Commencement was wonderful. The festivities were enjoyable, moving, and thought-provoking, the mood buoyant, the weather great. I thank everyone who worked so hard to make the weekend a success. And I wish our graduates all the best as they proceed with their lives.
Earning an Oberlin degree is a remarkable achievement. It takes intelligence, hard work, creativity, and perseverance. Not surprisingly, those attributes underpin the lives and work of our alumni. Whether they are teaching high school English or heading the Centers for Disease Control, like Dr. Thomas R. Frieden ’82, Oberlin graduates strive to make the world a better place for all.
Many of our new alumni are heading to graduate school, starting jobs, or preparing to go abroad as Shansi fellows or as one of the 12 Oberlin grads who accepted Fulbright fellowships this year. That is our highest Fulbright total since 1958, and speaks well of our efforts to internationalize Oberlin.
Some of our young women and men are still pondering what to do. In my Commencement speech, I encouraged them to explore their options with enthusiasm, to stay in touch with people, and to reach out to the wider Oberlin family, meaning our faculty, staff, and alumni.
That sounds simple. But from discussions with students I know some of them are uncomfortable with networking. Meeting with alumni in St. Louis a few months ago, I had a conversation about that with a young couple, Erin Farrell ’04 and Brody Wilson ’02. Erin, an English major, is the associate director of development at Washington University in St. Louis. Brody, a double major in physics and trumpet performance, is an analyst and director of energy modeling at Energy Solutions Inc.
Erin and Brody told me that as undergraduates, they and many of their friends thought networking was pushy and uncool. But when they began building careers, both did contact Oberlin alumni, who turned out to be interesting people who were glad to offer advice and ideas.
In their experience, and mine, most people enjoy helping others who share their interests. And most Oberlinians do have certain traits in common. We love learning for learning’s sake. Culture, especially music, art, and theater, plays an important role in our lives. So does social activism. We strive to create positive change in the world. Networking with Oberlin alumni is a way of connecting with a community that shares those values.
That is why we encourage our graduates and current students to talk to you, our alumni, when they are thinking about their careers. These are particularly challenging times for students seeking jobs. If you have ideas for internships or winter-term projects that would benefit our students, or are interested in mentoring, we would appreciate your help. You can take the first step by contacting Liz Lierman, our assistant director of the Office of Career Services. Your involvement helps strengthen the big, diverse, and dynamic Oberlin family. I hope you are as proud to be part of it as I am.