To our 2015 AIM graduates, their families and supporters; our AIM faculty and staff; and all others who are here to join in the celebration of our 2015 AIM graduating class—welcome. I’d like to start by asking the graduates, faculty, and staff to stand and join me in honoring the families and friends who supported our graduates throughout the AIM Program. Every one of our AIM graduates has worked hard to achieve the right to stand here today as a graduate of the program; but every graduate also had the help and support of their families and loved ones, who agonized along with them over proper APA citations, assignment deadlines, and their nitpicky Capstone 1 instructor. The role that each of you played—as supporters of our AIM graduates—is an important one, and I would like to say thank you.
Today is a big day. Each of you started the AIM Program with a plan, and with hopes—for the knowledge you would gain in the program, the connections you would make with your classmates and faculty, or the impact this degree would have on your career upon graduation. I hope that now, with no looming paper deadlines facing you, you can stand back and take stock of what you achieved and realize that you achieved your hopes, or replaced them with even greater achievements that you couldn’t even visualize when you started this journey.
I also have hopes for you as AIM graduates. Most of you have more experience with me as an AIM faculty member than as the AIM director. My ten years in the AIM Program serving as a faculty member have been a pleasure, and I am honored to now serve as the AIM director. As I was preparing this first commencement speech, I thought about what I wanted to say to you as we all celebrate your achievements in the program. I decided to keep it simple and share my hopes for you as you graduate from the AIM Program. I’ll keep the message short and focus on my top three hopes for you.
I hope you met with adversity during your AIM studies. For some of you, this may have meant a team member who had a different philosophy of how to approach a team project, or who submitted work right before a due date while you liked to get the work done early. For others, it might have been a faculty member whose teaching style did not perfectly gel with your learning style, or a class whose content did not immediately capture your interest. Whatever adversity you were faced with in the AIM Program, I hope you took the opportunity to learn the lessons of compromise, seeking out guidance from trusted colleagues and advisors, delayed gratification, and working hard to achieve a goal even when the work required is unpleasant. As an instructor and now as director, I sometime receive phone calls and e-mails from students who are faced with challenging issues like team conflicts. I usually remark at some point in the conversation that I’m glad the student is getting the opportunity to work through the issue in my class; typically, the response to this statement is less than enthusiastic. But my point is that no one makes it through life without adversity. For our AIM graduates, we fully expect you to be successful in your chosen careers—to be leaders. You are the people that others will turn to when times are tough and there are adversities to overcome. I hope that the AIM Program provided you with sufficient adversity to hone your skills in meeting a challenge with grace.
I hope you missed out on some things while you were in the AIM Program—sleep, the luxury of kicking back on the couch when you got home from work, or even a special occasion. I recognize that this sounds cold hearted, so let me explain my point. No worthwhile goal is achieved without sacrifice. Getting a master’s degree is not meant to be easy or effortless; if it were, more people would pursue their master’s. Instead, you join only 12% of Americans who currently hold a master’s or professional degree. I hope you take away from the AIM Program not only new knowledge and abilities but also the recognition that any goal that is worthy of your time and passion is going to require you to sacrifice something in order to achieve it. Those of you who are parents already know the huge sacrifices that come with having children, mainly from loss of sleep and an astonishing diversity of ways that your kids can spend your money, but you also know that no sacrifice is too great for your children. I hope that your achievements in the AIM Program provide further proof that any meaningful goal is worthy of your time, your passion, and the occasional sacrifice.
Finally, I hope you take the time to appreciate the role your family, friends, classmates, and support system played during your pursuit of your the AIM degree. All of you are high achievers—you would not have pursued a challenging master’s degree, or even qualified to enter the AIM Program, unless you were goal-oriented individuals who know how to work hard to achieve those goals. But the pursuit of a challenging goal is rarely an individual effort. This can be a humbling thought for the high achiever, who has been taught that individual talent and hard work lead to success. At some point during the program though, you undoubtedly faced a situation where you couldn’t succeed on your own—you needed someone to take care of things at home while you finished a final paper, you needed an understanding boss to let you leave early to work on homework, or you needed to vent to a classmate in order to relieve the pressure you felt in a particularly challenging class. Instead of feeling like you need to rely only on yourself to achieve your goals, I hope that the AIM Program taught you that relying on others makes you more capable of aiming high and succeeding.
AIM class of 2015, I am proud of each one of you. I hope you will take the opportunity to keep in touch with us as you move into your next phase as AIM graduates. Congratulations to you, AIM Class of 2015!