Only the beginning

In a few days, the faculty and staff of Ivy Tech will celebrate the graduation of another class of students. They will walk across the stage, shake a few hands, and receive their degrees. I applaud their accomplishments. I have seen first-hand their hard work and commitment.

On Saturday, friends and families of our graduates will cheer, take pictures and beam with pride. The graduates certainly deserve this moment in the sun.

After crossing the stage and returning to their seats, almost all of our students open their new diplomas to see if it is indeed real and not a dream. As the newly minted college graduates read through the details of their cherished new document, I want to remind them of something. It is more than a piece of paper.

It is a signal to potential employers that you have a certain set of skills and knowledge. It provides evidence that you can accomplish a goal. I hope you frame your diploma and display it in a place of prominence. It should serve as a daily reminder of your accomplishments and your abilities.

The diploma endows a graduate with certain benefits and privileges. But along with these benefits and privileges come obligations. Yes, even though you have graduated from college, you still have responsibilities.

The first obligation is to be a life-long learner. This is an obligation to yourself. Many of our students will transfer to a four-year college. They can then go on to professional school or graduate school.

But whether a graduate continues going to college or joins the workforce, I want them to learn every day. Without a doubt, life-long learning was the secret to Jamie Hyneman’s success. His degree in Russian linguistics from Indiana University was just the beginning for the Mythbuster. College gives you the tools and, hopefully, the passion to learn more.

In my own classes, we have several formal learning objectives to cover each semester. But the most important objective to me is that students continue to learn about history after the class is over. I hope they read another history book or take another class. I hope they travel to learn more about the past and the world around them.

Our graduates have an obligation to use reason and logic to solve problems. I hope they continue to embrace new ideas. They have the responsibility to use evidence to support their arguments. It is up to our graduates to create, whether it is new art or new jobs or both.

Ivy Tech graduates also have a civic obligation. They should take their place as leaders in the community. They should participate in the discussions about our future. Graduates have the responsibility to make the world a better place. They need to use their degree to help the people around them.

Finally, graduates everywhere have an obligation to their school. They are now representatives of that institution wherever they go. I hope you can find a way to give back. Graduates now serve as an example, and they have an obligation to encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

Aaron Miller is one of The Republic’s community columnists and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. He has a doctorate in history and is an associate professor of history at Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus. Send comments to editorial@therepublic.com.