BY Sara Chase, For the Ashland Daily Press
“Commencement—it doesn’t sound like an ending it sounds like a beginning,” said Northland College President Dr. Michael A. Miller Saturday in his greeting at the college’s commencement for its 2014-15 graduates.
The ceremony for Northland’s 112 graduates, their family and friends in attendance was held in Kendrigan Gymnasium, where they formally received their bachelor’s degrees in arts and science to become college graduates and firstname.lastname@example.org.
President Miller continued on to offer his sincere gratitude and advice. He told the graduates to be adventurous, have new experiences, take risks, travel, try new things and stay in touch.
“Many voices in this group, all voices in this group came here to make a better world so I invite you to think about how you remain focused,” he said. “Go do remarkable work!”
A Conferral of Doctor of Public Service Degree and Conferral of the Eagle Feather and the Drum Honor Song were presented to Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer before she delivered the commencement address. Kimmerer began by introducing herself in Potawatomi and talking about the many things we have to be grateful.
“Let us begin with gratitude, for we are all, everyone one of us, showered with daily gifts of the earth,” she said, pointing out that both commencement speakers were Native American women scientists. “Together we can be proud of this wonderful institution dedicated to liberal arts in service and sustainability, educating for the world we need and most importantly for the needs of the world.”
Kimmerer offered the advice that “gratitude is the seed of happiness,” and that “practicing gratitude is a truly radical act in a consumption driven society.” She presented gifts of gratitude for the college to President Miller and Katrina Werchouski of the Indigenous Cultural Center.
Kimmerer also talked about some of the issues we have in our world regarding the earth and the point we are at with our environment.
“We have the technological solutions, we have the science, we have everything we need to change the world except the political will to do it,” she said. “We can’t just change light bulbs, we have to change hearts. We have to change the story.
“Together we can tip the balance, our acts have more meaning today than at any time in history. We need leaders, we need dreamers, we need gardeners and scientists and artists, as counter weights to the forces that would throw it all away, we need educated people.”
Student speaker Stephanie Muise began by thanking Dr. Kimmerer for her words and thanking those in attendance. She then asked everyone to remember that it was Memorial Day weekend and as a person who was once in the United States Coast Guard, requested everyone to take a moment of silence to remember those who did not come home, prisoners of war, those who died or were injured.
Muise continued to thank and congratulate her fellow students and thank the professors, faculty and staff for shaping, motivating and pushing them. She talked about how the pursuit of happiness is a common goal that unites all of humankind.
“It is important to remember that happiness is not a destination, it’s a journey,” Muise said. “Not a simple one, nor a quick one, but an adventure that will stick with us for the rest of our lives.”
She reminded everyone that they are in control of their lives, asking them to move forward with courage and purpose.
“Follow your heart and your dreams; own that journey, own your happiness,” she said. “This life is yours to make of it what you will. Make it positive.”
The ceremony included an Invocation, Ojibwe Pipe Ceremony and a Conferral or giving of honors both to graduates and speakers. A strong sense of community and themes of hope and happiness were prevalent throughout the ceremony.
After the ceremony, graduate Theresa Stewart shared about the sense of community and family she experienced at Northland.
“We’re all really close,” she said. “We all go to everything together.”