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Pamela Fleming of South Milwaukee graduates with a bachelor of science degree in nursing. Fleming has been working at Ascension St. Elizabeth in Appleton for her final clinical placement, attending to laboring mothers, assisting with infant care and assessments in the neonatal intensive care unit and nursery, as well as providing postpartum care. At UWO, she was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for involvement, leadership and strong academics; the Founders Award for positive representation of Greek Life; and Titan LeadHERship recognition for leadership, women empowerment and her passion for inclusivity. Following graduation, Fleming will move to Washington where she will work as a labor and delivery nurse at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. She hopes to someday earn a master’s degree in nursing or public health, with a focus on reproductive health. 

The following are Fleming’s prepared remarks given during the afternoon ceremony of UW Oshkosh’s 57th midyear commencement:

Pamela Fleming

♦ ♦ ♦

Think back to when you made the decision to be at UWO. Think of the emotions you felt when you made that decision and when you started your first year on campus. Maybe you were excited, anxious, scared, eager or indifferent. But regardless of how you felt, you took the leap and welcomed the journey you were about to begin. You wouldn’t be here today if you didn’t take that first scary step. Think of the lessons you learned during your time at UWO. Every experience you have gone through at UWO, whether good, bad or otherwise, has provided valuable learning experiences and has gotten you to be the person you are today. For me, I learned the following: life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Do something every day that scares you, because if it doesn’t scare you, it won’t change you. And if you trust and believe in the power you hold to make things happen, the sky is the limit.

Look at where you are sitting today. We are all here because we pushed ourselves through the difficulties and uncertainties of college. Think about your first few weeks here when you didn’t know a single person and were more lonely than ever before, when you realized you were the only nontraditional student in a room of 18 year olds. Think of the times you wanted to quit, the late nights in the library where you gave up all hope of passing that one exam, when you gave up hours of sleep just to do the bare minimum on assignments and stay afloat, when you didn’t take that first semester seriously and really messed up your GPA, when you felt like your bucket was about to overflow and there was no way of saving yourself from the inevitable fallout.

But you didn’t quit. You went to campus events and made friends that you’ll take with you into the future. You pushed past the stereotypes of being a nontraditional learner. You put in the hours in the library and passed those  exams. You probably consumed more caffeine than medically appropriate and pushed through the night to get your work done. You learned from your mistakes and fought to get your grades back up. You saved your bucket from overflowing. I’m sure a lot of us sought out support these last few years from family, friends, professors and campus resources, but in the end, you are the one who got you to this place today. If you have the power to push through the fear of those new and uncertain experiences, the voice in the back of your head telling you to quit, the sleepless nights, the days when you truly thought you would not get to the place you are today, then you are capable of so much more than you know.

Now let’s talk about fear. Who else is absolutely terrified about the fact that the real adult world is looking us dead in the eyes today? We are leaving the comfort of the consistent education we’ve had these last couple of years. But there’s really no other option than to embrace the unknown and enter it with confidence. In a few weeks, I’m packing up the life and safety I’ve always known in Wisconsin and taking it with me out to Seattle. I don’t know a single person there, I am clueless about the area and where I’ll be living, but I’m doing it anyways. I’m doing it because it terrifies me. I joined my sorority because it terrified me. I was engulfed in fear the first time I had to speak during our chapter meeting. The shy, quiet person I was at the start ended up turning into a fearless leader and became the president of the chapter. When my mom passed away just days before I started the hardest semester of the nursing program, I had never been so scared in my life. I was faced with my instructors telling me it might be better if I dropped out. But I was stronger than that. The fear of failure pushed me to my success. The fear of having to face the wrath of my retired police officer of a father kept me (mostly) on my best behavior. Thanks for that one dad!

So fear isn’t always a bad thing. When you combine fear with your own intrinsic power and motivation to succeed, nothing can stop you. I always think back to the quote I shared a few minutes ago: “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” This has proven to be nothing but true during my time at UWO. The person I was when I came here as a freshman and the person who is standing in front of you today are polar opposites, and it’s all because I embraced my fears and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. Progress and change don’t happen unless you make them happen. The challenges, mishaps and experiences you have endured here are just the beginning of your transformation, but have given you the tools for success and shaped you into the person that you are today. It is up to you to make your future exactly what you want it to be. Go off and make it happen. And don’t forget to always treat people with kindness.

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