What are the lasting lessons our students take with them?

View from the stage at spring commencement, Ohio Stadium

After the frenzied end-of-semester activities that seem infinite, but are all too soon over, it was nearly surreal to sit on the stadium stage, thinking about how much fun it was to be participating in my first Ohio State spring commencement ceremonies.

Commencement at Ohio State is unlike any other—remarkable in part for the fact that in this vast arena, with more than 10,000 students about to graduate, each one—EACH ONE—will receive his or her diploma personally from the hand of the dean of his or her college.

To me, this is just one of the many ways Ohio State signals the idea that our students are NOT numbers. They are individuals—each unique; each important; each respected. I personally passed diplomas into the outstretched hands of 600 arts and sciences students, while divisional deans Peter March, Mark Shanda and Kathleen McGraw (substituting for Gifford Weary) handed out a nearly equal number.

A lot of diplomas, a lot of promise and a lot of smiling faces about to embark on a new phase of their lives. Were they prepared?

We know an arts and sciences education is powerful preparation to meet the real world.

We give our students the basic foundational tools:

  • Comprehensive courses in the arts and humanities, in the natural and mathematical sciences, and in the social and behavioral sciences—covering the spectrum of what it means to be an educated person. Courses that impart a sense of history, language, literature and culture; the ability to think critically, to question constantly, to function effectively alone and in groups; a sense of social responsibility and the life-skills to be citizens of the world.
  • Intensive academic training in their areas of interest, guided by experts in the fields they hope to enter and make their mark in.
  • We encourage collaborations across disciplines to explore potentials and possibilities.
  • They are armed with indispensable tools for success in an ever-changing world: creative, critical, visionary thinking; the ability and desire to ask BIG questions; the confidence to never give up; the motivation to keep learning; the inspiration to step out of their comfort zones and tackle BIG problems.

We’ve done our job. Is it enough?

Commencement speaker Chris Matthews nailed it, the real secret to success: Just show up—you never know when lightening might strike!

Of course, it helps to be prepared. Never underestimate the power of an arts and sciences education to ignite and inspire innovation and invention, to open doors to collaboration and connection to succeed.

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