On May 6, we will engage in the special ritual that marks the achievement of the university’s primary purpose — to educate students. Nearly 2,000 students from all academic fields of study will cross the threshold and join the Bronco family of 84,000 graduates when bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees are conferred during spring commencement ceremonies.
Graduation with a degree is the culmination of much hard work and is achieved by only about 40% of American adults. It’s a significant accomplishment, supported by families, faculty members, donors and others, that results in higher earnings and, according to the College Board report Education Pays, better success in life. In addition to precipitating higher incomes, going to college changes behavior, choices, social interaction, civic engagement and other indicators of personal well-being for the better.
Some consider commencement an ending. An ending to the academic year, to late-night study sessions, to juggling class schedules with part-time jobs, to dealing with roommates, to paying tuition. The list goes on and is articulately, often humorously, recounted by our student commencement speakers with relief and sometimes nostalgia, but never regret. Others, including those of us in University Advancement, take the meaning of the word quite literally and see commencement as a great beginning.
The passage of Boise State students to alumni is a significant milestone early in our graduates’ relationship with Boise State. Our students’ daily focus on their studies and immersion in classrooms, labs and campus organizations is relatively short. The post-graduation benefits and impact of affiliation with Boise State are expansive and lifelong. As we take the time to celebrate the success of the class of 2017, we also remind its members that the increasing value of their degrees, the ongoing growth of the university, and the success of subsequent generations of students — and the intellectual, cultural, economic and societal prosperity the university and its graduates generate — depend on their participation.
Participation can take many forms and changes over our graduates’ lifelong journey. At minimum, we ask our graduates to keep in touch, let us know where they are and what they are doing, by joining the Boise State University Alumni Association. When the time is right, they also may participate in an alumni service event, join a college advisory board, lead a regional alumni chapter, guest-teach a class, hire Boise State interns or mentor current students. The list of possibilities is endless and is supported by university and Boise State Alumni Association programs and services to assist and benefit our former students in return.
We know our graduates will go on to be leaders in their families, communities and professions. We see their capacity to do great things long before they leave campus. That’s why we honor the top graduating seniors each year for exceptional academic achievement. A program of the Boise State Alumni Association, the Top Ten Scholars prestigious awards ceremony provides a bridge between student and alumni life.
Top Ten Scholars are nominated by their academic deans and are subject to rigorous review by a selection committee. To qualify for consideration, a student must have a 3.8 or higher grade point average. Nominees are reviewed based on criteria including breadth of academic coursework, research, creative works and publications, presentations at professional meetings or conferences, and extracurricular community and campus service.
For example, take Jennifer Domanowski who is graduating with a bachelor of science in materials science and engineering and a certificate in elementary Korean. A member of the Boise State Honors College, Jennifer came to Boise State to join the women’s swimming and diving team. She has been named a Division I Mountain West Scholar-Athlete and a USA Swimming Scholastic All-American. Jennifer began her relationship with NASA in 2014, holding internships at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the Glenn Research Center. In 2015, she became a Pathways Intern at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, continuing her work in materials science. Jennifer has returned to the Goddard Center each summer since and will work there full-time post-graduation.
We’re particularly proud that a member of our University Advancement family, Cynthia England, daughter of Director of Regional Alumni Programs and graduate Teresa Harder, Ed.D. ’06, also was named a Top Ten Scholar. Cynthia will graduate with two bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and entrepreneurship management and a minor in Native American studies. Cynthia’s Boise State career is characterized by altruistic service. She traveled to Belize through the Honors College’s Global Citizenship and Social Responsibility class to teach school and improve school facilities. She’s served Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House, the Society for Collegiate Leadership and Achievement, and Tunnel of Oppression. Cynthia has worked with Boise State’s department of anthropology and multicultural student services, and is director of the Eagle Saturday Market. Her work experience and research projects in business, anthropology and Native American studies have provided opportunities to apply her education in real-world practice.
The Top Ten Scholars event also honors the particular faculty members who have assisted and inspired these outstanding students. We celebrate the students’ past success and share that, as they have accomplished great things as undergraduates, we expect great things from them as alumni as well.
Like Jennifer, Cynthia and the other Top Ten Scholars, all of our class of 2017 graduates have bright futures ahead. We look forward to their active engagement with the university to ensure the success of future students, just as current alumni and those long gone have helped to ensure theirs. It’s true — once a Bronco, always a Bronco! Congratulations graduates. Welcome new alumni. Go Broncos!
Laura C. Simic is vice president for advancement at Boise State University.