Indiana State University
Indiana State University sent the Class of 2017 into the world with parting words from fellow Sycamores at the winter commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 16.
There were 906 Indiana State students who applied to graduate, of which 386 undergraduates and 198 graduates signed up to participate in the commencement ceremony at Hulman Center.
Student speaker and political science major Shayla Bozdech of Effingham, Ill., offered her fellow graduates a message about sacrifices.
"Look at the world in which we live. There are many circumstances around us that might cause us to become disheartened and feel defeated. There are old problems in our world that have come back into light, and new problems that we, as the next generation of world leaders, are tasked with solving," she said. "These problems, they won’t be solved by thousands of people choosing to simply follow their dreams. That’s not how you got here today, is it? Your dream may have been to go to college, but when you look up in the audience and find the people in your support system, you can realize that you are not the product of a thousand dreams. You are the product of a thousand sacrifices."
She reminded the graduates that sacrifice for others is a message that was driven home at Indiana State.
"At Indiana State, we have learned that, if service is beneath us, then leadership is beyond us," Bozdech said. "We have been taught the importance of making an impact in our communities through service. ISU has taught us the value of making sacrifices for our neighbors, and we have seen how connected we are at our core."
Bozdech's wish for her fellow graduates was for them to "recognize the sacrifices that must be made for the good of others."
"I hope that we will always do what is right, even if it does not mean following our dreams," she said. "In turn, I hope that our dreams will turn into those of integrity, honesty, love, respect, patience, joy and peace. Because with these dreams, we can become humble servants. With these dreams, we can have hope."
Alumnus Michael Scott Jr., '10, used the opportunity as the alumni speaker to encourage his fellow Sycamores to focus the talents and skills they honed at Indiana State toward making a difference in the lives of the next generation as he did post-graduation.
Scott serves as an instructional fellow with the Uncommon Schools in Brooklyn, N.Y. - a nonprofit network of public charter schools closing the opportunity gap primarily for students of color from low-income communities in New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
"As an alumnus, it's my duty to impart wisdom or lessons that, hopefully, allows you to avoid an obstacle or two that I encountered," he said. "So, what lessons have I learned? Lesson one. Embrace difference. Expose yourself to new experiences. Meet new people. By listening to folks who you would normally shun or not gravitate toward, what you'll learn is you have far more in common than you have in contrast."
Lesson two, Scott said, is to seize the moment and live life to the fullest.
"You've got one life to live and only one chance to live it," he said. "Two weeks after I walked across this stage, my father's years among the living were cut short at the age of 53. From that pivotal moment, I committed to not live for tomorrow, but to ensure that today was the best and most fulfilled it could be. You see, when you live life to the fullest, doing what you love and what makes you happy, you thrive and spread those positive ripples to the rest of society."
For lesson three, Scott encouraged the graduates to fall forward.
"Mistakes are unavoidable. It is what you do after that alters the outcome of your next attempt," he said. "Embrace error because you will fall, but you'll get back up. When you rise, honor the reflection. Ask yourself, ‘What did I do wrong? What can I learn from this?' It is only in the reflection that the move forward happens."
Scott's final lesson was for the graduates to give by using their privilege for others.
"The idea of service is not lost on anyone in this institution. Indiana State prides itself on its servant and civic leadership, consistently top ranked in higher education for embracing the idea of service," he said. "Within this room, you have completed thousands of hours of volunteer work and your service has made this institution and society a better place. Continue to volunteer at local food banks, homeless shelters and schools. Continue toy drives for foster children, blood drives for the afflicted."
But volunteering is no longer enough, he added.
"Your degree not only makes you more likely to be employed, increases your life expectancy and you are more likely to be attentive and engaged in the national discourse. But, see, your degree also makes you more likely to vote, more likely to have a seat at the table and understand the channels for change and will allow you to earn over $1 million in additional income over the course of your life," Scott said. "To all graduates in this room, you've upgraded. As some would say, Dr. King was a drum major for justice. You must now be a drum major for the voiceless. Be an advocate for those who often go unheard, represent those who don't have access to the table of power and donate to causes of profound impact."
Scott knows of what he speaks. He has dedicated his life to working in communities where the odds are not in his students' favor.
"I advocated before the Texas state Legislature for high academic expectations coupled with assessments that did not diminish a student's joy for learning," he said. "I lobbied in Albany for the expansion of education access so more students have an opportunity to realize their greatest potential. Throughout the seven years since I left this place, I have used my voice and the education I received here for advocacy and my vote for policies and candidates that align with my passion for educational equity."
As an advocate for providing college access and opportunity for all, Scott announced a scholarship in honor of his father that will be available at Indiana State next fall to any rising junior or senior who hails from Indiana and has chosen to major in education or recreation and sport management.
In addition, because college access can be more difficult for men of color, Scott said The Michael Scott Jr. Civic Leadership Scholarship will be available next fall to two males of color who are rising sophomores, juniors or seniors with a demonstrated commitment to service and a willingness to use their privilege in service of underserved communities.
"Use your privilege for others. As you launch on a new and exciting journey in your life, I leave you with the idea of Ubuntu - I am and you are because we are,” he said. “I wish each of you immeasurable success because your success will impact the lives of generations."
Though the day was about the graduates, Indiana State President Dan Bradley, with his wife Cheri at his side, offered a few words at his 19th and final commencement ceremony as president of Indiana State.
"These ceremonies and 10 convocations for new freshmen will always stand out as highlights of our tenure," he said. "We want to thank all of you and all of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters who are not here today who have, over the last nine-plus years, made ISU an incredible place to work, to learn and to play. Cheri and I have dedicated all of our energy to making it a better place and we do not regret one minute. Know that the best is yet to come."