Led by Wright State University’s seventh President Cheryl B. Schrader for the first time, students, families, faculty and staff celebrated the commencement of nearly 1,900 students at the university’s fall graduation ceremony Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Wright State Nutter Center.
Schrader recognized the thousands of students for their years of commitment, excellence and resilience in pursuit of their goal to earn a college degree at Wright State.
Schrader asked graduates to begin thinking about their legacy as the first graduating class of Wright State’s next 50 years. She also encouraged them to compare themselves to the university’s namesakes, the Wright brothers.
“Begin thinking about what your legacy will be. Will you be an innovative trailblazer like our namesakes, the Wright brothers? Will you continue their pioneering spirit and change the world in your own unique way?” said Schrader.
Schrader shared anecdotes of the Wright brothers’ passion and commitment to their dreams as chronicled in David McCullough’s book “The Wright Brothers” and said the graduating class has the same attributes.
“As time and distance puts you farther and farther from Wright State, I hope you will still remember the lessons of our namesakes and follow in their footsteps,” said Schrader. “Find your own way to soar. Discover your passions and let them take flight.”
In her praise for the entire graduating class, Schrader called attention to three students who have accomplished and overcome much to reach their goals. Their stories are below.
“As we look ahead to your future and the exciting possibilities and opportunities it holds, I am reminded of the words of Wilbur Wright: ‘It is not really necessary to look too far into the future. We see enough already to be certain that it will be magnificent,'” said Schrader.
“I know each of you has a magnificent future ahead. And now it’s time for you to lift off, soar high above the clouds and fly. Like the endless sky before you, your promise and potential are unlimited,” she said.
Declaration of independence
She has been in and out of foster homes since she was just a baby and began living alone at 16, struggling to keep food in the fridge and get herself to work and high school.
Today, Vicky Lindsey will graduate from Wright State with a bachelor’s degree in communications studies.
She plans to pursue master’s degree in public administration at Cleveland State University, where she hopes to champion foster students like herself.
“To be passionate enough to continue my voice in helping foster youth is something I want to do,” she said. “I want to be a face for foster youth who may be discouraged.”
A major reason for Lindsey choosing Wright State was the university’s Independent Scholars Network, an innovative program that nurtures, educates and graduates emancipated foster students.
“It helped a lot,” Lindsey said of the program. “Just having these people in my life, constantly pushing me to be better, to do better; it’s just like a third family, honestly. If you need something, they’re there. They’re there to talk and help you.”
During her time at Wright State, Lindsey has been actively involved in the Black Student Union and was named an WSU Emerging Leader and WSU Established Leader in 2015 and 2016, respectively. As part of the Independent Scholars Network, she was honored with the ISN Most Volunteered Hours 2014-2015, the ISN Jet Setter Award 2014-2015 and the ISN Academic Excellence Award 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.
It was kind of interesting — how breathing is controlled by tiny carotid body organs that detect oxygen in the blood. For Wright State University graduate student Ryan Rakoczy, it was a curiosity that became the focus of his master’s thesis.
On March 9, 2016, Rakoczy’s son, Lennon, was born extremely prematurely — nearly three months early — and his underdeveloped lungs were gasping for the air needed to keep the 2-pound, 7-ounce infant alive. In fact, Lennon was immediately put on a ventilator and for the next 50 days would live in a hospital intensive care unit. Rakoczy’s world suddenly tilted on its axis, and his research took on a whole new intensity.
“At home I’m living respiratory physiology, and at Wright State I’m working on the stuff my son’s experiencing. It’s really crazy,” he said. “I became completely obsessed with respiratory physiology.”
Rakoczy wants to continue his research and is now in Wright State’s biomedical sciences Ph.D. program. The research not only holds promise for developing better treatments for prematurely born infants, but also for prevention of sudden infant death syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep.
Sleeping in the Sahara Desert, teaching in China and witnessing political violence in Jerusalem were just stops along the way for Tasha Fox, a Wright State University MBA student who turned her undergraduate career into a priceless lesson in world geography and culture.
And this of a student who nearly cut short her first trip overseas after being overwhelmed by the language challenges and trying to fit in.
“I got to travel the world while getting my degree,” said Fox. “It challenges you to look at the world in a different way. It challenges you to look at yourself in a different light. I think I’ve learned more about myself traveling than anything.”
Fox graduated from Wright State in 2016 with her bachelor’s degree in French and at fall commencement will receive her MBA in international business from the Raj Soin College of Business, where she worked as a graduate assistant.
In her final semester of grad school, Fox studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain. She is not sure about her career path.
“I’m really interested in peaceful conflict resolution after going to Israel,” she said. “International law is really appealing to me. Working with refugees or immigrants in the United States would be amazing.”
In the meantime, Fox will work in Madrid, Spain, as an au pair for six months or so to improve her Spanish before heading to China to look for work with a nongovernmental organization and to learn Mandarin.
Fox credits Wright State with giving her the chance to see the world and learn about other peoples and cultures.
“I’ve been blown away by the number of opportunities that they have had for me to study abroad and the scholarships they offer,” she said. “Everything is there; you just have to go for it.”