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Commencement Address

May 7, 2012

And I’d like to offer wholehearted congratulations to you, the members of Indiana University Southeast’s Class of 2012! You have earned your Indiana University degree, and today we all celebrate your accomplishments.

This year is indeed a unique year in which to graduate. First, some of you began your academic journey in our student housing, which opened in Fall 2008, and now, four years later, you are graduating. When you first entered college, that was the time when IU Southeast finally became a full-service campus. And so from this point forward in the campus’s history, there will be two categories of IU Southeast alumni: those who graduated before housing and those who graduated after.

Second, today’s commencement is truly historic, for not only is the class of 2012 the first to include our residence life students, but it is also our 70th Anniversary class.

This great institution began in 1941 with just 291 students. And today’s graduating class is one of the LARGEST in our campus’ 70-year history with 1,138 members.

To honor our seven decades of service to Southern Indiana, we just planted 70 trees alongside our beautiful lake. Many of today’s graduates assisted with that project, ensuring that their legacy will live on as these trees grow and blossom. I encourage you all to stroll along our lake and take note how each tree is adorned with a red ribbon indicating the students, faculty, staff, and community members who helped set the roots for a new future.

As we celebrate another milestone in our campus’ history as well as the achievements of today’s graduates, we must also pause to remember two individuals who could not be here. Nelson Tyler Gunterman, a candidate for an associate’s degree, and George Allan Huth, a senior biochemistry major. Both passed away this academic year, and we remember them with fondness and honor their accomplishments.

Today, President McRobbie and I had the privilege of presenting their families with diplomas. Our thoughts are very much with the Huth and Gunterman families today.

Class of 2012, as you enter the next phase of your journey, I’d like to challenge you to remain grateful.

You are now part of an elite group. Less than 7 percent of the world’s population has achieved what you have-a college degree1. And, in many ways, you are forever indebted to those who helped you get here.

I encourage you to thank your family for supporting you; to be appreciative to IU for providing you with a truly exceptional education; and to be mindful that every class, every lecture, every memorable learning moment you experienced in these halls was shaped in some way by an educational professional who cared about your future.

Your professors provided you with great opportunities. They inspired you to think creatively and to prepare yourself for life beyond academia. Please join me in showing them your gratitude.

Many of you also owe a huge thank you to our generous donors. Collectively, the class of 2012 received more than $10.6 million in scholarships and grants. So many people have helped shape a powerful future for you by sharing their resources.

Finally, I invite each of you to join me in recognizing our graduating veterans. These dedicated men and women pursued their education at IU Southeast after serving their country. Today, 17 student veterans are graduating; each is wearing red, white, and blue cords. Please join me in showing these graduates, along with all of our service men and women, our sincere appreciation.

Although each of our graduates has a unique story to tell, I want to take a moment to focus on their collective accomplishments.

President McRobbie, Trustees, distinguished guests, please allow me share just a bit about this extraordinary group of graduates who sit before me, dressed in caps and gowns, ready to take on the world:

  • 212 have earned a master’s degree
  • 853 have earned a bachelor’s degree
  • 73 have earned associate degrees

They do, in fact, make up one of the largest graduating classes in our history. One thousand and ninety of these graduates have earned their IU degree, while 48 have earned a degree through our partnership with the Purdue University School of Technology.

Today’s graduates hail from 21 Indiana counties, six states, and sixteen countries. The Indiana-Kentucky tuition reciprocity program is well reflected in this class, with more than a third of its members coming from the five Kentucky counties that benefit from the in-state tuition agreement.

Members of the Class of 2012 range in age from 20 to 70. More than a third of today’s graduates are younger than 24, while another third are over the age of 50. Today’s oldest graduate - at 70 years young -  has the honor of being the senior member of the entire IU class of 2012. Across seven IU campuses and among the 19,000 students who are eligible to receive IU degrees, Nancy Sue Bartle is the “most senior” graduating student. Congratulations, Nancy!  Learning is truly a lifelong endeavor.

Now, as many of our faculty and distinguished guests know, I like to quote our graduating students. I believe they work hard to get to this point, and it is quite appropriate that I give a voice to their comments and suggestions.

Each year, we survey our graduates to identify what they liked best about IU Southeast-and what they would change. And we listen.

This year, I was quite proud to learn that more than 97 percent of our graduates agreed with the statement “IU Southeast offers a high-quality academic program.”

When asked what they liked best about their experience, the vast majority mentioned our exceptional faculty. Let me share what a few students had to say:

  • “I liked that all my professors knew my name and were able to recognize my strengths and weaknesses. I would have hated to go to a school where I was just a number.”
  • “The professors here are the best, highly educated in their fields and personable.”
  • “I enjoyed feeling like I was an actual person, not just a random student that didn’t matter.”
  • “I absolutely loved my professors and the classroom experience that [IU Southeast] offered. It was like none other that I've experienced at two other universities.”
  • “With the help of our wonderful professors and excellent career services staff I believe I am ready for a career!”

Other students commented on the affordability of their IU degree, the beauty and safety of our campus, and the friendliness of our staff. Here are a few of those comments:

  • “There is no other four-year institution that offers a high quality education like [IU Southeast] for such a reasonable cost.”
  • “I also like the fact that IU Southeast is well-known and highly respected within and around the community.”
  • “I also loved the campus... It is beautiful and made a great place to sit, study, relax, and enjoy.”
  • “I LOVED the sense of community.”
  • “IU Southeast feels like family. It is an inviting place to learn.”
  • “I enjoyed the small class sizes (especially in my major), because at other institutions I attended class sizes were huge. The cost of tuition was also a very big positive for me. I am a non‐traditional student - it is hard to pay tuition and work at the same time.”

And finally, after decades of hard work to make student housing a reality on this beautiful campus, I am thrilled that we received our first graduating student comments about our lodges, including this one:

  • “Living on campus was such a great experience….”

And I particularly enjoyed these comments:

  • “IU Southeast is here for each one of its students! I love this school!”
  • “I love IU Southeast. It’s just that simple.”

We also take particular note of suggested improvements from our graduates.

According to this year’s survey, the vast majority of our students wanted MORE. And, as many of you might guess, the majority wanted more parking. I promise you that we are adding parking every year. Just this year, we added a new gravel lot beside the Activities Building that will soon be paved, and next year, when we build Timber Lodge, we will add 70 additional spaces.

A large percentage of respondents requested that we offer more classes at more times; they wanted us to add more degree programs; and lastly, many didn’t want to leave us forever, and they implored us to add more graduate degree programs. We are working on these suggestions; for example, IU Southeast is developing new class scheduling options, like hybrid courses, that will allow us to offer more courses, at more times.

As a final note, I want to thank each and every member of the class of 2012 for choosing IU Southeast. You make all of us who are so dedicated to this great university proud. In turn, I hope that you are honored to receive your IU degree and especially pleased with your time at this very special place where you earned it.

President McRobbie and members of the Board of Trustees, this is the IU Southeast Class of 2012. I am honored to present them to you today. I congratulate each of them on their significant achievements.

Now, to present the response for the class, it is my privilege to introduce Lyndsay Raye Kimmick.

1. According to data that economists Robert J. Barro of Harvard University and Jong- Wha Lee of the Asian Development Bank compiled for their 2010 study