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Commencement speakers' advice: 'Keep learning, serve and explore'

May 10, 2014

Dr. Ann Petersen Dr. Ann Petersen
Tim Walz Tim Walz

Both spring commencement speakers at Chadron State College Saturday joked about keeping their remarks brief and then made a point to do just that.

Dr. Ann Petersen addressed those earning master’s degrees in Memorial Hall and U.S. Representative 

Tim Walz from the 1st District of Minnesota spoke to students receiving bachelor’s degrees in the Armstrong Physical Education building. A total of 359 graduates were honored between the two exercises.

Petersen, an education professor who is retiring, said, “You are at the pinnacle of your educational career to date. It took lots of hard work to get here. Please take a moment to think of one person who was instrumental in you being here today and make a mental note to send that person a thank you letter.”

Whether graduates plan to pursue additional education, employment or other ventures, Petersen urged them to keep learning, either formally or informally.

“Be a life-long learner. Be a mentor for those around you. Volunteer to help others learn,” she said.

Petersen, who taught at CSC for 14 years, said she is learning Russian because it is on her bucket list and that even if she doesn’t get to travel to Russia, learning the language will be satisfying. She also shared examples of her colleagues who have a variety of ongoing professional development goals.

She offered a number of eclectic ways to stay mentally and physically active such as learning to paint, garden, quilt, or play a musical instrument.

“Cultivate your curiosity. Learning contributes to making you an interesting individual. It’s not only exciting but it is good for your brain. Research tells us that people who continue to learn have a lower incidence or delayed decline of mental abilities,” she said.

Walz addressed a capacity audience convened in the Armstrong gymnasium for the last commencement to be held in the facility. The adjoining Chicoine Events Center should be complete in early November making it the site for December commencement.

The congressman was awarded the college's Distinguished Alumni Award at a luncheon following commencement.

Following his CSC graduation 25 years ago this week, Walz said he had a choice. He could have accepted a safe, secure job offer that would have probably been the traditional choice. He also had an unconventional opportunity to be among the first American high school teachers to be invited to teach in a Chinese high school.

“Dr. Allen Shepherd told me to live in the moment and decide my path. I chose to go through the unconventional door. That decision didn't just lead me to China, it led to a lifetime of doors that continue to present themselves,” he said. Shepherd was a history professor at CSC for 37 years.

It's human nature for us to try and organize and group like things together, but Walz advised the graduates to resist the temptation to put people and experiences in apparently obvious categories.

“Doing so robs you of being open to new and different ways of viewing the world,” he said.

He noted that we are conditioned to have a quick and ready answer or opinion on all subjects.

“Resist this, wait for the experience to unfold and embrace the opportunity to truly live in the moment,” he said.

He concluded by urging the graduates to live life on their own terms.

“Choose to resist easy choices. Choose to see the beauty and potential of this incredible universe,” he said.

—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator

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