Section Navigation

Success is possible in challenging times, Appalachian graduates told

Karen_Thomas_t_1.jpgBOONE—Nearly 1,300 candidates for graduation convened for their last official academic function Dec. 18 at Appalachian State University’s Holmes Convocation Center.

When Karen Thomas graduated from Appalachian in 1990, the job market was uncertain and the economy was on the verge of recession and there was conflict in the Middle East. But rather than fear the future, she made her dream of living and working in New York a reality, and as Appalachian’s graduation speaker she urged new graduates to follow their dreams as well.

Thomas is regional business manager of sales for North and South America at Bloomberg L.P.

“What was true in 1990 holds true today,” she told graduates. “Don’t waive the white flag of defeat. The American dream is alive and well, but not because you want it. You are going to have to work for your piece of that dream.”

Thomas said that keeping a positive attitude, staying true to her desires and dreams, and being willing to take risks helped her succeed in her career today.

She recounted how she endured a less than ideal work environment at her first job on the trading floor of the American Stock Exchange. Thomas, however, maintained a positive attitude in her work which led to a sales and marketing job at the exchange and later opened the doors to a career with Bloomberg, which at the time was a small startup company.

Thomas said that each opportunity that she has been given at Bloomberg had been based on the work that she had done in the prior role and the attitude that she had presented in those roles.

“Your attitude will take you further than any pedigree ever could,” she said. “Take it from a solid ‘C’ student. The right attitude can do wonders.”

Thomas shared the philosophy that has been invaluable in her professional and personal life.

“Individuality is priceless,” she said. “Be yourself, celebrate your uniqueness.”

She also told graduates to always be willing to take a chance. “Pursue your dreams with abandon, enjoy your successes, be humbled by your failures,” she said.

She added, “Count your blessings each and every day and be grateful for what you have learned and for what you have been given. This will help you stay true to your moral character.”

But no matter the advice they receive from others, each graduate is responsible for finding and making their own way, Thomas said. “You can do whatever you put your mind to do. Dream big and dream broad.”

A total of 1,066 undergraduate and 215 graduate students applied for December graduation.

“Those who come after you will be challenged by the legacy that you have left here at Appalachian from your tireless service to this university and to this community to your outstanding academic pursuits and your many achievements,” Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock told the graduates. “You have set the bar high for future Mountaineers. You are prepared; you will make a difference in our world.”