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Baker Report: A time to plant, a time to reap

December 10, 2015

grad-cap-beadsOne was working at a warehouse to put food on the table for his wife and three daughters. One was seeking a new direction in life after an injury ended his two-decade career as a firefighter.

One rose above the adversity of not only her difficult illness but the more devastating diagnosis given to her mother. One was confident that there was a place for her here even when the conventional wisdom told her otherwise.

One is an Iraq war veteran who suffered serious injuries in a traffic accident after his return to the United States – and who makes sure to preach positive thinking and perseverance to his young daughter.

These five are among the hundreds of brilliant NIU students who will cross the stage at commencement this weekend.

I will shake hands with thinkers and doers eager to participate in our society. I will congratulate well-prepared scholars motivated to make remarkable differences not only where they live but around the globe. I will applaud post-baccalaureate graduates whose advanced studies already have contributed to the body of knowledge while making them more marketable.

Despite their disparate backgrounds, all of our graduates came to DeKalb with the same destination: career success.

At some point in each of their lives, someone planted that seed – the wonderful notion that great things were within their reach; that their concrete goals and loftiest of dreams were not mutually exclusive; that although building an amazing future requires serious ambition and hard work, the road is lined with support.

Maybe it was a parent. Maybe a grandparent. A friend. A teacher.

gradsHere they found diverse ways of life, intellectual challenges, opportunities for hands-on learning, wise and caring mentors, roadmaps and keys to experience-rich internships and helping hands in beginning to weave the kinds of social networks that provide the proverbial “who you know.”

Now, with their seeds nurtured and in full bloom, they are ready to reap the benefits of a higher education. Such exhilarating times. I know everyone who has watched, or joined in, these journeys is as proud as I am.

For me, commencement is a reminder of why we do this – and confirmation of how we deliver on our brand promise.

Student Career Success is our cornerstone goal, and this weekend’s graduates are living proof of why we value that principle. It’s why we temporarily credited MAP grant obligations for nearly 5,000 of our students this fall, and why we’ve made the same commitment for the spring while the state still struggles to approve a budget for this fiscal year. We want to transform the lives of students who want to change the world.

It’s why we’re grateful for faculty and staff who dedicate their lives to bettering those of our students. It’s why we’re thankful for generous donors who provide the critical scholarship funding that helps deserving students in need.

Please join me in congratulating this weekend’s graduates and in wishing them prosperous and productive futures.