Graduation—A transition to lifelong learning
If you think of graduation as a celebration of accomplishment, then I invite you to broaden your view. Today’s graduate probably isn’t the fresh-faced twenty-something who went directly from high school to higher education. More likely, he or she is 30 or 40 with family responsibilities and a job.
Because our student population is changing, the meaning of graduation is also changing. Today, it could symbolize embarking into the world, but it can also be an inspiration for students to remain involved in the ‘academic community’ by pursuing another degree, teaching, or managing learning institutions and programs.
Consider that there’s been an increased interest in higher education as the economy struggles to right itself. The question being asked is whether to remain in school to replace obsolete skills with new ones or jump into work following graduation.
I invite you to ask graduates another question: Why not stay connected to a profession that is always needed—education? You could make a difference by encouraging students to become life-long learners or serve others by becoming teachers or school administrators, providing them a way to give back to their own rewarding educational experience.
Education is a lifeline
The academic community has been my anchor. I began as an educator for University of Phoenix in 1994 while still in the Navy. After my retirement from military service, I continued teaching part-time while earning my doctorate. It seemed to me that gaining more education was a sure way to improve my life—but it became so much more.
I became an Associate Dean in the College of General and Professional Studies in 2000, and then the Dean in the School of Advanced Studies a few years later. In 2004, I went back to teaching part-time while starting a new consulting business.
For the past 15+ years, I’ve been involved in the academic community in one form or another and I’ve been rewarded in many ways.
The connections that I’ve formed with peers in the academic community have been universally fulfilling and significant. I’ve collaborated on many research and business projects, reached out to academics for feedback and opinions, and shared mine with my colleagues—which is what happens in work teams. The connections we form can be dynamic, worthwhile, and long-lasting.
University of Phoenix graduates have an understanding of these types of connections, because they began forming bonds with peers as they participated in active learning teams. While they work in these teams, students rely on each other to share in completed projects and assignments, fostering collaboration and many other skills.
You can make a difference
Beginning a degree program is an enormous commitment to the future. To a student, when graduation weekend arrives, so has their future. And, as some stand at this important moment of transition, they may be searching for a new direction.
Most adult learners have taken on a degree to get ahead or stay current in their profession. But now that time has passed, those reasons may be obsolete. And during their educational journey, graduates may be able to envision greater possibilities for themselves.
What better place to discover a new passion for learning than graduation weekend at University of Phoenix? During this celebratory time, students will have an opportunity to mingle with the academic community in the form of peers, faculty, and mentors. For online students, this may be their first real glimpse into the academic community beyond the virtual setting. Having a face-to-face celebratory commencement ceremony allows one to participate in the academic culture to yet another level.
By sharing your commitment to education, you can be the difference between whether a student commits to lifelong learning, becoming a faculty member, or serving in the academic field in one capacity or another. By sharing your time to be at a commencement ceremony you then set a fine example for students to emulate.
Consider that interactions during graduation weekend can become a deeper exploration of the shared educational journey. This may be the time where students discover that they have a true affinity for learning, academic debate and the constant pursuit of knowledge, which is what the academic community is all about.
We are stewards of the academic community
I’ve had the privilege of attending both on-campus and online graduation ceremonies during my time with University of Phoenix. I am a firm believer that faculty serve students during and after graduation. It’s important that we recognize our graduates for their educational accomplishment and their families for their support. Because of this, I recommend encouraging students to attend their graduation ceremonies.
As faculty, we are the senior members of the academic community. Our role is to represent the benefits of a life dedicated to advancing education. As we know, it is rewarding in more ways than one—the camaraderie of academics, helping students improve their lives, and/or supporting an institution that exists to provide opportunities for students to learn and explore.
When you encounter a student who seems on the verge of deciding on whether to continue with school or serve others through education, please share your triumphs and beliefs about the academic community. If students choose to serve academia, and others, by teaching, studying or becoming an administrator for educational institutions, it benefits everyone.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.