Read Barbara Davis’ USI Commencement address


Dr. Barbara Davis, professor of nursing, delivered the 2011 Fall Commencement address. More than 550 students were eligible to receive degrees at the ceremony, held December 10, 2011.

The text of Davis’ speech follows.

Thank you. President Bennett, Board of Trustee members, fellow faculty, graduates, family, significant others, and friends. It is indeed a pleasure for me to be here to present your commencement address. I am very honored and humbled to have been awarded the USI Distinguished Professor Award for 2011. To my colleagues who nominated me for this award, thank you.

What a wonderful day for each of you. Today you graduate and become a graduate. You may be celebrating your first degree and for many of you, the first college degree in your family. Others of you may be celebrating a graduate degree, signifying your commitment to your profession beyond basic knowledge skills.

My friends and colleagues will tell you that I am a little like my mother in that I have to be organized. A friend of my mom’s once told her she was so organized that she knew what she was going to have for dinner that night in a year. I am not that bad, but as I was thinking about this address, I decided to organize my thoughts around a mnemonic – graduate. I would like to offer some phrases associated with the letters in the word “graduate” which provide some “sage” advice to assist you to live wisely, a phrase which has appeared in USI’s mission statement across the years.

G is for “grow” – Hadzima talks about the “right stuff” employee who demonstrates growth potential, and is willing to accept much higher levels of responsibility than is the norm for a given position, title, experience level or salary. Such individuals act as strong role models, training and coaching others. Hadzima observes that today’s “right stuff” employee is often next year’s supervisor and a department manager soon thereafter.

R is for “reflect” – Graduation is a time for reflection of your college years. It is a time to remember friends and relationships you have made, professors you have had, and knowledge you have gained. Don’t forget to reflect also on the other persons who have supported you while you have attained your education and the values you clarified during your education. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and play to your strengths.

A is for “advocate for yourself – When I attended my nephew’s graduation ceremony at the University of Akron in May, the president’s address suggested that today’s college graduates need to be entrepreneurs of their careers. He suggested that in this highly competitive, knowledge-driven, global economy, you may not have to be an entrepreneur to succeed – you just need to work like one. That is a subtle, but significant difference. With the right set of entrepreneurial skills and characteristics such as learning how to combine skills, not being afraid to fail, conquering your fears, and learning to persuade, you will succeed as a teacher, or a nurse, or an artist, or a scholar or in whatever career your dreams may lead you.

D is for “develop knowledge” – I am sure your professors may have talked with you about life-long learning. In our complex, fast-paced world, it is more important than ever to enrich your knowledge and keep current in the knowledge related to your profession and the world as it pertains to your profession whether it be global education, global economics, or global healthcare. Remember that an educated person does not necessarily know everything, but knows where to find it.

U is for “unleash your imagination” – Imagination produces improvements in our society. We recently lost one of the most imaginative persons of our time – Steve Jobs. Mr. Jobs’ imagination opened up our technological world. Think of how your imagination might be used to advance your profession.

The second A is for “aspire to be the best you can be” – As a college graduate, new opportunities will be opened to you. Act on those and don’t be afraid to grasp hold of those opportunities and choose a road less taken. Don’t be afraid to fail as you will never know until you try. It is only by taking advantage of opportunities that you will know if an avenue has been the correct one. In a personal example, I found myself in a middle management position within three years of receiving my bachelor’s degree. It took me five years and two positions to find out management was not the path I wanted to take in my professional career. It did, however, lead me to my major life’s work as an educator. I would probably not have found that path if I had not taken the first one. But in anything you do, do it to the best of your ability.

T is for “teach others” – Be willing to share knowledge and be a mentor for others. Many times we become mentors without even being conscious we are fulfilling that role for someone. I personally have never thought of myself as a mentor. I have simply gone through my life willing to share what knowledge I had and trying to be a team player. I guess I then became a mentor without knowing it. It makes me feel good when others tell me the impact I have had on their lives.

E is for “enjoy your life’s work” – You will be working a lot of years, so enjoy your professional life. Find your passion and stick with it. Most work environments are not ideal. I have been fortunate to have had my last position (USI) as my most positive in every aspect. If you find your work environment is not ideal, find something to make it better for yourself and/or work on the environment to make it better. In one not so ideal work environment, I was able to pursue and elevate my scholarship, making the environment better for me. Remember, you get your satisfaction from within, not from without.

Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true…if we have the courage to pursue them.” So graduates, grow, reflect, advocate, develop, unleash, aspire, teach, and enjoy. I believe these verbs can help you to live wisely and, thus, take you to your dreams and a very satisfying professional life.

On behalf of the Trustees, the faculty, the staff, and administration, your fellow students, and the University of Southern Indiana family everywhere – I salute you, the Fall 2011 graduates, together with your families and friends who have helped make this success possible.