Indiana State University Newsroom

What may seem unrealistic is within reach, commencement speakers say

May 6, 2013

The president of the Indianapolis City-County Council and one of their own who dreams of becoming a university president helped send Indiana State University graduates off Saturday.

Maggie Lewis, a Columbus, Ind. native and 1995 Indiana State graduate, dared the class of 2013 to chase their dreams even if they seem unrealistic. In her alumni address, she said she initially doubted she had what it took to lead the legislative body of the nation's 11th largest city.

"So what if I've lived with a 100-mile radius my entire life? And what's wrong with a person who simply enjoys serving others, leading and setting the agenda for the legislative body?" she said. "See, the problem with many of us is we convince ourselves of all the reasons we can't and we give up. We give up before we even get started."Lewis never gave up. After completing a bachelor's degree in community health education, she stayed at Indiana State and earned a Master of Public Administration degree.

She has worked for organizations serving veterans, drug-free and neighborhood initiatives, and is executive director of Dove Recovery House for Women, the largest half-way house in Marion County.

Lewis was elected to the city-county council in 2009. She was re-elected and selected as president in 2011.

Had she not set what at times felt like unrealistic expectations, Lewis said she would have been a teenaged parent receiving public assistance. But her mother, who was 16 when Lewis was born, urged her to get as much education as she could.

"Think about what you might accomplish if you directed all that compelling forceful energy toward convincing yourself of the things that you can do," Lewis said. "Thinking big means conjuring up a vision for yourself. It means taking your time, being reflective and then visualizing what it would be like if you could raise a magic wand and be exactly where you wanted to be in the next five years - even if it seems a little unrealistic at this moment."

While she urged graduates to dream big, she said they must be ready to start small.

"You work at the small things like it is a big thing, but as you dream and begin to catch your dream do not hurry. Do not think that you need to achieve everything right here right now. I'm here to tell you that there are no overnight successes," she said, adding that making mistakes and taking risks are part of the process.

"While chasing your dreams there may be days when you feel like that dark cloud is looming over your head. You may get overwhelmed with life," Lewis said. "There may be a day when you feel like you're pushing and pulling and fighting against the world and nothing is going your way and you just want to give up. But hear me and hear me clearly: You never have to push and fight alone. You see you have your mother, your father, your grandparents, your friends, your ISU family and you have me and we will be here cheering for you every step along the way."

Dean, who served as student speaker for Indiana State's 142nd commencement, said she has realized that some of the biggest blessings she has received were those she did not expect.

"Coming to Indiana State was unexpected. Picking a college was a hard choice, but my heart was set on moving out of state," she said.

But the Brazil, Ind. resident said "so many people," including her mom - who received a nursing degree from Indiana State - told her the best college was in her own back yard. "It seemed like everyone I talked to asked if I was considering ISU for college, but why?" Dean said. "For the first time in my college experience, I am 100 percent sure that I have the right answer. Indiana State was the best choice and so many people in this community and across the world know that."

Dean cited Indiana State's diversity and the caring approach of administrators and faculty.

"Did you know that our president sits down with random students just to see what they think about ISU and that the comments that students provide are taken under serious consideration?" she said. "I guess I always thought presidents didn't have time for things like that but ours makes time. I'm sure many of you have met our administrators because they walk the same paths as we do each day and they love to talk to students. Also, it seems like faculty members are always willing to help students in and out of the classroom and are curious to know more about our goals and dreams."

Though Dean spoke before Lewis, and the two did not collaborate, the student speaker told graduates of her own expectations that may seem unrealistic.

"I have this crazy career goal. It's crazy because few people ever achieve it. It's crazy because people my age rarely set their eyes on it. I want to be a university president." she said.

When she shared her ultimate career goal with her internship supervisor, the supervisor encouraged Dean to seek out an internship in Indiana State President Dan Bradley's office.

"Next thing I knew, I had the perfect opportunity just by asking," Dean said. "Now I realize that my dream of becoming a university president isn't so crazy after all, and thanks to a mentor who believed in me, I have taken some real action to achieve this goal."

Dean plans to enroll this fall at the University of Southern California to study strategic public relations.

More than 1,240 Indiana State graduates completed requirements for degrees this spring or will do so this summer and were eligible to participate in Saturday's commencement. About 1,135 took part in the ceremony, or more than 91 percent of those eligible

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or