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Graduates told to ‘have passion, seize opportunities’

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Article Published: May. 17, 2012 | Modified: May. 17, 2012
Graduates told to ‘have passion, seize opportunities’

Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock, far left, congratulates members of the class of 2012 during last Saturday’s graduation ceremony.

Photo by Dawn Shumate

What do you say to graduating students about to start their career or pursue an advanced degree?

Appalachian State University graduates were urged to have a passion, seize opportunities and solve challenges that come their way.

“Life is Legos,” Ryan McGee, senior writer for ESPN the Magazine, told graduates of the College of Fine and Applied Arts on Saturday, May 12. The life experiences of the graduates will “fit together piece by piece to build who you are and no one’s combination is the same.”

McGee’s life experiences include those gained as a student, television producer, columnist and book author.

He told graduates to use the knowledge and experiences they have gained while at Appalachian to make their own decisions.

“You have more sources of information and news at your disposal than any generation in the history of the world,” McGee said. “Do not let those media outlets tell you how to feel, think or vote. They should be no more than suppliers of information and commentary. You are about to receive a document that says you are smart enough to form your own opinions. Take advantage of that.”

Each of Appalachian’s degree-granting colleges and schools hold individual ceremonies.

Other ceremonies held May 11 were those for the Hayes School of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Hayes School of Music

Dr. Connie Tomaino, an internationally known researcher in the clinical applications of music and neurologic rehabilitation, shared with Hayes School of Music graduates her story of unrealized dreams and unexpected turning points.

Initially a premed major with a goal of becoming a doctor, she realized she found more joy and had more doors open for her through her recreational music pursuits.

She entered the emerging field of music therapy as a graduate student in the 1980s and would later become executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function and senior vice president for music therapy with CenterLight Health System.

“Each step of the way, each obstacle or challenge, led to a new opportunity or better direction,” she said. “Don’t be fixed on the goal that you miss opportunities along the way. Nothing in life is ever incidental. Remember that whatever seems to be a major disappointment may actually be a step to direct you to your true mission in life.”

University College & College of Arts and Sciences

Speaking at the University College and College of Arts and Sciences commencement, forest conservationist Dr. Meg Lowman referred to graduates as “the solution generation.”

“Science will drive your future,” said Lowman, director of the Nature Research Center at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. “Because of science, and because of you who might work in politics and areas that relate to science, great solutions will come from your knowledge gained at ASU. I know you will harness your talent for solutions to global challenges and sustainable use of our limited resources.”

“Having spent 30 years studying trees,” she added, “I’ve been inspired by how trees succeed against amazing odds. Here’s my advice from trees: Stand tall and proud, drink plenty of water, appreciate sunlight and good soil, go out on a limb occasionally, remember your roots, enjoy the view, provide sanctuary for others, create and conserve green energy when possible, and last, but not least, grow.”

Ceremonies were held Sunday, May 13, for graduates of the College of Health Sciences, Reich College of Education and the Walker College of Business.

College of Health Sciences

“I cannot impress enough how much health care needs bright, energetic, enthusiastic new providers of health- care services,” said Sallye A. Liner, speaking to graduates of the College of Health Sciences. “The restructuring of health care will occur through those who think differently, who are bold, who are fearless.”

Liner is executive vice president and chief clinical officer with Novant Health, a not-for-profit integrated group of hospitals and physician practices that serve communities in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

“The opportunities available in health care are vast,” Liner said.

“The industry needs new providers with courage, enthusiasm and heart. Research will guide the design of this new system, but heart and compassion will determine the effectiveness of that new design,” she said. “You have the power to change the future of health care if you have the courage to act and make bold choices. I challenge you to use what you have learned and gained (as students) and that you have the courage to act boldly.”

Reich College of Education

Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock addressed graduates of the Reich College of Education saying, “Of all the celebrations held on any university campus, nothing is more special than this day. We anticipate great things from you.”

Peacock spoke of past graduates who have made a difference in the state: N.C. Teacher of Year Darcy Grimes, who teaches in Watauga County and currently is pursuing a graduate degree from Appalachian, and James Brooks, a Wilkes County teacher who recently was named to the National Teachers Hall of Fame located in Kansas.

He also announced that the service-learning program in the college’s De partment of Curriculum and Instruction had been selected to receive the 2012 Award for Service-Learning Excellence in Teacher Education from the International Center for Service-Learning and Teacher Education at Duke University. Peacock also announced that novelist James Patterson is donating funds to award eight $7,500 scholarships to support students planning to major in education. Patterson is author of the popular Alex Cross detective series, among other books.

“Reaching this point isn’t easy, but you have done it,” Peacock told graduates. “I look forward to hearing great things you will do throughout the state and nation.”

Graduates and their guests viewed a video about the history of the college and about some of its students.

Walker College of Business

“Today’s global business environment is also more uncertain, more volatile and faster moving than ever before,” Walker College of Business alumnus Brad Sparks told graduates. “I’m not speaking just about the current global economic uncertainty, but rather the more significant, longer-term sustainability challenges that face all of us.”

Sparks is a director with KPMG International and is responsible for the accounting firm’s Global Green Initiative.

He spoke of “10 global mega forces” identified by KPMG that will impact every business in the next 20 years, including competition for food and water related to the world’s population growth, and the impact of climate change on global economic growth.

“I believe that business will play a critical role in addressing some of these challenges and the most successful business of the future will find ways to identity and to seize on the opportunities that arise,” he said.

Those opportunities include making energy efficient investments which are good for the environment and can reduce a company’s operating costs; developing low-cost products that provide health benefits to the developing world; and monitoring labor, health and safety standards to improve global working conditions and protect a company’s reputation.

“Leading companies today are already starting down this path, seeing these issues as both risks to be managed and more importantly, opportunities for growth,” Sparks said. “At KPMG we are working with some of the biggest on the planet on these exact issues. As a graduate entering the business world today, you have the opportunity to further accelerate this trend of using business to tackle these issues.”

Williams Graduate School

Commencement for the Cratis D. Williams Graduate School was held Friday, May 11. Graduates and their guests viewed a video highlighting the research and work of three students: history major Steven Higley, social work major Jane Smyre and biology major Mary Jane Carmichael.

Also recognized was Alexandra Bentz, who has received a $30,000 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue a doctoral degree. She received a master’s degree in biology Friday night. It was also announced that Dr. Rosie Tighe has received a Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities. She is one of three Appalachian faculty members who have received the $5,000 award. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Planning.

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