SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook congratulates a School of Nursing graduate at the fall 2018 commencement ceremonies.

EDWARDSVILLE - The 2018 Fall Commencement exercises concluded today in the Vadalabene Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville as Chancellor Randy Pembrook, PhD, bestowed degrees upon 1,217 eligible graduates during three ceremonies over two days.

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“We are proud of our 2018 SIUE fall graduates, who no doubt will fulfill our University mission of shaping a changing world,” Pembrook said. “We congratulate them on their hard work and persistence, which has led to degree attainment and accomplishing their educational goals. They join nearly 110,000 SIUE alums, a majority of whom are living in this area, in making a difference in their communities. Best wishes to the graduates and their families for a joyous commencement day and a wonderful holiday season.”

Sandra Weissinger, PhD, associate professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), was SIUE’s 2018 Teaching Excellence Award winner. Sarah VanSlette, PhD, associate professor of applied communication studies in CAS, was the 2018 Great Teacher Award recipient as selected by the SIUE Alumni Association. Both addressed graduates during the Saturday afternoon ceremony that featured the Graduate School, College of Arts and Sciences, and School of Engineering (SOE).

Weissinger spoke about not truly being ready for whatever occurs in life, despite our belief to the contrary. “The unknowable illuminates what is beautiful and captivating about the lives we live now, and the life that is ahead of us,” she said. “We will never be ready for the promotion, birth, death or tragic sickness that leaves us breathless, shaken and directionless. We will never be ready for the graduations, which usher us into a new level existence.

“But if we are willing to put one foot in front of the other – to move forward into what we cannot possibly be ready for; to move forward, even as our anxieties and the demons within provide pretty compelling arguments to slow down, stop or stay – we will find that the unknown is tolerable.

“If we are fortunate, observant and open to subtleties, we will find that we have done enough to endure just a little longer. To grow, just a little more; to thrive in ways we had never imagined possible.”

VanSlette explained that there is more work ahead. “I can give you a general preview of what’s to come, but you will have to face personal and professional challenges that will be unique to each and every one of you,” she said. “The exam that is ‘life’ is inevitable, and we’ve all just got to figure it out and do the best we can.

“Despite some uncertainty about what’s to come, I’m also here to tell you that you should be so proud of what you have accomplished thus far. The pursuit of knowledge that you have been engaged in is the key to professional and personal success.”

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Saturday afternoon student speaker and East St. Louis native Yelana Moton earned a bachelor’s in construction management from the SOE. After espousing the impact of SIUE’s values on her academic career, she mentioned the “Turtle Effect” that she heard from 1998 U.S. Olympic champion skier Nikki Stone.

“Turtles have a hard shell for protection. They move slowly, but still reach their destination, and they are willing to stick their neck out for their necessities and wants,” Moton said. “We should all learn something from this. Let’s be more like turtles!

“Move at your own pace. Life is not a race. Use that hard shell to protect what is important to you and necessary for survival. And don’t be afraid to stick your neck out. Take risks and get out of your comfort zone. You might just impress yourself! When you find what works for you, don’t forget to reach back and help somebody else along the way.”

Earlier Saturday morning, Springfield native John Thomas, who earned a bachelor’s in computer management and information systems, was the student speaker for the Graduate School, and the Schools of Business, and Education, Health and Human Behavior. He also led SIUE’s Army ROTC program as Cadet Battalion Commander.

Thomas challenged the graduating class to take on life and adapt to a dynamic environment. “When you think that your work is good enough, look again and see what you can do better,” he said. “When you think no one is looking to check the quality of your work, do it even better. When you are scared to take that step of advancement into a new job, idea or project, aim even higher.

“Finally, seek out opportunities and make the most of every opportunity presented, remember the values instilled at SIUE, do high quality and honorable work, and go build the life you want.”

The festivities began Friday afternoon as SIU System Interim President Kevin J. Dorsey, PhD, MD, addressed the SON graduates. “Thank you for representing yourselves, your families, and your alma mater in such an excellent manner over these past several years.” he said. “On this day, we applaud all that you have accomplished, and that accomplishment is life-altering. Your college degree is key to a wealth of opportunity. You have helped to enhance the reputation of our University, and we are confident that you will take what you have gained here and use it to great advantage, both for yourselves, as well as for the benefit of others.”

Student speaker Jessica Lohman, of St. Louis, earned a bachelor’s in nursing. She recognized that everyone has an “aha!” moment as she did upon deciding that women’s health nursing, specializing in labor and delivery, was her calling. “Through our clinicals in nursing school, each of you, my classmates and I experienced a moment of clarity where we realized we had found our perfect fit,” she said. “Whether that was the general medicine floor, the emergency department, the intensive care unit, the psychiatric unit, or the labor and delivery unit, it was incredible to see someone find where they were meant to be.

“I hope you will all continue to treasure your moment. Everything we have accomplished and overcome – the grueling schedules, challenging course work, our clinical rotations – all led us to find our place and get here, to this moment. It led us to a strong understanding of why we chose this profession, how we can best contribute to society, and be personally and professionally fulfilled.”

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville provides students with a high quality, affordable education that prepares them for successful careers and lives of purpose to shape a changing world. Built on the foundation of a broad-based liberal education, and enhanced by hands-on research and real-world experiences, the academic preparation SIUE students receive equips them to thrive in the global marketplace and make our communities better places to live. Situated on 2,660 acres of beautiful woodland atop the bluffs overlooking the natural beauty of the Mississippi River’s rich bottomland and only a short drive from downtown St. Louis, the SIUE campus is home to a diverse student body of more than 13,000.

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