Dean Richard Franza’s column appeared in the Sunday, May 22 edition of the Augusta Chronicle. The post can be viewed here.
During the week of May 9, I had the good fortune of celebrating two university commencements. On May 11, my younger daughter, Augusta Jayne (AJ), graduated with a bachelor of business administration degree in professional sales from Kennesaw State University. On May 13, I had the honor of handing out diplomas to our great Hull College of Business undergraduate business graduates at Augusta University’s afternoon commencement.
While the KSU ceremony did not have a commencement speaker, likely because of the large number of graduates, ADP’s Dave Brendza did an outstanding job providing our AU graduates with inspiring words of wisdom.
As I reflected upon the events of that week, recent history, and my personal experiences, I have thought about what I would like to share with our country’s graduates. With apologies to Mr. Brendza and the other gifted orators who recently gave commencement speeches, here is the message I would like to provide to this year’s graduates:
Congratulations, graduates! As a college graduate, you have joined approximately 40% of adult Americans who have attained a college degree. This is an achievement you should not take likely. It is the result of sacrifice, commitment and hard work, definitely by you and in many cases also by those who care about you.
So, as you move forward with your degree in hand, I have the following advice for you:
- Celebrate, reflect and move forward
The first thing you should do as a new graduate is to celebrate your achievement. As I noted, graduating college puts you in a select group and you should be proud of your abilities and efforts that allowed you to reach these heights.
I know that at the completion of two of my three degree programs, my emotion was more one of relief than joy. That was a mistake. No matter how difficult it was or how long it took you, celebrate and be joyful! You deserve it!
Once you are done celebrating, however, take the time to reflect on your time in school. Think about what you learned; particularly what you learned about yourself.
Also, reflect on those who helped you get where you are and be sure to thank them. Take what you learned from your experience and let those lessons propel you forward as you start the next phase of your life. Leverage your strengths and work on improving your weaknesses. College has helped prepare you to learn for the rest of your life.
- Be resilient
One of the things you likely learned from your college experience is that not everything comes easily. Most of you are not 4.0 grade-point average students, and even those of you who are have probably experienced some failures and difficulties along the way.
One of the things you should have hopefully learned as you reflect back on your experience is that it is important to bounce back from those difficulties. If you dwell on those difficulties, it can impede your progress in future endeavors.
In addition to the typical adversity faced by all college students, you also had to deal with a pandemic and social strife during your college career. Your ability to succeed given those trials and tribulations speak to your resiliency to get things done.
As you move forward and face the inevitable challenges life brings, remember that you have already achieved under difficult circumstances.
- Be optimistic
In late April, I had the pleasure of hearing a talk by well-known author and speaker Simon Sinek. One of Mr. Sinek’s signature characteristics is his optimism. Mr. Sinek describes optimism as follows: “Optimism is the undying belief that the future is bright, but it’s not a denial of the current state.”
I believe that Mr. Sinek has captured a mindset that will serve us all well now and in the future, and will allow us all to have better mental health. I think that many of our societal problems come from dwelling on what is wrong and this is reinforced by both the media and politicians.
Rather, we can be more hopeful by dwelling on what is good, but also on focusing on solving the problems we face today. This is how we can handle our own lives and careers also; by being optimistic about the future and working at solving the problems at hand.
- Life is a team sport
One thing you probably learned during your college experience is that it really helped to have others in your corner. Whether it was your parents, family, friends and/or significant others who helped support you financially and/or emotionally during college, you found that having a support system was key to your success.
Though it ultimately came down to how you learned and performed in your program, it helped to have others in your corner. This becomes even more crucial as you progress in your career, so allow others to support you, but just as importantly, be there to support others. This will enable us all to be both more resilient and more optimistic.
- Invest in your community
Lastly, remember to give back to the community in which you live. As future leaders, you have an obligation to “pay it forward” and make your community better. This is done by contributing your time, talent and treasure to improve the lives of your fellow citizens.
When I think of the most successful people in the communities in which I have lived, they are the ones who not only achieved in their careers, but who also served their communities most diligently and humbly. If you do that, you will not only be more successful, but you will find more meaning and satisfaction in your lives.
Congratulations, graduates, on your great success! Once you celebrate and reflect on your success, take what you have learned and make this world a better place!