Seniors Look Back on their Champlain Experience

Senior Dinner Speakers

A panel of seniors with diverse stories about their experiences at Champlain College spoke at the recent Board of Trustees and Class of 2015 Dinner. They were introduced by Provost Laurie Quinn.


Our first student speaker is John "Jak" Tiano. Jak is a Game Design Major in the Division of Communication and Creative Media. In 2013 and 2014, Jak was selected to receive a Student Scholarship from Apple Inc. Thanks to this scholarship; he was able to attend the Worldwide Developers Conferences both years. Jak also co-founded the, "Not a Hipster Coffee Shop." 

Thank you. As graduation gets closer each day, I've found I'm asking myself the same question over and over: "What next?" It's a new concept for me, and I'm sure for a lot of us soon to be graduates.

Jak TianoFor pretty much my whole life, there has been an expected plan to follow, and 2015 has always been the "end" of that plan. It wasn't something I ever gave much thought to, because it was always so far away.

For a year or so, I've even had the exact date of May 9th written in my calendar, but still, it was far away and from a distance it seemed like no big deal. Right now, it's thirty-seven days away. Thinking about "What next?" was initially pretty scary. I felt like I was heading towards a cliff with no way to stop. But the closer I get, the more I understand how Champlain has prepared me to deal with that question.

I don't think there is anything I could tell you about my time at Champlain that would surprise any of you; we all know of the great merits of the college that compelled us to study here, teach here, work here, or sit on the board of trustees. Core and our upside down curriculum have given me a well rounded and open mind in addition to an early and deep understanding of my industry.

I've had the chance to get involved with student club leadership, and I was able to study abroad in Montreal last Spring. As a budding entrepreneur I've even had the opportunity to get involved with the BYOBiz program.

It is the opportunities and programs like these that have brought us all to Champlain, and have made it such a great learning environment, and a great community.

And now, 37 days away from the end, I can see how it has all come together. All of these pieces of my Champlain education have given me more than just knowledge, but also experience and perspective. I don't feel like I'm just about to enter the work force and be a part of the Real World.

I realize that I've already been there for a few years, working in production environments, living in new cities, attending professional events across the country. I realize that the reason I'm so prepared for that cliff is because I've already dealt with it. I'm already on that journey.

But I guess that doesn't really answer the question of "What next?" though, does it? Personally, I've really become attached to Burlington and Vermont. I'll be staying here in Burlington, and along with a few friends have started a small game company where we plan to experiment with our ideas about merging art, business, and entertainment.
I think Burlington is an exciting place to be for both art and tech, and I hope to help be a part of the maturation and blending of those two fields here. Finally, I'd like to remain involved with Champlain as an alumni, and play my part in continuing its mission. Thank you.


McKenna Lee is an Integrated Studies major with the division of Continuing and Professional Studies. Many of you may have already heard her music - McKenna Lee and the Microfixers. 

I have to be honest, I never thought this day would come. It felt so impossible for so long. You see, I grew up in a very strict family and my parents would not allow me to go to college. I was probably the only valedictorian in the history of that school that didn't go off to college immediately after graduation. At 19, in an effort to get away from that toxic family environment, I got married. It was not the best decision I ever made. After that, well... then life happened. A LOT of life happened. Before I knew it, I was an adult with adult responsibilities and bills to pay, and I couldn't figure out how to get that elusive degree I so desired. 

Mckenna LeeAnd then I found Champlain, and everything changed. I could keep my full-time day job and my three bands and get my degree at the same time? I was in love. I was in love with Champlain College. 

I'll admit I was still afraid. It still didn't seem possible that I would finish with a degree. When you want something for so long and it finally happens, well, it feels like you're going to wake up any second and realize it was all a dream.

Champlain has been a dream though. The teachers and the courses have been fantastic. I've learned so much, sometimes as much from my fellow students as I have from the course material. And it is so heartwarming to log in to my classes and see a virtual room filled almost exclusively with students just like me - students who have been down a similar road; students who have families and bills to pay; working adults with a dream; working adults who are seeing that dream come true because of Champlain.

I still battle with fear. There are many days I wake up afraid and spend the rest of the day convincing myself to stop being afraid. It's a constant battle, but I never regret waging that war. It NEVER ends up being pointless; It NEVER ends up being worthless. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But you can't be afraid to fight. To paraphrase a quote from the 2008 Harvard commencement speech given by JK Rowling, "[Some] failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all."

I refuse to live cautiously anymore. Champlain has given me the tools to be fearless. This fall I plan to continue this journey by starting on my Master's degree. Ultimately, I would like to help change the face of healthcare: to make it better, safer, more accessible and more affordable for everyone.

I will never stop being amazed by the power of the human spirit. I see it all around me right now. Congratulations to the Class of 2015, and thank you, Champlain College, for making this dream come true for all of us!


Kennedy Tran is a Computer Science and Innovation major and the first student from Computer Science & Innovation who is going to graduate school. Kennedy is hard working and an enthusiastic learning. Kennedy is also very easy going and always willing to help others out. 

Hello everyone. And thank you for the awesome introduction. Before I begin, I would like to thank the President, the Board of Trustees, our special guests, and the Class of 2015 for having me here.

Today, I'd like to quickly talk about "opportunity" and how it relates to all of us at Champlain. But first, let's rewind back four years with my personal experience with why I chose Champlain.

Kennedy TranWhat originally drew me into Champlain was the high employment rate of students within the first six months after graduation. I came in eager to learn, full of enthusiasm, and the hopes of becoming a software engineer someday.

