Thoughts on Graduation

I graduated from the University of Denver one week ago today!  Wow!  I can’t believe it has already been one week!  It is amazing to me how quickly time flies.  I am incredibly behind on my blogging (which I hope to fix soon) so I missed blogging about commencement.  Instead, I want to share a few reflections:

I graduated with a MBA on Friday, June 3, 2011.  A Master of Business Administration degree.  Weird.  My dad tells me that I am the first person in our immediate family to get any degree beyond a bachelor’s degree.  That’s kind of cool.

A lot of people told me that a master’s degree was a big deal in the month or so leading up to graduation.  I didn’t really think of it that way.  After all, I just graduated with a bachelor’s degree a year ago.  This was just another year for me to continue learning, keep growing, and have the opportunity to meet some amazing people.  I guess it was all of those things, but actually so much more.  The MBA seems to already be setting me up and setting me apart for the future.

I was originally a management major before changing to international studies.  I then decided to move back to business for the master’s degree.  I made the right choice leaving business to expand my horizons and skill set.  I also made the right choice coming back to business. 🙂

I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people at the University of Denver.  I have been friends with many of them for four-five years.  Some I knew for several years, but really only become close friends with this past year.  I have also met some amazing people in my MBA program.  They might have had great experience and/or insight.  They might have been from another country.  I have tried to get to know a good number of the international students at Daniels.  I remember what it was like studying in a different country and I know that each of us has something great to offer.  However I met people and from wherever they are from, I am very happy to have had the opportunity to get to know each of the amazing people and friends this past year and the four previous years.

The hooding ceremony was interesting and a good close to my business education.  I’m glad the business students actually get to keep their hoods.  Who knows if there may be another degree in my future?  Commencement was a good end to my University of Denver education – an acknowledgement and a way of saying thank you.  I was happy to have many good friends close by and to be able to see both the Chancellor and the Provost at the end of my DU experience.  Both this year and last the Provost gave me a hug as I crossed the stage.  I appreciate that.  He has actually been one of the most influential people in my University of Denver career, providing academic and career counseling as well as being a key person for the work I have done on campus.

I was able to celebrate the end of my time at the University of Denver with some of my best friends from the past five years, as well as with many of the other MBA graduates over the course of my last week in Denver.

  • To my fellow graduates, however well I knew you: “Thank you for being a part of my education and my experience.  I appreciate everything you contributed to our successes and our community.  Congratulations!  We did it!”
  • To my friends: “Thank you for being a part of my life and for everything you do for me and for us.  I appreciate you more than you could know.”
  • To everyone: “Please stay in touch and continue to be a part of my life.”

Undergraduate Commencement Address

I was doing some job searching online today and inadvertently came across the text of the speech given at my Undergraduate Commencement by Denver Health CEO Patricia Gabow:

Graduates, parents, and faculty thank you for the honor of sharing in your joy today. After four years in a classroom I know the last the thing the graduates need is another lecture—but mine is short- only 200 power points and just a take home test! In fact, my goal is to be short and hopefully sweet- sharing with you only three tidbits of wisdom from a great philosopher—Fiori Colonna. I am sure none of you-even the philosophy professors -ever heard of him but his insights were profound. These insights came not in long dense sentences that, in my expert medical opinion, can trigger a coma, but in short, crisp sayings. This great philosopher was my grandfather.

My grandfather was born in 1889 in southern Italy – a mountainous region crushed by poverty. As did many Europeans in the early 1900’s, at sixteen he booked steerage passage from the tough docks of Naples to the United States. Like other immigrants, then and now, he was expecting to find streets lined with gold. America, the land of opportunity, did not make success quite that easy. My grandfather used the one gift he had extraordinary musical talent and started his American journey playing in a circus band. I will get back to this concept of a gift in a moment. Even as a non-English
speaking adolescent he knew America could offer more. He studied to obtain a teaching certificate and spent the rest of his life as a public school music teacher. And from this comes the first saying. I can still hear my grandfather’s words—”My girl, if you get an education in America, there is nothing you can’t do.”

