College education helped winter commencement speaker put together puzzle pieces of life

December 8 2006

When Melissa Wolter was 6 years old, she struggled with a Ninja Turtles puzzle. When she was 18 years old, she struggled with the puzzle of her future.

Now at 21, she has been able to put some of the pieces of her future together with the help of Indiana State University.

Wolter, a senior English major at ISU, will tell her puzzling story in her speech as the undergraduate speaker at ISU?s 2006 Winter Commencement.

"Putting a puzzle together is only easy if you have all the pieces provided for you," she said in her speech. "We came to Indiana State with a blank slate, and, upon reflection, we find that ISU has provided us with many of the necessary pieces for success."

Wolter of Marshall, Ill., the daughter of Steve Wolter, and Nancee and Kevin Snedeker, was chosen as the Winter Commencement speaker by a panel made up of students, faculty members and administrators.

Jan Arnett, dean of students, said the panel looks at many things when choosing a student commencement speaker - quality of the speech, grade-point average, leadership and diversity.

"We try to have diversity in the speakers, various kinds of diversity," Arnett said, "such as hometowns, majors, cultural and ethnic. But basically, we look for the best speech."

Wolter met all the criteria for a good commencement speaker, Arnett said.

"Melissa is a great role model for students," she said. "She's well-known on campus for her contributions, her work ethic and her positive attitude."

Arnett said Wolter?s speech with the theme of putting the pieces of life together was the best speech because of its uniqueness.

"We want the speech to address all of the constituents present at commencement, the graduates, first and mostly, but also their families, and the faculty and staff, too," she said.

Wolter said she wanted to address the students who loved their time at ISU as much as she did.

"I really love ISU," she said, "and I thought by being the commencement speaker, I could show everyone how much I loved it here."

One of her goals, too, was to give a speech that could relate to the graduating students and their families.

With the wide variety of experiences Wolter has had at ISU, it should be easy for many other graduates to relate.

As Wolter said in her speech, Indiana State University gives student many pieces for success.

"One of the pieces is certainly academics," she said in her speech. "Our diverse educational experiences here at Indiana State have given us a foundation of broad-based knowledge that is transferable to any aspect of the work world."

Wolter's educational experience began with an English education major. She has since changed her major to English with the hopes of pursuing a master's degree, at ISU, in student affairs.

"Indiana State has provided us with another important piece of our puzzle, which is experiential learning," she said in her speech. "Many of us have had the opportunity to do internships, practicum work or student teaching. Sometimes the most powerful experiential learning opportunity is one that shows us what not to do."

After teaching in the classroom, Wolter decided the college atmosphere is really where her interest lies.

Wolter's involvement on campus fueled those interests, despite the obstacle of being a student commuter from Marshall, Ill. She's a prime example that off-campus students can be involved with on-campus activities.

As Wolter said in her speech, "Our leadership experiences have given us life-long skills that will be used on our career paths. The groups we have been involved in have given us the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of people that may have changed our perspectives."

Wolter's main involvement while at ISU was with Delta Gamma women's sorority. "Delta Gamma has been a huge part of my experience at ISU," she said. "Almost everything I did stemmed from being in that organization."

Wolter's other activities include serving as an executive officer for Panhellenic Council, which oversees ISU's social sororities; serving as a student justice for the all-university court; working as a Learning Community Peer Assistant (LCPA) to help first-year students; and working for ISU's Student Employment Program in the Career Center.

Wolter's many different experiences helped her choose her career path with student affairs.

"Working on campus and being involved in different organizations gave me a taste for student affairs," she said.

She hopes to satisfy her appetite for student affairs through an assistantship, while working toward her master's degree at ISU.

"I hope to get an assistantship with Residential Life or Student Activities and Organizations," she said. "Besides programming for Delta Gamma, I have no experience event planning, and I've never lived on campus, so I would love to see how the residence halls run."

With the pieces of the puzzle provided to her by ISU, Wolter said she is prepared to go to graduate school, to work at an assistantship and to fit in any more pieces of her life that may come along.

"Indiana State has given you and me several pieces of the puzzle which are being only formally handed to us today," she said in her speech. "Now it is our job to put the rest of the pieces in place and make the picture complete."


PHOTO: A publication-quality, high-resolution photo of Melissa Wolter is available at:
Melissa Wolter

CONTACT: Jan Arnett, dean of students, Indiana State University, (812) 237-8111,

WRITER: Megan Anderson, Communications & Marketing, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3773,

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Story Highlights

Melissa Wolter, a senior English major from Marshall, Ill., will tell her puzzling story in her speech as the undergraduate speaker at ISU?s 2006 Winter Commencement.

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