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Graduation is bittersweet occasion for faculty and staff

As graduation approaches, students are not the only ones saddened by the thought of losing UCC connections.  For many faculty and staff members, it is also a time of mixed feelings.

“Many students have carved a niche in my heart,” counselor Sue Windsor said. “My life is richer because our paths have crossed.”

While the faculty is excited to see their students’ progress, letting go of the bonds that have developed over the last few years can be hard.  For the staff of the Transfer Opportunity Program, this can be especially difficult.  “We have the same students for the duration of their time at UCC and we make connections with almost all of them,” Corrie Summerfeld, director of TOP, said.

“I will miss them,” Caroline Hopkins, TOP advising specialist, said. “But I know I have done my job when my students are successful and they leave.”

Saying goodbye is “the nature of the business,” Emery Smith, associate professor, said.  “Sometimes the most important connections you make aren’t long term connections.” 

“You never know the good you’re doing,” Smith said, stressing the importance of little things.  “I’ve had a moment or two with a student who thought they didn’t matter to anybody and all I did was look them in the eye and say, ‘Hey, you know you can have a better life.’”

“It is sometimes these brief moments that “empower people to self-empower,” Smith added.

Counselor Deborah Whitaker said, “Just like in life, when we meet people with whom we have connected in some way, it is difficult to think about the possibility of not seeing them again.  Transitions in life are inevitable, so it is necessary to accept the transition.”

Paula Usrey, communication studies associate professor, knows that a few students will stay in contact, but adds, “Even if I do not see or hear from them again, I’ve had the privilege of being part of their academic and life journey.”

Many faculty members are hopeful the lessons they have taught go beyond the classroom.  “My hope is that I have helped students to understand how incredible they truly are and that I have reflected to them their potentiality,” Windsor said.

These life lessons are often as important to a student’s success as classroom instruction.

“I hope my students take with them the idea that they are responsible for their future, know their actions will dictate what opportunities arise, and always remember what it is that gives their life meaning,” Hopkins said.

Marjan Coester, director of student life, shares this sentiment.  “I hope the students I've had the privilege and pleasure of working with this year are leaving with a greater sense of self, an appreciation of what can be accomplished when you work with others and have the desire to continue learning, growing and doing.” 

Final words of advice were offered by Coester, “If you remember anything about this year, remember always to model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart.”

Corrie Summerfeld
Dennis Wahlman / Mainstream
Corrie Summerfeld
Paula Usrey
Dennis Wahlman / Mainstream
Paula Usrey