More than 900 Farmer School students became Farmer School alumni this weekend, the culmination of a college career that was unlike any other.
“We entered college with expectations that our four years here would be just like those who came before us; that is, engaging in the classroom setting as we learned to prepare for life’s next chapter; finally being away from the clutches and watchful eyes of our parents; learning to be self-sufficient, caring for ourselves. But yeah, that didn’t work out as planned,” student speaker C.J. Walker said. “The last four years included memories of an unimaginable series of world shifting events that polarized the world, gave voice to the quiet, stole friends and family in the dark of the night and reminded us that we must live our lives to the fullest each day – this is the essence of resolve.”
It was the first return to Millett Hall for the Farmer School of Business Divisional Recognition Ceremony since spring 2019. “The path was anything but easy or direct. It was more like a cross between Chutes and Ladders and Jumanj,” Farmer School of Business dean Jenny Darroch said. “Beyond mastering the skills for your chosen field, you learned to pivot, self-motivate, adapt to different meeting modalities and platforms and work with team members in different geographies. All things that will better prepare you for the next phase of your journey.”
“You are graduating at an interesting time, to say the least. The last two years have tested all of us,” commencement speaker and KeyCorp Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President Chris Gorman said. “The global pandemic changed much about the way we live and work, and some of those changes will have lasting impacts.”
Gorman, himself a Farmer School graduate, told the assembled students, family, and friends that taking the helm of KeyCorp almost two years ago was an experience like no other. “I can honestly say it was not was I was expecting. There is no playbook for leading through a global pandemic. But it has been one of the most defining, rewarding, and enlightening times of my life,” he said. “I have learned a great deal about leadership in my career and these lessons were amplified in managing through the uncertainty of the last two years.”
He gave the graduates some thoughts and advice as they headed out into the world, some of which he learned during the pandemic himself.
- “Be crystal clear about your purpose. Know who you are, but importantly, know what it is that you -- uniquely -- want to contribute, and how you want to add value.”
- “Be a team player. Define “team” broadly -- be a collaborator, not a competitor. You are not a team of one. Your team is all of those who work alongside you to deliver on your company’s purpose.”
- “Build resilience and get comfortable with ambiguity. You will face many challenges and disappointments in your career. Learning to view each challenge as an opportunity is what it means to be resilient.”
- “Stay intellectually curious -- keep learning. If the world today has taught us anything, it is that we are a long way from knowing or understanding everything.”
- “Find something to do that you are truly passionate about. If you are not passionate about it and you’re competing with people who are, it won’t work out well for you. You have time to find your passion. There are many routes and pathways to it if you just keep your mind open to new experiences.”
“The world needs you right now. We need your energy, your intelligence, and your commitment. We need you to step up,” Gorman said. “Because often you do not get to pick your moment --- often, your moment picks you.”
“To be the best version of you, you need to combine the old with the new and lean into life…embracing ambiguity, taking risks, seeking opportunities to build community, all the things you dreamed of doing when you first stepped onto this campus,” Darroch said.
“As we graduate from the Farmer School of Business, integrity, responsibility, and respect are what has shaped all of our experiences in one way or another. These three words are at the core of what binds us all together, what will bind us once we venture beyond the gates of Miami. But today is not a day that we bid adieu from the school or each other,” Walker said. “We came here with core values, and this environment and each of you helped to sharpen those values even further. Now, at the end of our chapter here at Miami, we have the responsibility to bring these values in our everyday lives, and to show the world what it means to be a Farmer School of Business graduate; what it means to lead with integrity, responsibility, and respect; what it means to be a Miamian.”