CHADRON – In his Commencement address to Chadron State College’s spring 2022 graduating classes, Dr. Paul Turman, Chancellor of the Nebraska State College System, shared three life lessons: resist allowing others’ perceptions of you to limit your potential, you can always go back home, and find your talent and then share it with the world.
His first point was encouragement for the graduates to overcome others’ less-than-positive opinions about them.
Although Turman did not rank in the top half of his graduating class of 38, he decided to go on to college and continued on to earn a doctorate.
“For a good portion of my life, I let the perceptions of what others thought of me determine and limit my options of what my future may hold. Don’t let people’s perceptions of you today define you or influence which opportunities you chose to take,” he said.
Regarding his second point, that students can always return home, Turman said even though he had originally envisioned returning to his hometown in Ft. Pierre, South Dakota, that mindset slowly changed. Eventually, he did return home.
“I often think we may be short-sighted in what opportunities might be available back home or even in rural areas of our state. We may tend to approach a career path with a narrow lens that limits opportunities. However, from a community and family perspective, returning home presents one with a comprehensive array of opportunities,” Turman said.
Reflecting back on the 12 years he spent in his home community, Turman said he was able to make several significant contributions to his family, community, and the region. He and his wife had the opportunity to raise their three sons in a safe, small community and he was able to work alongside his mother, who also worked for the South Dakota Board of Regents.
For his third point, Turman shared a quote from Dr. Sara Crook, a Peru State College faculty member regarding the purpose of life: each person should find his or her talent and then spend the rest of life sharing that talent with the world.
“If I had to specify what I’m really good at, it would be the ability to organize or bring organization to situations that lack focus or clarity of direction. Directly for Chadron State College, I believe I arrived at the right time to help culminate efforts to support the Math Science project's funding and generate support in Lincoln to extend the original funding proposal and avoid doing the project in phases,” Turman said.
Turman also shared the story of a South Dakota wrestling program that went from not having a single wrestler place at state to a team that set winning records thanks to his involvement and support from other community members.
Turman quoted a former colleague saying people seldom look back and experience regret when taking a new path. Instead, they regret the choices they avoided because of fear of change.
“The common theme across the three lessons I’ve shared is that taking a different path, going in an alternative direction, or giving your time and energy to others will be uncertainty-provoking,” Turman said. “I encourage you to confront uncertainty head-on knowing it might force people's perceptions of you to change, you could find out going home again is an option worth pursuing, and you could discover sharing your talent with the world will produce significant rewards for you and those around you.”
—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator