(The following is the full text of the Missouri Valley College Convocation speech presented by featured speaker Dessie Stafford, associate professor of Business Administration/Accounting. Stafford was the main Convocation speaker as part of the honor of being the recipient of the John McCallum Excellence in Teaching Award that is given to one MVC faculty member every year. For the Delta Online, this is the second year that the Convocation speech in its entirety has been presented on the website. Please watch this website for a upcoming story with photos about the complete Convocation event.)
Missouri Valley College Convocation Speech 2012 by Dessie Stafford
Welcome, Freshmen. Welcome to the 2012 Convocation. The staff, administration, trustees, friends, family and faculty have gathered you here to celebrate the eve of your college career.
You have arrived at your destination, only to begin another journey . . . a journey that will change most of you in wonderful ways forever and open opportunities you cannot yet imagine.
Most of you were born in 1993 or 1994. Most of you will graduate college in 2016. From now until that time, you will be involved in Your College Experience: a unique group of freshmen, coming together in an original configuration, on a campus steeped in tradition, lining your years with your own stories, experiences you can imitate, but never again replicate.
You have already participated in Valley traditions: the passing through the columns, opening weekend activities, and this celebration. And you will participate in many more.
You have attended your first few classes. The comfortable feelings of your home have dissipated. And you may already have
discovered some good things in your new home: friends from faraway places, a quiet spot, an interesting class, a dedicated coach.
You might be wondering if you will get all the support you need to be successful. I suggest that you will. Your Valley experience includes: advisors, professors, R.A.’s, coaches, tutors, a health office, librarians, mentors, athletic clubs, academic clubs, counseling, book clubs, labs, fraternities and sororities . . . You get the idea. It is up to you to reach out and avail yourself of these opportunities.
Let me tell you about the support a couple of our students found at Valley:
A couple of our seniors were taking a class last spring and part of their project in that class was to go out to a state park with their professor looking for various insects. While they were there, they happened across a beautiful jar. With it being a public facility, the professor told the students not to touch it, but he was too late. One of the students had already picked up the jar and dusted it off. And poof! Out popped a genie. Said the genie, “You know the drill. Three wishes and three of you, so each of you gets a wish.” Well, the student who had grabbed the jar, being the impulsive type, said, “I want to be far away from here lying on a tropical beach, slathered in coconut oil, and drinking papaya juice.” And poof! Her wish was fulfilled immediately. And the professor and the other student were left standing there with their bug boxes and bugged-out eyes. The other student didn’t waste a minute. He shouted out, “I want to be sitting in my beautiful, new future home at the dinner table with my wife and kids, getting ready to have a big, juicy steak with portabella mushrooms and chocolate cake.” And poof! He, too, was gone. Well, the professor, thinking only of his students, sacrificed his wish for the good of his students’ education. To the genie, he said, “I want those two back here catching bugs this minute.”
Erma Bombeck once said, “When your mother asks if you want her advice, it is a mere formality. You are going to get it anyway.” Well, that goes for mothers and professors, so double for me. Here it comes:
Many of you are living away from home for the first time. Take care of yourself. Prevent problems before they happen. But when they do happen, be responsible.
There is a thing called the “Freshman Flu.” You are in a new place. Some of you are staying up later than I get up. Sometimes you stay up all night and try to catch up on sleep all day. You may eat the sorts of things your parents have discouraged, or you may not eat at all. You are sharing more now than ever. There are people sharing your bathroom, your bedroom, your keys, your books, your clothes . . . and desks and doorknobs and computers. Germs are just asking you to make their day.
Protect yourself and your property: Douglas Adams said, “The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to . . . repair.” Don’t let it be you. Textbooks, phones and laptops do get stolen. Lock your room. Take a buddy with you when it sounds like the safer thing to do. Don’t drink anything you have left unattended. If something sounds like it could be a bad idea, just say no. Right here, right now, I am giving you the perfect excuse to get out of anything. Just say that you have to study.
There is no one here to drag you out of bed and haul you to class. But . . . just because something is permitted in the adult world, doesn’t mean it is a good idea. Go to class. Buy or rent textbooks. Read the text. Do the assignment. Even when you don’t think you understand it. Give it a try. Get to know the professor.
How many here are absolutely certain of what you want to major in? Let me see your hands. [Noting the hands.] And how many here are really NOT sure about the major you chose or what you should choose? Let me see YOUR hands. [Noting the hands.] Even if you don’t know what degree you want, go ahead and pick your major now. You can change it later. The more specific your goal is at the beginning, the closer you will be to graduating at the end of four years. I started with Accounting, had to switch to Psychology because of my work schedule, but eventually found a way to study Accounting again. Because I had always worked towards a degree, I had two clusters of coursework completed that I could have developed into either degree.
Ask smart questions. Ask the type of questions you would like your professors to remember someday when you have given their name as a reference for a job and they get a call from your potential employer. I am going to change a story of one Great Teacher with the kind permission of Christian friends. Imagine what would have been lost if this teacher’s students had asked these questions.
Jesus took his disciples up on the mountain and gathered them around him. And he taught them, saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who are persecuted. Blessed are those who suffer. When these things happen, rejoice, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Jesus may have wept.
So, what if you pick a major and attend the classes, and it is still a struggle? Will you do well academically? Time will tell. Pick up your end and require those around you to do the same. Keep your eyes on the prize. Embrace your inner nerd.
You owe yourself a good time at Valley. Choose your friends and your commitments carefully. Your time here will be short.
Look around you and notice the people in this room: those seated with you, those seated around you, and those seated in front of you. Some of these people may be your greatest takeaway from Your College Experience.
Dale Carnegie said, “There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wished you gave.”
You have heard some variation of the one I practiced and witnessed the one I gave. What was the speech I wished to give? I would have liked to say:
I constantly find myself referencing the things I learned at Valley. Years ago, Professor Rita Ludwig taught me that the three parts of a speech were to Stand up, Speak up, and Shut up. And so I will.