A Lesson for Graduates: Look For Opportunities, Not Excuses

Saturday, December 12 2009

Written by Tania Thompson

MOSCOW, Idaho – John S. "Jack" Morris finds teachable moments at every turn. Morris, dean of the University of Idaho College of Business and Economics, drew upon examples from the business world in his remarks to graduating students today at the university's winter commencement ceremony in Moscow. He offered a short lesson about finding success in the face of adversity as students prepared to embark on their lives as professionals and citizens: think about what you want to stand for. Some 700 students were eligible to graduate in December from the university.

"Challenging circumstances offer the opportunity for leadership and success," he said and encouraged students not to abandon their core values and beliefs.

University President Duane Nellis acknowledged that today's graduates are stepping into a "wonderful, yet complicated world" filled with many challenges -- but a world filled with the opportunity to make a difference.

"I know you all will contribute significantly as leaders to whatever field, whatever passion you've chosen," Nellis said. "That’s part of your heritage as a University of Idaho graduate: you are joining a legacy that has built and continues to lead this great state and that has had a significant impact on our nation."

Nellis said the reward for all the graduates' hard work is the degree they've earned, but with it "comes an obligation to carry what you have learned forward. It is a responsibility to use your education to be active and informed citizens, to set high expectations and important goals for yourselves."

Morris used brief case studies of business successes and failures as lessons in leadership and brand development and encouraged students to "remember what made you successful and try to recreate those conditions every day."

He challenged graduates to pay attention to their own distinctive personal brand -- "your own promise wrapped in a set of experiences" -- because that will define their path to success.

"The good news is that the University of Idaho is part of your personal brand and our graduates all have an opportunity to standout from the crowd and create a distinctive brand. Indeed our promise to you is a legacy of leading and you have all been a part of the rich experiences that will help you deliver on that promise," Morris said.

"Experiences like working with leading researchers or sharing your knowledge with communities … or participating in the model United Nations competition in New York or running a business … or learning about teamwork and leadership as a Vandal athlete. These experiences will help distinguish you and your brand," he added

"Celebrate your successes with openness to new ideas, take care of your brand and look for opportunities, not excuses," Morris concluded.

The ceremony was the 115th commencement for the University of Idaho. The university also holds commencement ceremonies in May in Moscow, as well as separate ceremonies at its Idaho Falls, Boise and Coeur d'Alene centers. The institution has awarded a total of 106,327 degrees.

The commencement ceremony will be available for on-demand Web-based viewing on Dec. 14: www.uidaho.edu/commencement/wintercommencement.aspx.

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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation classification for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.