Reflections on Graduation Cards

Tomorrow will be four weeks since graduation!  Wow, I don’t even know where they have gone.  I had been so worried that there would be nothing to do at home and I was certainly wrong.  It is strange – I don’t think it has entirely hit me that I will not be back at the University of Denver in the fall.  Nevertheless, I am working on those next steps in life.

I have gone through graduation cards and whatnot and was reflecting that some contain some really meaningful messages.  I want to share just a sampling of the thoughts and wisdom these cards are imparting on me.

Of course, this means that I did not write these things, and for some I really have no idea who did.  Nevertheless, thank you and the credit belongs to you.

What is Success?

Setting goals, but not in concrete.
Staying focused, but turning aside to help someone.
Following a plan, but remaining flexible.
Moving ahead, but not too fast to smell the flowers.
Taking a bow, but applauding those who had a part in your success.

Always stay true to your calling, and you’ll make the world a better place… changing lives as you go, showing what it means to live with devotion, integrity, and passion.

“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity.”
– Joseph Addison

“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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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.”

University of Denver Graduation Profile

I graduated with my MBA on Friday, June 3, 2011! (More on that to come soon.)  The University of Denver (DU) highlighted a handful of graduates.  I was one of them.  The story is below:

Joel Portman started his career at DU as a management major.

 

But try as he might, he couldn’t shake the notion that he was learning more about leadership from his extracurricular activities than from his classes.

 

Then again, he didn’t spend his free time just hanging out or going to hockey games; instead, he raised $300,000 for Hillel as an intern, served as a student senator, fought for religious accommodations for Muslims, Jews and other minorities on campus and worked as the coordinator for intergroup relations at DU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME).

 

“I like bringing together different groups … and being able to think and explore,” Portman says.

 

DU’s dual-degree program offered the perfect compromise: Portman could get a bachelor’s in international studies — with a concentration in international security and conflict resolution — and an MBA.

 

“It has the economics piece but it also has the [focus on] relationships, and how people understand and interact with each other,” Portman says. “The MBA is allowing me to go into more depth with people who actually care; to learn what strategy is and how to apply that. I like to be able to understand what’s working, what’s not, why and how it can be improved.”

 

He’s now set to graduate June 3 with both degrees.

 

Portman came by his ambition — and his interest in social justice — at a young age. In high school, he went on a summer trip to Poland and Israel with his youth group, which was trying to settle on a project for Holocaust Awareness Week.

 

“I researched it and decided we should expand to genocide awareness more broadly,” Portman says.

 

Before long, Portman had founded his own nonprofit, Never Again!, dedicated to raising awareness about the Holocaust and the genocide in Sudan and Rwanda.

 

Though he’s since turned over the presidency, he remains active in that and other social justice groups.

 

At DU, he joined the Social Justice Living and Learning Community early on.

 

“I got involved with [DU’s] Undergraduate Diversity Committee and the [DU] Programming Board. I started exploring that more in depth and it just piqued my interest. I saw a lot of opportunity for improvement, and I like planning programs — so I figured it would be a good way to apply my skills, learn more and influence the community.”

 

He didn’t stop there.

 

In 2008 — his junior year at DU — Portman studied abroad in Be’er Sheva, Israel.

 

“It’s in the desert, so it has a lot of Bedouin, as well as a lot of immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia,” Portman says. “I had Jewish, Muslim and German roommates — and I met people from all over the world. It really shaped how I interact with people. [Be’er Sheva] was not very Westernized, so I had to interact with people the way they did. It’s very interesting to figure out how people come together and how conflict resolution happens.”

 

When he returned, Portman began putting those skills to work by volunteering at the CME. He’s quickly risen through the ranks and now is responsible for planning and producing workshops and training about diversity. His flagship event, the Diversity Summit, this year attracted almost 650 attendees, who discussed and strategized ways to improve inclusion and identity.

 

As a result of his work at the CME, Portman is in demand as a speaker himself; last year, he hosted a workshop at a national conference in Wisconsin, and this year he presented at a conference of several colleges.

 

Though Portman has been named DU’s 2011 Student Employee of the Year — and should be able to pretty much write his own job description upon graduation — he’s not resting on his laurels.

 

“I had a job offer but turned it down because it was in a place I didn’t see myself living. I want to be able to contribute value to the organization and be with them for more than a few years,” he says.

 

He would consider a position in consulting, project management, organizational development or training.

 

“I think doing diversity work in international businesses is my ideal job — even if it’s not in the title.”

 

Despite his numerous accomplishments, Portman comes across as remarkably humble— like when he outlines his ultimate plans for the future: “A lot of the successes I’ve had have been because of the support I’ve had from other people. My long-term goal is to be able to give back and help other people. A lot of what I’m doing now is building skills in other student leaders, so they can be successful. I want to stay involved in the community and give back, in terms of time and financially, to help other people do the work they’re passionate about.”

 

DU’s graduate Commencement ceremony begins at 4:30 p.m. June 3 at Magness Arena. For more information or to watch a live stream of the ceremony, visit the DU Commencement website.

 

Graduation Video

To celebrate Undergraduate Graduation this past June, me and four friends had a party at Hillel for our families.  Leslie made a video slideshow that has now been posted on YouTube.  It is quite good and brings back many memories.

