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Advice from elementary school students to university chancellor offered to graduates

BOONE—More than 2,500 students graduating from Appalachian State University received life advice from the university’s chancellor, Watauga County elementary school students and a news co-anchor, or participated in a group sing-along during weekend commencement ceremonies.

View larger imageChancellor Kenneth E. Peacock presided over his 100th commencement ceremony at Appalachian State University May 11. Peacock, who is stepping down as chancellor at the end of June, told graduates of the College of Health Sciences and the Walker College of Business that he understood their anxiety and their apprehension about starting a new chapter in their life, just as he will be doing. (Photo by Marie Freeman)

The university held ceremonies for each of its seven degree-granting colleges or schools May 9-11.

College of Health Sciences

Appalachian’s Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock spoke to graduates of the College of Health Sciences during ceremonies May 10. Peacock is completing a 31-year career at Appalachian that began as an assistant professor in the Walker College of Business. He steps down as chancellor at the end of June.

He said that he shared the graduates’ excitement as well as their anxiety as each begins the next chapter in their life. Peacock urged the graduates to embrace change as they begin their careers. “Keep an open mind. Be receptive to new ideas and new thoughts and don’t allow the fear of failure to rule your life,” he said.

No job is a one-person job, added. “Work with a team, listen to others, be caring and concerned. You need the support of others at the office and at home,” he said.

Peacock asked graduates to be advocates for higher education. “Share your belief and your firsthand knowledge that education matters. Education is transforming, enriching, life changing. If you want to change the economy – support education,” he said.

Peacock also spoke to graduates of the Walker College of Business May 11 during his 100th and last commencement as chancellor of the university.

Reich College of Education

Darcy Grimes, the 2012-13 N.C. Teacher of the Year, spoke to Reich College of Education graduates during a mid-day ceremony May 10. An Appalachian graduate, Grimes is an instructional technology facilitator at Bethel and Mable elementary schools in Watauga County.

She brought advice from some of her students: Always brush your hair; get out of your mom’s house, get a good job and get a life; be yourself, don’t change for others: and don’t be afraid to show the world who you are.

One 6-year-old student’s advice for the graduates was to always remember to learn, “which I believe is the greatest advice that I can give you,” Grimes said. “No matter what you decide to do in the future, never stop learning.”

College of Fine and Applied Arts

News co-anchor John Carter, a graduate of Appalachian, spoke May 10 during afternoon ceremonies for the College of Fine and Applied Arts.

Carter is co-anchor of WBTV News This Morning and WBTV News at Noon. He also co-hosts WBTV’s monthly program Carolina Camera. He is a former member of the N.C. Senate and once owned a comic book shop.

He said that as much as he loved his time while a student at Appalachian and the different paths his career has taken, that “I think the best time of my life is yet to come and I hope that is true for you.”

Carter told graduates to look ahead and decide what they want out of life. “What do you want out of life, where do you want to be? If you have to change your mind that’s OK,” he said. “Follow your passion, apply yourself and do not be afraid to fail,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with failure unless you fail to learn from it.”

College of Arts and Sciences

Davidson College professor Magdalena Maiz-Peña, an expert in women’s studies and Latino studies was the speaker for the College of Arts and Sciences.

She shared how the humanities connect people to ideas, help them understand a shared heritage and celebrate diverse modes of thinking and can inspire them to become engaged in civic participation.

“The humanities create the means to open our minds,” she said. “They elevate the quality of our lives.”

She urged students to remain intellectually curious, have the courage to invite change by taking action, engage in public initiatives that spark dialogue, and support educational, public and nonprofit organizations that bring diverse communities together.

“What will you do with the ideas and skills you have acquired at this fine institution of higher learning,” Maiz-Peña asked. “My hope for each graduate today is that you will embark on an exploration of a world beyond what is familiar to you and that you will make the conscious decision to merge ideas and actions to make your mark.”

Hayes School of Music

Music educator Will Schmid talked about sustainable music for life and how music connects communities. Schmid is a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and initiator of the “Get America Singing Again Campaign.”

“What if music was positioned as absolutely essential to life,” he asked graduates. “That’s our goal to make it that way.”

He asked graduates not to think of themselves as only performers for the masses. “We perform at concerts all the time,” he said. “Do we ask the audience to participate or just ask them to receive? To illustrate his point, Schmid led graduates and the audience in singing the African-American spiritual “Over My Head.”

“I would rather have you think about a different model that asks what if everyone were a music maker, not just a listener, but someone who played, someone who sang, someone who made their own music,” he said. “We perform at concerts all the time. Do we ask the audience to participate or do they just sit there and receive.”

Schmid said music could help rebuild the sense of community that has been lost during the past two decades as people have become disconnected from their family, friends and neighbors, and belong to fewer organizations, as written about in the book “Bowling Alone.”

“People need to reconnect and you can make it happen,” he said. “Music is the tool that will work so well for that.”

Walker College of Business

“We are here because we are moving to a new chapter in our lives,” Appalachian’s outgoing chancellor and former dean of the Walker College of Business Kenneth E. Peacock told Walker College of Business graduates.

“For the first time, after all these ceremonies, I know how you feel,” he said. “We are excited about the new chapter of our lives even though we may not know what it brings, but thoughts of closing the chapter that we call the Appalachian years are a bit frightening for us.”

Peacock said being around bright, articular, fun-living young people had kept him young and made his time at Appalachian the most wonderful 31 years he could ever have dreamed of having.

He left graduates with some guidelines to follow. He said to embrace every opportunity to let others know that they care about them, chase opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life rather than chase the money or job title, and embrace every opportunity to learn.

“Seniors, let’s walk out of this building as we enter a new chapter of our lives and say we are ready, bring on the challenges,” he said. “We are going to make a difference in our world.”

Cratis D. Williams Graduate School

Graduate students Alex Kirk, a clinical psychology major, and Shannon Saville, a social work major, spoke during the Cratis D. Williams Graduate School ceremony May 9.

Kirk spoke of the opportunities he had been given while at Appalachian. “I was not given the option to do research or have clinical experiences. I had to,” he said. “This is why I came to App State. I was held to a standard that I believed would be essential should I want to succeed in helping fellow human beings in the future.”

Saville said her time at Appalachian had prepared her to be a social work clinician, an advocate for clients rights at the state and national levels, to manage an organization and pave the way for changes in the social work field.

She said her professors and internship supervisors, “shared with me their passion and dedication to this very important work, offering me the freedom and responsibility to navigate, research and practice in the field as I saw fit. They led the way towards discovering passions within me that I never knew existed and maybe would never have known without their tutelage.”