Transfer student, Nancy Patterson, was tapped to give the keynote address during the December 2016 graduation ceremonies. Nancy transferred to Appalachian from Auburn University in the Fall of 2014 and graduated this semester with a Bachelor of Social Work degree with a minor in Spanish. Originally from Phoenix, AZ, Nancy found a home in the Boone community where she served as a youth mentor for the Western Youth Network, a volunteer for FARM Café, and as the intern for Hispanic Outreach for the Gear Up program. Nancy was also an OASIS volunteer who served on the Spanish crisis line and as a Spanish-speaking judicial systems advocate. She has participated in two study abroad opportunities in Oaxaca and Guanajuato, Mexico. Nancy has been named to the Chancellor’s List and Academic Honor roll since enrolling at Appalachian and is a departmental honors recipient. In addition to many other honors, Nancy is a 2016 Beaver College of Health Sciences Student Academic Award recipient, a 2016 Bobby L. Dunnigan Leadership Award winner, and a 2016 Leigh Lane Spirit Award winner. While at Appalachian, she has also been employed by the Plemmons Student Union, the Office of Admissions Student Call Center and the OASIS Shelter. She is applying to Master of Social Work programs and hopes to provide bilingual social work services and continue research on migration trends and policies, while also contributing to her community.
Below is a copy of her graduation keynote address:
Class of 2016, I am very humbled and honored to be in front of so many talented scholars and soon-to-be alumni. I would like to begin by thanking the Beaver College of Health Sciences for inviting me to speak today, and the department of social work for instilling in the college and myself the confidence to be here. I would like to thank the university as a whole for providing for all of us a welcoming space to explore our interests and develop our passions. Personally, I owe much to the student union where I've worked and built friendships over the past two years, the office of international education for making possible opportunities abroad, and the faculty of social work for encouraging every academic pursuit and challenge throughout my education as a social work major. I am sure each of you has mentors and supporters that mean just as much to you. I transferred to this university two years ago, but within two months I was welcomed into the community here on and off campus. I gained a sister through my role as a mentor with Western Youth Network, and I thank the network and my mentee Laura for becoming my extended family here in Boone. I also must thank my parents and four siblings, for their unwavering support and believing in me before I did, that I could come this far. And finally, I thank the community of Boone and the greater Appalachian region for all that I've learned outside the classroom. Each of you can also reflect upon those who have welcomed you and those who have offered support from home. Let’s take a moment to thank them with a round of applause.
Becoming involved off-campus during my time here, I have learned the importance of service. I can say with confidence that service is an integral part of the culture that makes up this student body. If there is one thing you walk away with today, I hope it is the inspiration to continue being an integral part of your community, wherever that may be. If we go through life with only the willingness to engage in projects that include monetary reward, we will greatly limit our ability to expand our perspective and learn from diverse experiences. Activist Cesar Chavez once said "We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own. The end of all knowledge should be service to others." I have no doubt your education and experiences at Appalachian have impacted you, and I challenge you to extend that impact to others moving forward through service and volunteering not for a resume but for the sake of growing positive relationships and healthy communities.
The topic of community brings up another important understanding I gained during my time here, and that is the understanding that everyone carries a different story. I've learned the importance of acknowledging differences in experience based on the distinct roles and identities we each embody. Diversity of experience brings unique opportunities for introspection and collaboration. So as we move out into the world, let us not allow our differences to be divisive, but rather remain aware, have a willingness to listen with an open-mind, and appreciate what we can learn from each other. This, to me, is the foundation of building communities that will work together through both hardships and triumphs.
Lastly, I would like to address the importance of never losing your willingness to pursue your passions. My thesis chair and most admirable professor, Dr. Phillips, taught me that finding an issue you are passionate about can be trying and sometimes exhausting. But it is also a gift. Not everyone gets the opportunity to explore so many interests and issues as we have during our time here as students. Cling tightly to what makes you feel purposeful and excited to get up in the morning, and allow that passion to motivate you post-graduation. As you continue discovering and pursuing your passions, I leave you with the words of Educator and Civil Rights Leader, Howard Thurman. They are words that carried me throughout my most challenging semesters here. Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” And with that, I extend my deepest appreciation and congratulations to the class of 2016. Indeed you have come alive, and you areprepared now more than ever to bring your talents, knowledge, and humble service to the world.
In closing, I’d like to thank someone whose passion for and commitment to our college has been unrivaled. As he moves on to become president of another university, we wish our founding dean, Dr. Fred Whitt, the best on this new part of his journey.
Congratulations class of 2016.