President Donald J. Laackman's Address to the Class of 2015

President Donald Laackman at 2015 Commencement

Champlain College Commencement, May 9, 2015

Good Morning!
I would like to welcome our Board of Trustees, faculty and faculty emeriti, cabinet members, staff, family, friends and all members of the Champlain College community.
We gather today to honor the members of the Champlain College class of 2015. Congratulations!
It is especially gratifying to see so many of our distinguished faculty here. In my first academic year, you have impressed me with your commitment to our mission and your love of this transformative experience that will enable our graduates to lead meaningfully better lives. It is a privilege for me to share this day with you.

I would also like to salute the families, partners and special friends who supported these graduating students. We understand the sacrifices you have made. Please know that we appreciate the vital role you have played in helping these graduates begin their journeys. Congratulations to you and thank you for your support.
Since this is my first Champlain College commencement, this day has special significance to me, as do you, my first graduating class.
As I reflected on my comments for today, I wondered what wisdom I could share that would aide in your understanding of this moment's significance. What perspective could I provide that would help you to move forward, to ensure you continue a life of learning, exploration, innovative-thinking and community-building? What gifts could I pass on to the Class of 2015?

I am a member of the Baby Boom generation, comprised of individuals born in the years 1945 - 1964. My generation has already bequeathed many gifts to this Class of 2015. Among these gifts: unparalleled levels of debt, increasing threats from terrorists, both cyber and physical, a warming planet, declining public confidence in our nation's institutions, the greatest gap between wealthy and poor seen since the Gilded Age, and, of course, the guilty pleasures of reality television. What more could you ask for?
To frame it more positively, my generation has created unsurpassed opportunities for you, the Class of 2015, to make a real difference in this world. Equipped with your radically pragmatic Champlain College education, you now enter an environment rich with possibilities to use the education you have gained here to better our world. And while the problems you confront are daunting, I have a renewed sense of optimism regarding our future because of the great things this class has already accomplished in your four years at Champlain.
The Champlain College motto is Audeamus, Let Us Dare. Graduates, you have taught me that the spirit behind Audeamus is alive and well at Champlain. Time and time again you have dared.
You dared in your classrooms by challenging assumptions.
You dared to push beyond your comfort zones by studying abroad.
You thought of some outrageous ideas and dared to fail, because you understood that success demands failure and the learning that comes with it.
In short, you dared to be courageous in pursuit of your education, persevering when needed,
your efforts culminating in your participation in today's Commencement ceremony.

President Laackman and Mahmoud JabariI have watched you for the past year. I have spoken with your faculty, our staff members, your families and employers in our community.
These conversations provide me with the knowledge that you are ready, you will go forth and embrace the opportunity before you and you will make the world a better place.

  • You have already made your mark on the global stage.
  • With the United Nations, you developed and initiated the BREAKAWAY video game and then traveled to Palestine and El Salvador to help prevent violence against and promote respect for women and girls;
  • You taught students from underserved families in Dublin; 
  • You worked with children at an orphanage in Entebbe, Uganda;
  • You improved sanitary conditions in Nepal; 
  • You developed Wealth Builders, a game that teaches communities how to balance and sustain rural economies in the United States and China;
  • You have worked for companies in Shanghai, with the support of the Freeman Foundation, fostering international understanding; 
  • You helped publish educational materials for children in Bangladesh;
  • You worked on a campaign to raise awareness about Conflict-free minerals to reduce violence in the Congo;
  • And Mahmoud Jabari brought the Ambassador of Palestine to campus to foster a dialogue on Middle East issues.

You have also made meaningful contributions to bettering communities in Vermont and here at Champlain:

  • You created a stress management workshop for high school students;
  • You ran an army of volunteers who kept the Burlington Book Festival humming; 
  • You conceptualized and prototyped Make A Change, a game to address gender harassment on college campuses; 
  • You worked on a team to develop and launch Lake Quest, a mobile tablet digital field guide and game series to educate families on the challenges facing Lake Champlain in cooperation with the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center;
  • You worked on the Energy Independent Vermont Campaign;
  • You are rewriting Champlain's Sexual Assault Policy to be more accessible and comprehensive;
  • You promoted Champlain College at the South End Art Hop, the Vermont Tech Jam, EMC Creative lunches and the Shelburne Farms Mini-Maker Faire; 
  • And, you mentored dozens of young people who simply needed someone to care.

In support of our vision to be the finest, professionally and globally focused college in the country, you have also distinguished yourselves in your chosen professional fields:

  • Our Game Programming seniors won Best student team at HackVT
  • You competed in the Northeast Regional CyberDefense Competition; 
  • One of you completed a forensic investigation of the Tinder dating application for your capstone;
  • Four Champlain Graphic Design majors advanced to the finals in the Communication Design category of the Royal Society of Arts Student Design Competition, and one of your fellow graduates, Mariana Herrera, won the Grand Prize;
  • You built a website to aggregate information available on the subject of "Birth & Breastfeeding;"
  • At GameFest 2015 the game We Love Nuclear Armageddon won First Place and iPhony won Audience Choice award for Most Innovative Game;
  • And you applied Appreciative Inquiry processes to brainstorm and promote an online collaborative platform for the FLOURISH Prizes, which are Nobel-level prizes promoting exemplary businesses supporting the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

You have held internships in your profession at companies and organizations such as:

  • The Solidarity of Unbridled Labour
  • FUSE Marketing
  • AARP
  • True Tone Studios
  • The Vermont Symphony Orchestra
  • The Burlington Business Association
  • The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts 
  • FM station WXTU in Philadelphia
  • Ketchum, the public relations firm
  • The Conan O'Brien Show
  • General Dynamics
  • Dell SecureWorks
  • And the Chittenden County States Attorney's office

To name just a few.

The leaders I talk to tell me you show up with the skills, attitude and work ethic that distinguishes you from other college students. These leaders tell me you are ready. Based on all that I have seen and heard this past year, I believe they are right. You are ready.
Therefore, today, it is my sincere privilege to welcome you to the ancient and honorable community of educated women and men.
Your alma mater celebrates your accomplishments. We celebrate you earning your rightful place in this community.
Members of the Class of 2015, in spite of the challenges facing our nation, I have never been more optimistic about our future than after having spent the past year with you.
You now join the exceptional alumni of Champlain College, some of whom are here with us today. I know you will enhance their legacy.
Lift up your spyglass. Stare intently into the future. It is your future to seize. Audeamus. Let us Dare!

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit