A simple conversation a few months back gave me one of those “wake up calls” that most of us receive from time to time.
The conversation was with my student advisor at Southern New Hampshire University.
As I approaching not only the end of the current term but also completion of my MBA, she asked a simple question.
“Are you coming up for commencement?”
I live in Houston, TX. Southern New Hampshire University is…well…in Southern New Hampshire. It had honestly never dawned on me that I would, or even could, visit and participate in the graduation ceremony.
Being an online student, I just assumed they would mail me my diploma…or if I were so lucky, the wicked cool Winnebago would pull up and they’d come knocking on my door. How cool would that be?
My response to my advisor’s question was pretty simple. “Can I do that? I mean I’m just an online student. It’s not like I am real student.”
She scoffed at that…no…she actually put me in my place.
I was no less a “real” student than any of the on-campus students, certainly no less “real” than any of the thousands of students who have graduated since the school was founded in 1932.
It reminded me of a very interesting fact. We are what we tell ourselves we are. A few months back I wrote about taking control of our message. Redefining it when we needed to and about how we control the narrative we tell ourselves and others.
Well my advisor gave me a very real reminder of this fact that evening.
So there, on my patio I realized…I am a REAL student! Why wouldn’t I go to campus and participate in commencement with all my classmates?!
My wife and I flew north on Saturday morning and that evening I had the pleasure of putting faces to the names and voices of both my academic and career advisors. We had an incredibly fun dinner and then Sunday I “walked.”
I even found the winnebago!
Now I can honestly say I’ve never known a more encouraging, supportive culture in my academic or professional careers.
To say SNHU wants us, their students, to succeed is barely worth saying because it hardly captures the effort, the passion, the focus, drive, respect, altruism, and professionalism every corner of their organizational structure provided me throughout my tenure there.
During the commencement however, something else struck me. The president and other speakers repeatedly emphasized something that I truly took to heart, and something I think many of my classmates (that’s still so neat to say) also took to heart.
SNHU truly understands the unique stories that each of us brought to commencement. They value our individualism and, just as sacred, they value and cherish all the spouses, significant others, and family members that play such an undeniable role in getting us to that ceremony.
Most of us were from out of state. Most of us had full-time careers. Most of us children or parents or spouses or all of the above and more.
SNHU holds sacred the belief that the diploma I earned is as much about my own focus, drive, commitment, and ambition as it is about my wife’s, son’s, and parents’ support, encouragement, understanding, faith and love means everything to me.
Now SNHU gets a great deal of credit for being a non-profit university and for their innovation but for me they deserve the most credit for how they cherish their students and the people who stand next to us, behind us, and around us as we marched through classes week after week, long night after long night, whether in class or online.
To be true, SNHU has been the greatest educational experience of my life. (no offense to my beloved University of Houston)
Thank you to everyone at Southern New Hampshire for a valuable education, even more valuable experiences, and the most valuable thing of all – a reminder about what “real” is.
Until next time,
Be Well and Kind,