This weekend the University of Idaho’s alumni base increases by more than 1,500. These dedicated and determined students weathered a pandemic that threatened to interrupt their education and remained focused on the prize – a world-class education at the best value university in the West.
We celebrate their accomplishments with six ceremonies in Moscow this weekend and follow up with ceremonies in Boise and Idaho Falls next week. These in-person ceremonies seem almost unreal after the past year. To be back together in the Kibbie Dome fills me with a sense of accomplishment, appreciation and Vandal spirit.
That spirit exists in our graduates, as well.
While Boise’s Tristin Bowens prepared for commencement by pushing through final exams, her dad, Alfred, walked back and forth to the mailbox to build his strength. His failing health nearly left him unable to share in his daughter’s journey to be the kind of doctor she saw help him.
Now with two freshly minted degrees – microbiology and molecular biology – Tristan will apply to Idaho WWAMI, the U of I’s unique and long-standing medical program operated in collaboration with the University of Washington Medical School. She wants to practice rural medicine – a goal Idaho WWAMI was designed to fulfill.
We train students so they can serve Idaho – and beyond. For Olivia Murphy-Sweet, Idaho lived only in stories told by her Vandal parents. Her dad’s Naval service meant her reality was moving around the world. But from her undergraduate days at Penn State and research on 4-H in Belize, followed by a stint in the Peace Corps, she brought her global perspective to her master’s program at the University of Idaho. Here, she worked with Idaho agriculture teachers to develop a global citizenship unit – growing global awareness and connecting rural students to the world.
Every single graduate brings their own success story to the commencement stage. While they each followed their own course to get to this point, this weekend they will all walk the same one – the path to becoming a Vandal alum. It is a path that allowed me to work at locations across the planet and led me back to Idaho to help others achieve their dreams. As we watch these students cross the stage and march into the ranks of alumni, we should all reflect on what the Vandal experience has meant to each of us. The University of Idaho enabled us to write our own unique story and now we can help the next generation of Vandals write theirs.