Ally Chard credits the four months she spend abroad in Spain for broadening her friendships and igniting a desire to explore cultures beyond the U.S. Outside the classroom, she served as treasurer for the UWO chapter of Society of Human Resources Management and worked as a Titan Gold Corps campus ambassador, giving tours to prospective students and their families.
The following is the speech Chard delivered as a student speaker during UW Oshkosh’s 146th spring commencement:
♦ ♦ ♦
Students, parents, siblings, extended family, friends, faculty, staff, and fellow graduates–welcome.
Today marks an important day in our journey. It reflects the late nights. The heavy credit loads. The delicate balance of work, school and a social life. It signifies the beginning of a life post-graduation. However, it looks different than many of us expected. Rather than standing in a room surrounded by our peers, we are cheering each other on from afar. Despite the distance, it does not diminish our accomplishment.
We earned this day. And nothing will take that away from us.
We each took unique paths to arrive here today. Some of us are graduate students receiving an MBA. Others are transfer students, adult learners or those who received an online education. Some of us took the traditional four years, others five, and some…. well….what matters is we made it 😉
However you got here today, congratulations on a job well done. Despite our seemingly different paths, we all have this shared experience.
Our college education unites us and draws a connecting line between us and others. It has taught us the importance of thinking critically, welcoming diverse perspectives and striving for inclusivity in all facets of life. This evolution is a reflection of our gift as humans to continuously grow and change.
I think back to my freshman year. For someone with indecision as her trademark, college felt daunting. At UW Oshkosh, there are 67 majors, 40 minors and 63 certificates and emphases. I was overwhelmed by the options and so terrified to make the “wrong” decision that it took me three years to make any decision at all–analysis paralysis at its finest.
I can’t possibly be the only one who has ever experienced this crossroad. At the beginning of college, we are tasked with answering the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? Honestly, when it comes to a career, I still don’t know. Many people around us are still figuring it out themselves. However, what I have learned after changing my major four times over the course of five years, is that who you want to be is far more important than what you want to do.
Consider yourself–the person you were on the first day of school is drastically different than the one receiving a diploma today. Let’s give ourselves permission to be a work-in-progress. We are allowed to dabble. We can pick up a new hobby just to put it right back down. We can pilot a new career path and make u-turns at any time. No one has it all figured out…. literally, no one. We are not the exception.
Our paths up until this point have been relatively linear. We progressed from elementary school to junior high, later transitioning to high school and finally, making the leap to college. Now, our paths diverge. Some of us will begin our career. Others may take time to travel, volunteer or apply for graduate school.
Regardless of our chosen next step, we must not lose sight of our shared humanity. It is not enough that we look admiringly at the education obtained throughout our college career. We must commit to carrying this knowledge with us and applying what we’ve learned in our workplaces, neighborhoods, churches and homes.
If we desire inviting offices, we must be inviting. If we want kind schools, we need to exude kindness. If we hope for more informed future generations, we should encourage exploration and the freedom to ask questions.
This is what our college education has taught us–we must create the world we want to live in. Let us seek to do life with people that do not vote, speak, look, believe or act the same as we do. We are better, not despite our differences, but because of them.
So, Class of 2020, I ask: Who do you want to be when you grow up? I hope you’re perplexed. I hope you’re unsure. And I hope you spend the rest of your life constantly revising your answer.
I am humbled to stand with you today and proud to have this shared experience that forever bonds us. Although our graduation day is not the one we expected, I hope we can each find some small way to retain its meaning. Our accomplishment deserves to be celebrated. I am choosing to believe that the future is full of opportunity. Stay curious. Color outside all the lines. Together, we’ll create the world we want to live in.