Earning a college degree is never easy, but the reward is lifelong. The student speakers at the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Schools of Graduate and Professional Programs Commencement Ceremony on June 1 would attest to that.
PHOTO: Braulio Carrasco M’14 stops and poses for a “selfie” photo with program director Susan Moore before receiving his diploma.
Prior to their fellow graduates walking across the stage at the Saint Mary’s University Center and receiving their diplomas, several students provided reflections. The speakers told stories of various bumps in the road and moments of doubt along the way toward earning the degree that they wanted.
“A little bit less than two years ago, I started my journey at Saint Mary’s,” said Yue Xu M’14, a native of China who received her M.A. in Health and Human Services Administration on Sunday. “I faced a lot of differences between the traditional Chinese education style and the western education style. I remember that I did not know what a syllabus was, and I did not bring it to my first class.
“I also remember asking myself a lot of questions, like what did I get myself into? Am I prepared enough to start a master’s program in an English-speaking country? Should I drop it right away? And to be honest, a lot more thoughts passed. Then I remembered to ask myself one last question: how much do I want a master’s degree? The answer to that question helped me make my decision to continue my studies at Saint Mary’s.”
Besides cultural and language barriers, Xu also had to focus on two family emergencies that required her attention during her time at Saint Mary’s. With the support of her instructors and classmates, she turned the hardship into even more reason to complete her studies.
“The last semester I had at Saint Mary’s was the most challenging semester I had throughout my studies,” Xu said. While enduring family crises, she also concluded her studies with a capstone class and a 400-hour internship as a nursing home administrator. During those hardest times, she was more motivated and determined than ever to finish her studies and utilize what she had learned.
Rhonda Davis, who received her M.A. in Educational Leadership, reminded the crowd that the challenges may not be over. She encouraged her colleagues to continue helping each other like they did throughout their time at Saint Mary’s.
“We will create new solutions to complex problems, we will be told that we can’t, because change is hard,” Davis said. “There is no budget, or we don’t have enough resources. But I am confident that we are ready to run the race. We cannot do it alone, we need each other. We were a solid support system for each other when we were in the classroom, and when we feel a connection to each other is amazing.”
The outlook for these graduates is bright. Xu reminded everyone of that with her closing quote: “remember that the future is not a destination, the future is a direction.” And after Sunday’s commencement, there is a new group of more than 300 graduates — including 16 from the Ed.D. in Leadership program, the most to commence at once — ready to tackle what lies ahead.