(From Northwest Missouri State’s news service)
MARYVILLE, Mo. – Leaders of Northwest Missouri State University on Saturday challenged graduates to keep connecting, be future-focused and be part of the solutions needed in their communities as the University celebrated 657 students who completed the requirements to earn bachelor’s degrees this spring.
“Your role has been to challenge yourselves, to grow, to fail, to get up, to connect, to connect with one another, to connect with our University of community, the city of Maryville and the region, to connect with our alumni, to connect with employers and to connect with our faculty and staff,” Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski told the graduates. “‘Bearcats Connect,’ the slogan that we use, is so very important because it does contribute to success.”
Dr. Katy Strickland, who is Northwest’s recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education this spring, delivered Saturday’s commencement addresses and offered “nuggets of wisdom” to the graduates. She joined the Northwest faculty in 2013 and serves as assistant professor of music and director of athletic bands, playing a significant role in the renewal and growth of the Bearcat Marching Band. She was appointed chair of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts last year.
“Knowledge is powerful information,” she said. “Wisdom is an understanding of how to use it. Because if you aren’t wise about your interactions with the world, it doesn’t matter how much you know — very few people will listen to you.”
She encouraged the graduates to be kind and helpful, to say please and thank you, smile at others and hold open doors for them, have a firm handshake and listen to people’s responses after asking how they’re doing. And when things don’t go as expected, she said, roll with it.
“You see, the world we live in is circular,” Strickland said. “So many of the things you send out move away from you and start a boomerang-like path. They go out into the world and then come back – sometimes sooner, sometimes later — and either lightly land on your shoulder when you most need it or smack you in the back of the head with a cosmic payback.”
Strickland challenged graduates to focus on their journeys and growth – “It’s not about the concert, it’s about the rehearsals” – and to contribute more to the world then they take from it. She urged graduates to show care for others, and to do it by having face-to-face conversations.
“Take the time to flip the camera view,” Strickland said. “Look outward. Consider another’s viewpoint. Lend them a hand. Lift them up. Donate your time and some of the money you’re about to start making.”
Saturday’s ceremonies included plenty of memorable moments, including when Jasinski, with University Police Chief Clarence Green at his side, took to the Bearcat Arena floor for a light-hearted chat with the graduates about their experiences at Northwest. The pair surveyed students about their coffee preferences on campus, parking tickets and their favorite places to dance, among other topics. They also recognized and kidded three sets of twins who were graduating.
Nelson and Tissani Butler were among the students receiving degrees Saturday afternoon and crossed the commencement stage with their young daughter, Sapphire, who also was dressed in a graduation gown.
Also during Saturday’s afternoon ceremony, the University paid tribute to Nicholas Turner, a St. Louis native who was a junior corporate recreation and wellness major at the University when he died in January 2016. Turner was a member of the Bearcat football team and was on pace to graduate this spring. Turner’s family was in attendance for the ceremony and Northwest adorned an empty chair in the first row of seats with his jersey and a helmet in his honor.
Two ceremonies on Saturday concluded Northwest’s commencement weekend at Northwest, which began with the University honoring 201 master’s degree and specialist degree recipients during a Friday evening ceremony. The University hosted two ceremonies Saturday with graduates of the Melvin D. and Valorie G. Booth School of Business, the School of Agricultural Sciences, the School of Education, and the School of Computer Science and Information Systems participating in a morning ceremony. Saturday’s afternoon ceremony honored graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Health Science and Wellness, and the School of Communication and Mass Media.
In all, the University awarded 858 degrees during the weekend with the top bachelor’s degree being business management and the most popular master’s degree being applied computer science.
The spring graduates range in age from 19 years old to 57. They represented 23 states and 12 countries, with 64 percent of graduates hailing from within the state of Missouri.
Northwest’s spring’s graduating class also is strong academically with 212 students graduating with honors, having earned a cumulative grade-point average of 3.5 or higher. Thirty-nine students are graduating summa cum laude, signifying GPAs of 3.95 and above.