2015 Commencement Speech :: Indiana University Kokomo

Class of 2015

President McRobbie, the Trustees, honored guests, family, and friends, it is an honor and a privilege to introduce you to the 633 members of the class of 2015. The students represent 31 Indiana counties and ten different countries. Our oldest student graduating is 63 years old and our youngest is 21. 70% of our graduates are women, and we have 30 students graduating with a 4.0 GPA. These students will join the more than 13,000 IU Kokomo alumni.

As you will hear today, our students have come from very different backgrounds with very different goals and very different stories, but what I have noticed is each and every one of them brought to campus an adventurous, determined spirit. They saw our campus as a place of tremendous opportunity and promise to pursue their career goals. The faculty and staff, in turn, made a commitment to each student that they would support them in their journey, no matter what path it would take. We are very proud that each student matters here.

So every hour, every day, students from all walks of life engaged in the same critical work with faculty – learning and discovering, turning information into action and tangible change, so when they leave us today, we know they are prepared to make a difference in this region.

Graduates, as I look at each and every one of you, I am inspired by your personal stories and your successful journeys. I wish I had time to share everyone’s story, but I know the few stories I will share will embody many of you.

Alexius Babb, will you please stand – Alex is the first in her family to earn a college degree. She is a wife and mother of three. She was one of the top students at the IU Undergraduate Research Conference this semester, winning the best oral presentation award in her competition group. Her paper from that conference will be published in the IU Journal of Undergraduate Research. She plans to earn a Ph.D., to become a clinical psychologist.

I know there are many more students who are the first in their families to graduate will you please stand and join Alexius.

Some students have faced difficult obstacles in their journey. Like Shanique Gilliam, will you please stand – Shanique is also the first person in her family to earn a college degree. Today she is earning a degree in health sciences. Her story is a remarkable one – at the lowest point in her life, she lived in an Indianapolis homeless shelter. Her grandmother stepped in and offered her a stable home in Kokomo. After driving by the IU Kokomocampus, she knew higher education was the ticket to her success. Her goal is to be a healthcare administrator. I have no doubt she will achieve her goal.

Mandy Bagwell is a senior in psychology. Mandy will you please stand – Mandy lost her vision as a young child due to a connective tissue disorder. She has navigated our campus with her seeing-eye dog. Recently, she was accepted into law school at Valparaiso University, on scholarship.

Other students have used this opportunity to take them down a different path in life. Jenessa Anderson, will you please stand – she participated in the ROTC Program while a nursing student at IU Kokomo and she is now a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the Army National Guard. Graduation takes her one step closer to her goal of being a military flight nurse.

I know there are many veterans graduating today, and I ask that each stand with Jenessa for our applause.

Cody Summers will you please stand – Cody confirmed his career choice in law enforcement, during his internship with the U.S. Marshals. Twice each week he assisted marshals at the Federal Courthouse in Indianapolis with transporting inmates from prison to court and back, organizing and filing cases, cleaning out evidence storage, writing search warrants, and performing other tasks. He plans to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice and then wants to work in federal law enforcement. His internship gives him a competitive edge when he begins that career.

Will all students who have completed an internship or practicum, please stand?

We have many international students who are graduating today. They come from nine different countries. Nahar Alshanbari and his wife Fadwa Alshanbari, will you please - stand – they are from Saudi Arabia, and both are graduating with an MBA today. They have lived in Kokomo for the past two years and have two children, who both attend school here. Their children are now both bilingual. Nahar plans to be a project manager when he returns to Saudi Arabia, while Fadwa is still considering her options.

Kazi Jami, is from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Will you please stand – he came to the United States to study at Cleveland State, which has over 17,000 students, but as an international student, he was not comfortable living alone in that area of the country. He started to look for other options (smaller, safer) when he applied to Indiana University Kokomo’s MBA program. Here he has excelled. He worked on campus in our IT Dept. and at the Cole Fitness Center. He completed two separate internships, one at Kokomo Grain and the other at Samaritan Caregivers. He is currently in the process of completing his Optional Practical Training (OPT) with Bucheri McCarty & Metz Accounting firm.

Will all of our international students please stand. We wish you the best as you return home.

In addition, we have many of our local students who have traveled and studied overseas during their time at IU Kokomo. The overseas study was a truly life changing for Jeff Johnson. Jeff will you please stand. – he planned to go to law school, but after traveling to China with Dr. McLean’s intercultural communications class this semester, he has decided to live and work there. He has accepted a job as an English tutor for the International English Language Testing System and will live near Hong Kong. Would all of our students who have traveled overseas while in school please stand.

Indiana University Kokomo is also a steppingstone to many more dreams and goals. This fall, several students will enter graduate school, Nick Daanen and Heather Ramey - will you please stand - both will continue their chemistry studies in graduate programs. Nick earned admission to the Ph.D. program in chemistry at IU Bloomington and has a graduate assistantship that will cover his tuition. Heather will earn a master’s in chemistry at Ball State, where she looks forward to researching. Both of them have been researching assistants with Kasem Kasem, professor of chemistry. Nick won a research award at the IU Kokomo Undergraduate Research Symposium for work completed with Kasem, while Heather has published multiple journal articles with him. I know there are many more students headed to graduate or professional schools, will you please stand too?

As I stated earlier, I wish I could share more stories, because you would continue to be impressed. Today our graduates will receive an Indiana University diploma. As you can see, all of our students have worked hard to earn this prestigious degree that commands respect and instills pride.

Graduates on behalf of all of us, we couldn’t be more proud. Best wishes to you, Class of 2015.