Spring is a Season for Celebration

Spring is a beautiful time of year on campus, not just because of the flowers and trees blooming, but because I take the time to notice how much our students have blossomed over the last year. Spring serves as a reminder that students are maturing into the person they were destined to become. The celebrations that happen this time of year show me how hard our students work and how talented they are.

As we wind down the academic year, we celebrate the success of our students with competitions, conferences, honor society inductions, scholarships, academic and leadership awards and graduation.

One of the most rewarding days of this season for a college president is the scholarship awards day. Our students are invited to attend the ceremony without knowing which scholarship they will receive or if they have been awarded more than one. These students arrive with anticipation and excitement, knowing that a scholarship makes their dream of a college degree attainable. Our scholarship donors are also invited to the ceremony to meet the recipients. I watch our students beam with pride and even hug some of our donors, sharing with tears in their eyes what the scholarship means to them. It is also remarkable how humble our students are, sharing their appreciation to a donor who is willing to invest in a student they don’t even know personally. Our students are most grateful for these scholarships, and seeing that gratitude is what makes scholarship day special each year.

Our student orientation leaders participate in a development conference alongside students from other institutions. At this competition they compete for awards against top colleges and universities – and win. It never ceases to amaze me how creative our students are. I always think next year’s group can’t be as talented as the previous year’s group. And every year I think this may be our strongest group of student leaders yet.

Our students across a variety of academic disciplines who have engaged in research with our faculty are presenting their work both on campus and at regional professional conferences alongside graduate students and faculty at other colleges and universities.

We have had two teams of students from the Wright School of Business compete in contests where they demonstrated their business acumen and compared favorably to students from larger universities. In particular, a team of three logistics and supply chain management majors competed in an intense 24-hour innovation competition aimed at solving a complex, real-world logistics problem. This was the first year for the FreightTech Innovation Challenge held in Chattanooga. Our team came in third in the competition against institutions that included graduate students and teams from Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, Emory University and University of Tennessee.

Our students who have engaged in many long hours of preparation have demonstrated their theatrical prowess in our spring production. I hope you saw this year’s production of “Barefoot in the Park” because it was certainly a wonderful evening of nostalgia and entertainment for me.

Our musically inclined students are singing in choral concerts and playing instruments in our campus community concert. I am pleasantly surprised to learn that some of our students and employees who normally shy from the limelight are also among the most musically gifted.

All of this culminates with graduation. One of the very best tasks as a college president is to confer the degrees upon our graduates and shake each of their hands as they walk across the stage. It is a moment in the spotlight for every graduate. I look in their eyes and typically see a mixture of joy, relief and anticipation for the future.

The pride of the graduates’ loved ones is also evident. I look across the crowd at our faculty and staff, I see them beaming with pride, some with tears in their eyes. We have watched these students struggle with the challenges of the academic rigor alongside personal hurdles and come out on top. We have seen the maturation of all our students throughout the years with us, and we celebrate with them in all their accomplishments, but especially graduation. We have each had the opportunity to become personally acquainted with many of these graduates, and we celebrate as if they were our own family members.

Traditionally, the spring commencement speaker is a graduating student. Our students are nominated and compete for the honor of being the commencement speaker. I am in awe at the poise of the student commencement speaker and their insights on their experiences as a Roadrunner. Each student has a unique perspective and weaves his or her story into the remarks, and it always seems to resonate with the audience. This year’s commencement speaker will be Rebeccah Winkler, an Early Elementary Education major who plans to teach in our community after graduation. I look forward to hearing her commencement address.

My wish for every current student and every graduate is to remember they are always part of the Dalton State family. We are as proud of our students as anyone could be and will always welcome our students and graduates home to Dalton State.