Remarks to Fellow Graduates – Zachary Sullivan

May 17, 2014

Good afternoon, everyone, and on behalf of the University of Illinois Springfield graduating class of 2014, welcome to this year’s commencement exercises. My name is Zachary Sullivan – candidate for a Master’s Degree in Political Science – and boy does it feel great to finally reach this point! I know we have a lot to get through today, so I will keep my comments brief. But before I get going here, I want to give a few quick shoutouts, and I’ll need the help of everyone in this arena. So we are going to do what I call “Give Them One.’ When I say give them one, everyone clap your hands once. Let’s practice. Give yourselves one! Okay, now that we have that down, I want to give a shoutout to the administration of UIS for putting students first. Give the UIS administrators one! I know the U of I system is the largest entity of higher education in Illinois, so let’s give the U of I Board of Trustees one! I also want to give a shoutout to the staffers of the UIS community – whether it is with Residential Life, Admissions, Financial Assistance, the grounds crews, or any other staffers who have put in the time and effort to make our educational experiences as valuable and enjoyable as possible. Let’s give the staffers of UIS one! It goes without saying that none of us would be here today without the ongoing love and support of our friends and family – especially those who are able to be here today with us. Let’s give one to our friends and families! And last but certainly not least, let’s give a round of applause to those who have helped shape the UIS graduating class of 2014 into the fine group of young professionals we are today. Let’s hear it for the faculty of the University of Illinois Springfield!!

Well, this is it. Sure, there are things that we as the graduating class of 2014 will not miss about being members of the UIS campus community. Countless homework assignments and exams, all-nighters, and that awkward moment when the geese arrive to UIS and you realize that those are not caterpillars on the sidewalks. On the other hand, there are so many things that we will miss. Hilarious conversations in the PAC Food Emporium, all of the Welcome Week activities on campus, the excitement felt when a major internship or a good grade would come through, and of course, the craziness known as SPRINGFEST! Unfortunately, it is my sad duty to report to you that we will not be spending nearly as much time together in the future as we have for the past few years. But although this may be the end of our journey together at UIS, it is important to remember that the friends and memories we have made together at UIS will endure throughout our lifetimes. I encourage you all to keep these friendships and memories alive as we move on to the next chapter of our lives.

Not long ago, UIS adopted a brand called Leadership Lived. Basically, it refers to the fact that our campus is a living laboratory for leadership skills, and as a result, UIS is responsible for producing some of the finest leaders not only throughout Illinois, but in the United States of America and the world abroad. When I first came to UIS as a non-traditional transfer student, I was not sure if going back to school would be worth it. My time and experiences at UIS have assured me that the time I have spent here has most definitely been well worth it, and I trust that many of my graduating colleagues feel the same way. UIS teaches students how to address problems, how to make a difference, and how to initiate community involvement. If you want proof, remember that I just convinced an arena full of people to participate in giving different members of the UIS community one, so give yourselves another one for getting involved!

One of the great things about being a UIS student are the never ending leadership opportunities this institution has to offer us. Being located in the state capitol of Illinois undoubtedly has its advantages. The internship opportunities offered by UIS are among the best in the state, and I know that several of you graduating today have benefitted from these internships in the form of being offered employment after college. Also, student organizations on campus have opened many doors for professional networking and development for us. For example, I had the privilege of being a member of the award winning Model Illinois Government delegation here at UIS. MIG is a three day simulation of state government that takes place at the capitol every spring, and the event attracts hundreds of college students from Illinois. Being a part of a group that was able to earn 7 awards and secure 6 of 9 elected statewide positions in MIG this year fills my heart with pride. The memories I made as a part of this group are among my favorite during my time at UIS. Many other graduates have similar stories about their involvement on campus and in the community, and I would advise those graduating today not to stop being involved. Involvement is the essence of Leadership Lived. Never forget that.

We now possess the tools and know-how to make profound differences in our world. Utilize these traits, and you will be fine. By getting involved on our communities, we can make this world a better place. It will require a lot of hard work, but in the long run, it will be worth it to you, and to those around you. So in closing, I would like to leave you with this quote from President John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire people to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Enjoy you day, graduates, for it belongs to us! Thank you, and go Prairie Stars!