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SNHU 2016 University College | Speaker: Ted Mitchell

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SNHU 2016 University College | Speaker: Ted Mitchell


Thank you. Thank you, Paul. It was actually the
tables turned, I think I spent most of the
time working for Paul. And so I’ve been at sea
since he returned. But thank you, President
LeBlanc for the kind and warm introduction. Thanks to the members of
the board who are here, to faculty members and staff
and mostly to graduates and their families. Thank you so much for inviting
me to be with you today. I am wicked honored to be here. And snooper dome is
sounding pretty good to me. I wonder if we could get
congress to pass a– oh, never mind. Today really is a day of great
celebration and great joy for all of us and I share
President LeBlanc’s enthusiasm for commencements. They’re just the best day of
the year for anybody who’s involved in higher education
and I hope that this is the best day of your college
experience as its culmination and as you move on
for your next steps. If I do my calculations
correctly, I’ve been in higher
education for 35 years. I think that I’ve been through
125 of these joyous days. And each one really has
been better than the last. It also means that I have
sat through nearly 125 commencement speeches. So today, I share your pain. But stick with me for
just a couple of minutes if you wouldn’t mind. As Paul has said in
introducing the class, each of you has an incredible
story and a story inside you. A story that chronicles your
journey to this moment, that is a story of balancing
your studies with work, with family, with the
challenges of real life. A story of the obstacles you
faced on your own way and more importantly, a story on how
you overcame those obstacles to be here. All of your stories are worth
telling and they are very, very important. But what comes next? Is the story over? I think not. As the great writer,
Toni Morrison once said, If there is a book
that you want to read but it hasn’t been written
yet, then you must write it. And I think that that’s
what we’re about today, thinking about the
story of your future. What do you want to be
included in that book? What’s the book of your life
that you would like to read? Morrison was speaking
metaphorically of course. But consider the sentiment,
consider that regardless of what field you go into,
business, computer science, education or the arts, the lives
you lead, the lives we all lead and the examples that
we create have the potential not just to do things, to build
things and grow things at the moment but to inspire
others to be their best selves, to strive, to work as you have
worked, to embrace change for the benefit of individuals, for
the benefit of communities and the benefit of the world. Consider that no matter where
you go or what you do, you can serve others not
just by your actions but by the way you act,
not just by your deeds but by the way you make
those deeds happen, and not just by the destination
of your life’s journey but by the path you
take to get there. You can lead a life of
purpose and meaning, whether you’re in the
classroom or the board room, whether you’re behind
the desk or in a lab and you really can
change the world. And that’s the promise of today
and that’s the promise you bring to all of us. You can show your kids, you
can show your brothers and sisters, your cousins, your
colleagues, your neighbors, and your parents and grandparents
what it means to be tolerant, what it takes to find a cure
for a disease or to start a business that needs a need. I know that every day as I
strive to write a new chapter of my story, my heroes
are students like you. People who have worked hard
and even overcome great odds in pursuit of an education that
will enable you to fulfill your own legacies of purpose. I’m inspired by you to work
even harder to make our nation, our higher education system,
and our world healthier, more just, and more equitable. As you sit here today, I hope
you recognize that you have been and will always be a
part of a great university. Great because it shares
these same goals. And under Paul LeBlanc’s
extraordinary leadership, Southern New Hampshire continues
to write its story in a way that inspires other
institutions and other leaders. SNHU has a proud tradition,
not just of listening to but responding to the
needs of today’s students. Whether they’re on
campus, online or both. And I can think of no better
service to individuals or to our nation than believing in
the power and potential of each and every student,
no matter where they come from. And also helping them,
helping you, helping all of us to realize their potential,
whether they’re an 18-year-old fresh out of college,
a 24-year-old returning veteran, a 40-year-old single mother,
a part time student juggling college and work, or a
first-generation college student. SNHU reaches out to each
of those groups and more. This institution and its
leaders and faculty truly believe in you. They truly believe in students
and they act on that belief by innovating and reinventing
themselves to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse
student body here in Manchester and across the
country and online. That’s why SNHU has built not
only a robust online campus which serves includes a writing
center, tutoring services, career services and an online
library, but regional centers as well, bringing Southern
New Hampshire University to communities across New
England and America. That’s why SNHU has created a
full competency based degree program, the very first in the
country to be approved by a regional accreditor in my
Department of Education. That innovation, that’s reaching
students where you are, that’s important. SNHU is writing the book,
colleges and universities across America need to read. And for students like you
who attend on campus, SNHU has you covered. And I’m not just talking about
the SNHU only shopping night at Target, I’m talking about
the fact that within six months of graduation, 98% of
last year’s graduates sitting in those seats,
either found employment or chose to continue
their education, 98%. I’m talking about the
fact, as you’ve heard, that this institution offers
three-year bachelor’s degrees in high demand fields
like accounting, economics, and marketing.
Allowing many graduates, including many of you
sitting here today, to save thousands on tuition
and to get on with those next chapters in your book. SNU is about opportunity. Two out of five students
here are recipients of Federal Pell Grants, which
are awarded on the basis of financial need. SNU makes opportunities
available in high schools, giving students chances
to earn college credits before graduation. All at a saving
of more than 90% of the regular
full-time tuition. These are just a few of
the many examples of how Southern New Hampshire is
creating real opportunity for you and for
