I have to brag a little – here’s a picture of me yesterday as a newly-hooded Ph.D. I graduated with a degree in human resource development from the U of M College of Education and Human Development. As my father said, it was the most exciting two boring hours he’s been at recently! Here are a couple of things I took away:
Dean Jean Quam greeted attendees at a reception with this proverb:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go in a group.
That’s certainly true of my experience. Writing a dissertation is one of the more lonely things a person can do, and it also requires a lot of help and support. Like any leadership goal, it wouldn’t have happened without key people stepping up at just the right time. Studying together with a couple of classmates made the courses easier, and I’ve developed long-lasting friendships. Some excellent professors helped me develop research skills. And my advisor, Karen Seashore, gave me advice and prodding to keep going when things got hard.
The keynote speaker at graduation was former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak. He is now involved with an organization called Generation Next that is focused on closing the achievement gap for students of color. While being very clear about the challenges, he also reminded us to be open to possibilities.
As we get older, we often lose our eyesight. We may also lose our vision.
I appreciated his challenge to us as educators to stay focused on our opportunities to mentor and provide opportunities for students. We have a chance to make a difference in someone’s life every day. Rybak talked about being that one adult who listened, encouraged, or just did little acts to help make school a safe and supportive place.
What is true of children in K-12 education is also true of our students in higher ed. While I’m not on a campus every day, I still have a chance to create the sort of system where all of our students, faculty and staff can thrive. I hope my new skills will help with that process.
Denise A. Bonebright, Ph.D.