MTSU’s 2,529 new graduates can plan all they want for their bright futures, guest speakers told them this weekend — and they should also be ready to ask questions, take risks and react to the detours along the way.
“Everything you can ever imagine for yourself in this moment is only a tiny fraction of the possibilities that await you,” Christine Karbowiak, member of MTSU’s Board of Trustees and executive vice president, chief administrative officer and chief risk officer of Bridgestone Americas Inc., said Saturday, May 4, during the first of the university’s commencement ceremonies for its 2,145 spring 2019 undergraduates.
“Real life is so much more interesting than the plans we make,” she continued. “In my experience, it’s the people who believe this and embrace it and are willing to pivot in the face of either opportunities or challenges who find the most success and satisfaction along the road. Not only that, they wind up deeply, deeply grateful for the detours they face.”
Art education major Mary Ellis Prieskorn of Murfreesboro, the fourth in her family to attend MTSU, understands how quickly those detours come.
A serious car accident left her with a brain injury. Though she says now that she “never thought I would get to this point,” she maintained her place on the Dean’s List and graduated magna cum laude Saturday from the College of Liberal Arts with a bachelor’s degree.
Her busy schedule included student-teaching jobs at two Rutherford County schools, and she’s anticipating a job with the Francis Schaeffer Study Center in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.
“This gives me pride that I can finish something,” she said. “It’s surreal it’s actually happening. I’m never one to relax, and I thought there’s no way I would finish school.”
Perry Louden Jr. of Woodbury, Tennessee, had similar thoughts but different reasons. He accepted a doctorate in literacy studies — his fourth MTSU degree — May 3, completing a 30-year academic journey sprung from the gritty determination of a high school dropout who is now a veteran Rutherford County Schools teacher.
“Looking back to where I was to where I am now, it’s just night and day,” said Louden, one of 384 graduate students who received advanced degrees in the College of Graduate Studies event that launched the university’s two days of spring 2019 commencement ceremonies.
“I enjoy teaching reading and tutor on the side,” Louden said of his decision to pursue literacy studies. “I’m not a great reader myself. It took me a while, so I’d like to kind of give back a little bit to the younger students I have to help them get better at reading so that they can enjoy it.”
You can read a complete story on Louden’s educational adventure here.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee reminded the graduates that choosing to serve others is a significant factor in facing life’s challenges.
“If we use our lives to serve, we become the beneficiaries of that service more than those that we serve,” he said. “You’ve heard it said that there’s a book that’s being written about your life and my life and … every life in the world. It’s a part of the library of humanity.
“You can’t determine all the things that are going to go in it, but you do get to write the part about your response.”
Alexis Wynn of Ramer, Tennessee, is writing new chapters in her book already, continuing her education in graduate school and using her new MTSU degree in criminal justice administration to find a job in the field, ideally fitting her homeland security-focused studies.
Her busy schedule included a study-abroad trip to London, working with MTSU’s TRiO Student Support Services and as an intelligence analyst intern with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation — and she stayed on the Dean’s List in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences.
“It has been four hard years, but I have enjoyed my time at MTSU,” she said. “I appreciate how MTSU focuses on its students. It helped me to grow and get out into events and organizations, and faculty were there to try to push you to branch out.”
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee praised all the graduates for achieving their important milestone and encouraged them to take advantage of their new wealth of knowledge.
“Our broad-based approach to higher education distinguishes your university as a resource for more than solely technical training,” he said. “And it has prepared you not only for your first job but also for jobs that have not yet been created.”
Graduate commencement ceremony speaker Judith Iriarte-Gross, MTSU chemistry professor and Career Achievement Award winner, echoed each of her fellow speakers’ thoughts, adding that being inquisitive and asking questions has been and will continue to be a key component of the newest graduates’ success.
“Asking questions leads to success. To date, you have asked the right questions and your reward is your graduate degree,” she said. “Congratulations!”
Information about MTSU’s graduation ceremonies — including links to maps and driving directions to MTSU, cap-and-gown information, official photographs and contacts for the Registrar’s Office — is available anytime at www.mtsunews.com/graduation-info.
— Gina E. Fann, Jimmy Hart and Randy Weiler (firstname.lastname@example.org)