It’s been just over a month since the 239 Communication Studies undergraduate students waved goodbye to the city of Ann Arbor and became a part of the University’s vast alumni network. Each year, family and friends from near and far gather together in the historical Michigan Theater to watch their loved ones cross the academic finish line. As the graduates marched in for one last hurrah, the daunting thought of entering “the real world” suddenly started to become visible. However, the wistful goodbyes were coupled with a sweet sense of gratitude for the Department of Communication Studies, given the faculty’s dedication to preparing their undergraduate students for post-graduate success. At last, Undergraduate Coordinator Cheryl Erdmann gave the signal for all students to be seated and the commencement ceremony was underway.
Department Chair and Professor Robin Means Coleman kicked-off the ceremony by asking the soon-to-be graduates to join her in giving a rousing Wolverine welcome to the guests by shouting a hearty “Go Blue!” Coleman’s opening remarks highlighted the valuable skills that our students have learned as communication studies majors, while also touching on certain challenges many are likely to face in the near future. Her speech emphasized the University of Michigan as an institution, noting that the school rejects so-called “commodity education.” Coleman concluded her speech by affirming the importance of a liberal arts degree in “developing leaders who will challenge the present and enrich the future” and encouraging the Class of 2016 to take risks in all future endeavors.
Following Coleman’s speech, two of our exceptional graduate student instructors were awarded the 2015 McDonald Outstanding GSI Award. The award is given in honor of career journalist Glenn McDonald to graduate students who go above and beyond in “teaching excellence.” Congratulations to both Caitlin Lawson and Jessica Moorman, who certainly proved their dedication to educating others in the field of communication studies!
Honors Advisor and Professor Scott Campbell then took the stage to highlight the prestigious, yearlong undertaking of our two honors students: Amie Sarah Diamond and Madeleine Rose Kimble. Students in the honors program are given a special opportunity to design and conduct an individual research project during their senior year and write a thesis on the results of their research. Way to go!
After introducing Diamond and Kimble, the Mark Foote Distinguished Thesis Award was presented. Established in 2003, this award is given to a Communication Studies undergraduate student for the most outstanding senior thesis. The winner was…drum roll, please…Madeleine Rose Kimble! Congratulations!
It was then time for our student speakers to talk: MACS President Hannah Schiff and MACS Executive Vice President Jordan Gavens. Both students highlighted the various ways that Michigan has impacted their lives and the strong connection they will forever have with this institution. As Schiff put it, “Everyone at U of M shares a love and bond to our school that will stay strong no matter where we end up.” Gavens showed her school appreciation by thanking all the professors “for encouraging us to work to our fullest potential, but to also take advantage of every aspect of the University of Michigan.”
Last but not least, our respected keynote speaker, Heather Kadin, gave some valuable words to the class of 2016. A graduate of the University of Michigan herself, Kadin began her television career back in 2000 when she joined ABC Television as a drama executive and was integral in the development of some of the network’s longest-running series, including “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives.” Today, Kadin currently serves as President of the Television Division at the production company, K/O Paper Products. She is also executive producing the new upcoming “Star Trek” series. Needless to say, it was a great privilege to have such a successful U-M Communication Studies graduate participate in our ceremony!
After reflecting on some of her own wistful undergraduate memories in Ann Arbor, Kadin began by explaining some challenges she faces in the television industry, as it’s a career that certainly “requires tough skin.” Kadin made it clear though that she would never conduct herself and perform her job at the expense of being an honest and caring person. She hoped all the grads would pledge to do the same, as she explained, “Regardless of the career path you take, there will be compromises along the way, but you should never compromise your soul.” As her six-year-old son put it, “It doesn’t matter who you are on the outside, it matters who you are on the inside.”
Kadin later acknowledged that “no one is perfect,” and her success is credited to the fact that she is “always a work in progress.” During her years of experience, she has found that the most successful people are “those open to constructive criticism,” so she encouraged students to show eagerness to learn from failures or challenges. “Nothing shows more confidence than the ability to admit that there is something you don’t know, and then work to find the answer.”
We hope that Kadin’s inspiring words resonate with all our graduates as they move into the next phase of their lives. Our ceremony concluded with the grand finale: the presentation of certificates to members of the class of 2016! The audience and fellow graduates watched and applauded as the students proudly walked across the stage to accept their certificate. And just like that, all 239 undergraduates officially became graduates of the University of Michigan! Go Blue!
The Department of Communication Studies would like to congratulate all the students of the class of 2016 one last time—you did it!