has taught me to be confident in myself, to believe in everything I do, and to enjoy everything I do. In my time at Stephens, I have learned to appreciate my life in its fullest capacity.
- Stephens has honestly made me a stronger woman and I feel more prepared to take on the world as a "high heeled" leader.
It's taught me to take the good with the bad, and always be appreciative of what I've learned in the end.
- Stephens taught me to greet every situation with a smile and a positive attitude. and judging from the consistent laughter of the past three years, those smiles and attitudes are highly contagious. in the best way possible.
- Stephens has taught me to stay true to myself, while remaining open minded to others' ideas, and personalities.
- My time here at Stephens has shown me that it’s ok to make mistakes. You’re not going to be perfect. As much as we all want to be, no one is. So you make your mistakes, you learn from them, and you keep going.
- Stephens has taught me to be open to any opportunity presented to me because the journey I will be taken on will be worth any of the obstacles along the way. Even through the toughest times you will find a family here. I say family because we may not get along at all times but we love each other and it's a beautiful thing when you realize how many people truly love you no matter what.
I’m willing to bet that every single senior in this room has been complemented on a personal piece of work by a faculty member. We have been pushed to think deeper, grow quicker, and be stronger. This ceremony is their stamp of approval.
I think the hardest thing to do now is trust yourself.
It’s time to let go of your logic and fears, and tell yourself, “I will be who I want to be.” I want you to hold up your hand and tell yourself five things you’ve learned here that will help you in your future. Perseverance. Listening. Courage. Love. Trust. If these were the only things I was taking away from Stephens, I would consider myself prepared. Fortunately, I will be taking away so much more than that.
I’d like to thank every faculty and administrative member in the room for everything they’ve given to every student here. And I’d like to thank every single soon-to-be graduate for being exactly who you are. I trust that you already know how remarkable and brave you all are. And no matter what you choose to do or where you choose to go: make mistakes, face your fears, and forge your own path. Congratulations.
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