Every year at Spring Commencement, I realize how fast time flies. It seems like just yesterday when I crossed the stage to receive my own bachelor’s degree. Little did I know at that time that I would continue on, doing it twice more. This habit of lifelong learning has evolved throughout my career in higher education.
As I reflect back on the conclusion of my degree, I vividly recall feeling a myriad of emotions—hope and excitement for what awaited me, fear of heading out into the world, and even a bit of emptiness and sadness. Each fall and spring, as the semesters come to a close and many of our students prepare to launch into their careers, I sense that they too have many of these same feelings. I hear the excitement in their voices as they talk about their next adventures, but also see the tears in their eyes as they share their feelings about the conclusion of their years at Tech. From Blizzard T. Husky, a biological sciences grad, a hockey player, a sled head and our student commencement speaker; their sentiments about Tech were touching and abundant.
Similarly, I see some of these same feelings from students participating in the internationally recognized LeaderShape Institute. I recently had the good fortune of serving as a lead faculty member for the program at Cornell University. Watching students arrive on day one, I could see the wonder on their faces and sense the enthusiasm in their strides. Over the next six days, the students were given numerous opportunities to learn about themselves, others, and the world in which we live. They experienced feelings of happiness, uncertainty, and vulnerability while focusing on their core values and learning to lead with integrity. Like Tech students at graduation, these LeaderShape students left feeling hopeful, and a bit sentimental.
Feelings of hope and joy should be expected as we journey forward and move from one chapter to the next. But feelings of sadness and loss are equally important. While they may be in conflict with one another, these are the feelings that remind us about the power of life’s experiences. Like the four or five years spent at Tech or the six days at LeaderShape, every day is an opportunity, an experience to live. The power of both experience and emotion is what fuels our happiness and evokes strong feelings of where we’ve been—and where we’re going.