It would make sense that a program at the intersection of technology, communication, business and leadership would have high standards for their first virtual graduation ceremony. The good news is that those expectations were exceeded on Saturday, July 18th as the Class of 2020 received their degrees, traditional CICS pins, heard from their Dean and Director, were each able to speak and, most importantly, hear their names spoken proudly out loud!
Just two minutes into the Zoom graduation set up, which included a slideshow of memories featuring every graduate, faculty and staff member, Dion Utt can be heard saying “I’m just so happy to be seeing you all right now, this is like a big explosion of happiness for me”. As well it should be, but 2020 has not been the model of “should”.
Dr. Dennis Trinkle kicked off the graduation ceremony by reminding the graduates that the annual tradition of a nickname for each cohort of students was even more appropriate this year as the “Trailblazers” certainly had a unique experience, unlike the 34 years of students before them.
“We had no idea exactly how appropriate Trailblazers was going to be. I remember that we talked about Trailblazers being innovators, pioneers who would face unforeseen obstacles and unbelievable challenges, but through their determination, resiliency, and character would go forward to create great things in blaze new trails. I think that that has been more true for each of you than we ever imagined. I would say honestly more true than we ever hoped it would be as you have risen to the incredible challenges that this year has presented.”
Dennis went on to remind the students of the opening remarks from just eleven months ago when their journey began: “By repeating the challenge that we began the year with; CICS is about preparing future leaders. It’s about preparing leaders who will be innovators but even more than that, it’s about preparing leaders who will go into organizations, into communities, into society, and reshape existing cultures, reshape norms to make our society and our organizations better places. To make them more welcoming, to make them more inclusive, to make them more respectful while making them more innovative and dynamic and bringing a never-ending sense of possibility, resiliency, and future accomplishments of the task.
We have seen you model that all year long we are incredibly proud of the work that you have done and we believe that through your actions you have met the standard that is expected for graduation from the CICS program. But, we want to remind you because we wouldn’t be good faculty and mentors if we didn’t, that your task is really just beginning. We have the expectation of you that you are going to go out and make the world a better place, that you are going to build those stronger more inclusive and welcoming cultures, that you are going to create technologies that make the world a better place, not that take away our privacy, that diminish us that make our society weaker, than make truth harder to ascertain and believe in; no we expect you to go out and make the best possible uses of technology, to do that with the character and integrity that we have seen you reflect and grow in all year long. I’m so I will keep my beginning remarks very brief this morning and just say that ‘Trailblazers you have been in Trailblazers we know you will be’ and we look forward to seeing after you leave us this morning all that you’ve accomplished and hope that you will stay in touch.”
Next, Dr. Paaige Turner, Dean of the College of Communication, Information and Media addressed the attendees with a very inspirational message about their accomplishment and futures: “I want to congratulate you on earning a master’s from the top-ranked Center for information and Communication Sciences. I really want to stress ‘earn’. I don’t want you to let anyone ever tell you that you were given this degree because I know that you earned it. In 11 months you have participated in a broad variety of industry and non-profit projects, you have done case study challenges with companies like Accenture and Salesforce to refine their sales and technology presentation competencies. You’ve attended technology conferences and professional social interaction virtually and face-to-face and while doing all that you attended classes, so please please recognize that you have earned this degree and we know that you are better for it because you have chosen this degree, our world will be better for it. We live in a world that is inundated with information but desperate for meaning and you have mastered how to take information put it into context to give it meaning and when we think about meaning today we keep hearing about the new normal. How are we going to build our new normal? That is true, we have an image in our heads of what the world looks like and if we keep trying to build that image and rebuild it, we’re going to create a world that doesn’t exist anymore and can’t exist if we’re going to achieve our goals. What we needed something different and you have spent the last few months preparing for, and actually practicing, this new normal for the world is constantly changing or technology floating in and around our lives and where sometimes you just have to stay up all night to build the world to want. I and everyone here thank you for building the world that we’re going to need in the future”.
Dean Turner goes on to say “You are graduating from incredibly special place and because of that We Fly, but you soar! Congratulations on earning this degree and I cannot wait to see what your future looks like!”
As is a tradition, the previous CICS Student of the Year returned to give remarks. Just a year out from his own CICS graduation, Jared Jacob from Accenture, spoke to the class. Jared echoed the unique journey of this class by saying “Your year has been quite incredible. You have had experiences that no other class in the past had so I really want to say congratulations first of all for getting through this year specifically.” He went on to talk about key learnings from his year since his own graduation such as being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Jared also spoke of learning that in order to be successful at something new, you have to understand that you hardly know anything.
Next, student awards were presented which ranged from Researcher of the Year, Team Players of the Year, Academic Award for 4.0 GPA, Trailblazer of the Year and finally, Student of the Year. Next, each student was announced along with a moment for them to speak.
Following the awards the faculty took a moment to each speak briefly. Dr. Steele can forever remind students that he has “seen every class” and he did that as he told the 2020 graduates, “I said I liked this group in the beginning and I do. It’s for your courage to grow; and I watched you at the ropes course, I watched you ski, I watched you and social learning programs and I watched you in class. You faced risk, with trepidation at times, but you faced it. You showed character and you will show more promise. Good luck.”
Through the rest of the faculty remarks, the pinning ceremony and Dr. Trinkle’s final remarks the students were reminded that this is really just the end of the beginning of the CICS experience for these graduates. Being an alum is far more lasting and rewarding than the program experience itself. Welcome the the CICS Alumni Family!