Indiana State University Newsroom

Grads share selfies; speakers urge accountability, helping others

May 9, 2015

The use of cell phones is normally discouraged during commencement ceremonies, but Indiana State University graduates reached inside their gowns on Saturday and whipped out their smart phones even as university President Dan Bradley was speaking.

"Graduates, I would like you to recognize someone who helped you get here today by taking out your cell phones - and I know you all have them - and posting a selfie that includes a thank you to them. Please include the hashtag ‘Sycamore Alum.'"

Bradley congratulated not only the class of 2015 but also "everyone who has contributed to our graduates' success" and said he continues to be impressed with all that Indiana State students accomplish.

"I'm looking forward to seeing you enthusiastically apply your skill and knowledge that you have learned and garnered while at Indiana State to advance your career, serve your community and literally help change the world," he said.

Alumni speaker Christine Hill told graduates their degrees have the potential to create circumstances and offer choices that can change lives far beyond their own."

"The equity of your degree is not determined by your accomplishments alone. It reflects value created by the efforts of the thousands of graduates before you; by the professors, coaches, administrators and community support who worked to establish and continue to evolve this university," said Hill, a 1994 graduate who is an executive with Eli Lilly and Co.

"The future equity of all our degrees as ISU alumni will now also be based partially on the contributions you make," she said. "The founder of the company I work for, Col. Eli Lilly, said, ‘Take what you find here and make it better and better.' That is good advice for all of us."

As they use their graduation milestone as a springboard for their futures, "know that we are never truly alone," Hill told graduates. "You make a difference ... Life is a series of circumstances. Embrace who you are. We all know people with seemingly the same circumstances. They are often only differentiated by their attitude and their choices - and that makes all the difference."

Life is also a series of choices, she said, calling on graduates to decide who they want to be, make the decisions to become that person and then be accountable for their choices.

"Own your great (choices) and your poor ones," Hill said. "Words like, ‘I'm sorry; you were right; and I'll do better next time' can go a long way to getting the opportunity to make a good choice after a bad one."

Hill closed her remarks by asking graduates to think about the most exceptional thing they will do next week, next year and for the next generation.

"What will you do for someone else's exceptionality?" she said.

About 1,900 students completed bachelor's, master's, educational specialist and doctoral degrees this spring or will do so this summer. That's about 200 more graduates than last year and 700 more than just two years ago. The increase prompted a move to two commencement ceremonies this year.

Indiana State's commitment to community service has allowed graduates to realize how they can share their talents to help others, said chemistry graduate Daniel Burkett, student speaker for the College of Arts and Sciences and Bayh College of Education. Marketing major Jonathan Wachala told fellow graduates they have the power to write their own life stories. Wachala served as student speaker for the Scott College of Business, College of Technology and College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services.

"In addition to exceling in the classroom and in their careers, we Sycamores have demonstrated an unbelievable degree of selflessness," said Burkett. "Your selfless devotion to improving the community has earned ISU the accomplishment of being No. 1 in community service. Serving our community has allowed us to realize how we can share our incredible talents to improve a person's quality of life, and it has grounded us, ensuring we do not take our considerable talents for granted."

Burkett called on graduates not to accept the status quo "as a limitation to affecting meaningful change."


Citing the recent controversy over the passage of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he said, "Regardless of where you fall on the issue, we must take it upon ourselves to defend a society that embraces justice and equality for all. We cannot allow prejudice in any form to deny a person the ability to share his or her gifts with the world. As new graduates, we stand equipped with the power of education and a diverse array of skillsets which we must use to inspire meaningful change in our communities."

Transitioning from college to the real world is no simple task, said Wachala.

"It can be daunting, nerve-racking and even, at times, debilitating. But it can also be beautiful, cathartic and exhilarating," he said. "No matter what events have defined your life, at this very moment you have the power to compose your story. You have the power to decide the words, the pages and the chapters that will be written. You have the power to introduce the plot twists, the obstacles and the characters you will meet."

Wachala cited three lessons from the Indiana State experience: that learning is not a moment in life but life itself, that failure is the inevitable first step to achievement and that "success" should not be in the dictionary.

Saying that Indiana State has immersed graduates in the spirit of learning, he called on classmates "to learn from every grand experience, every small conversation and every mistake."

There is no single meaning of "success," Wachala said.

"Too often, we are led to believe that money or job titles define success. But this is not the case. Instead, follow your passions and never look sideways," he said. "You should set your own benchmark; set your own goals and define success for yourself. Celebrate others as they achieve their own successes, but never compare. The moment you compare your success with another's is the moment you lose sight of who you are and who you can become."

Photo: - Indiana State University graduates take ‘selfies' to share with people who helped them achieve their goals during commencement ceremonies on May 9, 2015.

Photo: - Christine Hill, a 1994 Indiana State University graduate and an Eli Lilly and Co. executive, addresses graduates during the university's spring commencement May 9, 2015.

Photo: - Daniel Bukett of Terre Haute, who completed a bachelor's degree in chemistry, delivers the 2015 spring commencement student address for Indiana State University's College of Arts and Sciences and Bayh College of Education May 9, 2015.

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