By seniors, for seniors
April 25, 2013 3 Comments
During the last four years, members of the Class of 2013 have learned from professors, from peers, from experiences and from challenges. In doing so, some of these seniors have demonstrated particular characteristics that I’ve watched and admired. As I thought about how they’ve succeeded, I realized that these seniors (and a few underclassmen) have demonstrated some wisdom that is worth emulating and that every graduating senior should carry with them out into the real world. So I compiled a list. Think of it as the Class of 2013’s six big lessons: By seniors, for seniors.
1. For much of this year, I’ve followed a JMU health blog, You Caught it Here, written by 15 intrepid students. I say intrepid because as a regular blogger I know how hard it is to continually push out fresh content. They’ve consistently published excellent and honest posts. But they’ve notched another cred that I think is equally important. Often in their posts, they have detailed their own personal challenges. They have looked at their own lifestyles and tried to make changes, and they have engaged in research and reporting on a wide range of topics from alcohol consumption to flossing to smoking to running that has sometimes changed their minds. Their honesty is refreshing, and with it they set a good example. They’ve learned the critical lesson: Be teachable. If you discover something in your life that needs to be changed, then do it. Be willing to look at your skills, your approaches, your opinions, even your own understanding critically and make changes when necessary. And have the humility to say I could do better and that maybe someone else is right.
2. I’ve also followed two foodie blogs this years. From them, I’ve learned a lot about food — and about how one pursues a passion. Students graduating next week are faced with challenges in the job market, but they are also presented with opportunities to be creative, inventive, to travel, to explore and to find out how they want to shape their lives. Cameron Young (’15) and Morgan Robinson (’13) have demonstrated a second important lesson: Be bold. If you have a passion, go for it. Don’t hesitate. Try. You may fall flat on your face, but nothing can ever be accomplished if you don’t take that first step.
3. Tyler McAvoy (’13) has interned in our office for almost three years. He’s written blog posts and stories for the web and for Madison magazine. He’s been my right hand man, and I’m going to miss him. There was a time, however, when I wondered if Tyler would ever graduate, but not for the reasons you might expect. Tyler’s a smart guy and part of the reason for his extended stay at JMU is because he kept finding classes and subjects he wanted to explore. He really loves to learn, and although he’s graduating next week with a degree in English with a concentration in British literature and a double minor in philosophy and political science, Tyler will never really graduate in the sense that he will never stop learning. He’ll always be a student and probably head to law school at some point. So Tyler’s lesson is this: Be a lifelong learner. Graduations are a mark in time, but it should never mark the end of learning.
4. And then there’s Brett Sierra (’13), another marketing and communications intern. Brett, a very smart biology major, has moved boxes, updated excel spread sheets, distributed magazines, and executed a host of other jobs that some students might have found tedious. Brett has done them eagerly, and in doing so, demonstrates one of the most important principles for success: Be willing to work. In any job situation, eagerness and willingness to do whatever it takes to get a job done even if it’s beneath or above your pay grade is an admirable characteristic. It says plenty about an employee. He is a team player. She is engaged. He cares about a company’s success. She is one to be relied on. Employers love this attitude, and more importantly, they hold on tight to those who are genuinely earnest.
5. Fortunately, it was not a JMU student who demonstrated the negative corollary of this lesson: Be thoughtful about your words and actions. “Sorority girl’s” rant that went viral last week should be a lesson to everyone. Think before you speak, act, write, film — or hit send. An irate outburst, no matter how well-intended or even justified, is eternal on the Internet and in the minds of those who witness it. Thinking first and practicing the old adage, “When in doubt, don’t,” is a pretty darn good rule to follow. The world is a different place than it was eight years ago when YouTube was launched, but one thing hasn’t changed: What you say and do reflects who you are. You can’t take it back or cover it up. Discretion is always preferable to regret.
6. Adam Breeden (’13), who is office manager for JMU’s marketing and communication department, has been pursuing his degree for a number of years while working full time. Adam, a 30-something, will graduate with a degree in computer and web technology. Adam’s perseverance has paid off, and that is his lesson: Be persevering. Don’t give up, even when things get hard or when the road ahead is long. It’s worth it in the end. Find your best goals and pursue them until your goals become your accomplishments.
Congratulations to these seniors, and thanks for demonstrating what it takes to be successful starting May 5, 2013.