Champlain has certainly prepared us with the skills required to go out into the workforce and to pursue these amazing opportunities. I'm sure some of you have heard from your career advisers that employers want students from our school because of the experiences that we have been given.

However, with all of this in mind, the reason why I became attracted to Champlain became not as important as I thought. I've realized that our school has provided me with more than just a programming skillset, but also a skillset that can prepare me for higher education. It turns out that I'll be attending graduate school this coming fall.

My life the past few months has felt like a repeat of my senior year of high school - sending in college applications and playing the waiting game (except now with the added stress of capstone.)
While in a few months some of us will be newbies working at our new jobs, I'll be delaying the process of being a "real" adult for a few more years to eventually earn my doctorates in computer science.

Although I can't foretell the future, one thing that I know for sure is that there are so many opportunities that are available to us because of Champlain. Now it's up to us to decide where we go from here.

Congratulations Class of 2015. Thanks for taking this journey with me.


Alicia Roderigue is a Legal Studies major with the division of Education and Human Studies and she is from Killington, Vermont. 

Good evening Trustees, faculty, and graduating class of 2015. It is my pleasure to be here tonight and share my experiences as a legal studies major and a global studies minor with you. I have invested the last three years of my academic career trying to better comprehend international and domestic public policy. It was my fascination for this subject matter that motivated me to study law.

Alicia RoderiqueI strongly believe that government can serve as a fundamental force for good in the lives of citizens. This mentality has driven me to pursue a career advocating for the betterment of society through effective governance.

During my time at Champlain I have had the opportunity to work as the Assistant to the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE). This position has been more than just a job for me. It has served as a springboard from which I have further developed my academic and professional interests. Due to my work at the Institute I have become a more globally engaged citizen.

This position has given me the opportunity to advocate for international and domestic issues that I am passionate about.

As Legal Studies student I have had the opportunity to conduct research and facilitate presentations on global and domestic legislation and policy. I have conducted in-depth research on the judicial history and political ramifications of campaign finance law. I dedicated my senior thesis to refugee resettlement and transportation issues in Vermont. In my last semester at Champlain College, I have undertaken an independent study on international law, with particular emphasis on the competing interests of international jurisdiction and national sovereignty.

The research I have conducted on these subjects has reaffirmed my commitment to law and public policy. Champlain cultivated my passion for this subject matter and it is because of the work that I have done here that I am currently a candidate for and internship in the offices of both Senator Leahy and Senator Sanders.
I know my understanding of these issues would be greatly enhanced as I continue with my education. Currently I am applying to law school, in which I hope to earn jurist doctorate with a concentration in public policy. Thank you and Congratulations Class of 2015!


Julia Haass is an International Business Major in the Stiller School of Business. She hails from Munich, Germany and loves to travel. 

Good evening Board of Trustees, President's Cabinet members, Alumni, Faculty and Staff, and of course, Seniors. My name is Julia Haass and I am an International Business major at the Stiller School of Business. I wanted to take this time to share with you not only my experience at Champlain College, but some important lessons I learned and my future plans.

Julia HaasAs some of you may know, I am originally from Germany and was born with a case of the travel bug. Traveling is what I came to Champlain College for, and traveling is what I did. I had this idea of visiting as many countries as my age. When I arrived at Champlain I was 19 and had traveled to 19 countries.

Now I am 23 and have traveled to 29 countries. 10 countries during my college experience and I'd like to take a moment to thank Champlain College and the International Business Program for making that happen.

After my first two years here at Champlain, after being a Student Ambassador and a Peer Advisor, I took advantage of the Freeman Foundation Grant for an internship in Shanghai China. Following that summer, I was in Barcelona, Spain for the fall semester, and in Dublin, Ireland for the spring semester junior year.

Last semester I took advantage of the partnership Champlain has with Thunderbird School of Global Management, a top international grad school in Arizona, to gain the Certificate of Advanced Global Studies and started collecting grad level credits.

Recently I had to compose my own personal value statement for my capstone. While I was writing it I realized that even though my personal experience here at Champlain has been very unique, the most valuable things I learned at college came from not only my professors, my core and business courses, my study abroad programs and travels, but from you, now Seniors of 2015.

Your experience and the stories you have shared with me helped me realized three things to succeed not only in a college setting but in my own personal and professional life:

Have a strong heart and an open mind. Sometimes you can feel lost and unsure about your next move, your next job, or just your next chapter in life. And as we are approaching graduation I realized that there is nothing as powerful as a strong heart and an open mind that not only allows your heart to shine but keeps you flexible enough to adapt to any situation. And if there is one thing I know, it's that change is inevitable, and this mindset might be beneficial.

Be courageous enough to make lemonade. It can be difficult to find out where and what you want to do with your life, even when the lemons life gave you are right in front of you. With a little bit of courage I was able to take advantage of the opportunities I never before dared to do. Now that Champlain's motto "Audeamus" - "Let us dare" is imbedded in me, I hope I find courage to continue my journey to grad school in Europe.

Last but not least: Learn the importance of community. If you study the life of any notable person, you'll find that the main character operates within a web of support. As tempting as it is to believe that we are the sole heroes of our own stories, we are enmeshed in cities, companies, families and institutions like Champlain College who shape and help us. I am grateful of Champlain's guidance and to have had the opportunity to connect with some amazing and influential people in this room.

Seniors of 2015, stay hungry, stay foolish, stay golden, and congratulations. Thank you.


The Class of 2015 will graduate on May 9. 


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.