Media Department: Stephanie Kloss
Phone: (802) 578-5413
Today you are graduating with an incredibly innovative and versatile education, a Swiss Army Knife that will help you navigate through life. I've been a part of and witnessed this college becomes a pioneering institution. Nothing makes me prouder than to stand up here and confidently declare that my education at Champlain College was an investment-not only for my future career, but also for me as a person in the global society. So what more could I share with you that you don't know already? What information could I provide that has not already become obsolete? College is not exactly like an operating system update: click a button and everything you knew before is replaced with something newer and better.
But change is natural. It happens inevitably. Unless change evolves intentionally, with clear eyes and cogent thought, it can destabilize a person or an institution. Our great good fortune has been to grow here at Champlain, at a time of profoundly constructive, profoundly intentional change, and I believe we are all better for it.
You all know that change happens...that it's inevitable and should be embraced. You and I will hold more jobs of greater variety in our lifetimes than our parents. You know hard and smart work churns out results. So maybe the best that I can do for you today is to share with you five lessons I've learned to become a better, happier, more successful individual.
1. Budget with a Goal
I cannot emphasize this enough, and you've probably heard it a lot already, but I will say that some basic, sound financial planning - or even just awareness - goes a long way. My wife and I started out living together in government subsidized housing, on a combined annual income of about $18,000.
I will say that our gourmet potato-burrito recipe became a staple in our home for many wonderful years.
Speaking of food, one Thursday afternoon, I walked into Price Chopper to buy lunch during a break from work. I had maybe $20 in my account to last me until my next paycheck. When I attempted to withdraw $10 from the ATM to purchase Ramen for lunch, my transaction was rejected. After attempting a few more withdrawals thinking it was in error, the ATM claimed I had insufficient funds. When checking my account to see how much was there, it said I had a $0 balance. In disbelief, I checked my bank account later that day and discovered a -$32 balance, all due to network transaction fees and an overdraft penalty. At that moment I realized it probably couldn't get much worse. And in my good fortune, it did not.
My wife and I drafted a budget and stuck to it to help not only prevent a situation like this from happening again, but to also pay down our debts and to save when we could, especially for travel. We created budgets with goals.
Strong practices like this can help eliminate tens of thousands dollar in loan interest alone. Speaking of which, my last payment on my student graduate loans was completed just the other day - so believe me when I tell you that it can be done and how proud you will be when it is accomplished.
2. Send a care Package
If you've been fortunate enough to receive one, you'll understand the thrilling experience of opening an unexpected gift filled with home-baked goods, surprising treasures, and love. And sometimes you get ones that tell a really good story, like the time my wife received much love from her thoughtful aunt in the form of an almost empty bottle of dish soap, a dirty patterned sheet, a lightly used toothbrush holder, a few beaten pots and a half bottle of silver polish (for all that silverware we didn't realize we owned). Either way, you get it... a surprise in the mail in a form of love brightens your day. It brightens your life. So why not do this yourself? It doesn't have to be for a family member-you can do this for someone you feel needs his or her day to be brightened.
Years ago I had an employee who everyone absolutely loved ... so much so that when I heard he did not have enough funds to pay for what we would consider basic needs - shampoo, deodorant, etc. - my wife and I decided to send a little love his way. Anonymously. I believe to this day he still does not realize we were the source and it didn't matter. The day after receiving the gift, he had an amazing spring in his step, an attitude change and flaunted his valiant mane much like a peacock with vibrant plumage - needless to say, it made me smile. Since then, we occasionally sent out other care packages in the same manner to other individuals who could use a pick-me up. Nothing is more rewarding than witnessing someone who truly appreciates a handcrafted drop crate.
3. Teach at Least Once
I cannot stress this enough: Teach at least once. Not because you want revenge, but because someone can benefit from your experiences and knowledge.
After each wave of students I taught during my years after college, I learned more from my students than I did while being a student myself at times. Much like you have over the past four years, students will ask questions that force you to think. Teaching will shape your brain to be agile. It will force you to get your brain into shape, healthy with knowledge and can lead you to become a great mentor to someone. It's quite possibly the fountain of youth. I mean, c'mon, look at these folks behind me - they're like hundreds of years old and full of wisdom that endlessly empties into our craniums... And they look fantastic! It is a liberating responsibility that you may not understand until you take the steps to teach for the first time. And careful - it may become very addictive.
4. Learn how to use Duct Tape and to make Maple Syrup
What other advice would a Vermonter give you? It goes without saying, you should learn to fix something and make something. I've done this all my life, learning from my father who used to show me excellent examples during my younger years of how to not repair cars.
I learned how to accidently turn a Ford Thunderbird into a flaming hot rod - literally on fire. I learned how to call a tow truck when your father accidentally rips all but one bolt off your rear wheel when the goal was to change the brakes. I also learned that with a bit of time, lacquer and duct tape, you too can "re-paint" your car silver and have it pass inspection. Oh, and my father has an iron pipe called "The Equalizer" - a tool that will go down in history as a glorified wrecking ball for fixing things.
Through these experiences though, I learned quickly that sometimes it wasn't just about failure or success. It was about trying and doing - a lot of trying and doing. I learned to prototype solutions: small experiments that would later solve bigger problems. These seemingly small and disconnected experiences have led me to work with teams of diverse people and cultures to create innovative, global solutions. They also led my wife to insist that we buy any future car with a warranty.
5. CALL YOUR MOTHER!
I'm not only saying this because I wanted to guarantee a positive response from select audience members out there. I wanted to draw attention to something that you all became a part of: A new, amazing, huge and diverse family. All of you know how many of these staff and faculty members treated you like a son or daughter. You also realize how close you have become to your peers in the past four years. It's very much like a family, so please stay in contact! I want to hear your stories. I want to see you grow. Just like your parents who have outlined an elaborate plan to embarrass you later on The Twitters and The Facebooks about how proud they are of you #OMG #GRADUATE #WTF (And we all know that WTF stands for Well That's Fantastic), I plan on doing the same. We want you to come back home, more than once, and share your experience with others. And I promise, I will not guilt trip you into doing so. But you should. You definitely should.
I want to thank President Laackman, the Alumni Office and the Champlain Community for inviting me to engage with you today.
I would also like to thank the families of these fine graduates for raising the next generation of energized minds who will soon show us what new opportunities exist in our lifetime. Lastly, I ask that you all observe things. Invent things. Experiment. Share. Never has the world required so much engagement as today. With endless information at our fingertips, we can deceive ourselves to believing we're engaged when we're really just looking at a screen. Innovation has taught me to pay attention and not to let your days simply pass you by without being full participants in them. As each of you leaves Champlain College, I wish you all the best good fortune, and many great adventures and discoveries on the road ahead.
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 champlain.edu.