Wright State University President David R. Hopkins challenged graduates at the 2013 Fall Commencement to prove themselves “mentally strong” in the future.
“We want to prepare you to have not only the intellectual capabilities but the mental strength to deal with some of the great challenges you will face in your life,” Hopkins said. He then listed five components of mental strength:
- Mentally strong people do not waste time feeling sorry for themselves.
- Mentally strong people do not shy away from change.
- Mentally strong people do not waste energy on things they can’t control.
- Mentally strong people do not dwell on the past.
- Mentally strong people do not believe the world owes them something.
“Your success will be based solely on your merit,” Hopkins said. “You will only earn what you have worked hard for. My wish for you is that you will always have the courage to be mentally strong.”
The 1,735 students who had applied for degrees, certificates or endorsements celebrated their accomplishments during the Saturday morning ceremony at the Nutter Center.
The Fall Commencement class included graduates ranging in age from 20 to 67, including 146 international students from 25 nations. The international graduates included natives of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Iran, Israel, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Syria, Togo and Vietnam.
The graduating class included applicants for 1,052 bachelor’s degrees, 570 master’s degrees and 113 other degrees and certificates.
Saturday’s ceremony included recognition of faculty members K.T. Arasu (University Professor Award) and Joe Deer (Trustees’ Award for Faculty Excellence). ETHOS, an a cappella group made up of Wright State students, performed a musical selection.
Many graduates have interesting stories to tell of their road to a degree. Two are profiled below.
Grace Curell: An MBA at 20 Sure Beats the Prom
Somehow, after earning a master’s degree by age 20, missing the high school prom doesn’t seem like such a big deal to Grace Curell.
“I’ve had to grow up faster, but I’m glad for that,” Curell said.
Curell fared well academically while in high school but felt “frustrated and bored” with the classroom atmosphere. She read The Economist during class, battled health issues and found herself more motivated to work with horses at Celebration Farm than to complete her homework. Prior to her junior year, Curell told her parents she wanted to drop out.
“They weren’t thrilled,” Curell admitted, “but I told them, ‘Wait, hear me out. I have a plan.’ ”
The plan that unfolded over the next two years eventually included classes at Sinclair Community College through Ohio’s Postsecondary Enrollment Option, obtaining her GED, and enrolling in Sinclair classes that would translate to Wright State credits.
Curell completed her associate degree with a 3.9 grade-point average, earned her liberal studies undergraduate degree from Wright State with a 3.8 GPA and compiled a 3.9 postgraduate GPA while finishing her MBA. Her bachelor’s degree was actually finished before her associate’s degree was completed.
“I didn’t do anything normally,” Curell admitted.
Wright State’s diverse academic offerings allowed Curell to not always approach her class schedule in a normal sequence. She took several elective courses for personal enrichment, including an art class that proved to be “one of the most interesting courses I’ve ever taken.”
Doing things her way also led to quick job placement. Curell has been hired as a financial management analyst at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“My college experience was so enjoyable,” Curell said. “I once saw college as just something that was necessary, but I ended up loving Wright State. I’m very happy with the choices I’ve made.”
Debbie Garber: Employee to Student to Graduate
Debbie Garber admits her “lifetime learner’s” journey to a college degree has been a long one, but a road well worth traveling.
“I’ve always realized the value of an education,” Garber said. “I don’t think that, at my age, getting a degree will drastically affect my life. But it is fulfilling that I was able to accomplish it and I feel that finishing what I start helps me be a good role model for my sons.”
Garber began pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2004, soon after being hired by the College of Science and Mathematics as administrative support coordinator for student services.
But, first, she had to overcome her fear of math.
“It had been 30 years since I took high school algebra, and I could not find a degree where I could bypass math,” Garber said. “I was a permanent fixture in the math help room and the supplemental instruction classes. At home, I would ask anyone in my house for help … at any hour.”
The psychology classes came a little easier. People have always fascinated Garber, she said, and she wished to broaden her knowledge of human behavior.
Garber limited her academic load to one or two classes per semester, allowing her to concentrate completely on those classes while also juggling work and family obligations.
Her eventual reward was a college degree–and a three-week family vacation to Europe.
“There is so much value in a Wright State education, Garber said, “and I appreciate this so much more than I would have when I was younger.”