I’m sure you’re seeing graduation “ceremonies” happening all over the country in a variety of new formats. The traditional gatherings which make each spring come to life had to be altered because of the current environment. I’m excited to see every type of ceremony occurring which have ranged from virtual Zoom commencements to semi in-person walkthroughs to meeting at drive-in theaters to a drive-by parade.
It’s important regardless of how graduation is occurring that the students get recognized for this milestone in their lives. There are students finishing up their time in high school, colleges and military academies. It will be a benchmark moment in their lives because no one has had to make such a shift in order to mark this accomplishment in the past. It hopefully will launch them forward to the next step in their lives and careers.
My kids are far past graduations of their own, so I was taken by surprise when I received a request from an HR peer who I have a unique tie with. Professor Mindy West from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. She teaches multiple HR courses at ASU along with Professor Eric Knott, Professor Karen Stafford and Professor Lisa Macaffe to help students graduate with a degree in Human Resources !!
The unique tie I have with Professor West is that she grew up in Ada, Ohio with me. Our families were very close and I knew her all through junior high and high school. A few years ago, I was speaking at a SHRM Annual conference when Mindy came up to talk to me after my presentation. I was geeked to reconnect and was tickled she was not only in HR herself, she was teaching the next generation of HR professionals.
Mindy reached out through Linked In and asked if I would be the commencement speaker for the ASU HR grads. I was touched and humbled to be considered. Secretly I’ve wanted to be a commencement speaker at some time during my life, so this was perfect.
The ceremony was to be virtual and through Zoom. I set up in my basement and joined the students and professors who were sitting in their houses with their caps and gowns on. Everyone jumped on the call and you could feel the joy and excitement of the students and their families as the chatter was going back and forth between all of them all at once. After a great orchestral prelude, Jennifer Pigeon, an HR pro who is active in SHRM of Greater Phoenix, sang the National Anthem and crushed it !! The emotions were even higher and there were a few tears shed.
Then my fellow Adaite introduced me and I got to congratulate the students and share with them how proud I am of them being not only my peer but also my future. I encouraged them to embrace HR as a phenomenal profession where they can lead, thrive and help their prospective companies by adding value and ensure a people-centric culture. I also asked them to network now and throughout their career.
After I finished, the students received a taped message from Cheryl Sandberg of Facebook !! It was amazing. However, the best part of the night was about to occur. The professors all took a few minutes to congratulate the students which was so heartfelt. You could see the time and effort they had invested in each other. Then . . . the students were recognized.
Professor West shared unique facts and future plans of each student and then she’d say, “Okay, unmute, and let’s hear from you and your family.” The small squares all over the screen erupted in screams, yells and words of praise and congratulations. Each student had their own time and we cheered for them as much as we could.
At the end of the ceremony, tears were streaming down my face that was smiling as broadly as I could manage. I will remember and cherish being a part of this graduation for the rest of my days. I’m sure my six-minute speech will long be forgotten, and that is absolutely fine. What matters is that in the midst of what seems like endless bleakness, you find light.
This graduation and the thousands happening everywhere at this time are a sign of hope and of moving forward. It’s time that we find more of these moments of life and celebrate them. It’s time to push back the darkness and take steps forward toward the future. I know these students are eager and we should be as well.
This week, continue to stay safe and also understand that you are a part of the present and future of the lives of everyone around you. Congratulations dear graduates !!
Originally published on the Everyday People blog.
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