May 27th, 2015 @ 7:58 am | Author: Tisa Mason
How exciting it was to be part of one of the largest commencement exercises in the history of the university! These newly conferred academic degrees offer our most recent alumni opportunities for new beginnings. These new beginnings are so full of promise and hope. And it was with both pride and confidence that I conferred degrees.

The pride comes from valuing the hard work and the many accomplishments of our students. The confidence emanates from the knowledge that VCSU is truly a student-centered institution. As hard as our students work to earn their degrees, it is often the faculty and staff who care so deeply about our students that make their effort worthwhile. Our faculty and staff inspire the dreams of our students, help them discover their talents, and fuel their passion to complete this segment of their life’s journey.

According to research by Gallup Education, that deep ethic of care correlates with long-term career and life success. Gallup’s research indicates that graduates who strongly agree they had the following six experiences as students performed better on every measure of long-term success compared with graduates who did not share these experiences:

1. A professor who made them excited about learning
2. Professors who cared about them as a person
3. A mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams
4. Worked on a long-term project
5. Had a job or internship where they applied what they were learning
6. Were extremely involved in cocurricular activities

Bingo! These “Big Six” serve at the center of who we are as a community. Here are just a few stories students have shared with me:

A professor who made you truly excited about learning
“My favorite professor is very challenging because he is so unconventional and requires students to step out of their comfort zone. He covers new, interesting topics and never asks students to complete the same project twice. He does not rely on testing but requires you to thoroughly understand the topics taught through group discussion. He even encouraged me to attend graduate school—something I had never even considered. He always encourages my best work.”
—Ashley Limesand on Rob Walsh

A professor who cared about me as a person
“When I first stepped onto the VCSU campus…this professor provided me with the courage to improve my speaking, writing, and other academic skills. She always keeps in touch with me. Her strong sense of compassion made me feel at home as she helped me solve many of the problems I faced throughout college.”
—Yi Wang on Jodi Shorma

A mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams
“I received a job offer to teach in my hometown—where my fiancée and I have always wanted to live. However, I still had to finish my coursework and do my student teaching. I had no idea how I was going to be able to work through all of the elements of degree completion in a timely manner and in the correct order. With the help of my professors, all aspects of my program will be completed, and I will be able to transition into my new role as a teacher. I will student teach in the fall and begin as a full-time teacher in January. I knew I had made the right choice coming to VCSU because the professors truly care about each and every student and want all students to achieve their dreams.”
—Wendy Eszlinger on Kim Knodle, Lee Kruger, and Jodi Shorma

Worked on a long-term project
“My professor encouraged me to apply for a research grant through the VCSU Student Opportunities for Academic Research (SOAR) program. When I received the grant, he took on the role of my faculty advisor. During the research process he took time to meet with me multiple times per week throughout the year. This summer he will help with an internship. Time and time again he has shown that he wants students to be the best and the brightest. I am so happy I had the opportunity to work with him.”
—Tarah Cleveland on Razib Iqbal

So as I looked out at the audience last Saturday, it was more than symbolic for me to see the faculty and staff seated front and center because it is through their direct efforts that our students experience the “Big Six.” And it is why VCSU delivers more than a degree—it provides a passport so that our students thrive, not only in college, but also in their overall careers and lives. Indeed, Commencement Saturday was another great day to be a Viking!