President Laackman's Commencement Speech 2017

President Laackman presents diplomas to the Class of 2017

President Donald J. Laackman delivered this message to the Class of 2017 graduates at the 139th annual Commencement at Champlain College on May 13, 2017.

Good Morning,
Welcome to 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 2017. 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. Through your hard work and dedication, you have helped guide our graduates on a path 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 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 2017, today we celebrate you. Your class has experienced significant change at Champlain College - and you have not only survived these changes, but thrived.

You are among the first students 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 under construction when you arrived.
Many of you have lived in Butler and Valcour Halls, which were just being constructed when you considered attending Champlain.
Your thinking has been broadened and challenged by the frequently-changing exhibits in The Gallery.
Your class has led a new engagement at Champlain in discussions about diversity and inclusion, international politics, women's rights, gender identity and free speech.

The Robert P. Stiller School of Business added the David L Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry during your first years here. The Freeman Foundation began supporting internships to Shanghai, China, and you dared by embracing the opportunity in great numbers. 

You have participated in creative design opportunities with the College's Emergent Media Center, the Makers Lab and our partners at Generator.
Change has been a constant theme for the class of 2017. Your success in the face of change, combined with your radically pragmatic Champlain College education, positions you to successfully enter a changing world.
While we face challenges that may seem daunting, I have great optimism regarding our future because of what this class has already accomplished while here at Champlain.
I have spoken with our faculty and staff members, your families and employers in our community. These conversations provide me with the knowledge that you will go forth and embrace the opportunities before you and you will make the world a better place.Your work, as volunteers, interns and students

Your work, as volunteers, interns and students has touched the lives of people in our community, across the country and around the world.

In your time at Champlain College, you became engaged global citizens....

  • You participated in international service trips to Uganda, Nepal and Nicaragua;
  • You spent the summer working for multinational companies in Shanghai, China;
  • You developed a game for the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development;
  • You worked to raise awareness about conflict minerals to reduce violence in the Congo;
  • You taught in an inner city school in Dublin, Ireland, while studying abroad;
  • You gained valuable experience designing video games in Montreal;
  • You captured your study abroad experiences in photos and words and shared them with with world;
  • You furthered Champlain's work with the United Nations to refine a video game designed to prevent violence against women and girls;
  • And you came to America from the Congo at age 15, worked nights to pay for college and then won the "Job Seeker" category in the Elevator Pitch. 

I thank the Champlain College Class of 2017 for your efforts to make the world a better place through your service and engagement.

Closer to Vermont, you made significant contributions to bettering our community in a variety of ways....

  • You helped fund and paint the Rainbow Crosswalk on South Willard Street;
  • You lent your voices to celebrate the opening of the Women's and Gender Center and made it a welcoming place for all; 
  • You produced a series of five videos on recycling and composting education for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources;
  • You created films shown on Vermont PBS and highlighted at the Vermont International Film Festival;
  • You created a video history of Champlain College tracing our education traditions from our beginning in 1878. 
  • You demonstrated your interviewing skills through a series of "Chauncey Reports" produced for regional educational television. 
  • You expanded student leadership opportunities within the Eco-Rep Program and redirected waste from landfill to recycling;
  • You prototyped an augmented reality storybook for Vermont Teddy Bear Company; 
  • You worked with Mercy Connection helping prepare refugees and immigrants to become American citizens; 
  • You led a discussion panel on the "Face of Feminism" at the Women's Empowerment Symposium;
  • You participated in Champlain's first Lavender Graduation to celebrate students in the LGBTQ+ community and allies; 
  • You coordinated food drives to support families in need in the Northeast Kingdom;
  • You helped to solve crimes and aid investigations for local and state law enforcement.
  • You prepared meals for families at the Ronald McDonald house;
  • You shared your artistic and entrepreneurial vision at the South End Art Hop, the Vermont Tech Jam, EMC Creative lunches and the Shelburne Farms Mini-Maker Faire; 
  • You skated to victory in the Recreational Hockey team league before an enthusiastic fan-base of fellow students;
  • You spent Saturdays picking up trash beautifying both our community and the Vermont landscape;
  • You showed off your ski and ride skills and promoted helmet safety at the annual student-run Rail Jam on Finney Quad; 
  • You mentored dozens of young people in the DREAM program, schools and youth programs who simply needed someone to care
  • And you played with children at COTS, demonstrating that even without a permanent home their lives matter. 

Again, I want to thank you. The Champlain College Class of 2017 has left our community a better place. You have helped people in Vermont and you have made an enduring positive contribution to our community.

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 through internships and jobs...

  • You built a video game out of a cardboard box that proved your imagination can take you anywhere, including the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco;
  • You founded Maple Street Media after attending a national public relations conference and then hired your fellow students to work with your non-profit and corporate clients; 
  • You produced the Weathervane magazine, featuring stories about your Communications and Creative Media classmates and alumni;
  • You worked through the Champlain Publishing Initiative to write, edit and design a new guide to digital publishing; 
  • You attended a Women in Cybersecurity conference;
  • You earned a highly coveted post-grad internship at Macmillan publishing in New York City;
  • You earned the trust and respect of classroom teachers with your professionalism and compassion for students; 
  • You earned two student Emmys for your film work in the categories of production design and sound design; 
  • You started your own film production company - New Atlas - and are already busy with clients; 
  • You made flying a bit more fun with an interactive flight experience you designed and installed at Burlington International Airport;

You found, secured and excelled at internships at organizations such as:

  • Ben and Jerry's 
  • Uprise Management in L.A.,
  • Penguin Group in London,
  • Activision
  • Logic Supply
  • Dow Jones 
  • IBM
  • Gameloft
  • National Life Group
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • World Trade Centre Dublin

And one of you was the first student to intern at Al Roker Entertainment in the fall and then turned right around and snagged a spring internship at NBC Universal.

These accomplishments are only a sampling of what you have done while at Champlain. I know that each of you has done something special during your time here that helped inspire you to reach Commencement today.
The employers, faculty and staff I talk to tell me you show up with the skills, attitude and work ethic that will 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, in the presence of the Board of Trustees, with the advice and consent of our Faculty and certification by our Provost, it is my sincere privilege to welcome you to the ancient and honorable community of educated citizens.

We celebrate you earning your rightful place in this community.
Members of the Class of 2017, you now join the exceptional alumni of Champlain College. I know you will enhance their legacy.
I leave you with one final thought.
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