Here’s to good times, great memories, and wonderful people:

B.o.B. – Airplanes ft. Hayley Williams

Airplanes by B.o.B. featuring Hayley Williams of Paramore is currently one of my favorite songs.  I had heard bits and pieces, but first heard the song in its entirety while at Lodo’s in Denver with some good friends.  We were reminiscing and celebrating the end of senior year and the song seemed to have relevance as I was about to graduate and hoped (and still do) that the memories and I friendships I had made would stay with me for quite some time.  I like the fact that the song is hopeful, and has more depth than most of the popular music that seems to be overplayed.  It is also a good song with a catchy beat.

While there were plenty of fake music videos for the song, the official video was only recently posted.  Interestingly, I read on MTV’s website (this may be the only MTV article I have read this year), that Hayley Williams and B.o.B. have never met – and did not plan to even for filming the video.  That’s kind of strange, but it is a great song nevertheless.

Lyrics:

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now
Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now

Yeah
I could use a dream or a genie or a wish
To go back to a place much simpler than this
Cause after all the partying
The smashing and crashing
And all the glitz and the glam and the fashion
And all the pandemonium and all the madness
There comes a time when you fade to the blackness
When you’re staring at that phone in your lap
And hopin’ but them people never call you back
But that’s just how the story unfolds
You get another hand
Soon after you fold
And when your plans unravel in the sand
What would you wish for if you had one chance?
So airplanes airplanes
Sorry I’m late
I’m on my way
So don’t close that gate
If I don’t make that
Then I switch my flight
And I’ll be right back at it
By the end of the night

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now
Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now

Yeah
Yeah
Somebody take me back to the days
Before this was a job
Before I got paid
Before it ever mattered what I had in my bank
Yeah back when I was trying to get a tip at Subway
Back when I was rapping for the hell of it
But now days we rapping to stay relevant
I’m guessing that if we can make some wishes out of airplanes
Then maybe oh maybe I’ll go back to the days
Before the politics that we call the rap game
And back when ain’t nobody listened to my mixtape
And back before I tried to cover up my slang
But this is for decater
What’s up Bobby Ray
So can I get a wish to end the politics
And get back to the music that started this shit
So here I stand
And then again I say
I’m hoping we can make some wishes out of airplanes

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now
Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now

Quote #10

I received a graduation card from the Mortar Board Senior Honor Society, of which I am a member.  It contained the following quote.  I’ve seen it/heard it before and I like it a lot.

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and make a trail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson seems to be a master of inspiration.

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

Life & Risk Taking / Quote #6

As I have been reminded recently, Graduation is quickly approaching (Literally, in two weeks from the typing of this post I will be at the Graduation ceremony!).  Next year will be quite different and as I have continuously reminding myself, that’s okay.

I am great at making decisions but a more indecisive when it comes to myself.  I do not always like to put myself out there, but have made a point of doing better at that.  With only two weeks left until life changes, I am trying to take advantage of each opportunity as it presents itself.  Sometimes though, the alternatives may not always be the ones I would like to choose between.  I just hope for the best.  I know that what is meant to happen is what will be.

I’m a big fan of Mark Twain.  I mean, the guy is extremely intelligent, writes great books, and is from Missouri!  I believe that this quote is appropriate for my current mood and in relation to recent occurences:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain

I’m only 22.  In 20 years, my life will be almost twice as long and I will be in a significantly different place.  As I have been asking myself and others lately, how many tomorrows will there be?  We need to take advantage of today.

As Our Lives Change, Come Whatever, We Will Still Be Friends Forever

Graduation is coming up.  For DU, it is Saturday, June 5, 2010.  Because of the Dual Degree program I am in, I am not technically graduating (I’ll stay an undergraduate for the fifth year).  I am walking with my class though.  As the University of Denver Class of 2010 graduates, I will be forced to say goodbye to some of my closest friends and some of the best people I have met in my life.  I certainly hope that some of these people will still be in Denver with me for at least the next year, but whatever happens, things will change.  I can only hope that we will be friends forever.

I have been trying not to think about any of this because it makes me sad.  I watched How I Met Your Mother tonight though, and the whole “Robots versus Wrestlers” episode was basically about friendship, friend groups, and how things change and people move apart.  It made me start thinking again.

Ted shared a poem titled “Friendship” by Ralph Waldo Emerson:

A ruddy drop of manly blood
The surging sea outweighs,
The world uncertain comes and goes,
The lover rooted stays.
I fancied he was fled,
And, after many a year,
Glowed unexhausted kindliness
Like daily sunrise there.
My careful heart was free again, —
O friend, my bosom said,
Through thee alone the sky is arched,
Through thee the rose is red,
All things through thee take nobler form,
And look beyond the earth,
And is the mill-round of our fate
A sun-path in thy worth.
Me too thy nobleness has taught
To master my despair;
The fountains of my hidden life
Are through thy friendship fair.

He concluded by narrating to his future kids as follows:

Kids, I’d love to tell you that over the years we didn’t all drift apart a little at one time or another.  We don’t mean for it to happen.  But it does.  But no matter what, to this day, come hell or high water, we still all get together every year for Robots Versus Wrestlers.”

While he ends on a light note, the purpose of his quote is not missed.  Even if we do move apart, we can still come back together, be with each other, be there for each other, and celebrate each other just as we always have. 🙂

One graduation song always touches my heart – Graduation (Friends Forever) by Vitamin C.  While the song is really about high school, it could also be true to college.  This song always makes me want to cry.

To my good friends: I truly hope that we really will be friends forever!  You mean so much to me!