future generations of Southern New Hampshire
University students. That is the heart of an
institution of service to the world. Being an example that others
can learn from and aspire to emulate in their own way. These innovations, the one’s
you’re seeing here and that you’ve experienced, the one’s
that keep students at the center of the
college experience. These are my passions and they’re
a part of the guide book that will help us get to where
we need to go as a nation, ensuring that higher education
is an engine of equity and social mobility because the
fact is we’re not there yet. We know we aren’t there yet
when half of all people from high income families have a
bachelor’s degree by age 25. But just 1 in 10 from
low income families do. We know we aren’t there yet
because among young adults, white Americans are nearly
twice as likely to hold bachelor’s degrees or higher
than black Americans. And we aren’t there yet
when only half of students who start college finish. We can and must do more to
make educational opportunities a reality for more of our
students, regardless of their background or their zip code. But there’s enormous hope. You have made this journey. You have made the most of
the opportunities that Southern New Hampshire University
has provided and you have, more than that,
made your own opportunities and written your own stories, stories that will
continue to emerge. As you write those next chapters
I urge you to think about how you can use your
gifts, your skills, and your passion
to serve others. Alison Valentine who sits among
you as a graduate today. Ally, where are you? Ally came to SNHU with dreams
of being a wedding planner. In fact, she chose SNHU for
its hospitality program. But then Ally was
offered an internship with a local food bank and she
started to feel differently about her career aspirations. Maybe she didn’t want to be a
wedding planner after all. When Ally had a chance
to work at a country club planning weddings during
her second internship, her former career choice
suddenly didn’t seem like the right fit. And so Ally become a
peer advising leader and participated in
an alternative break, a week long service
group experience. Last Fall she founded a
conference called Slingshot so that 75 students could learn
more about opportunities with non-profit organizations and explore professional
opportunities and service. Now as she embarks on the next
phase of her life she wants to work in education and
service on a college campus or in the non-profit world. But Ally isn’t the only one
whose story led her to serve. Alicia Frazier, another graduate
who’s made her presence known on campus. Made her presence known on
campus through her activities from outreach and cape to
forming the University Honors Program Student Council to
serving as a campus tour guide, peer advising leader,
presidential ambassador, an editor with the
Provost Newsletter, while doing all of
her course work. Alicia discovered on a trip to
New Orleans to rebuild parts of the community left damaged
by hurricane Katrina that she needed to focus
more on issues of service. She furthered her understanding
on a trip to Europe when she worked at a recreational
camp for students with serious illnesses. Alicia couldn’t communicate
with her residents in their native Spanish but she
connected with them anyway. And they helped her write a
critical part of her SNHU story where her passions were fueled
and her dreams clarified. I have no doubt that Alicia’s
passion for helping others will be a part of her next
chapter as an Art Therapist or wherever her
dreams take her. And then I also want to
point out the story of Kirsten Spooner who chose
organizational leadership. Let’s hear it for
Kirsten Spooner. Thank you. So she could join a non-profit
that works with young people. Her first day of
service learning was an inspiring wake-up call. She considered, for the first
time, how American classrooms are changing, how they are
more diverse than ever before, how they serve refugee
and migrant students, and how they serve
students learning English. Kirsten says that based
on her experiences service will be a part of
her legacy forever. I’m glad because we need
more students like Ally, like Alicia, and like Kirsten,
and like so many of you. We need institutions like
Southern New Hampshire University to serve in the same way
providing high-quality education in a rapidly changing world. What we need overall, people
who are willing to give back. We need people who believe
in your own futures, in the futures of
your communities, and in the future of
our great nation, and to the young people
who will lead it. We need people not like you. We need you. We need you. But to be clear, you don’t need
to make a career of service in order to serve. You might find that you love
working in the corporate world but that you want to
volunteer in your spare time. No matter how, I encourage
you to make service a part of your story. No matter where you are,
whether you’re starting out, settling in, or starting over. Back to the beginning. This is your story and the idea
is that you get to write it how you see fit. You’re allowed to pursue
your dreams at any age. You’re allowed to change jobs. You’re allowed to
go back to school. You’re free to invent a career, just like some of you
invented your major here. The choice is yours and
you’re prepared to make those choices over and
over again because Southern New Hampshire
has prepared you. This institution has given
you the room to pursue your passions, whether they
lie in creative writing, sign language,
or computer science. No two chapters or years
here have been the same. And no two chapters or years
in the future will be the same and the skill of adaptability,
as well as persistence, will serve you well. Early in the musical Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton thinks
about his mark on history. I’m totally obsessed with
the soundtrack of Hamilton. I have to say. So Alexander Hamilton thinks
about his mark on history, telling us that, I’m not
throwing away my shot. You’ve earned your shot, and I know you’re not
going to throw it away. More than that, I hope that
you don’t just take a shot but write a life story
worthy of your talents, your commitments,
and your aspirations. A great story doesn’t have
to be a sweeping saga on the national stage, or a path
to fame, or money, or both. It doesn’t have to
lead to monumental, across-the-board change. It doesn’t have to lead
to the evening news, or be splashed across the front
page of the Union Leader. If your story can influence
the life of just one person, if your passion, your service
and commitment can propel just one other person to pursue their
dreams and their passions, then I’d contend that you’ve
made your mark on history. Thanks again for inviting
me to speak here today, and congratulations
and best wishes. I look forward to following
your stories as you write them.

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