This is the last blog piece I wrote as a Carroll Professor of Psychology before retiring in 2019. I plan to use it in a book I am hoping to pull together of my best blog pieces. My best wishes to faculty, administration, staff, students, and friends at this year’s Commencement. – David S,
As is my habit of the 4 decades, I am sitting in my office on this morning of Commencement — reflecting. I drive in early to ensure getting a parking place before the proud families start arriving. Even at this early hour Carroll staff and administrators are working (unheralded) to make this campus even more beautiful and welcoming for families on this special day. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, babies, babies-soon-to-join-the world—-the campus explodes with sounds, colors, emotions, and celebratory chaos. Often I walk around campus taking photos (or accepting an invitation to be photographed).
I don’t know this year’s senior class as well as I used to know them when I taught five or six different courses which drew freshmen through seniors. These last few years I have been pretty much a one trick grey mare teaching Statistics and Experimental Design. But every Commencement is special and this one I graduate with the seniors!
My Carroll life-time friend and business partner, Greg Schneider, shared with me William Bridge’s “Transition Framework” which I find quite relevant today. There are “Endings,” a “Neutral Zone”, and “New Beginnings.”
Endings involve disengagement, disidentification, disenchantment, and disillusionment but with time one reacts to an ending, realizes that one is headed to the neutral zone, and finds new sources of stability and guidance that helps one through the transition.
The “neutral zone” is characterized by confusion, resolution, and bipolar reactions. Moving through it involves embracing it, finding a regular time to reflect and reviewing one’s life as one puts the past in context in order to move on.
New beginnings involve understanding, acceptance, hope, and fondness – taking bold new actions as one tests adjustments in one’s life. Helping others struggling with the transition is in itself healing. Thank you, Greg for this guidance and support across the years.
A Carroll student asked if he could sit in on my last lecture. Alas, Antonio, I am still writing it but here are my unfinished notes.
- Be authentic
- Be sincere
- Be kind
- Be charitable
- Be generous
- Be open-minded
- Be resilient
- Be reflective
- Be attentive
- Be playful
- Be courageous
- Be …
My emotions are mixed—not unlike that of the soon-to-be-graduates. Joy—sorrow—elation—sadness—weariness—rejuvenation. At the end of the day — emptiness, and some poignant, positive residual reminders. I often tease my graduating research assistants that upon their exit from campus I “exorcise” our shared office space to better allow me to adjust to the temporary emotional vacuum caused by their absence from “Dr. David’s Neighborhood.” When you graduate, you remain in my memories as I have come to know you—and forever that age! Forever young.
My sitting on the stage has its liabilities as I’ll feel that I must behave uncharacteristically well mannered!
Each Carroll Baccalaureate and Commencement ceremony is special to me just as is each student whom I have gotten to know. I have chosen (or been called) to teach and to learn and though they (you) may not realize it, I truly do learn so much from my students and from the challenges of trying to teach them well.
Thank you, graduating seniors past and present (and for a few ever so short more years future) for all YOU have taught me. Put to good use your many talents, your energy, your playfulness, your empathy, your resilience and your creative ideas to making the world a better place. Come to appreciate (as I did upon graduating from Oberlin College in 1971) that you have been privileged to receive a good education due not only to your own sacrifices and hard work but also to the many members of the larger community whom you may never have met or whom you took for granted—Board Members, Administration, Staff, Faculty, and Alumni—who
deeply care about you.
I hear the sound of bagpipes and the bells call me.