Graduates, can you believe it? We really did graduate. We’ve packed up our lives here at U of M, trying to make sense of this inevitable closing chapter. We experienced a bizarre combination of nervousness, sadness, excitement…and even sweat. I predict that many of you have already made the painstaking and exhausting move out of your Ann Arbor housing (good-bye forever, dingy college furniture!). And most of you, I’m sure, took time to say good-bye to faculty and friends. I even suspect that a few of you have already started your full-time jobs – an exhilarating, yet terrifying thought.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been spending these last couple weeks trying to overcome my serious post-grad nostalgia (Is there an official diagnosis for this?). In my attempt to fondly remember the past, while excitedly anticipate the future, it is clear to me that Ann Arbor will always be special. Whether it is a football game or maybe a job that draws us back, we will find ourselves revisiting our deeply rooted feelings of love, pride, and yearning for this phenomenal place. Talk about an emotional roller coaster.
We must admit, however, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect end to our undergraduate chapter at U of M. We have the Department of Communication Studies to thank for this. On May 1, 2015 we graduated and the normalcy we found in our undergraduate careers vanished. The real world instantly greeted us with a few harsh realities: it is no longer socially acceptable to wear leggings every day, sleeping in until noon on any given day is no longer the norm, nor is it okay to arrive 10 minutes late assuming there’s a “Michigan time” grace period. Harsh reality checks for sure.
Some normalcy did remain on this special day. As happens every year, the ceremony was held at the Michigan Theater — except the Michigan Theater felt a little different to us this time. Professor and Chair of the Department, Susan Douglas, kicked-off the ceremony with a warm welcome. Her opening remarks were insightful and certain, emphasizing the value of a liberal arts degree in addition to the media’s importance and power. She affirmed that our liberal arts degree exposed us to diverse literature and perspectives, pressed us as critical and flexible thinkers, and refined our persuasive communication and research skills. These skills and more can only be taught through a liberal arts degree and will be crucially important as we tackle the continuing profound changes in communications technologies – technologies that grew and developed alongside us. Douglas’ speech flawlessly encapsulated all of this and more, bringing together all of the things we had learned the past four years into perfect harmony.
Professor and Honors Advisor, Rowell Huesmann, introduced the Honors students: Jacquelyn Goldman, Marjorie McCurry, and Ellen Wagner. He thoughtfully highlighted the rigorous requirements and expectations of the Honors Program – no easy feat. At this time, he also presented the Mark Foote Distinguished Thesis Award. This award was established in 2003 by the family of Mark Foote, a devoted University of Michigan alumnus and longtime leader in journalism. The Distinguished Thesis Award is given to a Communication Studies undergraduate student for the most outstanding senior thesis in terms of scientific rigor and theoretical contribution. Marjorie McCurry was the recipient of the award this year – you go girl!
Pictured: Honors Students, Jacquelyn Goldman, Marjorie McCurry, and Ellen Wagner
I was fortunate enough to speak as president of the Michigan Association of Communication Studies (MACS) alongside my Co-EVP, Chris Beindorff. While my speech relayed my deep love for all things U of M and hopes for my fellow graduates, Chris spoke of a hero that influenced his life and will continue to do so: his grandfather. Both speeches expressed our appreciation of U of M and more specifically, our journeys through communications. Together, we encouraged students to create a meaningful life, find inspiration, be excited for the next chapter, and yet never forget your memorable times at U of M: a perfect combination of looking back and looking forward.
Pictured: Student Speakers, Alissa Ranger & Chris Beindorff
Jon Hein served as the keynote speaker at this year’s ceremony. Jon graduated with a B.A. in Communications and History from U of M in 1989. He first came on the scene when he coined the term “jump the shark” and created the website, jumptheshark.com, in 1997. Jon hosts “Fast Food Mania” on the Discovery Channel Destination America and the collectibles show “For What It’s Worth” on VH1 classic. He is also a producer on “The Howard Stern Show” at Sirius XM Radio where he has hosted a variety of programs including “The Wrap Up Show” for the past decade. In other words, he’s a pretty big deal.
Pictured: Keynote Speaker, Jon Hein
Although his invaluable experience through the field of communications took him all across the country, Jon asserted that Ann Arbor will forever be “home.” He expressed his deep love for U of M, making it clear that he truly does bleed maize and blue. With charisma, passion, and enthusiasm, he shared his successes, failures, and lessons learned. Jon explained that he found his success through one simple equation: talent + persistence = luck. He firmly believes that as U of M students we’ve already shown our passion to succeed, which has carried us through the past four years. As students at this competitive university, we are already immensely talented. Now, our task is to work hard, pay our dues, and not be easily discouraged. This is where persistence comes in.
He recognized that it may not always be possible to land your “dream job” right away, but he urged students that with talent and persistence, you can be lucky enough to turn your passions into reality. As Jon asserted, “This is the time in your life when you can make bold choices and go for it.” He reiterated that we need to take advantage of our time right now because it’ll never be here for us again. “You’ll never have the freedom you have right now. Make the most of it. Now is the time to go for it. Nothing is tying you down or holding you back,” he continued.
In our journey to “just go for it,” he recognized a few lessons he learned along the way:
- “Always try to surround yourself with people who are smarter, funnier, and just as passionate as you are. It raises your game.”
- “Maintain your creative outlet. Never let it go.”
- “You need to be self-aware. Don’t let your limitations hold you back. Build upon your strengths.”
- “Reach out to fellow Michigan graduates.”
I don’t know about you, fellow graduates, but these words will resonate with me forever.
And just like that, we graduated from the Department of Communication Studies. As I look back at old photos, I am reminded that Jon Hein was right. We really have had the time of our lives these past four years. We learned, we failed, we succeeded, and we grew. We truly lived. But we can’t dwell in the past. We are more alive now than ever and there is still so much to experience. In the words of Jon Hein, “It’s okay to look back as you’re looking forward.” You bet, Jon Hein. I plan to do just that.