Today 1232 of you receive not just a college degree but also see the culmination of a world class education. Now you must take my grandfather’s words to heart and remember there is nothing you cannot do. Given the economic times and the challenges America faces here and around the world, you may doubt this as a reality, but even now it remains true -your education will open many doors – doors to traditional careers like teaching and medicine and doors to new technologies and industries- but like my grandfather- you must find the door and walk through it. Doors will not come to you- just like streets are not paved with gold. This saying has been true for me – my education and my willingness to push open some partly closed doors enabled me to break the glass ceiling and become CEO of a model health care system. So use your education as the path to your door.

While education creates exciting spaces for you to enter—it also creates responsibility. Here at DU you learned to think critically- you must bring this skill into our society. In this time of absurd partisan sound bites and unfounded blogs- we need informed citizenry to preserve this land of opportunity . You must be knowledgeable and you must vote. My grandfather, my parents, my husband and I, and my children never missed voting. Yet in a recent mid cycle election more people voted in American idol than the election—do not be one of these so called citizens.

Let me return to my grandfather. He had such an influence on me because I lived with him. My father was killed in world war II and my mother lived for more than a decade with my grandparents. For me the tragedy became a blessing of knowing my extended family. Which brings me to my grandfather’s second saying – Again I can hear his words—“My girl, not everything bad happens to harm you.” Everyone of you have had or will have something bad happen. My grandfather knew that good things can emanate from what at the time may seem very bad. Many cultures see this truth. In fact, you can Google “what is good” and find this story:

A farmer has a prize stallion; thieves steal the stallion. His neighbor tells him what bad
luck but the man replies “Who knows what is good and what is bad.“ A few days later the
stallion escapes and joins a herd of wild mares bringing them back to the farmer. The
neighbor comes to rejoice with the farmer, but the man repeats “Who knows what is good
and what is bad.” The next day the farmer’s son breaks his leg breaking a wild mare. The
neighbor brings condolences to the farmer who repeats his saying. The following week
the army comes to the village to conscript soldiers but passes over the farmer’s injured
son—and the neighbor says to himself in fact “Who does know what is good and what is

Forty years ago on a ski trip in Aspen –I jumped off a diving board wearing a very small pink bikini and landed on another swimmer—sounds pretty bad—but that swimmer asked me out, later proposed and we’ve been married ever since— so who knows what is good or bad.

The final reflection relates to the concept of a gift. Perhaps, my grandfather’s favorite saying was, “If you have a gift and you don’t use it no confessor on earth can absolve you.”

Let’s deconstruct this For most Americans the concept of sin—of voluntarily doing wrong –is not something we think of – hence we don’t think of the need for confessors to relieve of us of the burden of wrongdoing. Even without the concepts of sin and absolution, we all know that there are times that we make bad decisions which negatively impact us and others—My grandfather’s point was that the most unforgiveable act you can do to yourself and to all those around you is to squander your talents. When each of you choose your majors you were thinking about your talents and now you must hone that decision into a career, a commitment, and a journey which will produce good for you, for your family, for the country and the world.

In closing, regardless of your ancestry, you have grandmothers and grandfathers, parents, uncles and aunts who possess the wisdom derived from your culture which is captured in their old sayings—learn these, use them in times of celebration, turn to them in times of sadness—let the old wisdom be a lens to see this new world – to show you the way forward through life. Value your education, see opportunity in both the good and the bad, and find your path and walk it with fortitude and joy and by doing this make your country and this world a better place because you were in it—Congratulations to all of you and to your families.

Undergraduate Graduation

It has been several days since I’ve posted anything on here.  Life has been absolutely insane getting ready for graduating, preparing to come back home (and I am back in St. Louis now).  Hopefully, this summer will provide opportunities for sharing and reflection.

On Saturday, June 5, 2010, I walked across the stage in the Ritchie Center at the University of Denver, received a diploma case (they mail diplomas 8-10 weeks later, but more on this to follow), was greeted by the Chancellor and the Provost, and had my 2010 white Arts & Humanities tassel moved from the right side of my hat to the left side.  I “graduated” the University of Denver!

