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December Graduates' Recognition Celebration

Opening Reflection Deborah Neher

December Graduates' Recognition Celebration
Saturday, December 15, 2007

Opening Reflection: Deborah A. Neher, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Plant and Soil Science


Time of reflection over the past 4-5 years

You and I have been here for about the same period of time. Together we have witnessed much change on campus:

  • We had a tunnel under main street, then it was blocked off, now it’s back
  • Walking paths between main campus and the south side of Main Street have changed; we had to keep changing our path to avoid construction and blockades
  • Piles of rubble from old buildings slated for recycling have come and gone
  • New buildings are being labeled as– LEED certified

You made changes to come to the university

  • We moved away from home, into new residences on or off-campus
  • Undergraduate was different from high school: no one tells to you attend class, what to do, no one is making you do anything, what you do is a reflection of your internal motivation
  • Graduate school was different from undergraduate: grades become less important, scholarship becomes more important, the pace is faster and responsibilities greater

The world has changed while you were at the university

  • awareness of global climate change increased (Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore earns Nobel Peace Prize)
  • cost of fossil fuels has nearly doubled
  • higher demand for construction materials in regions of natural disaster and growing economies
  • wireless communication abounds
  • internet has ‘shrunk’ the globe making our experience more international

At universities, we have the unique opportunity to be exposed to many ideologies and lifestyles

  • through colleagues, professors, mentors, social events
  • campus speaking events by politicians, scholars, journalists, authors, activists

While at the university, you have changed

  • you grew intellectually and personally
  • checked off a list of basic educational requirements
  • made new friends
  • were able to specialize in a major of choice
  • refined and developed your ideas on where you want to go in the future

Some of you have probably changed majors, changed colleges, more than once

I can relate to your sense of change during the past 4 years…

  • I changed universities and jobs and residences
  • learned what it took to be a department chair
  • shifted my balance of activities to administration, research and teaching
  • some of my ideas for the department were warmly embraced and others are taking much longer to be accepted

Was all this change good? Was the pace of change bad?

Change in itself is not a value, but rather the one certainty in life like death and taxes

  • it is so prevalent that disciplines have created a variety of vocabulary words to reflect change: birth, growth, create, facilitate, develop, transform, delta, revolution, erosion, modify, vary, adjust, amend, replace, substitute, trade, convert, variation
  • antonyms of change are die, extinction, stubborn, inertia, impediment, stasis

We can choose to embrace change, shape the direction of change OR
Choose to let change sweep you up in the wave and leave you face planted in the sand,.

It’s about attitude: is the glass half full or half empty?
A single event can be considered an obstacle or an opportunity

To learn is to change our knowledge, change our perspective, and gain a realization of choice

Learning is discovering new ways of living life, engaging in community, evaluating technologies, lifestyles, and conservation of natural resources….

Now having gone through 4 years of university, you are different than you started. You are about to go onto the career path of your life. That will bring differences and you are going to change.

When you embark on careers, you have ideas.

  • These ideas will likely result in change.
  • You come with a fresh look at your life, your family and friends, the world
  • Some of your ideas will be warmly embraced and others will take time ….

Real change takes time, patience, persistence, and perseverance

You can make a difference in the world; you changed this campus. In my brief time on this campus, I’ve witnessed:

  • Student organizations reaching out to the community
  • Common ground producing CSA shares for faculty and staff, contributing to local food shelf and refugee programs
  • Increased awareness of war-torn regions of the globe
  • Expanded recycling on campus to help close the ‘loop’
  • Expanded interest in renewable energy opportunities
  • small-scale, 10 kilowatt wind turbine
  • biodiesel
  • Increasing awareness and demand of local food to reduce carbon footprint

I encourage you to reflect about the change you have witnessed and experienced during your time at UVM – what changes occurred, how it changed you, and what change you promoted.
I hope you will have heartfelt memories when you look back on your years at UVM and in the same way we will remember this graduating class.

Last modified February 07 2008 03:18 PM

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