Message from the President - Commencement 2016

President Donald J. Laackman presented diplomas to the Class of 2016.

President Donald J. Laackman delivered this message to the Class of 2016 graduates at the 138th annual Commencement at Champlain College on May 14, 2016.

Watch President Laackman's message to the Class of 2016 here.


Good Morning.
I welcome our Board of Trustees, faculty and faculty emeriti, cabinet members, staff, family, friends and members of the Champlain College community.

We gather today to honor the members of the Champlain College class of 2016. Congratulations.

It is especially gratifying to see so many of our distinguished faculty here. You continue to impress 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 role you have played in helping these graduates in their journeys. Congratulations to you and thank you for your support.

Class of 2016, today we celebrate you. As I reflected on my comments for today, I considered what made you a distinctive graduating class. How was your experience, the class of 2016, different from the Champlain graduates who have preceded you? As I looked around campus, I realized that your class has experienced a significant amount of change and, through this, you have not just survived, but thrived!

During your time at Champlain, the College has been changing and evolving. The physical campus itself has undergone significant transformation and has almost always been under construction. I am certain the route you followed when you took your first campus tour is not the same one you use today.

You are the first graduating class to enjoy the Center for Communications & Creative Media, a transformative campus space designed to support collaboration and creative thinking. The Finney Quad, from which you began your procession today, was a parking lot your first year. Many of you have lived in Butler and Valcour Halls, which were simply drawings on paper when you considered attending Champlain.

Your thinking has been provoked and challenged by the frequently changing exhibits in The Gallery. And, even the bookstore has been in three different places during your time here -- Joyce, Durick, and now its current spot in CCM.

The changes you have experienced extend beyond buildings and classroom walls. Our online learning platform changed from Angel to Canvas, and you, along with our faculty and staff, switched from Outlook to Gmail.

The Division of Business was renamed the Robert P. Stiller School of Business during your first year, and the David L Cooperrider Center followed shortly thereafter. The Freeman Foundation began supporting internships to Shanghai, China, and you dared by embracing the opportunity in great numbers. You've participated in creative design opportunities through the College's new Makers Lab. You've experienced a new Provost and a new President. Linus the cat moved away and my two dogs, Louie and Stella, moved in.

Change has been a constant theme for the class of 2016. Your success in the face of change, combined with your radically pragmatic Champlain College education, positions you to confidently enter an ever-changing world. You are well prepared to use the education and versatility you have gained here to navigate life's complexities, capitalize on opportunities to achieve career success, and contribute to making a real difference in the world.

While the problems we confront in our world can at times seem daunting, I have great optimism regarding our future because of the great things this class has already accomplished while here at Champlain.

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 will go forth and embrace the opportunity before you and you will make the world a better place.

President Donald J. LaackmanYou have already made your mark on the global stage.

  • You worked with the United Nations to develop the BREAKAWAY video game, helping to prevent violence against women and girls;
  • You produced a documentary film that will air on local cable TV this summer, titled "Under The Canopy," focusing on students' experiences traveling to the Peruvian Amazon and initiating community-driven development projects;
  • You worked on a campaign to raise awareness about conflict minerals to reduce violence in the Congo;
  • You participated in international service trips to Uganda, Nepal and Nicaragua;
  • You worked for Chinese and multinational marketing agencies, import/export companies, and financial analysis firms in Shanghai, China;
  • You obtained a prestigious game programming position at Ubisoft in Montreal;
  • You taught in an inner city school in Dublin, Ireland, while studying abroad at our Champlain campus.

You have also made meaningful contributions to bettering communities in Vermont:

  • You coordinated food drives to support families in need in the Northeast Kingdom;
  • You helped create Make A Change, a game designed to increase awareness regarding sexual assault; 
  • You played with children at COTS, demonstrating that even without a permanent home, their lives matter; 
  • You produced a video that challenges the bias experienced by transgender individuals;
  • You prepared meals for families at the Ronald McDonald house;
  • You played bingo with residents at the Converse Home;
  • You spent Saturdays picking up trash beautifying both our community and the Vermont landscape; 
  • You promoted Champlain College at the South End Art Hop, the Vermont Tech Jam, EMC Creative lunches, and the Shelburne Farms Mini-Maker Faire; 
  • You created a video supporting the See, Say, Do campaign, affirming your commitment to a safe campus community for all; 
  • And, you mentored dozens of young people who simply needed someone to care.

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

  • You competed in the Northeast Regional Cyber Defense Competition; 
  • You won the Audience Favorite Award at the Vermont International Film Festival; 
  • You mastered the latest in time lapse video production;
  • You attended the world's largest game developers' conferences in San Francisco and Boston;
  • You established your own indie game companies;
  • You won the Vermont Student Employee of the Year;
  • You created an app to rate films for the Vermont International Film Festival;
  • You designed and deployed a new Quality Assurance lab for The College's Game Studio;
  • You established the Stiller Women in Business, demonstrating both your Champlain pride and your professional aptitude.

You not only published a book on the value of internships, you held internships in organizations such as NBC, Activision, Dealer.com, Logic Supply, Dow Jones, IBM, Gameloft,  National Life Group, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and World Trade Centre Dublin, to name just a few.

The leaders I talk to tell me you show up with the skills, attitude and work ethic that distinguish you from other college graduates. These leaders tell me you are ready. Based on all that I have seen and heard, I know 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 2016, you now join the exceptional alumni of Champlain College. I know you will enhance their legacy. I leave you with one final exhortation. 

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 382 Colleges: 2018 Edition. For the third year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2018 "America's Best Colleges," and an "A+ School for B Students" and is ranked in the top 100 Regional Universities of the North. Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2018 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2018 College of Distinction. For more information, visit  www.champlain.edu.