I use quotes, because I technically did not get my diploma yet.  While I have completed all of the requirements for my Bachelor of Arts in International Studies degree, I will not receive a diploma until next year.  While my diploma for my BA will come at the same time as my MBA and will be dated 2011, I do and will continue to consider myself part of the Class of 2010.

Just for fun – and to share with those who are interested – I was recognized in the commencement program in the following ways:

  • Bachelor of Arts Degree (“Future Graduate”)
  • Departmental Distinction in International Studies
  • University Honors (only 46 students received the recognition/completed the requirements)
  • Mortar Board Senior Honor Society
  • Pioneer Award
  • Outstanding Senior Award

The ceremony was 2.5-3 hours long and while it did get hot towards the end, it was a great experience and I am happy that I participated.  Our speaker was the CEO of the Denver Health and Housing Authority.  Javi, Tucker, and I all sat together – even though it was not technically alphabetical order (at least we were within one letter and the same degree).  We had 1232 (I believe) students participating in the undergraduate commencement ceremony.

After the ceremony, Leslie, David, Brittany, Dani and I had a joint graduation celebration lunch at Hillel with our families.  It was a good time with families and food and a slideshow that Leslie made.

The week leading up to graduation was spent cleaning my apartment and getting ready to come home mixed in with time spent with my family (who were in Denver) and time celebrating and reminiscing with my DU friends.  My college experience has been phenomenal, unbelievable, amazing – use any fantastic sounding word and it will probably describe how happy I am with the last four years.  I have learned so much, become such a better person, met amazing people, done things that I never thought I would want to do or have the opportunity to do.  My undergraduate experience has exceeded all of my expectations – in large part because of the amazing people I have met and friendships I have built.

I am very happy that I will be returning to Denver next year for my MBA.  I am worried that it will be different and strange.  The dynamic of most of my good friends no longer being students at DU will certainly take some getting used to.  I am happy that some of them will still be in Denver, but obviously our relationships will shift and change.  I hope that we all stay in touch and that the people I cherish will remain among my best friends for a lifetime.

I do not think that the social dynamic changes have fully hit me yet.  As I went to graduation parties and hung out with friends on Saturday after the ceremony, I reflected that I have really “grown up” with many of these people.  I am a much different person today than I was four years ago – and definitely a better person.  It was strange to realize just how much of an affect each person has had on me over the last four years.  Even people with whom I was never close or did not always get along with influence my experience and I (now) appreciate that.

I do not like goodbyes.  They seem too final and I hope that many who were a part of my (undergraduate) college experience continue to be involved in my life.  Therefore, I will say “see you later!”

Me, Steven, Ronnie, and Javi before the ceremony

Me and my dad before the ceremony

Me, Stuart (my brother), Trisa, Javi, and Dario (Javi's brother) after the graduation ceremony

For more pictures of graduation, check out my Facebook photo album.  DU  posted this story on their news site about graduation.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my life these last four years!  Stay in touch!  I will cherish you forever!

Last Week of School / Quote #8 – Saying Goodbye

It is June!  How did that happen?!?  (This was posted at 12:15 a.m. on June 1 – WordPress didn’t quite get the memo) Time goes so fast…  It is now finals week at the University of Denver.  It is our last week of school before graduation.  I’ve been trying to put off thinking about saying goodbye to people.  My post earlier in May described my feelings then and they pretty much remain the same – I do not like leaving people or being left by people but we are at a place in life when these transitions do/must occur.  Hopefully, what happens will happen for the betterment of all of us.

The following quote was just shared with me:

“Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes.  A farewell is necessary before you can meet again.  And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends.”
Richard Bach

I hope to meet my friends again, after next weekend, soon – and often.  I know that our caring about one another will continue.  Our graduation from the University of Denver should allow us to share that caring beyond DU and improve the world, just as we have improved each other.

From DU commencement website